Select Committee on Defence Eighth Report


The Helsinki Proposals


50. The Helsinki Council could be said to have marked the formal foundation of the CESDP. It agreed first and foremost to adopt the so-called 'headline goal'. This states, in full, that—

In April of last year, in our report of the future of NATO, we expressed the hope that the Washington Summit would—

    ... lay the foundations of measures to improve complementarity and interoperability amongst the European Allies' armed forces, and ... embody a recognition that this will involve further pooling of national resources ... we would see great advantage in ... the creation of a second, European-led, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.[87]

The headline goal is entirely in line with our recommendation of a year ago. Nonetheless, there are a number of practical issues in its implementation about which we are concerned. Under NATO structures, the Corps has been the basic building block of ground forces. The headline goal speaks of 15-16 brigades making up the Corps—these are probably the smallest realistic national components for planning purposes. The requirement to be self-sustaining is particularly relevant for such formations, as Corps assets will have to be added. The readiness levels required mean that the earmarked forces (at least for the initial deployment within 60 days) will have to be professional rather than conscript. The requirement to sustain the deployment for one year (almost certainly too short a period anyway to be realistic, give recent experiences in the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo) means that the headline number needs to be multiplied by three—for every person on deployment there will be one preparing and one recovering. It has been widely reported from the Kosovo campaign of the difficulties that brigades faced there during the entry phase in trying to report directly to an operational level headquarters. Some divisional structure would be likely to be needed to deploy as many as 15 brigades.

51. Kosovo brought home forcibly this lack of a rapid reaction capability. The Secretary of State reminded us that—

    The reality was that the European nations were not able to get forces into the field sufficiently quickly ...[88]

The problem for Europe is not a shortage of personnel—there are some 2 million men and women under arms in the EU.[89] The problem is that they are often neither trained nor equipped in the right way, nor are they able to be deployed to the right place. In that context, the attempt the earmark some 2% or 3% of the available forces for rapid deployment and subsequent roulement does not, on the face of it, seem an unduly ambitious goal.[90] The main challenge of meeting the goal is organisational rather than numerical.[91] It requires a commitment by the participating nations to have the right troops, properly trained and in the appropriate state of readiness, available at short notice (60 days should be regarded as a maximum). It requires the right equipment and other logistical and medical support to be similarly available. It requires the means to transport these people, equipment and stores to the right place. And, crucially, it requires the means to sustain them there. Some of this is already available—it needs someone to draw it together, and then to identify and fill the gaps.[92]

52. The individual charged with converting this aspiration[93] into reality is the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR). DSACEUR is the senior European Commander in the Alliance, and the post rotates between UK and German postholders (the current DSACEUR is General Sir Rupert Smith). It should greatly enhance the credibility of the CESDP within NATO that DSACEUR has this pivotal role in the realisation of the headline goal. The Policy Director described the task he faces—

    This is not a unit; this is a pool of forces, most of which ... are forces which would be available for NATO ... They will be trained to NATO standards ... a bigger part of the answer ... will be connecting the development of the headline goal—and the next step is to define it in a bit more detail and break it down—to the NATO force planning system ... once we have defined the headline goal in a bit more detail, a NATO force generation conference which gets all the countries together to work out how a force can be produced ... I suspect some countries will have to adapt their force structure. They may not have to change its size but maybe they will have to produce a deployable unit made up of professionals and separate that out as part of a contribution to this as a rapid deployment contribution and continue with the bulk of their forces in another way.[94]

We welcome DSACEUR's role in planning and generating the forces to meet the headline goal. He will act as a guarantor of the reliability of the various national commitments and as a vital link between the CESDP and NATO. His role should do a lot to ensure that there is no duplication between autonomous European capabilities and capabilities available to NATO.

53. Individual countries will have to address how to make their commitment to the headline goal in different ways, according to circumstances. It would be counter-productive, and against the inter-governmental spirit of the initiative, to hector them, for example, about conscription. For many of our European Allies, the continuation of conscription after the need for mass infantry forces has disappeared is a social and ethical question more than an issue of force structure; but they will need to find ways of combining these social goals with increased professionalism in their armed forces. Nor, at least to begin with, need the achievement of the headline goal be particularly expensive. As both the Secretary of State and the Policy Director emphasised, in the first instance this is about reorganisation—

    Things will have to change but it does not necessarily mean huge amounts of extra expenditure because the scale of the goal is small in relation to the total size of European capability. What we want is a relatively small but high quality and usable capability.[95]

    What ... is absolutely important is that there is this commitment by the EU states to satisfy the obligation. Whether they satisfy it by spending more money on defence and providing a new capability or whether they simply spend the existing money that they spend in a different way is a matter for them ... What they have signed up to is delivering this target by 2003.[96]

Equally, we were assured that the UK need not increase its spending to meet any particular requirements of the headline goal.[97] If it can fund fully within the present defence budget the implementation of the SDR (which we are inclined to doubt) it will almost certainly be able to meet its Helsinki obligations.

