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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, that is quite right. The noble Lord is referring to Michael Colvin MP. He and the Labour MP Jim Marshall provided me with the brief. They are both writing the submissions of their respective groups in the WEU Assembly on what they hope will happen to that assembly. There is a lot of cross-party agreement among British members of the WEU on that.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, that is obviously the case. No doubt we shall be singing much the same song. I have a feeling that the Minister will be singing a song that she has sung many times before, because we have had debates on this and similar subjects many times. There is one difference for the noble Baroness in that she has the slightly larger figure of myself rather than my noble friend Lord Moynihan to deal with. My noble friend does an immense amount of work and has given me enormous sheaves of bumf, on which I could have based six speeches. In March 1998, my noble friend said:

WEU members combined spend 170 billion dollars a year and the United States spends 270 billion dollars. Not unnaturally, the Americans complain about Europe's failure to carry its fair share of the burden of collective security. It is Utopian to believe that a federal United States of Europe would be able to agree a level of expenditure that would allow it to spend even half of what America spends on its own. The whole concept of a United States of Europe is Utopian. I pray that it will not exist during the lifetime of those of us sitting on all three Front Benches. We need to consider an alternative defence policy for the WEU that is at least remotely realistic. I appreciate the words of the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, who emphasised the relative strength of various countries.

NATO has preserved peace for 50 years, but today we have instability and strife where the WEU has singularly failed to cope with the conflicts that have arisen. NATO, which involves American military resources, has come to the rescue. The Maastricht Treaty in 1992 called for the first time for the implementation of a common foreign and security policy. The Amsterdam Treaty called for closer co-operation under the common joint task forces concept. The St. Malo declaration gave a further boost to the idea of a European defence identity. At the Cologne summit in June the European Union

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committed itself to increasing its capacity for a joint foreign and security policy. That should mean that the will is there.

While I was preparing what I should say this evening, my noble friend Lord Carrington came in and expressed his regret that he was unable to speak this evening, because he would have had to leave halfway through the debate. I am sure that we miss what he would have had to say. I cannot accept the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who I hope will read what I am saying in tomorrow's Hansard. My noble friend expressed forcefully his view about the chances of getting European governments to pay--he authorised me from his height to make that remark--particularly given the number of neutral countries involved.

All over Europe defence expenditure is falling. If that policy is in accordance with the political judgment of the countries of Europe, it becomes all the more important for Her Majesty's Government to maintain their close links with the United States. The most desirable policy seems to be to merge the political responsibilities of the WEU with the European Union. That is of course a compromise, with some of the disadvantages of all compromises, but it has the incomparable advantage of keeping America involved in European defence. The figures on Kosovo show that it is the only realistic and viable course. Not only is it the only realistic course, it underlines the policy of these Benches and increasingly of the Government as well.

This is not the time for any action that would lead to a federal Europe in which there was a loss of government accountability to national Parliaments. In particular, it is not the time to merge the WEU with the EU. Nor should the WEU be revitalised by giving it a more distinct and discrete security identity within NATO. That would undoubtedly give closer relations with Russia and the Ukraine, but the disadvantages would come from having a common foreign and security policy without defence.

In a previous debate I laid emphasis on the value of the Article 5 mutual security obligations. Any policy that discarded those, although making the WEU a happier place for neutral countries, would lose for the participating countries the security that American involvement means. That is a real danger if the European countries come too close together. I hope that the Government will continue their policy of a close relationship with the United States as well as with Europe. I must quote, "Be sure to keep a hold on nurse, for fear of finding something worse".

8.19 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede for introducing the debate this evening. I thought the quality of his briefing was superb. It is only that I feel desperately left out as I failed to obtain the brief which so obviously the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, had, as did my noble friend.

It is important that we start from the position of Her Majesty's Government at the forefront of the new initiative, launched last October at Poertschach by my

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right honourable friend the Prime Minister, to improve the effectiveness of Europe's contribution to European security. The Western European Union is at the heart of the debate, as was pointed out by my noble friend. Of course, Kosovo has reminded us all of the very real issues at stake.

