Select Committee on Defence Eighth Report


EU/NATO Relations

69. A fundamental problem raised by the decision to fold the WEU into the EU is that of the future role within the European pillar of the Alliance of the European members of NATO which are not members of the EU, and of the members of the EU who are not members of NATO. There are now six countries in the former category (Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Turkey) and four in the latter (Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden). We have recommended above how we believe the military institutions should be inclusive in their planning processes. The institutional arrangements for political decision making within a reformed ESDI are also set out in the Progress Report—

    The Union will ensure the necessary dialogue, consultation and cooperation with NATO and its non-EU members, EU associated countries as well as other prospective partners in EU-led crisis management, with full respect for the decision-making autonomy of the EU and the single institutional framework of the Union.

    With European NATO members who are not members of the EU and other partners who are candidates for membership of the EU, permanent structures will be established for dialogue and information on issues related to security and defence and in particular crisis management. These structures will serve for consultation in the event of a crisis.[112]

The Helsinki Communiqué states that—

    modalities will be developed for full consultation, cooperation and transparency between the EU and NATO, taking into account the needs of all EU Member States; [and] appropriate arrangements will be defined that would allow, while respecting the Union's decision-making autonomy, non-EU European NATO members and other interested States to contribute to EU military crisis management.[113]

When asked what that meant the Secretary of State told us—

    I cannot give you a precise answer to that today because those are matters that we are still working on. At Helsinki the Council agreed the fullest possible involvement and participation of non-EU European allies. What we have to do is to find the practical ways to give expression to that commitment ... these are important countries, these are countries that we want to be involved in the process ... Having taken all sorts of decisions escalating the response of the international community at EU level, at the point at which you then decide that you need forces, you could not suddenly ring up Turkey and say "by the way, we would like to use some of your forces" any more than you could any other non-EU ally. The reality would be that you would want them involved in the fullest possible way at every stage in the process. We have yet to find precise institutional mechanisms to achieve that.[114]

70. Paragraph 31 of the Progress Report refers to a 'decision by the Council to launch an operation'. The Policy Director told us—

    ... the very important formality, of launching an operation, or ending it, in the EU's name has to be a decision of the EU. Clearly it is a matter of constitution if you like. Equally clearly, if other people are participating in the operation you have to make arrangements for consulting them and involving them in the decisions and you cannot say "by the way, the EU left, would you, Turks, stay behind?" In the conduct of the operation all participants have equal rights whether or not they are actually members of the EU.[115]

The Secretary of State went on to emphasise that—

    We have made it quite clear to the six that we would want to see them fully involved in this process. Clearly the technical point at which the decision is taken will be a decision for the 15 but the reality is we want as much involvement as possible from non-EU allies and we have worked very closely with them in discussing the kinds of ways in which that will be possible.[116]

When asked how a decision to end an operation would be taken, the Policy Director explained—

    I think the answer to that is if you can answer how NATO comes to that conclusion you have also answered how the EU comes to that conclusion ... If a NATO member at some stage in the operation formally opposed it you would no longer have a NATO operation.[117]

So far as funding of operations is concerned, the clear expectation is that, as now, the costs will lie where they fall—in other words, each nation will meet the costs of its own deployment.

71. All this would appear to make for some rather complex interlocking arrangements to try and accommodate these divergent memberships. However, it is our assumption that most operations under the ESDI flag are likely to be ad hoc coalitions of the willing. Paragraph 34 of the Progress Report states that—

    ... in the case of an EU-led operation, an ad hoc committee of contributors at the [Political and Security Committee] level is set up for the daily political control and strategic direction of that operation.

In reality, we suspect, in operational circumstances the institutional arrangements of the CESDP/ESDI are going to have to be very fluid and flexible. This runs the risk of a lack of clarity, but the resolution of that problem is more to do with political will and clarity of purpose than the design of essentially bureaucratic structures.

72. 'Peacetime' arrangements for the CESDP will inevitably be more institutionalised, but they will still need to be sufficiently flexible to ensure full transparency between the EU and NATO. The WEU at present consists of an inner core of Members, who are members both of the EU and of NATO (with the exception of Denmark, which has chosen to hold only Observer status on the WEU) and a next layer which includes the Associate Members (non-EU NATO European Allies). This is the '10+6' level. There are additionally seven 'Associate Partners' (EU applicants which are members of NATO's Partnership for Peace) and the five 'Observers' (EU neutrals plus Denmark). The Associate Members have a significantly greater right to participate in decision making and the shaping of policy than do the Observers and Associate Partners.

