Ahead of last week’s EU summit, the Swedish and Finnish prime ministers wrote to the other Member States to remind them of the defense clause, Article 42 (7), of the EU Treaty. In the letter “we remind and emphasize the importance of the EU’s common defense clause contained in the Lisbon Treaty”, said Magdalena Andersson about the text shared with Sanna Marin. The defense clause reads: ” the other Member States are obliged to provide that Member State with assistance and assistance with all available means in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. ” Article 42 (7) of the EU Treaty is as clear and far-reaching as Article 5 of NATO, which establishes the mutual defense obligations. What distinguishes them is not primarily how they are formulated, but the credibility that comes from the fact that NATO has built the structures and mechanisms, including defense planning and military staffs, that are required to be able to carry out a common defense of the member states’ territory. The EU lacks such mechanisms. The outflow of EU Article 42 (7) also takes place via NATO, as the article also states that current countries that are also members of NATO, NATO is “the basis for their collective defense and the body that implements it.” Sweden and Finland therefore, due to the EU’s defense clause, cannot assume or plan for military aid to come if our countries are attacked, as NATO membership and Article 5 would mean. However, Sweden and Finland are bound by the EU’s defense clause and by providing support to other EU countries. The Prime Ministers also confirm this: “The clause means that if a Member State is subjected to an armed attack on its territory, the other Member States are obliged to provide support and assistance with all available means.” This means that Sweden, but also Finland, is “obliged “To support other EU countries” by all available means “if any of these countries are subjected to armed attack. Both Article 42 (7) of the EU and Article 5 of NATO require national decisions on what the countries should contribute. Article 5 requires unanimity among Member States to apply. Article 5 of NATO states that an armed attack on a Member State shall be deemed to be an attack on all Member States. Each Member State must then take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.” ) and Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (NATO Treaty) are in fact negligible. Both provisions are legally binding, but give Member States the freedom to show solidarity of their choice. The difference between these two binding commitments mainly concerns the credibility of the implementation of the obligations. ”However, there is an addition to the EU defense clause. It states: “This shall not affect the specific nature of the security and defense policies of certain Member States.” It has been seen as a reference for military non-aligned countries.Photo: Yves Logghe In its latest defense policy report (2021), the Government of Finland states the following: “Finland, like Sweden, is a country that does not belong to any military alliance. But neither the letter nor the statements from the two prime ministers in connection with the letter being sent state that Sweden and Finland consider themselves to have any exemption from the EU defense clause. This means that governments agree to be fully bound by Article 42: 7. It is difficult to see treaty defense obligations as compatible with military freedom of alliance. The alternative to this would be to claim that other EU countries are obliged by the EU defense clause to support Sweden and Finland, but that Sweden and Finland do not consider themselves obliged to support other EU countries. Nothing in that direction was said by the prime ministers. Such a view would also meet with very limited understanding. Sweden’s national declaration of solidarity, which the government is behind, also binds Sweden to support other EU member states, as well as the Nordic countries.
“Sweden and Finland have left the freedom of alliance, but our security would be strengthened by NATO membership.”
“The difference between NATO’s famous Article 5 and the Swedish declaration of solidarity is thus not as great as is often assumed in the Swedish debate. Our declaration of solidarity also constitutes a binding commitment under international law. ” (Inquiry into Sweden’s international defense policy cooperation) In summary, it looks like this: Sweden and Finland are covered by Article 42 (7) of the EU Treaty, the wording of which is as clear and far-reaching as Article 5 of the NATO Charter. Sweden and Finland are “obliged “To support other EU countries” with all available means “if any of them are subjected to armed attack, as they are to support us. Sweden and Finland do not claim exemptions for countries with a special character in their countries’ security and defense policy Article 42.7 lacks mechanisms to be enforced by the EU, its outflow is through NATO and the article refers the defense of the countries concerned to NATO. Sweden and Finland are part of the EU defense clause, but are not yet part of NATO, an organization that has built structures and mechanisms for enforcing mutual defense obligations. It is difficult to see that the treaty defense obligations to which our two prime ministers refer would be compatible with military freedom of alliance. Sweden and Finland have left the freedom of alliance, but our security would be strengthened by membership in NATO. Is it possible to claim that our countries today are militarily non-aligned – when governments emphasize that we are obliged to help EU countries with all available means Our countries should apply together to the organization that has a defense clause with the highest credibility and that has developed mechanisms and structures to be able to implement it for our and other countries’ defense. There is a security deficit in our part of Europe. Sweden and Finland can now fix that deficit.Sten Tolgfors Former Swedish Minister of Defense Stefan WallinFormer Minister of Defense of Finland