To beat America, Europe has to act like America

 

A similar fundamental change can be observed in the field of foreign and military policy. Chirac and Schröder opposed the Iraq war not for altruistic reasons but because it increased the power of US imperialism. Indeed, Europe’s ruling classes clearly see its role not as a regional player which can rely on the USA as a world policeman but as an independent global player.

The fight against terrorism is the ideal pretext for this. The new world view of Europe’s rulers becomes evident in a speech the EU High Representative, Javier Solana, gave in January 2004:

Responsibility has a global dimension too. Terrorist and criminal networks have a global reach. We can only tackle them effectively if we think, and act, globally. Most of the heroin sold in Europe originates in Afghanistan. Our internal and external security needs are indissolubly connected. If we want to protect our citizens at home, we have to be prepared to act effectively abroad. Prevention is at the heart of our approach.” (29)

Speaking against the unilateralism of the Bush administration in diplomatic terms he said: “I believe that our future security will depend more, not less, on an effective multilateral system, a rule-based international order and well-functioning international institutions. Multilateralism is not an instrument of the weak. It is an instrument of the wise.”

So it is no surprise that, for example, the new security doctrine of France reserved the right of the former colonial empire to exercise “pre-emptive strikes” if necessary. The influential German conservative think tank “Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung” recently published a document with the telling title “Pre-emptive Strikes” arguing the need to recognise that new threats demand a new military doctrine in the form of “pre-emptive strikes”. (30)

However, to become a power of a similar size to the USA, Europe needs to overhaul its military policy. While the USA spends more than 4 per cent of its GDP on “defence” the EU only spends 1.5 per cent of a smaller GDP. It also lacks the necessary professional forces, equipment and legitimising doctrines. In addition, there is much more opposition from the working class and the youth to military adventures.

The new constitution itself is clear in strengthening the military role and capabilities of the EU. Militaristic armament becomes a constitutional foundation of the Union: “The Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.” (Article I-40) Clearly one has to expect in the coming years a combination of massive cuts in social services and a massive rise in military expenditures.

Furthermore, the draft constitution empowers the EU to “enforce interventions in the context of crisis management” It allows for military interventions in third states to “fight terrorism”. And it allows for the use of the European forces inside the union if the “interests and values of the union are in danger”(!) (Article 1-40)

As in many other areas, neither the European, nor any national, parliament has any decisive say in the military interventions of the European Union. The decisions are made by the Council of Ministers.

The EU was even more explicit in its resolution at the Athens summit in summer 2003. There it adopted a new military doctrine which allows the European version of a “pre-emptive strike” strategy.

The constitution also envisages a centralisation of military efforts. Concretely, it wants to establish a Defence Agency to ensure more co-ordinated defence investment and research and development efforts.

However, the draft constitution itself represents a compromise between the German-French bloc and the pro-Atlantic forces on the question of European military independence from the United States. It explicitly situates the EU’s common defence policy within NATO but, at the same time, allows individual states to form separate military bodies.

It is clear that Germany and France are determined to push forward the formation of an independent European military policy. The creation of an intervention force of 60,000 soldiers that can be put into the field within 60 days was a first step in this direction. And the ARTEMIS operation in the Congo was a test of operational capacity.

Part of this re-orientation is the abolition of the conscription system in most European countries and the build up of a professional force. Naturally, such a force would be better trained and motivated for interventions in wars abroad.

Europe’s ruling classes have understood that if Europe wants to beat America it has to become like it and massively build up its armed forces, restructure them into forces ready to be sent into wars, reorganise its defence industry and embrace the policy of “pre-emptive strikes”.

 

The meaning of the Eastern enlargement

 

Another important project of European imperialism is its Eastern enlargement. Until now, nearly all EU member states have been imperialist nations. This is about to change dramatically. All the 10 new states are of a semi-colonial character, i.e. while they are formally independent as states they are economically and, therefore, in the end also politically, dependent on the bigger imperialist powers.

For Europe’s imperialist bourgeoisie, Eastern enlargement offers an important opportunity. Here it has unlimited access to a cheap labour force. This means that, on the one hand, it can transfer production and service facilities from the Western to the much cheaper Eastern part of the Union. If one looks at table 8, which shows that the differences in hourly labour costs between the West and the East of the Union are between 600-1000 per cent, the significance of this option is immediately apparent!

 

Table 8: Labor Costs per hour in the semi-colonial countries joining the EU in 2004 (except Malta)¸ in Euro (31)
 

EU-15                                                   22.21

Estonia                                                 3.03

Latvia                                                    2.42

Lithuania                                             2.71

Poland                                                  4.48

Czech Republic                                    3.90

Slovakia                                                                3.06

Hungary                                              3.83

Slovenia                                                                8.98

Cyprus                                                 10.74

 

In Bulgaria and Romania - two further applicant countries - the labour costs are substantially lower even than the central European states.

Furthermore, the enlargement creates the possibility of massive import of Eastern European immigrants for limited periods. This is an urgent need given the fact that the domestic EU labour force will shrink by 5 per cent over the next 25 years. As a consequence, an EU study advised that the Union will need 50-70 million immigrants over the next 50 years.

If, in addition to all this, one takes into account the massive setbacks for the Eastern European working class as a result of the collapse of the degenerated workers’ states in 1989-91, and the enormous ideological consequences which still have not entirely disappeared, the East is in effect the perfect semi-colonial hinterland for imperialist Europe.

Of course there are also dangers combined with this. On one hand, as the latest Roma revolts in Slovakia have shown, poor societies are cheap for exploitation but also pregnant with violent uprisings. In addition, we have seen in recent years a certain revival of the Eastern European workers’ movement and an increase in the number of strikes and demonstrations.

The social chauvinist labour bureaucracy and right-wing populist forces will also oppose an unlimited transfer of Eastern European workers into the West. It is likely that Brussels will have to make some compromises as it already has with the seven year transition period for immigration from Eastern Europe into the West.