73. Within the CESDP arrangements, the four EU neutrals will enjoy, theoretically at least, equal status with the eleven EU/NATO members, and some special status will have to be accorded to the 'six'. In the longer term, it should be noted that four of the six are aspirant EU members, so it may be that the special arrangements will ultimately apply only to Iceland and Norway (unless enlargement of the EU and NATO proceed unsynchronised).

74. It is vital to the success of the CESDP within the ESDI that the special status of the six is formally and fully acknowledged. There must be a structure for the non-EU European Allies, which exists alongside but is fully integrated with the EU structures. Regular consultation, information sharing and cooperation at 15+6 should be implemented by the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the Military Committee (MC). The Council of Ministers should meet at 15+6 at least once every six months. The meetings of these institutions at 15+6 should be held "back to back" with meetings of the 15 and there should be a common agenda. The European Military Staff (EMS) should include secondees from the armed forces of the six.

75. The problem of the EU neutrals should not be overstated. All, including Ireland, have now joined NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) and are committed to participation in crisis management operations. They are not being invited to shed their traditional neutrality, since the CESDP/ESDI is not about collective defence and is certainly not about territorial aggression. There should be no reason in principle why they cannot participate fully in the Petersberg tasks. Most of them already participate in Bosnia. There is no risk that they will impede NATO acting as a whole, since the decision making body for that is the North Atlantic Council, to which they do not belong.

NATO and the European Pillar

The WEU Residue

76. When the principal functions of the WEU have been transferred to the EU, there will remain a problem about what to do with a number of residual elements of the WEU. The Secretary of State told us that there were—

The written evidence supplemented this, saying—

    We expect the establishment of new structures and arrangements for defence in the EU to lead to the transfer of some WEU's functions to the EU. Other functions would no longer be required and could be discarded ... We are still considering with partners the future role of the groups which are under the WEU umbrella including the Satellite Centre, Institute for Security Studies, WEU Assembly, Western European Armaments Organisation, Western European Armaments Group, Western European Logistics Group, Eurolongterm, Eurocom and Transatlantic Forum.[119]

77. The most apparently contentious residual function of the WEU is Article V of the Brussels Treaty—there would be great reluctance on the part of the neutrals to incorporate these provisions for collective self-defence into the Treaty on European Union, and any attempt to do so would in any case raise other substantial political and procedural difficulties. However, as the government points out in its written evidence—

    The 1948 Modified Brussels Treaty and the Article V collective defence guarantee it includes for full members could remain, but continue to be met through NATO where each nation has a complementary commitment.[120]

Our predecessors in their 1996 report on the WEU concluded that—

    ... the WEU's role in collective defence under the modified Brussels Treaty is of no continuing significance ...[121]

We see no reason to amend that conclusion now.

78. There are also the two armaments cooperation groups—the Western European Armaments Groups (WEAG) and the Western European Armaments Organisation (WEAO) as well as a number of subsidiary organisations. They are yet to produce any very quantifiable achievements in advancing European armaments cooperation, and have proved unwieldy and very slow-moving. In our 1998 report on aspects of defence procurement and industrial policy, we concluded that—

    ... the WEU's procurement organisations may provide a welcome contribution to harmonising the demand side of the defence market in Europe. The need for this is urgent, but real progress remains slow.[122]

There has been no acceleration since we drew that conclusion. Our predecessors concluded in 1996 that the WEU was—

    ... not essential to European collaboration in defence procurement. WEAG can operate separately from WEU on the coordination of information and research. Aspects of this work could eventually be drawn more closely into the ... EU ...[123]

Once again we see no reason to amend our predecessors' conclusion. As we made clear in our recent report, we regard the four-nation European Organisation for Joint Armaments Co-operation (OCCAR) as pointing the more hopeful way forward towards a possible European Armaments Agency.[124] The continued existence of the WEAG and the WEAO, should governments see a need for them, does not require the WEU umbrella for them to shelter beneath.

79. There is also the WEU satellite facility in Spain, at Torrejon. We took some evidence on this in private in connection with another inquiry. We were told—

    ... the WEU space centre, which has quite a strong French bias ... is not available for other than distinct WEU business ... nations can call upon the WEU to do work for them, but clearly if it is a national task rather than a WEU task they cannot have the benefit. That is a French agreement, a releasability issue ... It is a French rule that their Helios military satellite imagery is not to be used for those national tasks.[125]

We asked, therefore, whether what our witnesses were saying was that the UK did not need this facility. Their reply did not directly contradict this hypothesis. What that evidence demonstrated, to our satisfaction, is that the 'WEU' status of the facility is rather bogus—it is essentially a French initiative which it is prepared to share with its allies. This situation is unlikely therefore to be much affected by the disappearance of the WEU. In the light of this evidence, we consider that there is a need for further consideration of the cost-effectiveness of the Torrejon satellite facility and the grounds for continued UK participation in it.

