Select Committee on Defence Eighth Report


84. It suits both the proponents and the opponents of enhanced European cooperation in security and defence to overstate the significance of what has happened in this area of policy over the last eighteen months to two years. Some of those who oppose the present initiative have expressed concern about possible future change, rather than present actuality or what is likely to be realised in the immediately foreseeable future. And while there is an undoubted case for greater European effort and cohesion in defence, some of those who express support for the latest initiative undoubtedly have their own agenda in seeking a diminution of US involvement and what they see as US domination.

85. The case for a more capable and more coherent European contribution to the military potency of the North Atlantic Alliance is difficult to contest, other than from a standpoint from which NATO is viewed as a malign or unnecessary phenomenon. It is a case which has been made since 1949, and which has been consistently championed by UK governments of different political positions. It is a case which has been made with increasing insistence since the end of the Cold War. The experience of Kosovo appears to have brought a new sense of urgency to the efforts of European governments to address this issue.

86. The Western European Union, the chosen vehicle for the ESDI to be carried through up till now, cannot be said to have turned around European security and defence investment, coordination or activity. The rationalisation of European security structures is overdue. There should be fewer, not more. Nonetheless, the decision to remove the European pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance from the WEU and locate it within the EU will create its own set of problems to replace the problem of institutional inertia which beset the WEU. Some advocates of the CESDP give the impression that its very announcement has been a step forward. This is not the case. An increased European dimension to NATO will be a step forward if, and only if, it includes a greater commitment (including, where necessary, greater financial commitment) by the participants, and a better use of resources through better coordination. The latest initiative should be judged by its fruits—if the Helsinki aspirations on deployable military capability are realised by the end of 2002, this will be real move forward for European security—but it will only be a first step. If the EU provides the political energy to achieve this goal, then it will deserve some congratulations.

87. Fundamental to the success of this latest attempt to rejuvenate European military capability will be the holding together of the North American and European wings of the North Atlantic Alliance. This is not a new problem, but the new arrangements will create their own new set of tensions. There must be absolute transparency between the EU military element and NATO at all times and in all circumstances. There must be no secrets between them, but each must be able absolutely to rely on the other. Javier Solana and George Robertson face a considerable challenge in building this relationship.

88. The non-EU European NATO Allies must be treated as equal partners in the enterprise and all the institutional arrangements must reinforce this. The new arrangements must also embrace effectively the aspirant members of both the Union and the Alliance. But the status of full members of either or both should be fully and distinctively recognised within the European Security and Defence Identity.

89. The idea of a 'European Army' has made regular appearances in discussions about European defence over the last fifty years. The term is misleading, since all European armed forces are national forces, and seem likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The notion of a European Army suggests the prior existence of a sovereign European state which could employ, equip, deploy and command it. The present reality is that the only armed forces from which the Europeans can draw, whether for national, NATO, or European purposes are the forces under the control of the governments (and sometimes parliaments) of each of the member states.

90. The EU is not a defensive, military alliance and is unlikely to become so. The new arrangements are nothing to do with collective defence, and there needs to be clarity about their extent, even though such clarity can only be theoretical until faced by a crisis. The Helsinki proposals are about improving Europe's capability in the military aspects of crisis management and are not about enabling Europe to go to war as a bloc. If the new arrangements enable the better integration of the instruments of civilian and military crisis management it will be a great potential benefit. We hope our colleagues on other select committees will examine the implementation of the proposals for improved civilian crisis management within the EU.

91. We are grateful to our colleagues on the European Scrutiny Committee for having referred this document to us. We hope that we have made it clear that, in our opinion, the future development and implementation of the EU's Security and Defence Policy within NATO's European Security and Defence Identity is a matter of fundamental importance to the UK. This House should keep a close watch on its progress over the next two years, and should debate it regularly. We hope the European Scrutiny Committee will recommend other documents to form the focus of these debates. We intend to play our part as well in holding the European Council to its promises made at Helsinki.

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