Select Committee on Defence Ninth Report

6  NATO and the European Security and Defence Policy

The development of the European Security and Defence Policy

211. Since the establishment of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) following the Franco-British summit at St Malo in 1998, significant progress has been made in the development of the framework of European defence. At Feira in 1999, the EU launched the civilian arm of ESDP. At Nice in 2000, permanent structures were created within the Council of the European Union to deal with ESDP matters, including the Political and Security Committee (PSC), the EU Military Committee (EUMC), and the European Military Staff (EUMS). At Laeken in 2001, ESDP was declared operational and at Seville the following year ESDP missions were enlarged to include the fight against terrorism. The Copenhagen Summit in December 2002 led to the agreement of the Berlin Plus arrangements, permitting the EU to have access to NATO assets and capabilities should the need arise. Since 2003, the EU has been engaged in an effort to define its strategic priorities and improve further the military capabilities of its member states. In December 2007, EU Heads of State and Government signed the Treaty of Lisbon, enshrining the ESDP in a treaty for the first time and proposing a series of innovations in the policy.

212. This chapter considers the key developments in the ESDP since 2003 and its impact upon NATO. It analyses the European Security Strategy, EU operations, and the EU's efforts to improve military capabilities, including the development of EU Battlegroups and the European Defence Agency. It analyses the state of the relationship between NATO and the EU and considers the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for the ESDP and NATO.


213. In December 2003, the EU published the European Security Strategy (ESS), setting out its foreign policy priorities in the context of its analysis of the developments in the global security environment. The ESS identified the key threats facing the EU: terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure, and organised crime. It argued that terrorism "poses a growing strategic threat to the whole of Europe" and noted that the threat of terrorism was "global in its scope". The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was identified by the ESS as "potentially the greatest threat to our security", particularly if terrorists acquired such weapons. Regional conflicts, such as those in Kashmir, the Great Lakes Region, the Korean Peninsula, and the Middle East were said to "impact on European interests directly and indirectly" since they risked fuelling regional instability, extremism and terrorism. State failure was "an alarming phenomenon, that undermines global governance, and adds to regional instability". Organised crime, meanwhile, was a significant "internal threat" with an "important external dimension", involving people and drug trafficking and terrorism.[233]

214. To combat these threats, and to defend the security and promote the values of the EU, the ESS identified three "strategic objectives":

  • addressing the threats to European security by standing ready both to intervene before a crisis begins and to act on a global basis, since, "with the new threats, the first line of defence will often be abroad";
  • building security around the borders of Europe through the promotion of good governance in Europe's immediate neighbourhood; and
  • developing a stronger international society, well functioning international institutions and a rule-based international order.[234]

In this way, the ESS emphasised the global nature of the threats facing the EU and the global nature of its interests. But it noted that "if we are to make a contribution that matches our potential, we need to be more active, more coherent and more capable". According to the ESS, the EU needed to be "more active in pursuing [its] strategic objectives" by developing "a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid, and when necessary robust intervention". It needed to be "more capable" by transforming Europe's militaries into flexible, mobile forces and by enhancing its civilian capabilities. It needed to be "more coherent" by bringing together capabilities in defence, development, diplomacy and trade. And it needed to work with partners and foster "an effective and balanced partnership with the United States".[235] In a revealing statement on the EU's ambitions, the ESS concluded that:

    This is a world of new dangers but also of new opportunities. The European Union has the potential to make a major contribution, both in dealing with the threats and in helping realise the opportunities. An active and capable European Union would make an impact on a global scale. In doing so, it would contribute to an effective multilateral system leading to a fairer, safer and more united world.[236]

215. The recognition by the EU of the global nature of the threats facing its members and, consequently, the importance of defending its global interests, combined with its aspiration to assume a global role, mirror, to some extent, the global aims and ambitions of NATO.


216. Alongside its attempts to define more clearly its foreign policy and security priorities, the European Union has conducted a growing range of operations under the auspices of the ESDP. The scope of the EU's operations are defined in the Petersberg Tasks, originally formulated by the Western European Union in 1992 and incorporated into the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty) at the EU summit at Amsterdam in 1997. The Petersberg Tasks include: humanitarian and rescue missions; peace-keeping; and crisis management, including peacemaking.[237]

217. To date, there have been a total of 22 ESDP missions, of which seven have been completed and fifteen are current and ongoing. The majority of these missions have been in the sphere of civilian crisis management, areas which analysts suggest are less demanding in terms of force generation. Only four missions have been military missions, and only two have used the Berlin Plus arrangements in which the EU has called upon NATO assets. The other missions had been predominantly police, rule of law, and security sector reform missions. ESDP missions had varied greatly in size. For example, the EUFOR mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation ALTHEA, comprised 7,000 soldiers at the peak of its operations and currently has around 2,500 soldiers. The EU mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) comprised approximately 500 military personnel deployed to the capital city, Kinshasa, with a further force of 1,100 personnel deployed in Gabon ready to intervene in the DRC if necessary. By contrast, the ESDP mission to Georgia, the smallest of the EU's operations, comprised just 10 personnel.