54. The Secretary of State told us—

    As far as the progress is concerned, there will be a very careful development of each country's contribution ... as we go along we will be monitoring very closely the way in which this works ... to make sure that this is an effective contribution and not simply one that is available on a piece of paper somewhere in a filing cabinet. So we will be looking very cautiously and very critically at the ways in which each country makes its contribution to satisfying the headline goal.[98]

The force generation element of the headline goal is a modest ambition, in the context of overall European defence resources. We expect the Prime Minister to be able to report convincing evidence of progress towards its achievement following each European Council between now and the end of 2002. Its achievement need not be expensive—but it is only a beginning in the move to create a capable European defence and security structure configured to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War World.

55. Real progress, beyond the headline, will cost real money. The progress report speaks of the 15 deployable brigades being backed up by the—

    ... requisite intelligence, command and control, logistics and other support services and appropriate air and naval elements.[99]

In many ways these elements represent the more challenging parts of the headline goal—strategic lift assets being the most immediate example of a current shortfall affecting European countries, including the UK. The Secretary of State had little to report on the practical measures for supplying these capabilities.[100] But it is probably in these areas that the greatest opportunities arise for improving the European bang per buck ratio in defence. Attempting to find a pan-European solution to those shortfalls will also raise some very thorny issues—the Declaration of the second St Mâlo Summit, for example, noted 'the common European need for new transport aircraft' and, a few paragraphs later, anticipated 'early progress toward the establishment of Airbus as a single commercial business...'[101] Harmonisation of European procurement requirements has long been desired but is still far from being achieved. We have discussed its problems on many past occasions,[102] most recently in a report on the proposed OCCAR Convention, in which we concluded that the creation of the four-nation Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation was—

    ... a laudable pragmatic step by the countries concerned to improve European defence procurement co-operation. If a European Armaments Agency is to become a reality, we believe it is more likely to succeed if it adheres to the same principles that guide OCCAR's operation—in particular the commitment to competition— and that this represents the only way forward for Europe to get more bang for its bucks in defence procurement.[103]

Achieving the back-up elements of the headline goal, rather than the bald troop numbers, will be the real test by which this latest initiative will stand or fall. Redressing the European capability deficits identified in the DCI and the WEU capabilities audit will be a very taxing task, and the effort to do it more efficiently through collaboration will be an added challenge requiring sustained political commitment. We shall continue to watch this space with interest.


56. With the decision having effectively been made to wind up the WEU, the CESDP will become the institutional embodiment of the European pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance. We now examine how it is proposed that the institutions of the CESDP will operate in the EU and how it is proposed they will provide the necessary political-military direction for the CESDP.

The Second Pillar

57. The 'governing body' of the CFSP, the EU's second pillar, is the General Affairs Council (GAC), one of the various manifestations of the EU's Council of Ministers, consisting of the foreign affairs Ministers of the member states. (At present, there is no Defence Council but the Progress Report refers to the GAC being 'reinforced' by the Defence Ministers.[104]) Although the Commission of the European Communities has no direct role in the second pillar arrangements it does have a Commissioner for External Relations, a post currently held by Mr Chris Patten. The EC Treaty states that—

    The Council and the Commission should consult each other and shall settle by common accord their methods of cooperation.[105]

And the EU Treaty provides that—

    The Commission shall be fully associated with the work carried out in the common foreign and security policy field.[106]

This separation between the first and second pillar raises the question of whether the EU will be able to take the multidimensional approach to crisis management which, it could be argued, will be one of the great potential advantages of the new arrangements. Because the EU now embodies a complex web of economic, political, trade and ethical relationships, its approach to crisis management can and should be more 'holistic' than NATO's can be. We noted in our report last year on the future of NATO that—

    NATO is not a channel of economic aid; it cannot generate large-scale employment, help restructure non-defence industries, support democratisation through grants to democratic political parties, send out social workers, or build multi-ethnic communities. It cannot police all the villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, protect all returning refugees, or help integrate other ethnic minorities throughout Eastern Europe. NATO is not capable of making Eastern Europeans rich, of preventing reactionary movements in Russia, or of converting peoples to democracy whose culture has never experienced it in the past ... the Alliance is not the only player in the peace support game. The international community has to be involved ...[107]

Even the 'new' NATO remains, essentially, a military organisation.

