Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001
VAZ, MP AND
120. I am using the Prime Minister's words.
(Mr Vaz) Of course, the annexes to the Nice Report
do not contain the Camp David communiqué, of course they
do not, that is a matter of fact. The Nice annexes are entirely
in keeping with the statement made by the Prime Minister and the
President on 23 February, and Sir John has said that he thinks
it is open to interpretation. Well, it is not open to interpretation;
we have made it quite clear that, except in the small cases where
we are going to be able to act on our own, or in concert with
other countries, this is something that is going to have to go
through NATO. And, no matter what Mr Iain Duncan Smith does, in
order to try to confuse people, or what people do, take this as
an assurance that is absolute, NATO remains the corner-stone of
our defence policy. We have said it on numerous occasions, President
Chirac has said it on numerous occasions, it is really not an
issue that needs to be discussed.
121. Minister, you are rambling off into issues
I did not ask you about. Let us come back, alright, to what President
Bush said at Camp David; he said, "He" the Prime Minister,
"has assured me that European defence would in no way undermine
NATO. He also assured me there would be a joint command, that
planning would take place within NATO and that should NATO not
wish to go on a mission that would serve as a catalyst for the
other forces moving on their own." I suggest to you that
there is nowhere, in the annexes to the Nice Treaty, where it
says there will be a joint command and the planning will take
place within NATO. In fact, it says the opposite, it says they
will deal with each other on an equal footing, and it talks repeatedly
about the autonomy of the EU's capability. Can you point to anything
in the annexes to the Nice Treaty which supports the undertakings
that apparently the Prime Minister gave to the President?
(Mr Vaz) No; because, Mr Maples, not everything is
in the annexes to the Nice Report. As I made it absolutely clear,
and I have tried to go very slowly so that I can explain where
this all began, it all began, Mr Maples, with your colleagues,
Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Hurd, when they met at the Petersberg
Hotel in 1992 just outside Bonn. You nod your head. That is the
fact. And it was all to do with the way in which we were to deploy
the capabilities of the WEU; that went on from the Petersberg
tasks and the Petersberg Agreement to St Malo
122. That has nothing to do with it.
(Mr Vaz) And it went on from there.
123. Yes, (I agree with that ?).
(Mr Vaz) You will not have every single bit of information
put into the annexes.
124. I am asking a very, very simple question,
whether or not the Prime Minister's undertakings to the President
of the United States are based on things that are in the annexes
to the Nice Treaty, and I am suggesting to you
(Mr Vaz) Page 2; page 2 is very clear. Have you got
125. Page 2 of what?
(Mr Vaz) Of the annexes.
126. I have the annex here, and actually it
(Mr Vaz) What does it say?
127. Well, the version I have, which, admittedly,
was the draft that was around at the time of the negotiations,
says; well, it was very, very difficult to obtain any of these
documents, if I may say so, Minister,
(Mr Vaz) That is simply not true.
128. And one is suspicious that the Foreign
Office made it deliberately difficult to obtain them. The annex
I have says: "The entire chain of command must remain under
the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout
the operation." And the Presidency's conclusions, that came
before the Nice summit, talk about setting up the military staff
of the European Union: "The strength and resources needed
for the operation of such bodies, in particular the military staff,
will have to be increased without delay." Actually, everything
that is in the document surrounding the Nice Treaty leads one
to the opposite conclusion of what the Prime Minister said, that
the planning will not be locked within NATO, and there is no NATO
veto on the EU's operation?
(Mr Vaz) Right; page 2, quote: The EU will act only
"where NATO as a whole is not engaged"." Page 52:
"For operations requiring recourse to NATO assets and capabilities,
operational planning will be carried out by the Alliance's planning
bodies, and for an autonomous EU operation, i.e. not using NATO
assets, within one of the European strategic level headquarters,"
"E.g., a national HQ capable of strategic level planning,
such as the UK's PJHQ, or the French equivalent." The crucial
point is that the EU military staff cannot and will not do operational
level military planning. There will be no duplication of SHAPE.
