Europe’s role: Investing in peace not war | Carmelo Abela

The President of the European Parliament should not continue to repeat what her master from the European People’s Party says

Europe’s role in today’s world has been an ongoing concern for observers of the international scene, myself included, for years now. I wish that more debate takes place about this important and crucial topic for Europe and beyond.

The approaching US presidential election and the fear that Donald Trump gets re-elected is causing headaches in EU corridors.

First of all, the will of the majority lies at the basis of any democratic system worthy of its name. So, when the US citizens elect their President, we need to work with whoever they may be whether we like it or not. However, irrespective of this, the European Union needs to make its own decisions.

These decisions should be taken not because of the circumstances elsewhere, but because of the needs and the circumstances within the EU and Europe in general.

Europe’s neighbourhood demands that we make sure that the EU plays a major role in the region. We can call it leadership, which unfortunately, at present, the EU institutions lack. Even worse is when they try to take a leadership role, they do it wrongly. A classic example is the Israeli-Hamas issue.

Showing leadership does not mean following in the footsteps of others, as regrettably is the case at the moment. Europe needs to identify its priorities and decide what it wants to do for its own good and for the sake of stable and reliable relationships with its neighbours and strategic partners.

Every institution, especially when it is facing an identity crisis or lack of a clear direction, needs to go back to its roots. The EU was founded to secure and promote peace in Europe following the devastation of World War II. This should be the bloc’s primary vocation and mission in the region and beyond.

However, certain politicians and policy makers are today advocating a defence union.

Does this mean building a European army? Will the EU dictate how much spending on defence there needs to be as a percentage of the GDP? Will this entail a dedicated defence expenditure for the EU?

In this eventuality, one has to keep in mind the repercussions on individual Member States and the impact on third countries that will be tempted to do likewise and resort to more defence spending. In other words, it will become a race to arm up and not to arm down.

This means that Europe will be investing in war and not in peace. The founders of the EU wanted to invest in peace and not in war. It seems, however, that today, some of those who enjoy popularity and can influence others are ignoring the very reasons why the EU was founded.

But we also have to analyse what are the aspirations and needs of European citizens. The defence industry enjoys listening to doom and gloom statements since it serves their purpose. They will prosper on the back of warmongering and fearmongering.

However, if Europe wants to remain competitive and boost its economy, there are other ways and means, including the development of other industries the bloc needs to turn its attention to. Unless, of course, there is a done deal with the major defence companies in Europe.

If we really want Europe to be ‘the new shining city upon a hill’, are we going to start by promoting war instead of peace? In my humble opinion, if we do this we are starting on the wrong foot.

When I was defence minister, we had some discussions about this and at that time a good number of Member States were against a defence union. The United Kingdom was still a member and the EU’s foremost ‘superpower’ on defence. Before Brexit there was talk of serious cooperation on defence issues between the EU and the UK. I do not know how far these talks went but there is no doubt the EU needs the UK on such an important subject.

But the EU needs to invest more in its citizens to reduce the hardships and the consequences of war.

The President of the European Parliament should not continue to repeat what her master from the European People’s Party says. By comparison, when Member States opt to help their citizens by investing millions, as is the case of Malta in the energy sector, a sanctimonious chorus will hark that this should not be possible. It seems that the same chorus is not against spending money on war by increasing the defence budget.

I am not implying that we should not preserve our security, but here the debate goes well beyond security concerns.

As the European elections are fast approaching, I hope that Europe manages to find its conscience and be more people-centred. I hope the daily concerns of its citizens are reflected by the bureaucrats and politicians in the European institutions.