Sweden and Finland – two member countries of the EU, but not of NATO – have decided to resort to their community partners to claim mutual defense in case of attack by Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s threats permeate. And the invasion of Ukraine leaves little doubt. In view of the growing insecurity on the continent, the two Nordic countries have invoked this Wednesday the clause of the Treaty of the European Union that provides for mutual aid in the event of armed aggression. The request has been sent in a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to which EL PAÍS has had access. In it they ask that the European summit to be held this Thursday and Friday in Versailles (France) make it “clearly clear” that both countries consider “that membership of the EU is an important source of security”, according to the letter signed by the first Swedish minister, Magdalena Andersson, and her Finnish counterpart, Sanna Marin.
The demand has managed, for the time being, to be included in the draft of the final communiqué of the summit. And community sources indicate that in all probability the 27 partners will accept that the promise of mutual aid appears in the Declaration of Versailles that is expected to be approved in that French city. What is not yet mentioned in the preparatory texts is the application of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to join the EU. Community sources point out that this will depend on the debate of the heads of state and government, although they point out that a quick exit for the country attacked by Putin could be some type of reinforced association, since the entry processes are usually very long.
Reconsider traditional neutrality
The aggression against Ukraine has led the two Nordic countries to reconsider their traditional position of neutrality and weigh their entry into NATO. The Putin regime has been quick to warn that this step “would have serious political-military consequences.” In the joint letter signed by the prime ministers of Sweden and Finland, however, there is an explicit mention of the Atlantic Alliance, although not about its possible entry: “The transatlantic relationship and EU-NATO cooperation are essential for our general security ”, they assure. “It is important to underline our common determination in the joint communiqué of the Versailles meeting”, point out both Social Democratic leaders, referring to the summit in France.
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The claim has been taken into account in the drafts that are handled. But we will have to wait until the end of the meeting to see how the final wording turns out. “A stronger and more capable EU in the field of security and defense will contribute positively to global and transatlantic security and is complementary to NATO, which remains the basis of the collective defense of its members. Solidarity between Member States is reflected in Article 42, paragraph 7, of the Treaty on European Union”.
Article 42.7 of the Treaty on the European Union was invoked by France in 2015. “If a Member State is the object of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States will owe it help and assistance with all the means at their disposal, in accordance with article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations”, that article begins.
Its wording is close to that of article five of the NATO Treaty, which serves as an umbrella against external aggression against any of its members. “The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them […] will be considered as a directed attack against all of them, and […] in exercise of the right of individual or collective legitimate defense recognized by article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will help the attacked party or parties, adopting […] the measures it deems necessary, including the use of armed force”, ensures the NATO Treaty.
Petition to enter the EU
In addition to this point, another issue that will be addressed by the Twenty-seven is the request to join the EU made by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Until now, the three petitions have been treated together and have been processed at a speed never seen before. Those of the Balkan countries pending to enter the community club (Serbia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia) took months, some had to wait almost a year. In this case it has been days. This speed is explained by the Ukrainian invasion and the wave of international solidarity that it has unleashed. Also for this reason, from now on, the three requests will be addressed “country by country”, community sources point out. They explain that one thing is what has been done up to now, little more than an acknowledgment of receipt, and another is what is going to happen later.
“The accession processes can be long”, they remember in Brussels, already speaking specifically of Ukraine. Although it is also true that everything depends on political decisions and in this aspect there are different sensitivities among the Member States. Some, especially eastern countries like Poland, are betting on a fast track, while others are calling for more peace of mind. Hence, the leaders’ debate, which will take place this Thursday at the last minute, acquires importance. Community sources explain, however, that a possible meeting point could be, while the request follows the normal course, to expand the current association agreement and strengthen cooperation in areas such as trade and energy.
The Versailles summit was intended, in principle, to address the reform of the economic governance of the European Union. It was going to discuss the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact, a process that the European Commission began last autumn. The invasion of Ukraine has blown up that agenda and put another one on the table. Closely connected to the request of Sweden and Finland and to security, there is, for example, the increase in defense spending. The energy transition, closely linked to the reduction of the EU’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, will also be discussed.
These days a rumor has spread through the community capital that some kind of fund was going to be created to finance these expenses, based on the experience of the recovery fund. This speculation had been fueled by France. Sources from some Member State spoke this Wednesday that Versailles would begin to talk about this matter. But countries like the Netherlands or Germany reject it outright. Community sources point out that no work is being done on this, the same ones that highlight that the Next Generation EU fund has only just begun to deliver its first payments and that it already contemplates many investments in energy transition.
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