58. We sought to explore with the Secretary of State how this separation and cooperation would work. He attempted to explain the triangular relationship within the EU's approach to crisis management (or, more importantly, crisis prevention) of the Secretary General of NATO (Lord Robertson), the High Representative for the CFSP (Mr Solana, who is also Secretary General of the WEU) and the EU Commissioner for External Relations (Mr Patten)—

    ... the Secretary General of NATO [is] responsible for the continued development of the ESDI within the Alliance and, indeed, responsible for developing and fostering European Union and NATO links ... the European Union's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy ... is charged with developing new structures within the European Union, necessary links between the European Union and NATO and, finally, the transitional arrangements from the WEU to the European Union. Thirdly ... the European Commissioner for External Affairs ... may have a role in the non-military aspects of crisis management, but I would emphasise not the military aspects. Specifically, he would not be able to control or commit forces to conduct European Union operations. What is crucial is the way in which the three of them are able to work together ... as we deal with an evolving crisis ... there would ... be an essentially political discussion in the first place, within the European Union, as to what should be the appropriate, in the first place, political response of European Union countries ... it may begin by no more than a resolution passed by the General Affairs Council; it might mean that that was, in an appropriate situation, escalated to some degree of economic or other sanctions, but, ultimately, if that had failed to resolve the crisis it might well be that the European Union recognise the necessity for a military response ... At the beginning of the crisis ... we would expect, as happens today, NATO planners to have been preparing the appropriate military response should that unfortunately prove necessary. That is why there would be a seamless exchange of information between the European Union and NATO.[108]

59. If there is a distinctively EU contribution to be made to European security, it will be in its ability to deploy a wider range of instruments of peace making in coordination with military means of crisis management. Locating the ESDI in the CESDP may also have a benign educative effect on the EU's wider foreign and security policy. A CFSP with no defence dimension tempts the exercise of diplomacy without regard to military power and without responsibility for the exercise of such power. Military force should always play second fiddle to the other instruments of diplomacy, but a more outward-looking foreign policy may have to act within the constraints of the military capability which lies behind it. To the extent that the EU should have a Common Foreign and Security Policy, it is better that it should be interpenetrated at all levels by a commonly held defence awareness, rather than that it should be left to float on a sea of good intentions, unanchored in pragmatic military reality.

The New Bodies

60. The Helsinki proposals involve the establishment of three new bodies working to the Council of Ministers through the High Representative/Secretary General of the Council, Mr Javier Solana. They are: the Political and Security Committee (PSC) which will deal at Permanent Representative level with all aspects of the CFSP, including the CESDP; the EU Military Committee (EMC), consisting of the national Chiefs of Defence Staff or their representatives; and an EU Military Staff (EMS) within the Council Secretariat, which will provide the military planning and early warning, etc. capabilities. There are at present around 90 military staff working for the WEU—it seems reasonable to assume that initially at least the structure and personnel of the WEU will be transferred largely intact to the EU. There is nothing especially unexpected or problematic about the proposed structures—they largely replicate those of the WEU, though of course they will not have as wide a membership. That question of inclusivity is the main concern we address below.

61. The EMC (which parallels NATO's Military Committee) will be the highest EU military body. Though notionally consisting of the Chiefs of Defence Staff, for its day to day workings it will be staffed by their military representatives. For those EU countries which are also members of NATO, it would in our view be highly undesirable that their military representatives to NATO and to the EU should be different. They should be "double-hatted" whenever possible, in order to reinforce the linkage between the CESDP and NATO. We are pleased to note that the UK is already doing this with the interim committee,[109] and hope our European Allies can be persuaded to follow suit.