218. In carrying out its operations, the EU is able to call upon NATO assets under the Berlin plus arrangements. Agreed in 2003, these arrangements are based on the recognition that member countries of both NATO and the EU can only draw upon one set of forces and have limited resources. Under these circumstances, to avoid duplication of resources, it was agreed that operations led by the EU would be able to use NATO capabilities. In effect, this enables NATO to support EU-led operations in which the Alliance as a whole is not engaged. The main elements of the Berlin Plus arrangements include:

  • assured EU access to NATO planning capabilities able to contribute to military planning for EU-led operations;
  • the presumption of availability to the EU of pre-identified NATO capabilities and common assets for use in EU-led operations;
  • identification of a range of European command options for EU-led missions;
  • the further adaptation of NATO's defence planning system to incorporate more comprehensively the availability of forces for EU-led operations;
  • a NATO-EU agreement covering the exchange of classified information;
  • procedures for the release, monitoring, return and recall of NATO assets and capabilities; and
  • NATO-EU consultation arrangements in the context of an EU-led crisis management operation making use of NATO assets and capabilities.

219. To date, only two EU operations—Macedonia and Bosnia—have made use of the Berlin-Plus arrangements. In evidence to us, Daniel Keohane argued that on each occasion the arrangements had "worked very smoothly". However, because so few missions had used them the arrangements had not really been tested. As a result "we cannot really assess just how effective they are".[238]


220. The European Union, like NATO, has also been engaged in an effort to improve the military capabilities of its member states. The Helsinki Headline Goal (HGG), established at the European Council in December 1999, established the development of the EU's capabilities as a priority for ESDP. Among its major recommendations was the creation, by 2003, of a European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) of 60,000 troops capable of deployment within 60 days and sustainable for a period of up to one year. The ERRF was intended to be deployed across the range of Petersburg Tasks. In order to implement the Helsinki proposals, EU member states agreed to draw up a "capabilities catalogue" aimed at identifying the capabilities across the envisaged spectrum of operations. This initiative culminated in the EU Capabilities Commitment Conference (CCC) in November 2000. The CCC allowed member states to pledge military assets for use in any future deployment by the ERRF and identify areas of capability shortfall. In November 2001, having assessed the implementation of the objectives of the CCC, the EU established a European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) to draw member states together in 19 dedicated working groups to address specific capability shortfalls, including C4ISTAR and strategic lift. At the EU Capability Conference in May 2003, EU defence ministers declared operational capability across the full range of Petersburg Tasks, although it was acknowledged that this capability remained constrained by recognised shortfalls.[239]

221. In June 2004 the European Council revised the Helsinki Headline Goal in light of the conclusions of the European Security Strategy. Headline Goal 2010 focused specifically on qualitative improvements in European capabilities, including interoperability, deployability and sustainability. To this end, the EU Battlegroups concept (discussed below) was established as a means of realising these new priorities. Headline Goal 2010 stated that:

    The ability of the EU to deploy force packages at high readiness as a response to a crisis either as a stand-alone force or as part of a larger operation enabling follow-on phases, is a key element of the 2010 Headline Goal. These minimum force packages must be militarily effective, credible and coherent and should be based broadly on the Battlegroups concept.[240]

222. Headline Goal 2010 also identified specific capability shortfalls including strategic lift, the availability of an aircraft carrier and communications assets. The Goal now forms the basis of the EU's work in meeting the remaining capability shortfalls, which is to be taken forward by the European Defence Agenda (discussed below).

223. During our visit to EU institutions in Brussels in March 2007 we heard that the new Headline Goal provided a more effective means of promoting capability development within the EU. We were told that the initial target of generating 60,000 troops was too large a target. The new target—of Battlegroups of 1,5000 troops each—was more realistic to achieve and was focused on rapidly generating deployable forces.


224. The plan to develop EU Battlegroups is at the heart of the European Union's strategy for improving European capabilities and force generation under Headline Goal 2010. Launched in 2004, Battlegroups—each comprised of 1,500 troops and deployable within 15 days—are " the minimum military effective, credible, rapidly deployable, coherent force package capable of stand-alone operations, or for the initial phase of longer operations".[241] Battlegroups are intended to be quick response tools, rapidly deployable in situations of crisis to perform initial stabilisation operations. They are intended to perform the full range of Petersburg Tasks as well as stabilisation and reconstruction missions and to be sustainable for up to 30 days, extendable for up to 120 days if re-supplied. Most of the declared Battlegroups are multinational configurations, though some are purely national packages, and there is a six-monthly rotation system designed to ensure that two Battlegroups are on call at any one time. Although not intended to be war-winning tools, Battlegroups are designed to go far beyond the soft end of military missions. They are also meant to act as a catalyst for defence reform in countries with little or no experience of expeditionary operations.[242]

225. In evidence to our inquiry the MoD stated that Battlegroups "play an important role as an example of a modern force able to quickly respond to crisis-management operations" and helped to "transform…some Member States' armed forces from static to expeditionary".[243] The Secretary of State told us that they were an example of the improvements in European capabilities and readiness that had been achieved since the establishment of the Helsinki Headline Goal in 1999.