The first half of 1999 marked a defining point for European security and defence. NATO was enlarged on 12th March with the historic admission of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In April in Washington, the NATO Summit looked at the future of the alliance, and agreed further to develop its European pillar. The Bremen meeting of the Western European Union highlighted the importance of developing European capabilities, and launched the second phase of an audit of those capabilities to enable us to learn where the gaps are and what must be done to fill them; and at Cologne, just over a month ago, the European Council took the debate a stage further.

As noble Lords have remarked, the EU appointed Javier Solana as the High Representative for its common foreign and security policy. Its historic declaration on European defence, following the welcome given to the process at Washington, committed member states to develop the Union's ability to take decisions on the full range of crisis management tasks. We agreed at Cologne that the EU should have the capacity for autonomous action backed up by credible military forces in order to be able to respond to international crises.

But, as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby pointed out, Europe needs to do more. European forces make up the bulk of KFOR under General Jackson. Collectively, we continue to play a leading role in SFOR in Bosnia. Yet with some laudable exceptions--above all the British forces--the deployment of many of the so-called European rapid reaction units earmarked for Kosovo was uncomfortably slow, a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle. In the months leading up to the entry of KFOR, and during the bombing campaign, we demonstrated our reliance on US technology and firepower. The European contribution was of course very far from negligible. It was alliance unity that won the day. But our various responses to the developing situation in Kosovo illustrated only too well the mismatch between our continent's size and economic weight, and its international presence.

This imbalance was one of the factors that prompted my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to launch the debate on the development of a security and defence capability to back up the EU's common foreign and security policy. I am glad that that initiative has been so warmly welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. The common foreign and security policy needs to be underpinned with credible military capability if the EU is to meet the challenge of playing its rightful role on the international stage. This capability is, and must be, based on our investment in NATO. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, when he said that NATO remains the cornerstone. I emphasise that to the noble Lord, although I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, will accuse me of saying the same

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things in many of our debates; but at least that has the merit of consistency. However, it is important that I reiterate the point, which has been raised again.

When we look at this issue, we must consider not only NATO, but its structures and infrastructure. Equally, Europe must not be so heavily dependent on NATO for peace support operations. The fact is that our North American allies may not wish to be involved in every crisis. We should develop further our capacity for acting without active US involvement. That should help us to contribute better to our cornerstone in NATO, and enable us to act where the alliance as a whole is not necessarily militarily engaged.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, pointed out, we have discussed these issues in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions. I have made it clear that our focus is on capabilities and functions, and not on institutions. The noble Lord exhorted me not to repeat that point, but I think that I should because it is important. Our aim is a real improvement in the way in which Europe tackles the crises it has to face. The agreement at Washington ensured that new security arrangements will develop in a way that is fully compatible with NATO. The Cologne declaration commits us to putting those new arrangements in place in the EU. Both guarantee that defence decisions will continue to be intergovernmental, respecting member states' sovereign rights to deploy and control their own armed forces. There is certainly no question of a European army, or a role in defence for the Commission or the European Parliament beyond their current role in CFSP.

At Cologne, member states agreed to include in the European Union those Western European Union functions which would be necessary for those new responsibilities. Final decisions should be taken by the end of the year 2000, at which point Cologne envisaged that the WEU as an organisation would have completed its purpose. This is consistent with our approach of examining what the EU needs to enable it to take decisions and rapidly to translate those decisions into action. The EU as a crisis manager should build on the achievements of the WEU.

The initiative launched yesterday at the UK-Italy Summit to set a timetable and challenging criteria for European defence capabilities and performance is an important stepping-stone along that path. It sets out Europe-wide goals for enhancing military capabilities to undertake crisis management, and national capability objectives to achieve this wider European aim.