62. The choice of Chairman of the EMC will be a politically delicate matter if, as anticipated, the candidates will be former Chiefs of Defence Staff or their near equivalents. After appointment, they will work directly to the Council and will not have national loyalties. They will have to command the confidence of both their political masters and their military colleagues. It would also be essential that the Chairman of the EMC had the right of participation in NATO's Military Committee. Clearly, reciprocal rights should be granted to the Chairman of that body. At least in the first instance it would be highly desirable that the Chairman of the EMC should come from one of the EU NATO Allies, with experience, and a clear understanding, of NATO's culture and modus operandi. Given the workload involved, it does not seem practical to 'double-hat' with the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, although one possibility would be to have a joint chairman with a separate deputy in each committee. There are also some issues to be resolved about the status of the Chairman. The relationship between the Chairman of the EMC and the High Representative should, we believe, be clearly defined as one of equality before the Council. After the pattern of the CDS in the UK, the Chairman of the EMC should have the right of direct access to both the General Affairs Council and the European Council.

63. We have referred already to DSACEUR's pivotal role in ensuring the credibility of the CESDP in NATO's eyes. It is obviously essential that DSACEUR should have the right to attend all meetings of the European Military Committee.

64. The European Military Staff (EMS) will not, if the WEU model is followed, provide any sort of HQ function for European-led operations. Rather, their role will be to provide early warning, situation assessment and strategic planning services to the Council and the High Representative, via the EMC, under whose operational control they should fall. The Progress Report states—

    Military experts will be seconded from the Member States to the Council Secretariat in order to assist in the work on the CESDP. These military experts will be transferred in time into the Military Staff.[110]

It is obvious to us that to maintain their currency and credibility, the European Military Staff should not become permanent employees of the Council but should continue to be drawn on secondment from the armed forces of the member states, probably for periods of between two and four years.

65. Amongst their many potential functions in supporting the EMC, the EMS will presumably be largely responsible for identifying the constituent parts of the European rapid reaction forces and coordinating and stimulating the development of capabilities where shortfalls are identified. It is essential that the EMS is explicitly tasked with maintaining and improving interoperability not only across EU forces but across the whole of NATO.

66. In its early warning function, the EMS will need to develop an intelligence assessment capability. This raises some thorny issues, which will become even more acute when European-led operations are in progress. The problem that has most often been raised is the extent to which the US will be prepared to allow European-led operations access to the full range of intelligence material they hold—material that far exceeds in scope and scale anything to which the European nations currently have access or which they would be able to develop in the near to medium term. While it is possible to overstate this difficulty, there seems little political will to spend substantial sums on duplicating US resources. As the experience of Kosovo demonstrated, intelligence is not equally shared within NATO at present—if this is a problem within NATO it is not altogether obvious why this should be more problematic within the CESDP. The Policy Director commented—

    I do not think the Americans will have any greater difficulty in releasing information to members of the EU than they do to all the other members of NATO. They will of course protect purely national things in the way they do in both organisations now.[111]

67. In actual crisis management, although operational command will fall to NATO or national HQs, the EMS will need to be capable of rapid augmentation, especially if NATO's permanent European Headquarters, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is not being used. This will require a high level of common doctrine development and interoperability, including at the command and control level. This reinforces the case for reasonably rapid circulation of seconded staff drawn from the appropriate levels of the member states' armed forces. But as the experience of Operation Allied Force against Serbia demonstrated, this goal of maximum interoperability has not yet been achieved by NATO, and the challenge it presents should not be underestimated.

68. Although it is not difficult to conceive of these institutional arrangements functioning satisfactorily in 'peacetime' or where an operation is making use of NATO assets under the Washington 'Berlin Plus' arrangements, it is far more difficult to conceive of them working in circumstances where these assets are not available (except at very low level crises). This reinforces our conclusion that such operations, above a very basic level, are inconceivable in the immediately foreseeable future. It will be some time before the European Military Staff is likely to be able to represent a convincing vehicle for the exercise of strategic control of a major operation.

86  Progress Report, para ? Back

87  Third Report, Session 1998-99, op cit, para 92 Back

88  Q 44 Back

89  Q 44 Back

90  Q 54 Back

91  Q 48 Back

92  Q 48-54 Back

93  Q 57 Back

94  Q 53 Back

95  Q 53 Back

96  Q 56 Back

97  Q 87 Back

98  Q 87 Back

99  Progress Report, para 13 Back

100  Q 58 Back

101  Paras 5 and 8 Back

102  Ref Back

103  First Report, Session 1999-2000, The OCCAR Convention, HC 69, para 26 Back

104  op cit para 14 Back

105  Treaty Establishing the European Community, Part Five, Title I, Article 218, para 1 Back

106  Treaty on European Union, Title V, Article 27 Back

107  Third Report, Session 1998-99, op cit paras 42-43 Back

108  Q 19, Q 21 Back

109  Q 92 Back

110  op cit para 26 Back

111  Q 65 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