Collective Security in Europe & Hellenic Priorities

During the last months, a strengthening in European public dialogue, an intense cultivation of views and recommendations in reference to the future of security in Europe and East Mediterranean have emerged. In most European countries this pubic dialogue is in progress something of course that does not occur in Greece and Cyprus all though– due to Turkish threat – it should be just the opposite. : Athens and Nicosia had to have undertaken initiatives, both diplomatic and political, to their active participation in associated matters with the new framework under formation (or, new architecture as called otherwise) for common European security in the world of tomorrow.

The US, Britain and countries of Eastern Europe integrated in NATO, also form a first block expressing old, Atlantic order and trend, as to collective security. Although President OBAMA attempts a certain review of American security strategy, calling all nuclear forces of the planet to common management of nuclear arsenals, despite the fact that the US seem to accept, even  slowly, that the world walks to more multipolarity, their understanding for European collective security seems to remain static and paternalistic. This was shown in many crises: in Georgia (2008); in the last land operation of Israel in Gaza, which, the government of Prague back then, characterized as “defensive” in its  EU presidency statements (that is on account of the all other European partners).

The way the US and NATO understand collective security, Greek rights in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus are clearly negatively affected. Since Turkey is the strategic choice of Washington regarding the area, it shall remain for many years despite any “character’s inconsistency”. USA as well seem unwilling to dissatisfy Ankara. Therefore USA identify with Turks and accept (USA) revisionism of Ankara in the Aegean Sea, accepting the logic of “power” and not of international law. Not only that. USA and NATO, pander irrational Turkish vindications as with the recent map of NATO showing Aegean divided. We remind that in the mid of April 2010 the Supreme Commander of Air Forces of south Wing of NATO (CCA) seated in Smyrna, issued the already known inadmissible note by which he ceded half Aegean Sea to the 6th Sub HQ of ESKISEHIR as his responsibility area.

Second trend as to the future of European collective security, more Euro-central and less Atlantic, is mainly put in front by FRANCE, as well as from countries of European Union showing differentiations from Anglo-Saxon model (i.e. they do not want a full Turkish integration in Europe). At this point the course of CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) is placed amongst, which, for two decades has been trying to be fulfilled, despite many weak spots of the attempt. The basic grounds of this deficit are two. First, particular and not harmonized views concerning security of countries of European Union in connection with the fact that often each one of them considers differently its national interests yet even the idea of European security the same. On the other hand, hegemonic presence of USA and reduced political will of many countries of the European Union (with those of Eastern  Europe being the most typical) to proceed to a joint European architecture of security.

The EU'sCommon Foreign & Security Policy (CFSP) certainly remains into course of “communitisation” (annual financial budget of the said i.e. minus military issues, burdens central budget of European Union). Simultaneously CFSP is partially upgraded by the Convention of Lisbon (the position of High Rεpresentative of CFSP as well as of the European Commissioner for External Affairs and Neighborhood Policy are replaced by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Issues and Security Policy). This means that CFSP is directed to a competences unification of foreign politics. However deficiencies still remain, as shown in lack of coherence of foreign European action, in the absence of CFSP control by the European Parliament, absence of specialized trans European dialogue and – first and foremost- in differentiated political targeting of powerful state members of European Union.

Dimension as to operation of the new scheme of leadership of CFSP is shown i.e. in tactics of Belgium, to be the country undertaking six month administration of the Union in July 2010. Belgium has already announced (supported by Spain) that presidencies by turns of state members cannot be excluded by CFSP. In general organizing structure indicated by the Convention of Lisbon for CFSP includes confusions and diversities as for example regarding functionality of multiple roles of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Issues and Security Policy. In conclusion state members of the European Union seem to comprehend benefits deriving from a new advanced architecture of collective security, yet on the other hand they are in doubt being afraid of loosing control. That is, they would like Europe more safe and powerful without however sharing their national sovereignty or ceding part of.

It is understood that Greece and Cyprus would capitalize benefits from a more firm and integrated CFSP that would protect them, always to the level of reality, from possible Turkish adventurisms in the future. The course of CFSP however seems to be long and arduous, even probably doubtful.

The Russian Proposal

A third angle for a new architecture for security consists of the proposal of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a new Pan-European Security Convention. Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov recently introduced to his counterparts the aims of the Russian proposal, stressing that  “… the framework and targets of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as far as security is concerned have been already surmounted and therefore Europe from now on should proceed to decisive steps in order to surmount the borderline of Euro-Atlantic area”.

A positive response came from the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Kouchner. He characterized the proposal as “serious” and called EU member-states to “pay attention” to it. On the other hand, reservations were set forth from northern countries as for example by  Denmark's Foreign Affairs chief Maxime Verhagen, who stated “… there is no urgent need to replace the present security architecture. What is needed is to improve it”.

The main objective of the Russian proposal is defined as being the consolidation of a general sense of security which shall be achieved only if there is control and supervision of agreed issues. No country and no international organization whatsoever shall be allowed to strengthen its security at the expense of other countries or security unions. The right is rendered to contracting states to request a summit in case they deem their security is threatened. For example, Georgia may appeal to such a summit in case it deems that it is threatened by Russia. Russians shall indicate signature of the Convention by head security unions: the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (ΟSCE), ΝΑΤΟ, and the Collective Security Organization of the Russian Federation with six former Soviet republics.

The American position is of interest in regard to the motion of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. US Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg abstained from addressing the real essense of the Russian proposal for a new  pan-European security treaty. Nevertheless the “Wall Street Journal” wrote a few days later that the  Russian motion would consist “one of the central points” of the Obama – Medvedev future contacts. NATO, from its point of view, is certainly troubled: it fears that the right to disagree to be rendered to member-states of the convention shall weaken obligations of its members regarding NATO itself. In conclusion, the Russian proposal comprises of interesting points, which potentially could, through a Trans-European dialogue, define a certain framework for future cooperation as to collective security. In combination with a more integrated CFSP it could lead to a more secure framework for the Eastern Mediterranean and in particular the Aegean Sea which is of central interest to Greece.

Whatever direction things are driven to, Greece and Cyprus have to show a more active will and eventually undertake initiatives as well, instead of just attending future developments. The Aegean Sea and Cyprus are not Switzerland, nor Luxembourg. Given the fact that Turkish expansionism shall remain unabated - since all of Ankara's moves lead to this direction - Athens and Lefkosia have to fight: a) within NATO for as less unfavorable circumstances as possible and b) within the European Union; yet even on a  Trans European level, for the creation of a future security architecture that  would cover gaps left by NATO concerning Greece and Cyprus.

* Stavros Karkaletsis is the President of ELKEDA (Hellenic Centre for European and  International Analyses) Athens. The above text is based on his paper delivered at the International Security Forum Day Conference on "The Future Architecture of European and Global Security", Palm Beach Hotel, Larnaka, Cyprus, 29 May 2010.