To Lead the Masses

GUETERSLOH (Own report) - Germany's most influential political think tank is demanding the comprehensive disempowerment of smaller EU member states in questions of foreign and security policy, as shown by the newly published strategy report of the Bertelsmann Foundation. The report promotes "Europe's" development of global power and contains numerous suggestions for the EU's formation, including the demand to establish an "EU Security Council" to supervise all of the EU's security policies. Only those seven countries with the largest military budgets will be permanent members. All other states, according to the Bertelsmann document, have to content themselves with a temporary and rotating membership. It is proposing comprehensive arms programs and is calling on the EU to compete with US power policy. Because the population of the EU is more concerned about the fight against poverty than the development of global power, the document's authors are calling for concerted propaganda measures and determined leadership.

The strategy report "Beyond 2010 - European Grand Strategy in a Global Age", published by the Bertelsmann Media Concern and Foundation, has been elaborated by the "Venusberg Group," a group of experts, active since 1999 at the initiative of the Bertelsmann Foundation. The Bertelsmann Foundation is by far Germany's most influential private think tank.[1] Over the past few years, numerous draft and strategy reports of the Bertelsmann Foundation have served as the basis for policy decisions in Berlin and Brussels. The "Venusberg Group", a group of six experts of the Bertelsmann Foundation and seven scholars and politicians from various European states, is elaborating blue prints for the EU's future foreign and security policy. The newly published document is the group's third comprehensive strategy report.

Now or Never

With the publication of this report, the Bertelsmann Foundation is seeking to intensify the debate on a common foreign and security policy of the European Union. Cooperation has to be reinforced "now or never", says the report, otherwise "the dangers faced by the European citizen will become acute". Every chapter ends with the warning "The clock is ticking". But "Beyond 2010" is not dedicated to the prevention of dangers, but rather to the question of how to enhance the EU's global position vis-à-vis the rise of China and the momentary weakness of the United States.[2]

No Longer an Add-On

According to the authors, the "assumptions upon which the transatlantic relationship was founded" - the US leadership during the cold war - "are no longer valid". "Hitherto European strategy, such as it is, has been little more than an add-on to American strategy." But "multilateralism" is on the agenda. The EU must "provide a modernized transatlantic relationship with strategic options", admonishes the "Venusberg Group". "Put simply, Americans must be open to the prospect of partnership; Europeans must be capable of meriting it."

EU Security Council

Therefore, according to the authors, the EU needs, above all, an effective organisation of its foreign policy and it must upgrade its security policy. Brussels needs not only a Foreign Minister, as stipulated in the EU Treaty, currently up for ratification [3] but also a "foreign service backed by a potent intelligence capability". The "Venusberg Group" is also proposing the establishment of a "Security and Defence Group (…) under the Chairmanship of the new Foreign Minister". This group should supervise all foreign and security policies of the EU and "could evolve in time into an EU Security Council."

Leadership Group

The report states that "a new balance will have to be struck between sovereignty and security" meaning a de facto disempowerment of smaller EU member states. As the Bertelsmann experts propose, the seven countries with the largest defense budgets (in absolute numbers) should be permanent members of this "Security and Defence Group": Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland (the "leadership group"). The other EU member states would take a temporary and rotating seat in the group. In the meantime they would lead subaltern "task-oriented working groups charged with looking at specific security issues, such as climate change, water shortage, the changing demand for food, population growth etc."

Special Forces, Missile Defence

The "Venusberg Group" plans to also curtail the rights of sovereignty in the military domain. To ease the burden on the EU's leading military states, the smaller members should participate in the "common funding" of future military interventions. The European Defence Agency, the report states, must be strengthened to coordinate the arms build-up of the EU countries in accordance with central planning guidelines. All types of weapons are being planned - from precision-guided munitions, to inter alia limited space-based assets and unmanned aerial combat vehicles, to theatre missile defence. "European special forces are vital components of counter-terrorism operations," the report further states. "Command structures also need to be ‘Europeanised' on a far greater scale than hitherto leading in time to the creation of an EU Operational Headquarters (EUOHQ)." The "Venusberg Group" says their report "most certainly does not call for a militarist Europe" - a remark obviously referring to even more far-reaching propositions of security policy expert groups.

Public Opinion

The authors had to recognize that their demands are not very popular at present. According to opinion polls, 43 percent of the EU population said that "top priority" should be given to the fight against unemployment and poverty, against a mere 5 percent wanting the EU's development of global power to have higher priority. "Europe's political leaders must, together, convince Europe's people that the time to properly prepare for a secure future is now and that it will cost effort, commitment and money," writes the "Venusberg Group". To date "too many of Europe's leaders seem only willing to follow public opinion, rather than lead it."

Number One

"Beyond 2010" is a logical sequel to previous strategy papers by the Bertelsmann Foundation and Werner Weidenfeld, the political scientist, who only recently left the Foundation. For years, these papers have outlined the rise of the European Union: "The European superpower," as it was termed already in May 2003, that "completely abandons the idea of being a civilian power and makes unlimited use of the means of international power politics."[4] Weidenfeld, under whose direction these papers were written, only recently was again declared Germany's most influential policy advisor.[5] documents excerpts from "Beyond 2010".

[1] see also Umsturz, neue Folge, Highest Ambitions, Teilnehmer des Internationalen Bertelsmann Forums 2006, Post-War Dead Weight and Netzwerk der Macht - Bertelsmann
[2] Hier und im Folgenden: The Venusberg Group: Beyond 2010 - European Grand Strategy in a Global Age; Gütersloh, July 2007
[3] see also Richtungsentscheidung
[4] see also "Downfall or ascent to world power", "Supermacht Europa" and European Way of Life
[5] Nummer Eins der Politikberatung;