European Defence: Time to deliver

In one aspect of European Union development, Britain is seen by its European partners as the innovator and driving force. The European Defence Policy is widely known as the Blair Initiative. No one believes that the enthusiastic adoption of EU defence goals at the Helsinki Summit last December would have been possible without the crucial effort by the British government over the preceding year. However, there are signs that the process is in danger, and with key decisions to be made before the end of the year, imaginative new proposals are needed to save it. Britain seems surprisingly reluctant to take the lead again.

The World Today
4 minute READ

Tim Garden

Visiting Professor, Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London

When it came to power in 1997, the new Labour government gave every impression that it would continue the transatlantic defence policy focus pursued so assiduously by all its post–war predecessors. The Strategic Defence Review took this as its foreign policy assumption and had little to say about Europe.

The promotion of the Western European Union (WEU) as a safety valve for any schemes for wider European military ambitions remained a policy aim. Yet no sooner was the Review published than the inner circles of government formulated a new approach to European defence.

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