Select Committee on Defence Eighth Report


History of the ESDI

17. The Gulf War of 1991, following close on the heels of the post-Cold War shift in European security, brought the debate about the contribution of the European Allies to the potency of the Alliance down to more specific terms. Having noted that "the Gulf crisis has highlighted how modest the European contribution has been ...", in his foreword to Jane's NATO Handbook of 1992 the then Secretary General of NATO, Manfred Wörner, wrote—

    ... the Gulf conflict ... proved that the US needed Allied support and multinational cooperation ... what is essential, however, is that a European Security and Defence Identity evolve into more than a political concept. A pillar by definition must carry something, which implies that all its members should be available for essential security tasks and willing to share roles, risks and responsibilities equitably, including in the military domain.[31]

18. Meanwhile, the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1991, had provided for the establishment of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as the second 'pillar' of the EU, and for—

    ... the eventual framing of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence.[32]

The Treaty revisions agreed at Maastricht also incorporated reference to the Western European Union for the first time in the EU Treaties, identifying it formally as the body to which European Union would turn in order to—

    ... elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications.[33]

Despite this, when another European defence initiative, the Franco-German 'Eurocorps', was first established in 1992, it was set up outside the WEU/NATO structures. However, the Corps has since established a clearer relationship to NATO, and the two founding nations have been joined by Belgian, Spanish and Luxembourgeois elements. In April, Eurocorps took on the running of the KFOR HQ.

19. At the WEU Ministerial meeting in 1992, held at the Petersberg Hotel at Königswinter near Bonn, the Petersberg Tasks of humanitarian and rescue missions, peacekeeping, peacemaking and crisis management were defined as appropriate missions for the WEU in the context of the European pillar of NATO. At the NATO Brussels Summit of January 1994, the Alliance heads of state announced that they were ready to support the strengthening of the European pillar of the Alliance by making NATO assets available for WEU operations undertaken by the European Allies in pursuit of their Common Foreign and Security Policy.[34] The membership circle of the WEU continued to expand over this period. 'Associate Member' status had been extended to Iceland, Norway and Turkey and 'Observer' status to Denmark, Finland and Ireland in 1992. At Luxembourg in 1994, a further category of 'Associate Partner' (reflecting NATO's Partnership for Peace programme) brought in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Greece joined in 1995. Austria and Sweden adopted Observer status in the same year, and Slovenia became an Associate Partner in 1996. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland advanced from Associate Partners to the status of Associate Members on their accession to NATO in 1999.

20. As the WEU enlarged, its status as the bridge between the Alliance and the Union became more entrenched. The Declaration of the 1996 Berlin NATO Summit moved towards a definition of a European Security and Defence Identity within NATO, based on the identification of 'separable but not separate capabilities, assets and support assets... as well as separable but not separate HQs, HQ elements and command positions ...'[35], which could be used by the European Allies in pursuit of the Petersberg tasks, using NATO assets under the political control of the WEU. The Summit also elaborated the 'Combined Joint Task Force' (CJTF) concept, first devised at the 1994 Brussels Summit, under which some of these separable assets might be earmarked. At that time the UK insisted that the European defence capability, as embodied institutionally in the WEU, should not be formally incorporated into the EU. The 1996 Statement on the Defence Estimates argued that—

    It is unreasonable to expect our North American Allies to be involved in every operation falling short of territorial defence. In the case of smaller-scale peacekeeping, humanitarian or other crisis management operations, European countries should be able to act on their own when necessary. But this does not mean that new European forces and structures are needed, duplicating those we already have in the Alliance. The European military capability to meet this challenge already exists, much of it within NATO itself. In future, therefore, we see the WEU providing political authority and direction for European-led operations. European forces should be separable from the Alliance for this purpose but not separate; and the WEU should be able, with NATO's agreement, to draw when necessary on Alliance assets and capabilities. As well as the adaptations that will be necessary to NATO structures to achieve this, including the implementation of the CJTF concept, the WEU will also need to become more capable of fulfilling this role.[36]

However, it was not clear that the will to make the WEU 'more capable' existed in all its member states. In a 1995 report, our predecessors commented—

    Until concrete expression can be given to the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces, "separable but not separate" will remain a mere slogan. We urge all concerned to work with urgency over the next few months to give concrete effect to the Summit's concept of Combined Joint Task Forces, so that the elaborated concept can be ratified by WEU and NATO Ministerial meetings this winter.[37]

The CJTF concept is still not fully operable.

