Prof. Alexander MOENS

Simon Fraser University, Department of Political Science, Burnaby, Canada

The Role of the EU in the Balkans: A Non-US North American View

Paris, 12 April 2002

Lecture in the Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar "The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union", Paris 11-12 April 2002


I am honoured to address this prestiguous gathering and would like to thank Mr. van Herpen and the Cicero Foundation as well as the Canadian Embassy here in Paris for giving me the opportunity. Allow me, Mr. Chairman, to play a little with the words in my ascribed topic. As you can see on your program, my talk this morning has the sub title "a non-U.S. North American view." Technically this could mean either a Mexican or a Canadian view, but as Mexico's efforts in Balkan peace management have remained moderate thus far, I feel at liberty to digress solely on Canada's perspective. In Canada we do not often call ourselves "non-US North Americans," but realizing that we are meeting today in the city which coined the term "raison d'état" the sub title is a brutally frank European description of Canada's precarious role in European security.

I am not fixated by the sub-title, but it invoked one final thought. The term "non US or non America" is actually a marvellous starting point for understanding Canada's interests and policies.

The American revolution caused the birth of two nations: America and the English and French speaking North Americans who did not want to join the new Republic. In that sense, two nations were formed in 1776: America and non-America.

Canada's Non-American Outlook

Canada's international orientation - as non-America - is still a key factor in understanding Canada's current role and interest in European security. Unlike early American politics, which was the repudiation of European politics, the formative years of British North America and then Canada, was the extension of European politics into North America. First, it extended old European rivalries into North America: The British colonialists conquered the French settlers. Then it practiced European accommodation as both the French and the British joined a new country called Canada in 1867.

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s set in progress a type of federalism and power sharing in Canada, a country that extends from Dublin passed the Urals, that in fact looks very similar to the European integration process began in the early 1950s. The main difference is we are moving in the opposite direction. As Europe travelled from divided states into a European Union, Canada traveled from a neo-colonial, centralized parliamentary system to a loose form of federalism. We have both arrived at a similar mix of features:

I would argue that it is crucial to understand this fundamentally different historical orientation and political development about Canada when analyzing Canadian security policy, even today.

Canada's essential difference creates tremendous tensions inside Canadian politics and society and can easily lead to poor stereotyping at home and abroad. First, 'non-America' does not mean anti-America. Canada trades 87% of its goods and services with the United States and exports 75% of its manufactured goods there, together constituting around 43% of Canada's GDP. Canada and America have the closest defence cooperation and after September 11, one of the closest internal security coordinations in the world.

With so much economic interdependence, and informal political cooperation it is an nearly incredible statement to make that Canada' political and international outlook is still essentially non-American. But it is. This tension is a subject of serious debate inside Canada. I believe many young Canadians, Western Canadians, and immigrant Canadians feel more inclined towards finding a stronger North American identity for Canada. However, the ruling and academic elites remain overwhelmingly non-American in their outlook.

Many in Europe observe the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Canada and NAFTA among all three North American countries, and the recent initiatives towards hemispheric free trade. They quietly say to us, "we understand, you have to choose for North America." But it is not quite that simple. Even after September 11, which has rapidly deepened our security cooperation, Ottawa is keen to match close North American relations with 'non American' international initiatives.

Canada's Transatlanticism and Its Role in Former Yugoslavia

Canada's view of transatlanticism after World War II has always been the participation in European stability and prosperity that would in turn serve Canada's interest to pursue trade, political and security interests beside-in addition to-North America. It was interest-based, not some form of pure idealism or historical romance. The pursuit of interest and identity went hand in hand. After the collapse of the East-West divide in Europe, and with growing immigration of Asian people to Canada, Ottawa tried to diversify aggressively towards Asia in the early 1990s. The Asian economic flu and the resurgence of the European Union, however, have brought a great deal of attention back to Europe.

In early 1992, Ottawa clumsily announced the withdrawal of its remaining stationed forces in Germany. What happened in fact was the transition of Canadian troops from their long-held NATO base in Lahr to UNPROFOR in Croatia in 1991 and then onto Bosnia. It was not a hastily assembled and lightly armed UN group. Because the contingent was so robust, it was able under General Lewis Mackenzie to secure Sarajevo airport. The entire operation was Canada's recognition of the transition of European security from the static defence of Europe to the management of intra-state security crises that could destabilize Europe. When the administration of Bush the Elder was presenting Europe with the Bartholomew démarche demanding that the European security identity could not duplicate or decouple NATO, Canada was quietly positioning itself to work closer with a new Europe. The first mention of the 1990 Transatlantic Declaration was between Canadian and German officials. Canadian officials first suggested that NATO's 'hand of friendship' to Central and Eastern Europe should be followed on by a type of Associate membership for those countries.

