Skip to comments.Full Steam Ahead: Brussels Draws Up Plan For 'EU Navy'
Posted on 05/20/2006 8:05:31 PM PDT by blam
Full steam ahead: Brussels draws up plan for 'EU navy'
By Justin Stares in Brussels
The European Commission has drawn up plans to set up a European coastguard, which critics fear is a back-door attempt by Brussels to create an EU navy with its own powers to stop and search shipping.
Plans to upgrade the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) into a fully-fledged coastguard are buried in a document revising European Union (EU) transport policy that is due to be published next month.
Armed coastguard will be embryonic naval service
They come on the back of other "empire building" moves by Brussels, including a planned EU army, a common foreign policy and diplomatic service, and a European-wide policy on energy.
The commission says a European coastguard would help to enforce maritime legislation. It would have the authority to intercept shipping across all of Europe's traditional maritime borders, which could require that crews be armed - and raises questions of national sovereignty over coastal waters.
Lloyd's List, the daily newspaper which covers the maritime industry, accused the commission of attempting to build up a navy by stealth in a leading article last week.
"The concept of a European coastguard has a federalist charm about it that causes eyes to brighten instantly among gatherings of Europhiles, tired of endless discussions about fish or agriculture," the newspaper said. "In a way, it is a European navy, by the back door."
Julian Brazier, the shadow shipping minister, said: "This is very worrying news. It seems the empire building ambitions of Brussels know no bounds. The drift towards an EU navy must be stopped." Mr Brazier has tabled a parliamentary question demanding to know the Government's position on the EU coastguard plans.
"The plan would be a betrayal of the maritime history of our country and the tens of thousands of men and women currently involved in our maritime sector," he said.
The commission document is written in French and entitled Préparer la Mobilité de Demain (Preparing Tomorrow's Mobility). In it, the commission says it believes the time has come to consider the "concept of a European coastguard". Such a body would improve passenger safety at sea and environmental protection legislation, it says.
Its main role initially would be to avert maritime pollution disasters, such as the oil slick that devastated French and Spanish Atlantic coasts in 2002, when the aged Prestige tanker snapped in half. The coastguard would be easy to implement, the commission notes, because the EU can "from today call on the support of the safety agencies", including EMSA.
The Lisbon-based agency came to life two years ago as a technical body to help the commission to draw up maritime legislation. But its remit and staffing levels have increased rapidly since then. It controls a small fleet of ships and has a staff of around 120 - more than twice the number originally envisaged.
The European parliament has long supported forming an EU coastguard, claiming that the principle of the coastguard is already accepted by all EU governments, including Britain. The Council of Ministers, the institution that represents governments in Brussels, last year agreed to a feasibility study on its creation. Until now, however, it has not been official EU policy.
Critics say a European coastguard would be more complicated to set up than a European army because national coastguards today have varying functions, both military and civil.
Willem de Ruiter, the executive director of EMSA, says talk of the agency becoming a fully-fledged coastguard was "far-fetched and unrealistic".
He said: "Many people don't understand what they mean when they say 'coastguard'. Are they talking about military operations or civil operations, or both?"
Did I miss something? Didn't the EU constitution FAIL to pass?
Apparently, they pay even less attention to their voters than. . . . No. I won't say it.
They were going to form a rapid-reaction force too.
Who's supplying the oars?
I thought the EU was rejected?