Year 2000 No. 199, November 22, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Both the "European Rapid Reaction Force" and NATO Serve Only the Interests of the Monopolies
NATO News in Brief:
NATO Plans Big Investments in Hungary
US to Increase Financial Support of Slovak Army
NATO Committee Calls for Enlargement by 2002 at Latest
EU News in Brief:
EC Report: EU Ready for Enlargement by 2002
Second Tier EU Candidates Begin to Catch Up
EU Report Criticises Hungary
England Rugby Union Squad Strike for More Pay
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In the last few days the media has been full of reports of major political differences on the issue of the so-called European Rapid Reaction Force.
The Prime Minister has pledged the governments support for such a force, which was discussed and approved by EU defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday. The British Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon, announced that Britain would pledge 12,500 troops, 18 warships and 72 combat aircraft to this new European Rapid Reaction Force. Indeed, along with the French, the British government since 1998 has taken the lead in demanding "an effective military back-up" for the European Unions Common Foreign and Security Policy, as set out in the Maastricht Treaty. The Conservative Party and sections of the press allege that such a force constitutes a "European army" and is a direct "threat to the future of NATO". William Hague, the leader of the Conservative Party, has now pledged that a future Conservative government would refuse to commit British troops, and several former Conservative and Labour defence and foreign ministers have written to the press to oppose the governments plans.
The EU heads of government agreed at the Cologne European Council in June 1999 that the EU should "put in place structures to enable it to carry out humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making". As was announced in Brussels this week, a new European military force will be operational by 2003 and be able to rapidly deploy about 60,000 military personnel, 400 combat planes and 100 warships.
What is immediately evident is that this Rapid Deployment Force is, in Robin Cooks words, "not going to take on collective defence". It is a military force for armed intervention around the world as well as in Europe itself. It will also be a force that can act both inside and outside of NATO according to the circumstances. In other words, a force that can act independently of the United States. Geoff Hoon stressed that the force must be more than "a paper tiger".
The creation of the European Rapid Reaction Force can be seen as an important step in the governments aim to strengthen the EU as a military, political and economic superpower. It is part of its plans to develop an independent military role for the European Union of the big monopolies, with Britain playing a leading role. The creation of such a military force must also be seen in the context of the growing contention between the EU and the US over the control of Europe itself, which remains a precondition for their rivalry for global hegemony. The pious words of Robin Cook to the effect that the Rapid Reaction Force will make "Europe safer and more secure", could not be further from the truth. The Rapid Reaction Force will be a factor escalating the rivalry between the big powers in Europe and throughout the world and the contention between the big European powers and others within the EU.
By demanding that the EU take a leading part in armed intervention throughout the world, the Labour government is playing a most reactionary role. Neither the EU the union of the big monopolies of Europe nor the warmongering NATO alliance can serve the interests of the people of Britain or other countries. Military intervention in the guise of "humanitarianism" or "peacekeeping", whether under the auspices of the EU, NATO or the UN, serves only the interests of the big monopolies in their contention for strategic control and maximum profits throughout the world.
The working class and all democratic people in Britain must demand that Britain withdraw from the EU, from NATO and all economic, military and political blocs and fight that they be dismantled. The strengthening of such blocs is extremely dangerous and intensifies the danger of aggressive interventions, as well as of global warfare and of the repression of the rights of the working class and people. Irrespective of how far the British government is or is not able to make decisions as to their direction, they are totally inimical to the people exercising sovereignty over their affairs.
NATO will launch investment projects in Hungary worth about 60 billion Hungarian Forints (USD 200 million) over the next few years. The Director General of the Defence Ministrys Procurement and Security Office, Ferenc Bese, made the announcement on November 13. He said the four major development projects include the upgrading of communications and information technology systems, installing radar stations, and upgrading airports to be able to receive NATO planes.
The US government plans to step up financial support to Slovakias military to some $8 million in 2001. The announcement was made by US Defence Ministry Office General Director for European and NATO Policy, Major-General Joseph Garrett speaking in Bratislava on November 15. "The US is obliged to help Slovakia to become a NATO full-fledged member," Garrett said after the talks between a US delegation and Slovak Defence Ministry representatives.
When asked what the US expected in return for its generosity, Major-General Garrett said that the US provided similar help to other NATO candidate countries also. "The main help we provide is in strengthening democratic institutions in candidate countries," he added.
The Political Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly approved on Monday, November 20, a resolution on NATO enlargement calling on the NATO Council to invite Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania to join NATO at or before its summit in 2002. Although the resolution states that invitations must be sent to "any country meeting the criteria for membership from 1995," only Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania are specifically mentioned. A preamble paragraph, proposed by the chairman of the Slovak parliamentary delegation attending the 46th NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin, saying that NATO expresses its determination to build an undivided and democratic Europe was also approved.
The European Commission in an annual report on European Union candidate countries published on November 8 said some states could end accession talks as early as 2002. In a supplementary document, "Enlargement Strategy", it says the EU will be ready to welcome new members "as of the end of 2002".
Even if talks with the leading candidate countries end in 2002, the enlargement is unlikely to begin before January 1, 2003, which is the date set as a target for entry by Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia, the so-called Luxembourg group which began accession talks in 1998. The accession agreements must be signed and ratified by all 15 EU member countries. This gives January 1, 2005, as the realistic date for the actual entry of the new members.
The European Union said on Tuesday, November 21, that some countries which had entered membership talks only this year, had almost caught up with the countries which joined talks in March 1998. The EU was specifically referring to Slovakia and Malta. Other countries which opened talks with the EU in February are Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania.
Before the countries can join the EU, they must negotiate their way through 29 issues. Slovakia had been excluded from the first group of countries admitted to membership talks in 1998 because the EU disapproved of the then Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.
A recent EU report on Hungary criticises the lack of substantive "government-society dialogue" in that country.
This refers to "national interest co-ordination", which is a way of saying that the relation of trade unions with the government have shown no sign of improvement. The Hungarian government has taken powers to determine the national minimum wage. The EU report is said to have criticised the government and called on it to carry out "substantive" "social dialogue", so as to regulate the world of work.
Englands rugby union players have gone on strike in a dispute over a pay deal that would give them over £65,000 a year.
In the first serious dispute over pay since the sport became "professional" in 1995, the players are demanding a larger guaranteed match fee and smaller win bonus.
Clive Woodward, the England coach, accused his players of "betrayal". He described the strike as "rugbys darkest day". Players who fail to turn up to training at 11.00 am on Wednesday, he said, will not be selected for Saturdays Test against Argentina.
Contract talks broke down on Monday night between the players representatives captain Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson and a Rugby Football Union committee chaired by Francis Baron, chief executive. The RFU offered Englands 22-man team about £6 million over the next four years between £65,000 and £70,000 per player each year based on match fees, performance-related pay and intellectual property rights.
The players argued that too much emphasis was being placed on repeating such feats as the 22-19 win over Australia last Saturday. They argue that the want a larger guaranteed match fee and a lower win bonus. As Martin Johnson said, "The amount of effort put in had we lost on Saturday would have been no different."
Matt Dawson, a former captain, said that the players recognised that they might be jeopardising their international careers but that the risk was worth taking to secure better salaries for all. "I would like to think that other players can see what the big picture is," he said. "If we can get this absolutely sorted now then the future players will be able to sit in and have all of this done and dusted and it will never crop up again. I would run out, like every player, for England for absolutely nothing. But it is my livelihood, my mortgage."
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