The Failure of the Proposed European Defense Community and Its Implications on the European Union's Pursuit of Strategic Autonomy

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Virginia Tech

The EDC was a failed attempt at European integration in military and defense. This thesis intends to examine how and why the EDC failed and what it means for today. This thesis aims to understand what are the implications for the EDC's failure in the EU's efforts to gain strategic autonomy. This issue is important to many with interests in the European region. The failure of the EDC will be analyzed as a case study utilizing the theoretical framework of Neoclassical Realism. Constraints include language, lack of government transparency, and inherent limitations of case study research. This thesis will outline different theories and why Neoclassical Realism is chosen to evaluate the EDC; then it will examine the EDC during its negotiation and writing; then it will analyze the case from the perspective of each of the EDC participants, and then it will describe the implications of the EDC for the present situation. This thesis will examine the EDC from a theoretical standpoint. Because the EDC is a unique case of failed European integration, a broader International Relations theory will be used in this thesis. There are a number of theories regarding European integration and broader theories on International Relations. This thesis will examine the EDC from the Neoclassical Realist perspective. The Pleven Plan was to allow for the rearmament of Germany under conditions acceptable to France. The Plan was to solve the German rearmament dilemma. Proponents had to deal with nationalists who resisted relinquishing control of armed forces while also nurturing the European idea that called for more integration. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1952; the US and UK both called for its quick ratification. There were concerns among the treaty's signatories. Germany worried about a return of its army, its defense, and its acceptance in the West. Italy was concerned about integration, maintaining internal stability, and helping its economy. The smaller countries of the Benelux were in favor of the EDC to maximize their influence. France would struggle over ratification. Pierre Mendès-France had to deal with external pressure to get the EDC Treaty passed, and internal pressure to push for better terms. Gaullists were adamantly against the EDC. The French attempted to renegotiate the treaty to no avail. The National Assembly eventually voted against the EDC and the treaty failed ratification. The case of the EDC has implications for EU strategic autonomy. Russia presents a legitimate threat to the West. Globalization, technology, and non-traditional threats affect the security environment. The US is realigning its strategy to focus more on China, while Brexit removes the UK military assets from the EU. Finally, France has been driven to more seriously consider European strategic autonomy and a European Army after the AUKUS controversy. There are still obstacles to European defense. Strategic culture is a problem in Europe, especially in Germany. Nationalism and Euroscepticism continue to hinder further integration. The Europeans still rely heavily on US military might. EU efforts at strategic autonomy also cause consternation in NATO over redundancy. Finally, the EDC is an example of European integration taken too far, and a warning as to how difficult the EDU will be to achieve. The theoretical evaluation of the EDC reveals outcomes as expected in the theory. Each country calculated relative material power gain from the EDC, except France, which changed its calculation based on changes to the original Pleven Plan and popular pressure shaping leaders' perceptions. If there is going to be military integration and strategic autonomy in the EU, it will require a change in the strategic culture in Germany, so that the German military might be built up to ease the doubts of Eastern European EU members over the capability of such a European Army to supplant the US military in defense of the continent.

International Relations, Security Studies, European Studies, Transatlantic Relations, European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization