In a recent article in Europe’s World, Geoff Hoon discusses the implications of the new defense pact between Britain and France.
Nothing would more undermine the case for European defence co-operation than a sense that the two leading European nations in the area of defence were trying to carve-up the defence market between them.
The century-old bonds of the Entente Cordiale have never been stronger, as the bi-lateral agreement signed in November 2010 between France and the UK provides for a significant sharing of military resources between the two European powers. While there is little chance that this tightening of Franco-British ties will lead to a Great War in the way that their watershed 1904 alliance did, Hoon notes that the pact could have other serious consequences for the European community at large.
Hoon accepts that military cooperation can only serve to strengthen both the UK and France militarily, particularly since it would enable them to share resources at a time when both are trying to cut their defense budgets. This assumes, however, that the military interests of the two states will continue to be identical, which is far from certain. Furthermore, bi-lateral defense agreements may hinder the EU’s effort to create a common European competitive defense market. Hoon is deeply concerned about what this pact may mean for the future of European military cooperation, even as it represents a clear victory for cooperation across the English Channel.
If the defense agreement between the UK and France ends up setting a precedent for more bi-lateral pacts among EU and NATO members, it could spell the end for the dream of pan-European military cooperation.