But if the Western European Union is to have served its purpose by the end of the year 2000, it will have a great deal to do in the interim. I assure noble Lords that the WEU will continue to play a role until final decisions on defence in the Union are taken and the functions of the WEU are transferred to the EU. It is important that as we work on strengthening Europe's defence capability, we do not find ourselves in a transition period in which neither organisation can function properly. I wholeheartedly agree with my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath that the WEU has, over the years, built up a legacy of crisis management "best

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practice", including a close working relationship with NATO. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, that we shall want to ensure that this legacy is carried over into the EU. That is something which should be a priority over the next 18 months of discussion.

We shall be looking for conclusions from the WEU Luxembourg ministerial meeting in November that we can use to develop our European defence performance criteria ideas. The audit of European defence capabilities, to which I referred earlier, is focusing on real defence outputs: force deployability; flexibility; sustainability; and, of course, at a time when multinational operations are increasingly the norm, as many noble Lords have said, the importance of inter-operability. Kosovo has demonstrated the importance of troops being trained and equipped to be able rapidly and effectively to face the challenges of modern operations. Identifying the gaps that need to be filled, and deciding how best to fill them, will be an important task for the WEU to fulfil.

There is another key feature of the WEU's legacy which we must use as a model for the EU. I am aware that, like other noble Lords, my noble friend Lord Ponsonby is concerned that European security arrangements should be inclusive. That was also a matter on which the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, concentrated. We agree that we should not build new barriers. The WEU has six associate members who are NATO allies, although not EU members, and seven associate partners who are members of neither organisation but are all associates of the EU and NATO Partnership for Peace.

I deal next with the European neutrals, on which the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, and my noble friend Lord Ponsonby touched. The neutral members of the EU have welcomed our initiative. Through existing WEU arrangements they are already able fully to take part in planning and decision-making for European crisis management to which they want to contribute. In particular, they welcome the emphasis in both the St. Malo and Cologne declarations on the need to improve European crisis management capability. We are encouraging them to strengthen their capabilities to enable them in future to take part actively in EU-led operations relating to such tasks.

There are also those who are in NATO but are not part of the EU. These allies, too, welcomed our initiative at the Washington Summit on 24th April. We support the participation of non-EU European allies in European military operations under the right auspices. We look forward to working closely with all allies as we take forward the work to develop NATO's European pillar.

Our attention has also been drawn to the WEU associate partnerships which include Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Baltic states. The Cologne declaration makes it clear that the EU will put in place arrangements to allow WEU associate partners to take part to the fullest possible extent in the new arrangements that we are considering. Similarly, we recognise the importance of the Ukraine to European security. We shall take part in that conference in October. We welcome such events.

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Reference was made to the democratic deficit. We agree that national parliamentary oversight of defence and security matters is crucial. We have discussed this on a number of occasions, not least when we debated CFSP in the context of the Treaty of Amsterdam. I reiterate this evening, as I did then, that democratic parliamentary control in these areas is absolutely vital.

My noble friend Lord Kennet is not in his place. I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that I regard a grandchild's 21st birthday as a reason for absence. I would have hoped that a family-friendly House could accept that. The points raised by my noble friend have been rehearsed in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions. For the record, Her Majesty's Government believe that our military action in Kosovo was lawful and that our targets there were legitimate.

This has been a momentous few months for European security in both theory and practice. There is no time to sit back because there is a great deal of work still to be done. The Western European Union will continue to play an active role in the work under way in Europe to strengthen the European contribution to Europe's security. The WEU will need to examine how best to transmit the legacy of its 50 exceptional years to the EU. It will play an active part in the ongoing efforts in all the organisations about which we have been speaking--the EU, WEU and NATO--to improve the real defence capabilities that we need in Europe. All this work must be clearly focused and co-ordinated to ensure that there is no mismatch between expectations and results. Your Lordships can be confident that Her Majesty's Government will remain at the forefront of that endeavour.

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