One of my main references, Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, published on 17th June a post titled: “demands The Parliament some transparency for EU “Defence” budget. Supported by a resolution voted by the Parliament, his post illustrates the fact that the EU Parliament has not renounced to extend its power and not to forget the smallest piece of its prerogatives to the Council. Or at least what it has assessed to be its prerogatives.
Indeed, scrutiny of the External Action Service is a major issue when dealing with the EU Parliament, as the Lisbon Treaty reminds us that Defence is first of all a national issue. This is completely true, at least for the time being. As stated in the Treaty, more precisely in protocol N°10, “the common security and defence policy of the Union does not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States”. This means clearly that the Nations still decide on their defence policy, which is a normal thing. Currently, they still vote the defence budgets and the national political leaders decide to what operations they are willing to take part and in what extend, with what caveats they will.
However, the same countries, grumbling against the fact that they always are the same ones to contribute to the operations, or that they are the only ones to take risks, would greatly appreciate a fair burden sharing. However their way to see how to ideally share the burden is very simple, and in a way very sound (from the Nations point of view): the EU pays and the countries implement the policy.
However, fed up by the principle of “the cost lie where they fall”, Nations, requested or accepted (I do not know) the Athena mechanism, which consists in providing some EU founds to support the operation and therefore alleviate the burden. This Athena mechanism is a very convenient Trojan horse of the Parliament to scrutinize the defence spending of the Council, as it illustrates the contradiction of the Nations. If they do not want to be controlled on the operations, the best is to renounce to any European money, but nobody really wants to.
Furthermore, as reminded by the author, the Parliament would like to scrutinize the EU Military Staff and other structures, but only from a very limited perspective: if the money is properly spent. Would the European Parliament have requested for more info on the operational side of their work, they would have gone too far and weakened their position. However, by looking at the budget, they use the back door to get into European Defence. A closer scrutiny of the spending, especially in the middle of the current budgetary crisis, can only be understood by the citizens of the virtue of the Members of the Parliament, at least as far as the Europeans are really interested in such issues.
Therefore as it has always been the case, the Parliament gets into things by nibbling new prerogatives, making use of its disturbance power to make the others bend and accept a reinforcement of its role. By the way, this resolution was passed by a majority of 607 votes, with only 54 against and 15 abstentions. Obviously the Parliament need for transparency supersedes national considerations of the Members on European Defence.