80. A major part of the argument for the new ESDI arrangements is that it reduces the number of overlapping security organisations in Europe, a goal which this Committee has consistently supported and urged. None of the problems the Secretary of State suggested were posed by the WEU's winding-up seem to us insuperable. In the interests of cost-effectiveness and institutional clarity, we conclude that it would be best to ensure a clean break with the WEU and, once it has completed its purpose, for it and its dependent organisations to be wound-up, transferred or floated-off as rapidly as possible, with as little institutional residue as can be achieved, and with any remaining running costs brought as near as possible to zero. Article XII of the Brussels Treaty provides a simple mechanism for the legal winding-up of the organisation and the cessation of all treaty obligations.


81. If the WEU is wound-up and the Brussels Treaty in due course ceases to have effect, the WEU Parliamentary Assembly will disappear along with it.[126] Unlike the first, Community, pillar of the EU, the CFSP is intergovernmental and the EU Commission and the European Parliament have no direct part to play in it. The 'pooling' of sovereignty involved in the workings of the second pillar has therefore always been of a different nature from that which is involved in the first pillar. In moving the European Defence Initiative forward, the government has been anxious to indicate that it need not involve any diminution of national control of defence. The Prime Minister has stressed that—

    In any particular crisis, the European Union will develop a comprehensive policy. But within that, deployment of forces is a decision for Governments. I see no role for the European Parliament or the Court of Justice. Nor will the European Commission have a decision-making role on military matters.[127]

However, the Treaty on European Union requires that—

    The Presidency shall consult the European Parliament on the main aspects and the basic choices of the common foreign and security policy and shall ensure that the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration. The European Parliament shall be kept regularly informed by the Presidency and the Commission of the development of the Union's foreign and security policy. The European Parliament may ask questions of the Council or make recommendations to it. It shall hold an annual debate on progress in implementing the common foreign and security policy.[128]

This is a peculiarly EU version of the separation of powers, and it allows plenty of scope for the relatively unexamined exercise of executive prerogative. Since Maastricht, the question has frequently been raised of whether, in relation to the second pillar of the Union, the provision for democratic oversight of the activities of the Council of Ministers is sufficient.[129]. The creation of the CESDP and the disappearance of WEU will reopen this question. When we asked the Secretary of State where democratic accountability for the CESDP would lie, he commented—

    ... the European Parliament clearly has a responsibility in relation to Common and Foreign Security Policy ... it can ... have debates about European defence, but we would not expect to see the European Parliament reaching specific conclusions ... they would not have a formal constitutional role but then, in a sense, neither does the [WEU] Assembly ... We emphasise ... the role of individual nations in making decisions as to whether, for example, to deploy forces and I would be entirely content, as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, that the scrutiny of that decision will continue to rest firmly in Parliament ... I am perfectly willing to listen to arguments that say the [WEU] Assembly should continue ... but I think we need to look precisely at what its role has been in the past, what it has achieved and whether that kind of scrutiny, which I recognise is essential in democracies, cannot be, and is not, carried out through domestic parliaments ...You have got to be clear as to what it is you see to be the continuing role of the Assembly.[130]

The Secretary of State poses fair questions, both about the past work of the WEU Parliamentary Assembly and its future role. We approach the question of accountability with an open mind and without a presumption in favour of any of the existing parliamentary bodies. However, on one point we are quite clear. It would not be appropriate for the European Parliament to take on the job of scrutinising the CFSP and the CESDP. That is beyond its remit, and the intergovernmental nature of the second pillar, and the particular questions of national sovereignty involved in the deployment of armed forces, means that it will remain inappropriate for the European Parliament to have any significant role in this area in the foreseeable future. The Constitutional Affairs Committee of the EP has been pressing for treaty changes to bring the second pillar within the EP's competence to be considered at the current Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) of the EU. Our starting point is that accountability in these areas must unambiguously remain with the member states' national parliaments.