226. The Nordic Battlegroup, in which Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania contribute force elements, has been a particular success and has been "a very effective vehicle for the transformation of the Swedish military" which leads the force. This had been "very important and beneficial".[244] Andrew Mathewson, Director of Policy for International Organisations at the MoD, told us that the Nordic Battlegroup was an example of capacity being generated for the benefit of both the EU and NATO:

    The example of the Swedish Battlegroup is very important. As of today there is a Nordic Battlegroup on stand-by with its enablers ready to go. Before that, the only countries in Europe able to provide rapid response forces were the UK and France. Now, today, there is a Nordic Battlegroup on stand-by. It has entered into arrangements to provide strategic lift…This is capability which did not exist before the Battlegroup existed. This is an example of a formerly neutral country with previously a focus on territorial defence generating capacity which is usable for the sort of expeditionary operations that both NATO and the EU want to undertake.[245]

Hugh Powell, Head of Security Policy at the FCO, told us that the success of the Battlegroup concept should not be underestimated. According to Mr Powell, "readiness and getting other countries to actually put troops on stand-by is a major capability gain".[246]

227. Some of our witnesses questioned the extent to which Battlegroups represented a significant increase in European capabilities. General Fry argued that "in any real military sense" Battlegroups are "below the level of credible military force…with very little to support it or sustain it". The result was that "you can get it somewhere, but once it is there it represents a level of force and a radius of action that is all about demonstration rather than getting anything greater than that".[247] Although Battlegroups were intended to deploy in real crisis situations, this was "for rather more cosmetic purposes than war-fighting purposes".[248] Nevertheless, General Fry maintained that Battlegroups were significant because they had "an important function in signalling political will and intent".[249]

228. In a memorandum to our inquiry, Major General Graham Messervy-Whiting (Rtd), a Fellow of RUSI, told us it was too early to assess the impact of Battlegroups on improving European capabilities. Battlegroups were still in their infancy and their impact could be gauged more easily retrospectively. However, while they had a useful role to play in crisis-management and in transforming military capabilities in Europe, they should not be relied upon as the principal form of EU force generation. General Messervy-Whiting argued that "the EU needs to retain the capacity to generate the military…and non-military capability packages required, case by case".[250]

229. One of the issues raised in evidence to our inquiry was whether EU Battlegroups were compatible with the NATO Response Force and whether they duplicated the tasks and functions of the NRF. In a memorandum to us, Open Europe argued that Battlegroups were a prime example of duplication of NATO's initiatives and projects. According to Open Europe, the Battlegroups concept "rivals the existing NATO Response Force initiative and duplicates efforts in several ways".[251] The two concepts were "very similar" and "overlapping": "both are expected to deploy at very short notice; both will be targeted to a range of missions, including higher and lower intensity; both serve as conduits for force transformation and modernisation; and they will rely on a similar pool of personnel".[252]

230. Geoffrey Van Orden, UK Conservative Party defence spokesman in the European Parliament, told us in a memorandum to our inquiry that the ESDP, as a whole was "a diversion, weakening wholehearted commitment to the North Atlantic Alliance".[253] It was "duplicative and divisive", produced "no new military capabilities" and "compete[d] with NATO".[254] He argued that generating forces for EU Battlegroups was duplicative and wasteful and did not deliver any additional capability. The concept was "smoke and mirrors" in that it drew upon exactly the same forces that NATO needed to draw upon. As a result, it "merely places an additional burden on our existing armed forces and does not generate any additional capability".[255]

231. Hugh Powell, however, argued that there was no incompatibility between EU Battlegroups and the NRF. In evidence he told us that there were in place arrangements between the EU and NATO to "de-conflict the two forces…to ensure that the same force is not on stand-by for both organisations".[256] He also argued that:

    It was accepted by NATO, and indeed by the United States at the time that EU Battlegroups were being set up, that the Battlegroups were in support of the NRF, in the sense that they would encourage smaller Member States to develop in packages in a multilateral framework the larger force packages that then over time would also be available to the NRF.[257]

232. Andrew Mathewson told us he was not aware of any American nervousness about Battlegroups. He argued that the United States saw them as "additional capacity…a raising in the level of Europe's ability to respond, whether through NATO or through the EU itself".[258]

233. EU Battlegroups are a significant innovation and promise, in theory, to improve European capabilities, force generation and interoperability. Given the poor level of European capabilities and the difficulties encountered in generating sufficient forces for Afghanistan, such improvements can only be welcome and would represent a significant capability gain. A key test of whether Battlegroups represent a useable military capability will be the ability of these force packages to fight, but, as in Afghanistan, this requires a level of political will on the part of the troop-contributing nations that may not exist. We also doubt whether the creation of Battlegroups will lead to any increases in European defence budgets, which is the key to improving military capabilities.

234. The fact that EU Battlegroups are intended to perform some of the more robust elements of the Petersburg Tasks suggests some degree of overlap of role and responsibility with the NATO Response Force. Any duplication must be avoided. However, if Battlegroups help European nations to improve significantly their force generation processes, this is likely to help NATO meet the force requirements of the NRF.


235. A key element of the EU's plans for enhancing European capabilities was the creation of the European Defence Agency in 2004. The stated purpose of the EDA is to help EU Member States develop their defence capabilities for crisis-management operations under the ESDP. The main roles of the Agency are:

236. The EDA works with Member States, encouraging them to spend their defence budgets on required capabilities and to pool their resources where appropriate. Its operational budget is small—around $22 million in 2006—and its powers limited. Twenty-four of the 27 EU Member States participate in the EDA, with the exception of Denmark, which has an opt-out from ESDP, Spain and Hungary.

237. Over the first three years of its existence, the EDA has launched three major programmes: the Long Term Vision; the Research and Technology Investment Programme; and the Defence Procurement Code of Conduct. The Long Term Vision investigated what military capabilities EU governments needed to develop over the next 20 years. The Research and Technology Investment Programme indicated what capabilities European defence ministries should seek to develop in future. The Defence Procurement Code of Conduct aimed to create a competitive European defence market by increasing openness in the tendering of defence procurement contracts through posting contracts on an Electronic Bulletin Board.

