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Two enlargements and a devolution

01 January 2003

Vaclav Havel, the retiring Czech President and wise man of Central Europe, used to say that it took ten years to bring down communism in Poland, one year in Hungary, one month in East Germany and one week in (then) Czechoslovakia. It has taken a further decade to bring almost all of his Central Europe into the Western security communities: nothing much in historical terms, though much more so in psychological terms. But the terms of the deals by which seven more former communist countries were invited to join NATO last November, in Havel’s Prague, and eight of them (plus Cyprus and Malta) were admitted into the EU last December — in the same Copenhagen that set the general criteria for their entry almost ten years ago — now seem acceptable to all and well worth the waiting. This was the key outcome of the two summits of late 2002. For ESDP in particular, however, the main outcome was the finalisation of the so-called ‘Berlin-plus’ agreements between the two (enlarging) organisations, after almost three years of difficult negotiations. Accordingly, the Union will have access to the Alliance’s planning capabilities (SHAPE), logistics, information and other assets for those EU-led operations ‘where NATO as a whole is not engaged’. The breakthrough is remarkable: the main stumbling block in bilateral relations and in the implementation of ESDP itself has now been overcome. In Copenhagen, in fact, the Union announced not only its known willingness to take over the Alliance’s operation in Macedonia — a prospect that could at last materialise by this spring — but also its interest in doing the same with SFOR — admittedly a much more sizeable and demanding mission — in nearby Bosnia, where it is already engaged in a minor (if symbolically important as a première) police operation. After enlargement, however, EU-NATO cooperation in crisis management will exclude those EU members that are not involved in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, namely Malta and Cyprus. The ‘format’ for such an eventuality will therefore be 23 + 5, where the five are all European allies with significant military capabilities and/or infrastructure: Turkey, Norway and Iceland, Romania and Bulgaria. The two enlargements have facilitated the establishment of a (much-needed and long overdue) framework for cooperation that, in turn, is expected to allow a smooth ‘devolution’ of some NATO tasks to the EU. After all, the forces available are more or less the same, and so are the respective European members. From May 2004, in fact, NATO will encompass 26 members and the EU 25, 19 of which will be in common: the level of overlap is unprecedented and may rise even further with the likely accession to the EU of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and, possibly, Turkey later on. Taken together, the two organisations will cover almost all of continental Europe and represent a majority within the OSCE. Besides, the only countries not formally incorporated, namely the Balkans, happen to be those that are most directly under the control and influence of the Alliance (militarily) and the Union (everything else). They too may be invited or admitted at a later stage. For both organisations, the challenge is huge. If ratification of enlargement is likely to be easier for NATO than for the EU, the impact is likely to be similar: at 25-plus, in fact, decision-making will become more elaborate, internal proceedings more complex, policy outcomes more uncertain. Political legitimacy will be greater, yet reconciling all the interests and sensitivities will prove more difficult. To a certain extent, both organisations will have to reinvent themselves: NATO is trying to do so by devising new strategic tasks (the proposed Response Force), the EU by devising a new institutional set-up, almost a new covenant. The acceding members will be involved in both processes right away. The Alliance and the Union that the Central Europeans are joining now are already different organisations from those they set out to join a decade ago: even more so, presumably, a few years from now — after the devolution.