Canada did not make its own public relations case. It forgot to hire the top advertising houses of Madison Avenue to explain that it was not abandoning NATO but was in fact attuned to the transition coming to NATO. It was not quitting Europe, but re-tooling how to continue its involvement in Europe in a security environment dominated by Non-Article 5 crises.

While serving in our Foreign Affairs Ministry in 1992, I was amazed how relaxed Canadian officials and diplomats were in regards to the Common Foreign and Security Policy and changes in NATO. Canada genuinely supported the transition to European-led crisis management operations, first in the WEU in the mid-1990s, then in the concept of ESDI-in-NATO, and most recently as developed in the Common European Security and Defence Policy or ESDP. The three D's (duplication, discrimination, and decoupling) was never a doctrinal problem in Canada's view.

Ottawa counted on flexibility. Switching between American-led Command and Control and European-led command and control poses absolutely no problem for Canadian politicians or forces. Canada has no ideological or military-technical problems with that. The adaptability and flexibility learned by Canadian forces who have always been underfunded and broadly experienced in often chaotic UN operations can easily accommodate such a shift. Canadian officers even joined the European Community Monitors in the early 1990s in the Balkans though they were not allowed to wear the Maple Flag ensignia.

By having maintained on average over 1500 troops and scores of policemen and civilian workers for most of the 1990s in the Balkans either in direct UN operations or in NATO-led operations, or in OSCE missions, Canada has made a very significant contribution to European stability. It did so not primarily to protect the small percentage of trade or the more impressive flow of direct investment, it did not do so for historical romance, but it did so because Balkan peacekeeping and peace reconstruction provides a concrete way to pursue a key Canadian national interest.

The raised eyebrows around the room confirm that I should elaborate why peace fixing in the Balkans is a prime activity of Canadian national interest so defined. It seems indeed at face value a far cry from "raison d'état."

Canada's prime national interest - given its peaceful, geopolitical splendour - is to build a multilateral system of politics where power is harnessed by democratic principles and international rules. Such a multilateral world offers Canada four benefits:

  1. It is rule based rather than power based. (we have little power but lots of ideas for rules)
  2. It serves as a multiplier for Canadian influence and forces (how else could anyone hear us?)
  3. It allows an escape from excessive bilateralism (multilateralism restrains all, including Washington)
  4. It is avoids bloc politics. (which would put maximum pressure on Canada's outlook as non-America)

For this cause we joined the fight in Kuwait in 1990, and in Kosovo in 1999. Ottawa considers such operations under a UN mandate as ideal. However, it is quite comfortable with the UN mandating it to regional organizations. To do it under NATO or under the EU is fine either way because it is still multilateral. Note this well: the precise acronymn means little to us, what counts is whether it is multilateral including some of our closest allies.

Avoiding the Devolution of Transatlantic Security into Two Blocs

A real threat to this decades-old Canadian national interest is the devolution of transatlantic security into two blocs. When the United Nations in the late 1940s devolved into East and West Blocs, Western nations regrouped by participating in a multilateral group within the Atlantic Alliance. But if NATO devolves into two blocs, regrouping options are more difficult.

ESDI-in-NATO agreed to in Brussels in 1994 was meant to deflect two military entities: the old American dominated NATO and an emerging European security identity. The domination of old NATO in Kosovo created a tremendous momentum in Europe that connected Britain into the new European defence identity. The rise of ESDP after Helsinki created in the tired Clinton Administration the same protective reaction as had happened in 1991when the CFSP arose. It emphasized protecting the old NATO. As America and Europe sparred over three D's and three I's, and as Turkey blocked a NATO-EU political framework, Canada got worried about NATO falling into two blocs.

So, Canadians hedged their bets and did something the Americans need not and would not consider: they sought a separate bilateral agreement with the EU whereby Canada could participate in "autonomous EU operations." Given the strategic compatibility between Canada's peacekeeping functions and the (W)EU's Petersberg tasks (1) , Ottawa could foresee scenarios where NATO as a whole may not act, but Canada may want to participate in EU-led operations. No doubt Canada was trying to multiply some of its options. Ottawa also wanted to articulate its interest that in some contingencies Canada may act with the EU rather than with the United States.