238. In evidence to our inquiry, we heard conflicting reports about the performance of the EDA and the implications of its work for of NATO. Daniel Keohane argued that the three initiatives the EDA had undertaken over the past three years had been "extremely useful". The Defence Procurement Code of Conduct, in particular, promised to achieve "huge efficiency gains".[260] Charles Grant suggested that, through the work of the EDA, "the EU is increasingly playing a useful and potentially valuable role in encouraging armaments cooperation".[261] The challenge for the EDA was to ensure that it did not become protectionist. Although the Code of Conduct was supposed to achieve greater openness in European defence markets, there were "people in the EU system who would like this sort of procedure to exclude American products from our market and encourage a Europe first choice". This would be damaging. Mr Grant argued that, as far as promoting armaments coordination and interoperability was concerned, "it would be good if NATO could play that role".[262] According to Daniel Keohane, the other main problem confronting the Agency was that it "does not have the power to force governments to behave themselves".[263] This could dilute its effectiveness in delivering improvements in European capabilities.

239. One of the major concerns highlighted by some of those who gave evidence to our inquiry was the possibility of duplication between the work of the EDA and that of NATO's Allied Command Transformation. In a memorandum to us, Open Europe argued that "serious problems with duplication have emerged". It maintained that "by establishing its own structures and programmes the EU is…steadily decoupling itself from NATO and the US and discriminating against non-EU arms suppliers and partners".[264] Similarly, Dr Rob Dover argued that the EDA had "the potential to cause tensions between national arms programmes and national commitments to the NATO Alliance". According to Dr Dover, "the European Commission can be seen as trying to construct a counter-weight to the global dominance of the American arms manufacturers". He argued that "this sort of competition with America may well put strains on the NATO Alliance" and that, as a result, the EDA has the "potential…to destabilise the transatlantic Alliance".[265]

240. General Deverell told us that it was only natural that there should be two organisations. It was "quite reasonable" that bureaucracies should "create institutions which deal with particular situations they find themselves in".[266] However, General Deverell argued that there was, at present, insufficient cooperation and coordination between the EDA and ACT:

    There is every reason why these two bodies should perceive themselves to be brothers and sisters of a single family and seek ways of improving interoperability and compatibility which I do not detect they are doing at the moment as well as they should be…In a philosophical sense, why have two [organisations], but…in a practical sense, almost certainly there will be two bodies there. They need to mesh into each other very much more effectively.[267]

241. We asked the Secretary of State for his assessment of the EDA's performance since its creation in 2004. Mr Browne told us that the EDA had "produced some good work", particularly the Defence Procurement Code of Conduct. However, he stated that the Agency "lacked structure and orientation".[268] In a subsequent memorandum to us, the MoD stated that this "lack of structure and orientation in the EDA is primarily the result of a lack of a clear understanding of collective priorities".[269] The initial emphasis placed on pursuing activity in all four areas of its remit—armaments, industry and markets, capabilities, and research and technology—was "perhaps at the expense of a coherent process across the Agency".[270]

242. The MoD assured us that these problems were being addressed through a number of strategies and initiatives within the Agency and that a Capability Development Plan had been devised to make the EU's Long Term Vision "more practical and usable by Member States for long term capability planning and by the Agency to prioritise its future work programme".[271] The MoD stated that the UK believed the first priority of the EDA should be to address interoperability and that its second should be to enhance deployability, both tactical and strategic.[272]

243. The EDA potentially has an important role to play in improving European capabilities, but the suggestion that the Agency lacks structure and orientation is worrying. The EDA should focus more narrowly on delivering real improvements in capabilities, interoperability and deployability. For the EDA to make a really useful contribution, it needs to be integrated with NATO's effort in this area, so interoperability extends throughout the EU and NATO. Yet, in light of its limited resources, we are not convinced that it can make a great difference.

244. We believe it is essential that, in promoting the development of European capabilities, the EDA should not duplicate the work of NATO's Allied Command Transformation. The Defence Procurement Code of Conduct must not become a vehicle for European protectionism by excluding American products.

245. Witnesses to our inquiry also argued that Turkey's exclusion from membership of the EDA, despite its membership of NATO and the EDA's predecessor body, OCCAR, was a major weakness of the Agency, with potentially profound consequences for Turkish engagement with the West. Daniel Keohane told us that Turkey was not a member of the EDA because it was not a member of the European Union and that attempts to offer Turkey some kind of associate membership had been blocked by Cyprus because of the intractable Turkey-Cyprus dispute. According to Mr Keohane, Turkey had made clear its willingness to participate in ESDP missions if and when it was asked to do so. Given the fact that Turkey was a major defence player in Europe, with the largest army, he argued that "the EDA should be…open to co-operation with non-EU members".[273]

246. General Fry stated that Turkey's exclusion from the EDA was "profoundly reprehensible".[274] Moreover, it raised "the most profound strategic issue facing Europe at the present time: which way does Turkey face?". He argued that if exclusion from the EDA was "just one of those small incremental steps preventing it from looking westward then it is a thoroughly bad thing".[275] Andrew Mathewson told us that it was the Government's policy that "Turkey, like Norway, should have an association arrangement with the EDA" but highlighted that this "has been blocked by another Member State…Cyprus has withheld consensus".[276] Turkey's exclusion from membership of the European Defence Agency is deeply regrettable. Turkey has an enormous amount it could contribute to Europe's capabilities and its defence spending is among the highest of all NATO states. We believe Turkey should be admitted to the EDA as a matter of priority.

