Laying Groundwork for Navy
A recently released document revising European Union transport policy provides a glimpse into the future of EU naval forces and has ignited controversy and debate in Britain. In the document, according to London’s Telegraph, 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” (May 21). Not sur-prisingly, the plans to redefine Europe’s coastguard were buried deep inside the document among more mundane policy changes.
According to the Telegraph, plans to boost the European coastguard “come on the back of other ‘empire build-ing’ moves by Brussels, including a planned EU army, a common foreign policy and diplomatic service, and a European-wide policy on energy.” The newly empowered European coastguard would be involved in enforcing maritime law, ensuring passenger safety at sea, and enforcing environmental protection legislation. According to the European Commission, the federalized European coastguard would possess the authority to intercept shipping across all of Europe’s maritime borders and would likely be armed.
In a lead article in May, Lloyd’s List, a British daily newspaper that covers the maritime industry, accused the European Commission of attempting to construct a European navy by stealth. “[T]he 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” (May 17).
Regarding Europe’s plan to bolster its coastguard, Britain’s Shadow Minister for Transport Julian Brazier stated, “This is very worrying news. It seems the empire-building ambitions of Brussels know no bounds. The drift toward an EU navy must be stopped.”
As Britain faces the distinct possibility of British waters becoming “European waters” and falling under the ju-risdiction of a newly empowered European coastguard, watch for this issue to further hinder Britain’s already tenuous relations with the EU. More importantly, it’s highly likely that a revamped and bolstered European coast-guard will indeed be the groundwork for a future European navy.