The gap between rhetoric and reality: Weapons acquisition and ESDP

Release date: 2002-11

It is easy to exaggerate the problem of lack of legitimacy and it is important to remember that ESDP is only a part of national defence and security policies particularly in Britain and France. There are other simpler reasons too why there is a gap between ESDP rhetoric and its reality as discussed at the beginning of this paper. 
This paper has though also identified a legitimacy gap in the armaments sector at both the national and European level that makes it difficult for the resources to be allocated to weapons acquisition at the ESDP level. Unless society can be convinced that the aims of the ESDP are sufficiently in their interest to fund through tax or changes in budget priorities, the financial resources are very unlikely to be allocated by the member states. Legitimising the ESDP requires it to be accountable and comprehensible to the citizens funding it (as indeed should national policies). Thus far much of the debate has centred on the need for parliamentary accountability so that the decisions made under ESDP can be scrutinised. However this is achieved, a role for the European Parliament, strengthened scrutiny powers for national parliaments or a reinvigorated WEU parliamentary assembly, this can only play one part of the accountability debate. In the customary manner of European institution building, the procedures and structures of ESDP are complex and not easily accessible to citizens. Transparency in European defence policy-making should mirror the practices of the most transparent member states not the least. Equally, it is very clear that the purpose of ESDP needs to be more clearly articulated to European Union citizens if they are to support it fully.