The relationship between NATO and the EU

247. NATO and the European Union are both engaged in a process of seeking to enhance capabilities and improve force generation for expeditionary operations. Both organisations have a global outlook and aspire to act in a wide variety of circumstances. Their threat assessments are very similar and they share a common security agenda. They are both currently seeking to define their role and purpose in the context of a changed strategic environment. Moreover, the two organisations have an overlapping membership with shared common interests; 19 countries are members of both NATO and the EU.

248. This need for closer NATO-EU cooperation is found expressed in countless speeches by officials, and in the strategies, documents and publications, of both organisations. The Comprehensive Political Guidance issued by the Alliance at the 2006 Riga Summit referred to agreement by NATO and the EU on "procedures to ensure coherent, transparent and mutually reinforcing development of the capability requirements common to both organisations".[277] The 1999 Strategic Concept also stressed the importance of cooperation between NATO and the EU.[278]

249. The European Security Strategy, published in December 2003, also emphasised the common interests of the EU and NATO. It stated that:

    One of the core elements of the international system is the transatlantic relationship. This is not only in our bilateral interest but strengthens the international community as a whole. NATO is an important expression of this relationship…The EU-NATO permanent arrangements, in particular, Berlin Plus, enhance operational capability of the EU and provide the framework for the strategic partnership between the two organisations in crisis management. This reflects our common determination to tackle the challenges of the new century.[279]

250. A close relationship between NATO and the EU is essential. The lack of it is inexcusable given the importance of NATO to EU security. In practice, the relationship between NATO and the EU is fraught with difficulties. It is plagued by mistrust and unhealthy competition, and characterised by a lack of communication and cooperation. Little progress has been achieved in recent years in improving a relationship which remained stalled and inefficient. In evidence to us Charles Grant stated that "it is extraordinary that there is a difficult relationship when the same governments are involved in the two organisation".[280] Witnesses to our inquiry characterised the relationship between NATO and the EU as "plagiarising", "poor", and "evolving".[281] Dr Dover stated that "it is a curious form of plagiarism where each of the two blocs starts to move and dance with each other which results in a classic double-hatting". He believed the relationship currently led to inefficient duplication and confusion.[282]

251. We asked the witnesses to our inquiry at what level in the NATO-EU relationship the problems occurred. Our witnesses agreed overwhelmingly that the problems were at the highest bureaucratic levels in Brussels, rather than at an operational level.[283] At the operational level communication and coordination between NATO and EU forces was generally good. Dr Niblett suggested that, on the ground, in Kosovo or in Afghanistan, the relationship between NATO and ESDP forces had worked well. Likewise, Sir Paul Lever told us that "if one goes outside Brussels into the real world one will discover that co-operation takes place rather satisfactorily". He noted that forces with an EU mandate and those undertaking a NATO mission "not only talk to each other but collaborate practically and effectively".[284] As a result, argued Dr Niblett, "when we talk about the ESDP and NATO not working together, we are talking about something bigger".[285]

252. Most of our witnesses accepted that the practical problem in NATO-EU relations was at the bureaucratic level. Charles Grant argued that, in part, competition between bureaucracies was inevitable; "bureaucracies protect their own interests and do not like bureaucracies made up of different people". However, Mr Grant told us that "one has two bureaucracies in Brussels, NATO and the EU, which mistrust each other, do not like each other and do not talk to each other".[286] Jonathan Eyal agreed and suggested that "the crux of the problem" was that NATO and the EU were "bureaucratically incompatible".[287] A key part of this was the lack of a military culture within the European bureaucracy. He argued that:

    The reality is that the organisations will only work when there are docking mechanisms between their bureaucracies at various levels, and institutionally the European Union is incapable of realising that at the moment. It just does not have the staff and it does not have the abilities. It has the desire to acquire powers, but it does not have them in practice and it does not know how to discharge them. That…is fundamentally the problem, quite apart from the usual political issues that we all know.[288]

253. Our witnesses also identified the attitude and approach adopted by France as key factors in contributing to the current stalemate in NATO-EU relations. Charles Grant told us in evidence that "France has done quite a lot to prevent contacts" between the two organisations. Policymakers in Paris had a fear "that too much close contact between NATO and the EU will lead to the fragile flower of EU defence being contaminated by the big monstrous elephant that can stamp on it".[289]

254. Most of our witnesses, however, saw cause for optimism in France's attitude towards NATO-EU relations. They suggested that the election of President Sarkozy could prove a significant development which could prompt a closer dialogue. President Sarkozy had already indicated that France might be willing to rejoin the NATO integrated military command, which it had left, under President de Gaulle, in 1966. According to Michael Codner of RUSI, this could be "hugely significant if the idea is taken forward" as it would "enable the full integration of NATO and the EU's force planning processes".[290]

255. In evidence to us, Dana Allin argued that French resistance to greater contact between NATO and the EU had also been lessened by the growing recognition in France that it was "structurally impossible" to pursue European ambitions on anything "perceived as an anti-American or an anti-NATO basis".[291] Robin Niblett agreed, and argued there had been a "fundamental change" in French attitudes which augured well for an improvement in NATO-EU relations in the longer-term. According to Dr Niblett, there was "a realisation that a separate France that is anti the United States, not only can it not achieve its goals vis-à-vis the ESDP, but it is actually weaker within Europe and within the European Union".[292] Similarly, Jonathan Eyal argued that France "will make no progress on European defence with a large number of former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe unless the project is seen as being another pillar strengthening, or parallel to, NATO rather than in opposition or as a substitute".[293]