129. This is obviously a more recent document
than has been available to me, and I would be very grateful if
you could send me
(Mr Vaz) Mr Maples, is it my problem that you have
been reading the wrong document?
Mr Maples: It is, I think, your problem that
the documents which are available do not say what you are saying,
and they do not say, anywhere,
Chairman: Minister, we will read the transcript
130. They do not say anywhere that the planning
will take place within NATO?
(Mr Vaz) I will make sure that Mr Maples does not
have to rely on Mr Duncan Smith. We will give him a fresh copy
of the document.
131. Minister, I think I do know a little bit
about this issueno, I just want to finish this because
I have just been patronised by the Minister, who, I believe, made
it extremely difficult to obtain these documents, and the ones
(Mr Vaz) In what way have I made it difficult for
Mr Maples to obtain this document; it is absurd.
132. The ones that are available say what I
have just said, which is, the chain of command must remain under
the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout
the operation, and I would say to you that the French Chief of
Staff, and I am quoting now from evidence of a Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, said to the Assemblée Nationale
that the Nice Treaty was specifically worded to rule out any interpretation
that would give NATO a decision-making priority in the reaction
to crises. So what I would suggest to you is that the Government
is playing at words here, it is saying one thing to Parliament
here to try to allay fears that this is going to be a separate
organisation from NATO, and then it is going to the United States
and saying something different. And the danger is that this distinction
will come into the open and become clear. And if the Government
does not get this nailed down very, very soon, it is going to
find itself in the difficulties that I am describing.
(Mr Vaz) Mr Chairman, that is complete nonsense. Mr
Maples now realises that he was reading from the wrong document.
I will get him a fresh copy. I have not been keeping these documents
from him. I did not know Mr Maples was going to raise this particular
point today. These documents are not suppressed in some drawer
in my room, in order to prevent Mr Maples from doing his job as
an MP. I will make sure that he gets the references that I have
made to the Presidency report. He should not work himself into
a lather over this.
133. I am quoting from Annex Seven to the Nice
Treaty, which is the document that was tabled at the meeting,
and later documents were not available by the middle of February.
(Mr Vaz) NATO remains the corner-stone of our defence
Chairman: We have covered that ground. I think
that Dr Starkey wants to come in; on this one?
134. I just wanted to clarify about these documents.
Are they documents that would have to be obtained from the Foreign
Office, or might one reasonably have expected the House of Commons
Library to be able to get the up-to-date documents? I am merely
(Mr Vaz) I have no idea, but I will certainly let
you have them. I understand, they are in the Library, as Dr Starkey
has said, and
135. What, the up-to-date version, that you
have quoted from, is in the Library?
(Mr Vaz) Yes; yes.
136. And, presumably, it is on the Internet,
in any event?
(Mr Vaz) On the Internet, on the website.
137. So it could have been obtained from the
(Mr Vaz) (Yes. ?)
138. Minister, am I right in thinking that the
Response Force could not undertake any kind of military operation
without the technical support of NATO; that is true, is it not?
(Mr Vaz) Yes; except in the very limited cases that
I have outlined, and Lord Robertson has outlined.
139. Okay, then you have given me your answer
there. Might I ask, are there any other dissenting voices over
the relationship between NATO and the Response Force, we know
the position of the French, but what is the view of the Governments
of Finland, Sweden and the Irish Republic, do they have the right
not to engage in an operation that is supported by NATO?
(Mr Vaz) Of course; because, in the end, this is a
matter that must be left to the Member States. It is for a British
Prime Minister, in the end, no matter what is decided or agreed,
or what happens, it is for a British Prime Minister to decide
whether or not to commit British troops. But what we have done,
Dr Godman, and you have raised this issue, is, we have kept our
non-NATO allies informed when sitting as the EU, and we have kept
our non-EU colleagues informed when sitting as NATO. Throughout
this whole process, and I have been to a number of these meetings,
we have gone out of our way to make sure that everyone knows about
what is going on, everyone except the British Conservative Party,
which certainly has not followed this view, but everyone else,
in the whole of Europe, seems to understand what is happening.