Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report




Draft Council Decision on a Joint Action on the establishment of a European Union Satellite Centre.

Legal base: Article 14 EU; unanimity
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 27 April 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


— The Cologne European Council

10.1  The Presidency Report on Strengthening the Common European Policy on Security and Defence (CESDP), adopted at the Cologne European Council in June 1999,[14] dealt with arrangements which would be necessary for ensuring political control and strategic direction of EU-led Petersberg operations "so that the EU can decide and conduct such operations effectively."

10.2  The Council concluded that the EU would need a capacity for analysis of situations and sources of intelligence, and a capability for relevant strategic planning. Apart from the three permanent bodies (the Political and Security Committee, the EU Military Committee and the EU Military Staff) the report suggests that other resources required would be, in particular, a Satellite Centre and an Institute for Security Studies.

— The Nice European Council

10.3  The Presidency Report on Strengthening the Common European Policy on Security and Defence, adopted at the Nice European Council in December 2000,[15] was debated on the Floor of the House on 19 March 2001.[16] In the report, the Council adopted decisions of principle on the inclusion of the "appropriate functions" of the Western European Union (WEU) in the field of Petersberg tasks[17]. These included the setting up in the form of agencies of a Satellite Centre and an Institute for Security Studies which would incorporate the relevant features of the existing parallel WEU structures.

The draft Decision

10.4  The Decision provides for the adoption of a Joint Action on establishing a European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) to support the European Security and Defence Policy by strengthening its early warning and crisis monitoring capabilities. The Centre's mission will be to support the Council in its decision-making by providing material resulting from analysis of national and commercial satellite and aerial imagery, as directed by the Secretary-General/High Representative (SGHR). Political control will be exercised by the Political and Security Committee (PSC), which will make recommendations on the Centre's priorities to the SG/HR, who will report, as appropriate, to the PSC.

10.5  The products of the Centre will be distributed to all Member States and to states which have concluded Association Agreements with the Centre "in accordance with modalities to be defined". Capacity permitting, the Centre may undertake tasking from individual Member States, the Commission, and states with Association Agreements, as well as from international organisations, such as the UN, OSCE and NATO.

The Government's view

10.6  The Government supports the proposal. The former Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) comments, in an Explanatory Memorandum dated 27 April, that the Centre will be one source of information to support the European Union in both the civilian and military aspects of pre-crisis and crisis-management. The total cost will be around 9 million euros, of which the UK share is likely to be around £1 million per annum, which will be met by the Ministry of Defence. Tasking requests from bodies other than the Council will be subject to cost recovery charges, which will provide additional revenue which can be used either to upgrade the Centre's equipment or to reduce the Member States' contributions. In times of crisis, the EU will have priority.

10.7  The Minister says that Association Agreements will be drawn up between the Centre and non-European members of NATO, as well as with EU accession candidates.

10.8  In response to a request for more information before we cleared this document, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has written as follows at official level:

    "You asked, in particular, about the involvement of third countries in the Satellite Centre and how decisions would be taken when material supplied by the US Government to certain Member States and by the EU Satellite Centre was interpreted differently.

    "Third countries, in particular the non-EU European Allies, will be able to conclude Association Agreements with the Satellite Centre. These will allow countries who are already members of the Satellite Centre under the Western European Union to continue to participate in the activities of the Centre. Third countries will have access to collective reports, access to tasking, ability to second image analysts to the Centre and will be able to participate in an expert level consultative committee. This would be similar to the access they already enjoy in the Western European Union.

    "The Satellite Centre will support the implementation of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. In this respect, it will be one of the sources of information available to policy makers in EU Member States. Policy decisions on any aspect of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy will be made on the basis of information from a number of different sources. The US Government has been content with the way in which the Satellite Centre has functioned in the past and much of the imagery used by the Satellite Centre was, and will continue to be, purchased from US commercial imagery providers. The EU's Satellite Centre will be, to a large extent, a continuum from the Western European Union Satellite Centre. As was the case in the Western European Union, NATO will be able to task the EU Satellite Centre to carry out work on its behalf. The transfer of the functions of the Western European Union Satellite Centre to the EU will have no impact on bilateral UK-US defence or intelligence links."


10.9  This proposal raises several questions which we ask the Government to clarify.

10.10   According to Annex VI of the Nice report, which covers arrangements for the consultation and participation of other potential partners, countries participating in an operation will attend the Committee of Contributors with the same rights and obligations as the other participating States as far as day-to-day management of an operation is concerned.[18] Canada is recorded as having already expressed an interest.

10.11  Given the close involvement of United States' commercial imagery providers in the past, how does the Government expect the relationship with the United States Government to work? Will it sign an Association Agreement or will it rely on its membership of NATO for access? If the United States, which may have access to superior imagery which it is not prepared to share, interprets differently key images supplied by the EU Satellite Centre, does the Government anticipate any difficulty in such circumstances in resolving a possible conflict of analyses, and therefore perhaps, for instance, of target selection?

10.12  In the period before an operation is planned, but when a potential crisis is spotted, how will the tasking of the Centre be conducted? Does the Government foresee problems in the EU Member States deciding which areas should be covered and will unanimity be required in the event of differing views? Will decisions on tasking at this stage be taken only by the EU Member States?

14  Cologne European Council Presidency Conclusions Annex III, pages 35 and 36 of Press Release. Back

15  (21826) - ; see HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 3 (29 November 2000). Back

16  Official Report, 19 March 2001, cols. 138-161. Back

17  These include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. Back

18  Section VI, page 12 of 14056/3/00 REV3. Back

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Prepared 30 July 2001