256. Professor Cox maintained that President Sarkozy's election represented a "great moment".[294] The prospects for France rejoining the NATO command structure "has to be taken extremely seriously and more seriously…than the 1990s". But Professor Cox expressed scepticism that Sarkozy would ultimately be able achieve this since there were "very deep and imbued views inside large sections of the political establishment" which remained hostile to NATO. Nevertheless, according to Professor Cox, even if President Sarkozy did not succeed in bringing France back into the NATO integrated command, there had been a huge shift in the prospects for the kind of European defence France had once sought. He argued that "the idea that you can have a European defence, a European Army, a European wing which in a sense is going to balance NATO in any fundamental way, challenge it or replace it, has simply gone out of the window".[295]

257. Whether or not French attitudes towards NATO improve, a large obstacle to an improved NATO-EU relationship is the longstanding dispute between Turkey and Cyprus. The Secretary of State told us in evidence that the UK was working hard to improve the relationship between Turkey and Cyprus and to resolve the territorial disputes between them. But a lasting breakthrough would be possible only through a United Nations process.[296]

258. Although there is a good degree of convergence in analysis of the causes of the tensions in the NATO-EU relationship, there is less agreement on how to achieve a better, more effective, and closer relationship. One solution which is often mooted is that there should be some kind of grand bargain between NATO and the EU, with NATO providing the hard power and the EU the soft power, or that NATO is confined to Euro-Atlantic territorial defence as the EU increasingly takes on global security as suggested by some.

259. We asked the MoD the extent to which there should be a division of labour between NATO and the EU. In evidence, the MoD maintained that there was no requirement for an explicit and formal division of labour between NATO and the EU. It maintained that each organisation had its strengths and that each had a role to play, but that they contributed in different ways, NATO specialising in more intensive military operations and the EU in situations which demanded greater civilian capability.[297] The MoD stated:

    NATO has a far greater military capability than ESDP. But the range of security instruments that the EU can deploy allows it to add value in different ways. There are thus some types of operations in which one or the other of the two has a clear advantage: NATO for more intensive military operations, the EU where the emphasis is on civilian capability. But there are equally a range of peace support operations which could be undertaken by either organisation, or where there is a role for both. In these cases the choice of whether NATO or the EU should lead should be made on a case by case basis, according to the intended objectives and the nations that intend to participate.[298]

260. Dr Jonathan Eyal told us in evidence that in theory a clear division of responsibility between NATO and the EU should be achievable and that "one could see the outlines of a grand bargain…fairly easily". There was much to commend the EU taking "one side of an operation while the higher end—that is, the military side—should be left to NATO". The problem with such a bargain, however, was "a political question and one of aspirations" since "neither institution ultimately wishes to be consigned to one role in these conflicts".[299]

261. Dr Dana Allin agreed that while there was "a logical division of labour" between NATO and the EU it was "not one that is very easy to spell out in advance".[300] In practice it would have a lot to do with whether the United States wished to become involved in a particular crisis. It was possible to imagine a situation in which Europe undertook a mission of "punctuated intervention" to foster stability in a crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. In this scenario, "the ESDP may be more suited than the United States and NATO", but it was not possible to have "hard and fast rules".[301]

262. Dr Robin Niblett, however, maintained that a division of labour between NATO and the EU was not desirable. There was a considerable degree of overlap between two organisations and to suggest a clear division of labour would imply an incompatibility between them that did not exist. He suggested that "to say they are incompatible is almost like saying your right hand is incompatible with your left hand"; for the most part, the same countries were involved in both organisations. Although Dr Niblett accepted that in certain circumstances, such as post-conflict situations, "the EU can bring different forces to the table" such as policing, gendarmerie and development support, he argued that "we cannot have a bargain between hard and soft power where NATO does the hard and the ESDP just does the soft".[302] This was the antithesis of the comprehensive approach that was so essential in situations like Afghanistan. Any division of labour along those lines would only serve to accentuate problems such as national caveats.[303] Dr Allin, however, disagreed and suggested that the problem of caveats was not a function of the division of labour between NATO and the EU in situations like Afghanistan. The problems that had emerged in practice were "no problems that so far have been created by a European Union aspiration" and were instead "a factor of national sovereignty and different national cultures". Dr Allin argued that "German inhibitions and national caveats are not caused by the European Union" and "would not go away if the European Union abandoned all ambitions in defence".[304]

263. Professor Cox argued that while "there is no fundamental incompatibility at the moment" between NATO and the ESDP, "there is a potential incompatibility" and this should not be ignored. According to Professor Cox, the origins of ESDP, although complex, "still arise out of a European desire to frankly let Europe do more and not have the United States define every single global agenda". He maintained that the incompatibility would be managed "as long as the ESDP is not terribly serious". However, "if the ESDP did get very serious, there may be an incompatibility" and it would be possible to imagine a situation in which "the left hand could start fighting with the right".[305]

264. There is a pressing need for a stronger, expanded and more cooperative relationship between NATO and the EU. This is essential for both organisations.

265. We do not believe a grand bargain between NATO and the EU in which NATO provides the hard power and the EU a soft alternative is either feasible or desirable. It would be the antithesis of the comprehensive approach which is so vital to current operations, such as Afghanistan. Nor do we believe that NATO should be confined merely to territorial defence of the Euro-Atlantic area.

266. We believe improving the NATO-EU relationship should be a key priority for NATO at the Bucharest Summit. Although the relationship is unlikely to improve radically in the short-term, the Summit represents an opportunity to set a new long-term course in NATO-EU relations. This should involve an expanded strategic dialogue between NATO and the EU, possibly by reinvigorating the contacts between the North Atlantic Council and the EU's Political and Security Committee, and by identifying a series of small-scale and pragmatic initiatives to foster greater trust and cooperation between the two organisations.