82. Since the WEU Assembly was founded in 1954, it has been joined by two other parliamentary assemblies with responsibility for oversight of closely related matters—the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The memberships of the three assemblies, both in national and individual terms, are often overlapping but are not identical. Our predecessors examined the three assemblies in a report published in May 1996 and concluded that it was open to debate whether the resources of the three could be better used, suggesting the possibility of a single North American and European parliamentary congress to debate issues of security and defence.[131] However, given that each assembly is attached to a separate 'executive' body, we consider that attempting to merge them in one body could risk blurring lines of accountability rather than clarifying them. A cost to the UK of participation in these assemblies of around £1.5 million a year, and globally of around £10 million a year,[132] represents reasonable value for money in view of the vital importance that should be attached to parliamentary accountability. However, if governments are prepared to look afresh at the institutional arrangements for the ESDI, parliamentarians should be prepared to do so as well, and the assemblies should not be exempt from value for money considerations. The key criteria which any proposed new arrangements following on from the eventual disappearance of the WEU should be judged against are that they: improve accountability; reduce unnecessary duplication, increase inclusivity; and reflect the structure of the actual institutional arrangements which they hold to account.

83. The WEU Assembly makes much of the fact that it is treaty-based (implicitly drawing an unfavourable contrast to the NATO and OSCE Assemblies) and argues that the parliamentary dimension of the CESDP will be viable only if covered in the Treaty on European Union.[133] For any new parliamentary institution to enjoy this particular distinction would require an amendment to the Treaty; and this could open rather wider questions than the oversight of the CESDP in isolation. There have been a number of proposals around for some time relating to multinational parliamentary scrutiny of the second pillar of the EU, including that of creating a second chamber of the EP comprised of delegated members of national parliaments. The WEU Assembly, meeting in special session in Lisbon on 21 March, called for itself to be transformed into a CESDP Assembly. A more modest and immediately practical suggestion might be to set up a parliamentary body along the lines of COFAC (the EU-based Conference of Foreign Affairs Committees which allows participation by aspirant countries' parliamentary representatives). This could provide a forum for the defence committees of the member states' parliaments (possibly in partnership with the foreign affairs committees) to have a more structured exchange of information and views than is at present possible. It would be a sufficiently flexible forum to enable it to operate in many different configurations to include both aspirant EU, and NATO, members. The setting-up of the CESDP means that the democratic deficit in holding the Council of Ministers to account for actions taken under the provisions of the 'second pillar' of the EU has become more apparent and the finding of a solution more urgent. Any proposal to remedy this must recognise the intergovernmental nature of the pillar's arrangements by emphasising the role of national parliaments.

112  op cit paras 29 and 30 Back

113  Helsinki European Council, Presidency Conclusion, para 28 Back

114  Q 103 Back

115  Q 97 Back

116  Q 97 Back

117  QQ 98-99 Back

118  Q 107 Back

119  Ev p 26, Appendix 3, para 3 Back

120  Ev p 26 Back

121  Fourth Report, Session 1995-96, op cit, para 11 Back

122  Seventh Report, Session 1997-98, Aspects of Defence Procurement and Industrial Policy, HC 675, para 14 Back

123  Fourth Report, Session 1995-96, op cit, para 41 Back

124  Second Report, Session 1999-2000, op cit, para 26 Back

125  Fifth Report, Session 1999-2000, The Defence Geographic and Imagery Intelligence Agency, HC 100, Q 61 Back

126  The Parliamentary Assembly operates under the provision of Article IX of the modified Brussels Treaty, which states, 'The Council of Western European Union shall make an annual report on its activities and in particular concerning the control of armaments to an Assembly composed of representatives to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe' Back

127  Speech at Royal United Services Institute, 8 March 1999 Back

128  Treaty on European Union, Title V, Article 21 Back

129  The arrangements for the third pillar are rather different, and combine a certain degree of Community action with intergovernmental action Back

130  QQ 107-109 Back

131  Fourth Report, Session 1995-96, Western European Union, HC 105, paras 55 and 56 Back

132  The running costs of the three assemblies in the last year for which figures are available were: £3.8 million (for the WEU Assembly), £1.8 million (for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly) and £1 million (for the OSCE Assembly).The UK's contributions were respectively, £0.65 million, £0.3 million and £84,000. The annual cost to the House of the three delegations it sends to these assemblies runs at around £0.4 million (Source, House of Commons Department of Finance and Administration and HC Deb., 28 March 2000, cc 101-2w ).The costs for NATO and the OSCE exclude the costs to the host countries of providing facilities for the biannual (for NATO) and annual (for the OSCE) plenary sessions of the assemblies-the November 1998 Session of the NATO Assembly in Edinburgh cost for example around £0.8 million, which suggests a total annual cost for the three assemblies of around £10 million, a figure which may not include all costs, some of which are difficult to identify. Back

133  In its report presented to the special session at Lisbon on 21 February 2000, paragraph 23, see also footnote 117. The Brussels Treaty also requires the delegates to the WEU Assembly to be drawn from those to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.  Back

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