From the 6 EU member states who are not in NATO, 5 have signed the "Partnership for Peace" program (Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Malta), thus leaving Cyprus as the only European Union member state without any kind of NATO membership (mostly due to the ongoing Cyprus conflict, that opposes NATO members Turkey and Greece).
Simplificating, we can consider, de facto, NATO as an USA-European Union military alliance.
Now, without the Soviet Union as a threat, with the United States as the only superpower in the world and with European integration in process, a big debate on European participation on NATO is necessary.
I want to stress 3 facts, 1 provocation and a few questions, that could start this debate:
First fact: 55% of military spending in the world are done by NATO countries, and 70% of that spending is from the American budget. Yet, NATO asks its member-states to spend more than 2% of their GDP in military, something only the United States, the United Kingdom and Greece do. If all NATO member states spent 2% of their GDP in military, as NATO expects, there would be an increase of NATO's share in the world.
Second fact: In 2002, the European Union and NATO signed the Berlin Plus Agreement where NATO gets the so called "right of first refusal" wich means that only after a NATO refusal to act can the European Union act. In fact this means that the USA have a decisive influence over European military policy.
Third fact: Portugal joined NATO in 1949. For 25 years, Portugal was a dictatorship fully supported by NATO. This leaves NATO with a weak case to call for democracy anywhere in the world,
The provocation: In 1949, NATO's first secretary-general said that NATO was intended to "keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down". Today the Russians are nowhere to be seen, and isn't the European Union goal to keep the Germans not down but controlled?
And the questions:
While Europe is building on its internal unification, should our military policy be influenced by the United States in such a decisive way?
The USA have a military spending that sees no challenge in the world. USA spending on military is bigger than that of Europe, China and Russia together. What autonomy is Europe left with when is NATO the only pan-European military structure?
Should EU member states stay in NATO as the organization exists? Shold the EU member states cooperate better between each other on the military level, creating an European Army and make NATO become a Europe-USA alliance?
Ultimately the NATO debate is about what kind of future we want for Europe.
by Filipe dos Santos Henriques - Aises Young Ambassador Portugal