The Lisbon Treaty and the future of NATO and European defence

267. The relationship between NATO and the EU has been subject to renewed scrutiny since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty by Heads of State and Government at the European Council on 13 December 2007. The Treaty contains a range of innovations in the area of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy and, through that, the European Security and Defence Policy. The Treaty expands the scope of the ESDP, now called the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and of its missions. It establishes a solidarity clause and a mutual defence commitment between the Member States of the EU and provides for the establishment of a process of "permanent structured cooperation" in defence matters. It creates a new "start up" fund for ESDP operations. It also establishes a single legal personality for the EU. In addition to these innovations, the Lisbon Treaty brings together the existing aspects of the ESDP, and all its developments since the 1999 European Summit at Cologne, within the framework of a single treaty.

268. In this part of our report, we examine the key ESDP provisions of the Treaty and assess what they mean for the future development of the ESDP and NATO. We do not seek to offer a comprehensive analysis of all the foreign and security aspects of the Lisbon Treaty. Our colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee published a report on The Foreign Policy Aspects of the Lisbon Treaty in January 2008. This examined, in some detail, the new foreign posts created by the Treaty, including the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Council President, the CFSP decision-making process and the role of the European Court of Justice. We do not seek to duplicate this work. Nor do we seek to offer a clause by clause analysis of the Treaty; this is beyond the scope of this report. Our analysis of the Treaty focuses on two key provisions: permanent structured cooperation and the mutual defence clause.


269. The Lisbon Treaty sets out the arrangements whereby EU Member States can engage in permanent structured cooperation (PSC) in defence matters. The criteria for membership, which are set out in a protocol of the Treaty, states that participating states should have the capacity to supply by 2010 at the latest, either at a national level or as a component of a multinational force group, combat units and supporting elements capable of deployment within five to 30 days and sustainable for up to a period of 30 days. The protocol also sets out provisions on capability harmonisation, the pooling of defence assets, cooperating in training and logistics, regular assessments of national defence expenditure and the development of flexibility, interoperability and deployability among forces.[306] The Treaty establishes that the Council of Ministers will decide by qualified majority voting (QMV) to establish permanent structured cooperation and determine the list of participants. Once established only participating Member States would be able to take part in decisions relating to the development of structured cooperation, including the future participation of other Member States. If a Member State no longer fulfils the established criteria for participation in permanent structured cooperation, the Council, acting by QMV, may suspend the Member State concerned.[307]

270. There is concern in some quarters that the Treaty's provisions for the establishment of permanent structured cooperation, including provisions for qualified majority voting, could prove contrary to the UK's interests. Opponents argue that countries left outside the PSC arrangements would have less incentive to enhance their defence capabilities. Some also suggest that PSC would lead to the creation of a separate European pillar of NATO which would undermine the Alliance. There is also concern that decisions on how PSC will work in practice are not clear. In the debate on the foreign and security aspects of the Lisbon Treaty, the Shadow Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, told the House of Commons that PSC amounted to "integration in defence common policy by stealth" and that certain countries, France in particular, hoped "to create a six-nation hard-core of EU members who want to further EU defence integration". According to Dr Fox, PSC would "establish an EU pillar in NATO" which was "absolutely unacceptable".[308]

271. In evidence to us, however, Daniel Keohane argued that the provisions for permanent structured cooperation "make…a lot of sense". Since "military capabilities and ambitions vary widely among the member states", PSC ensured that the EU could rely on a smaller group of the most willing and best-prepared countries to run its more demanding military missions".[309]

272. In its memorandum to our inquiry, the MoD maintained that permanent structured cooperation was in the interests of the UK. It would promote improvements in European defence capabilities and increases in European defence expenditure.[310] The Department stated that:

    The provisions on permanent structured co-operation including in the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation do not affect foreign and defence policy but are solely limited to the purpose of developing military capabilities. This is in line with UK objectives for improving European capability development.[311]

273. In the debate in the House of Commons on the foreign and security aspects of the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon David Miliband, told the House that:

    One of the UK's priorities on defence—in both the EU and NATO—is to get our partners to shoulder more of the international security burden and to get them to develop the right capabilities and provide the right sort of forces so that they can help to tackle the security challenges that we face. The Treaty includes a new provision—permanent structured cooperation—focused solely on developing EU member state capability in line with those aims. To become a member of permanent structured cooperation, EU member states will need to commit to a higher level of capability development. The prospect of membership will, we hope, encourage member states to develop the sort of deployable, flexible and sustainable forces for which we have been calling.[312]

274. The provisions for permanent structured cooperation in the Lisbon Treaty promise to enhance European defence capabilities and expenditure. If the Treaty can deliver such long overdue improvements, which can be called on for EU and NATO missions, they can only be welcome. Improving military capabilities throughout Europe is in the interests not only of the EU but also of NATO. However, we remain to be convinced that PSC will deliver such improvements in practice. European nations have so far shown little appetite in investing sufficiently in defence.

275. It is essential that permanent structured cooperation does not lead to the development of a two—or three—tier Europe in defence matters. This would be counter to the interests of NATO.

276. How permanent structured cooperation will work in practice remains unclear. We call upon the MoD, in its response to this report, to state clearly how it expects PSC to work in practice.


