Written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig
On 17 November 2015, Article 42(7), or the mutual assistance clause of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), was invoked for the first time, when France asked for aid and assistance from the other European Union (EU) Member States in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015.
Included in EU primary law in 2009 by the Lisbon Treaty, under the specific provisions on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the EU mutual assistance clause (or the EU mutual defence clause as it is called by many), had never previously been used. As there is no precedent, many questions have arisen with regard to its scope, implementation and the role of the EU institutions, as well as to the relationship with other provisions in EU law which refer to the expression of solidarity between EU Member States, in particular the EU solidarity clause contained in Article 222 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).
France’s decision to request assistance from the other Member States under Article 42(7) TEU, rather than following other possible approaches, has been explained in various ways, not least through the preference of dealing bilaterally with the other EU governments, without involving the EU institutions. All EU Member States have unanimously promised their full aid and support for France, but the process of defining the substance of their commitments is still ongoing.