Select Committee on Defence Eighth Report


History of the ESDI

13. Debate over the nature, size and structure of the 'European pillar' of NATO has been around as long as the Alliance (the phrase itself is attributed to President Kennedy). It has always been driven by two primary concerns which essentially represent two sides of the same dollar coin—the degree to which Europe can and should rely on the USA to guarantee European security, and by so doing implicitly accept US leadership; and the extent to which the USA is prepared to underwrite the cost of defending Europe or whether that burden should be divided differently, at the risk of some US disengagement from Europe. Attempts in the early 1950s to make Europe more self-sufficiently secure produced the proposal to create a treaty-based European Defence Community, pre-dating the other European Communities. The UK was prepared to support but not participate in this. A treaty was signed in Paris on 27 May 1952 between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands and West Germany to establish an EDC (which in effect provided for the creation of a single European army). It received strong support from the US, but French concerns over national sovereignty and German rearmament eventually led to rejection of the treaty in the Assemblée Nationale in 1954.

14. Following this setback, attention returned to the Brussels Treaty, which had been signed in 1948 by Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK. A large part of its purpose had been to facilitate the establishment of a transatlantic alliance and, once the Washington Treaty had been signed in 1949, the Brussels Treaty Organisation was rapidly absorbed into NATO. Following the failure of the EDC initiative the Paris Protocol, signed in October 1954, adapted the Brussels Treaty and brought Italy and West Germany into the newly-designated Western European Union (WEU). In 1955 West Germany acceded to NATO, which removed much of the raison d'être of the WEU. With the UK's accession to the EC in 1973 most of its remaining roles disappeared. Over the following decade the WEU almost completely ran out of steam.

15. In the early 1980s, in response to the failure of the Genscher-Colombo initiative to bring security and defence within the EC's European Political Cooperation process (the EPC, precursor to the CFSP), there was an intergovernmental initiative to 'revitalise' the WEU, which resulted in the Rome Declaration of October 1984 in which the Ministers—

 In October 1987, the WEU Ministerial Council adopted the 'Hague Platform' on European security interests, which declared that the signatories were—

    ... convinced that the construction of an integrated Europe will remain incomplete as long as it does not include security and defence.[29]

and which stressed their resolve—

    ... to strengthen the European pillar of the [North Atlantic] Alliance.[30]

Subsequently, in March 1990, two further Members of the Alliance, Portugal and Spain, acceded to the WEU.

16. Despite these initiatives, the WEU remained in the late 80s and early 90s very much in the background of European security, receiving much less attention than NATO.

28  Rome Declaration of WEU Ministerial Council, 1984, para 3 Back

29  Hague Declaration of WEU Ministerial Council, 1987, preamble, para 2 Back

30  ibid, part II, para 2 Back

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