277. Under Article 28A.7, the Treaty established provisions for the creation of a mutual assistance clause. The Article states that:

278. This is the first occasion on which any EU treaty has contained a mutual defence provision. On the surface, there would appear to be some duplication of NATO's role as an organisation for collective defence. In evidence to us, the MoD stated that the Lisbon Treaty "does not duplicate NATO's function as a mutual defence pact because not all members of the European Union are members of NATO".[314] It went on to state that:

    The mutual defence provision provides an obligation on Member States to come to the aid and assistance of another Member State which is the victim of armed aggression on its territory. For the first time EU Member States which are not also members of NATO are now committed to the defence of their fellow Member States (to the potential benefit of the UK).[315]

This does not make clear in the case of armed aggression against a state that was a member of both NATO and the EU, which organisation would respond. In its memorandum to us, however, the MoD notes that:

    The obligation to provide assistance [in the case of armed aggression] falls upon individual Member States, not the EU. The provision therefore does not provide a basis for the development of an EU collective defence organisation to rival NATO.[316]

The MoD also notes that the Lisbon Treaty "makes clear that for members which are members of NATO, NATO remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation".[317]

279. We asked the Secretary of State for Defence what the Lisbon Treaty meant for NATO. He told us that:

    I am in no doubt that NATO will remain the cornerstone of the United Kingdom defence policy and the only organisation for collective defence in Europe. The Reform Treaty does not change that. The Reform Treaty text makes clear that NATO is the foundation for collective defence of its members and the instrument for implementing that commitment; it is clear.[318]

280. In its response to the report by the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Foreign Policy Aspects of the Lisbon Treaty, the Government states that "even if there were to be a unanimous agreement to establish an EU common defence, it would need to be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within NATO".[319] Likewise, in the debate in the House of Commons on the foreign and security aspects of the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Secretary stated that "the development of European policy [under the Treaty] can complement NATO rather than rival it".[320]

281. The establishment of an EU mutual defence clause by the Lisbon Treaty overlaps, to some extent, with the provisions of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This should be clarified at Bucharest. Although this ensures that non-NATO members of the EU are now committed to each other's defence, we believe it is essential that nothing in the Treaty undermines the primacy of NATO for its members. There must be no unnecessary duplication of commitments or roles which undermine the common defence.

282. We believe that the key test of the Lisbon Treaty will be the extent to which it makes a real difference in increasing European military capabilities, which so starkly lag behind those of the United States, and in improving the deployability of European forces. We are sceptical that the Treaty will itself achieve such improvements. This requires European countries to decide to spend more on defence—decisions they have so far been reluctant to take.

233   A secure Europe in a better world, European Security Strategy, Council of the European Union, 2003, pp 9-13 Back

234   European Security Strategy, 2003, pp 14-22 Back

235   Ibid Back

236   Ibid, p 29 Back

237   Ibid Back

238   Q 206 Back

239   European Security and Defence Policy: Developments since 2003, Research Paper 06/32, House of Commons Library, 8 June 2006, pp 24-29 Back

240   European Council, Headline Goal 2010, 17 June 2004 Back

241   Military Capability Commitments Conference, Declaration on European Military Capabilities, 22 November 2004 Back

242   Ev 147-148 Back

243   Ev 109 Back

244   Q 314 Back

245   Q 317 Back

246   Q 317 Back

247   Q 177 Back

248   Q 178 Back

249   Q 179 Back

250   Ev 148 Back

251   Ev 97 Back

252   Ibid Back

253   Ev 113 Back

254   Ev 113 Back

255   Ev 115 Back

256   Q 333 Back

257   Q 334 Back

258   Q 318 Back

259   European Defence Agency website ( Back

260   Q 171 Back

261   Q 57 Back

262   Q 57 Back

263   Q 171 Back

264   Ev 93 Back

265   Ev 89 Back

266   Q 175 Back

267   Q 176 Back

268   Q 335 Back

269   Ev 164 Back

270   Ibid Back

271   Ibid Back

272   Ibid Back

273   Q 173 Back

274   Q 174 Back

275   Q 174 Back

276   Qq 339-340 Back

277   Comprehensive Political guidance, 2006, NATO website ( Back

278   Strategic Concept 1999, NATO website ( Back

279   European Security Strategy, 2003, p 21 Back

280   Q 45 Back

281   Q 42 Back

282   Q 43 Back

283   Qq 44-45 Back

284   Q 46 Back

285   Q 103 Back

286   Q 45 Back

287   Q 102 Back

288   Ibid Back

289   Q 46 Back

290   Ev 154 Back

291   Q 98 Back

292   Ibid Back

293   Q 100 Back

294   Ibid Back

295   Q 102 Back

296   Qq 275-277 Back

297   Ev 107 Back

298   Ibid Back

299   Q 105 Back

300   Ibid Back

301   Q 105 Back

302   Q 107 Back

303   Qq 107-109 Back

304   Q 111 Back

305   Q 109 Back

306   The Lisbon Treaty and external relations, Standard Note, SN/IA/4616, House of Commons Library, 11 February 2008, p 15 Back

307   Ibid Back

308   HC Deb, 20 February 2008, Col 418 Back

309   Ev 152 Back

310   Ev 160 Back

311   Ibid Back

312   HC Deb, 20 February 2008, Col 380 Back

313   Treaty of Lisbon, December 2007, Article 28A.7 Back

314   Ev 160 Back

315   Ibid Back

316   Ibid Back

317   Ibid Back

318   Q 302 Back

319   Government Response to the Foreign Affairs Committee Report on "Foreign Policy Aspects of the Lisbon Treaty", Cm 7332, para 26 Back

320   HC Deb, 20 February 2008, Col 371 Back

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