Putting this contingency into a Political Accord has proved to be a rather rough journey for Canadian diplomacy. In the Helsinki annex in 1999, Canada was listed with "other interested states" such as Russia and Ukraine, and below aspiring EU members from Central and Eastern Europe, hardly befitting a founding member of NATO. I know Europe was busy with its own organizational charts at that time, but that was a poor way of putting an old friend on hold. After some diplomatic activity, Canada's interest was specifically recognized in the ESDP provisions agreed to in Portugal in June 2000. Remembering the humiliating exclusion from the Contact Group during the Bosnian crisis when at one point Canada was the third largest troop contributor, Ottawa wants to have a better standing and better input than mere consultation in a Committee of Ad hoc contributors

During the biannual meeting with the EU presidency (Presidents Jacques Chirac and Romano Prodi) on December 19, 2000 in Ottawa, the two sides agreed on a regular consultation schedule for Canada on ESDP matters. In their joint declaration, Ottawa did not insist on the standard NATO phrase on EU autonomous operations ( "where NATO as a whole is not engaged"), but, assenting to the French wish, noted merely "the North Atlantic Treaty Organization….will continue to play an essential role in crisis management." More substantively, the EU and Canada agreed that:

When the Union will begin formal examination of an option that calls upon NATO's assets and capabilities, special consideration will be given to consultations with Canada. The European Union and Canada agree to continue their dialogue to finalize the modalities for consultation with Canada and its participation in operations led by the European Union.(2)

The two parties also agreed to quarterly meetings "to discuss the full range of security and defence issues of mutual concern, including, inter alia, emerging conflict situations, measures for conflict prevention, and military, police and civilian cooperation in peace support operations." Quarterly consultations will give Canadian decision makers a good idea what direction the EU is taking.

Yet, hedging its bets means Canada' overtures to the ESDP did not imply that it was abandoning NATO. As our Department of Foreign Affairs was busy articulating a new EU relationship, the Department of Defence was concerned about preserving a Canadian role in NATO. Canada-EU bilateral meetings (Canada has a parallel transatlantic dialogue structure to the EU-USA set up) tend to advance Canada-ESDP relations, while Canadian interventions in NATO tend to emphasize the institutional integrity of the old alliance.

Now it is fair to say that all governments have from time to time competing advocates among their ranks, and to some extent this is healthy for government policy. However, in the last few years, the Canadian government has tried to advance two options simultaneously. That may have been our second recent public relations error, confusing Europeans again about Canadian actions and motives. Canadian Defence Minister Eggleton has tried to keep maximizing Canadian interests by the idea originally proposed by Secretary William Cohen in October 2000, to move defence planning and operations in practice to a combined framework of all 23 states that make up the EU and NATO. This is an excellent idea, but it has been received like Alexander Hamiltons' famous address on a strong executive during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787: it was applauded by all and supported by none.

Others in the Canadian government, who are more pessimistic about the long-term future of NATO, or who want to advance a less militaristic approach to security problems, or who are ideologically sympathetic to former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy's "Human Security" paradigm, believe that future security interests in Europe are better served by creating a new link with ESDP.

The official government line of course is that we can do both without a trace of contradiction.


My key argument is that Canada' political orientation as non-America and its direct pursuit of national interest in current Balkan security and peace reconstruction-though at times clumsily executed or not sufficiently clarified-make it a useful partner for European countries.

European nations should understand the Canadian political outlook and how it frames its definition of national security policies. It is highly relevant for the next phase of crisis management in the Balkans as the EU is finishing its plans to take over civilian and police operations in Bosnia from the United Nations at the end of the year, and possibly thereafter to take over Operation Amber Fox from NATO in Macedonia should a resolution be found to the Berlin Plus arrangements to draw upon NATO assets when needed. In both of these operations, Canada has interests that are complementary to European Union interests.

My recommendation to European officials and academia is: Take Canada's interest seriously for two reasons:

If Canada's military contribution is more modest than it was ten years ago, that is not an indicator of a lack of interest, but a result of severe cutbacks in defence spending.

To take Canada's perspective and participation seriously also requires that the EU consider Canada's needs. We have finally resolved the long-standing request by Canada to have a liaison person at the EU Military Staff. Again, this process has not been an example of diplomatic confidence building. To work with the structures in the Kortenberg building means that we need to have a good idea what policies are taking shape there.

The most important issue still before us is the exact role for Canada in the overall direction of EU autonomous operations. Ottawa understands full well that the EU is a legal entity of fifteen member states and that it has to maintain integrity of decision making. At the same time, ad hoc consultation about certain elements of any operation is no longer an option for Canada. Perhaps, the Department of Foreign Affairs will be less determined about this in civilian and police operations, but the Department of Defence will be adament about this when it come to military operations as may evolve in Macedonia. Again, given the Contact Group experience, they should be adamant. So we are left negotiating what 'decision-shaping' powers might actually mean.
Finally, should the number of Canadian troops warrant, Canada will expect commensurate command positions in any EU deployed force.

(1) As agreed to by the Western European Union in June 1992, these consist of humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping, and the combat tasks in crisis management including peacemaking.

(2) Canada-EU Joint Statement on Defence and Security, Ottawa, December 19, 2000.