21. At the EU Amsterdam Summit in July 1997 the Heads of State and Government agreed to a revision of the Maastricht Treaty to provide for a closer institutional relationship between the WEU and the EU. Article 17 of Title V of the Treaty on European Union now reads as follows—

    The common foreign and security policy shall include all questions relating to the security of the Union, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy ... which might lead to a common defence, should the European Council so decide ...

    The Western European Union (WEU) is an integral part of the development of the Union providing the Union with access to an operational capability ...

    The policy of the Union in accordance with this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States ... which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) ...

    The progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported, as Member States consider appropriate, by cooperation between them in the field of armaments.

    Questions referred to in this Article shall include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crises management, including peacemaking.

    The Union will avail itself of the WEU to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications ...

    When the Union avails itself of the WEU to elaborate and implement decisions of the Union on the tasks ... all Member States of the Union shall be entitled to participate fully in the tasks in question ...

22. The Prime Minister told the House in his statement on the Amsterdam Summit that—

    ... getting Europe's voice heard more clearly in the world will not be achieved through merging the European Union and the Western European Union or developing an unrealistic common defence policy ... Instead, we argued for—and won—the explicit recognition, written into the treaty for the first time, that NATO is the foundation of our and other allies' common defence...[38]

In the course of our 1998 inquiry into the government's Strategic Defence Review, Ministers continued to stress that—

    ... whilst [the Treaty of Amsterdam] allows the European Union to engage in dialogue with the WEU, it certainly does not see it within the EU's capacity to make political decisions that would command the WEU ...[39]

and that—

    A certain line was drawn under [the ESDI] at the Amsterdam Summit, largely at British instigation, by preventing the merger of the WEU and the EU.[40]

23. The initiative which the Prime Minister has now set in train and which has led to the creation of the CESDP has recast all these previous certainties. It should be said, however, that the precision of the post-Amsterdam statements about the ESDI were uncharacteristic of the normal tone of debate on the initiative. A studied ambiguity about the precise nature of the ESDI has more often been a component in political declarations about its gradual evolution. We ourselves noted in September 1998 that the Strategic Defence Review—

    ... had done nothing to clarify or advance the development of the European Security and Defence Identity.[41]

Yet only a month later, at the informal EU Summit at Pörtschach in October 1998, the UK launched the European Defence Initiative and in so doing decisively shifted the focus of the debate on European security and defence to the EU, beginning the process at the conclusion of which the WEU will no longer be the instrument for the ESDI's control and deployment.[42] The French government had then thrown its support behind the initiative at the St Mâlo summit between France and the UK in December 1998.[43] In its memorandum to our NATO inquiry in 1999, the MoD told us—

    The Government believes that the European Union needs a more unified and influential voice in world affairs, articulated with greater speed and coherence through the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and that the development of the security and defence dimension would reinforce its capacity and standing ... The Government believes that the capacity for Europeans to act together where the United States and the Alliance as a whole are not engaged should be enhanced, building on the existing European Security and Defence Identity arrangements.[44]

31  Jane's NATO Handbook 1991-92, ed. Bruce George MP p [15] Back

32  Treaty on European Union, OJ C 191, 29.7.92, Article J4, para 1 Back

33  ibid, para 2 Back

34  Declaration of the 1994 NATO Brussels Summit, paras 5 and 6 Back

35  Declaration of the 1996 NATO Berlin Summit, para 7 Back

36  Cm 3223, para 128 Back

37  Tenth Report, Session 1994-95, The Future of NATO: The 1994 Summit and its Consequences, HC 747, para 45 Back

38  HC Deb, 18 June 1997, c314 Back

39  HC (1997-98) 138-III, Q 2881 Back

40  HC (1997-98) 138-III, Q 1630 Back

41  Third Report, Session 1998-99, op cit, para 140 Back

42  Q 8 Back

43  Third Report, Session 1998-99, op cit, Q 317 Back

44  ibid, Ev p 131 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 11 May 2000