Select Committee on European Union Fifteenth Report


81. It is absolutely clear that the EU's management of defence will be conducted on an inter-governmental basis, and thus the initiative and decisions to deploy military forces for EU missions will not come from the European Commission or European Parliament, but from the individual Member State governments working in conjunction with the High Representative for the CFSP, Javier Solana. There is no intention to involve the Commission in military affairs: Mr Jones Parry told us that "I would be exceedingly hesitant about offering the Commission any right of initiative on a matter pertaining directly to defence. My aim is to eliminate that possibility." (Q9) Few considered it likely that the Commission would be given much of an entrée into the policy sector: Professor Jörg Monar of Leicester University thought that "the security and defence area will remain a very special and separate area of the integration process which may stay outside of a full communitarisation process for a very, very long time." (Q241) However, some areas—the financing of humanitarian tasks and post-crisis stabilisation—will directly involve the European Commission and the European Parliament in respect of the financial arrangements. The European Commission will also be involved in a range of diplomatic and economic measures that will normally precede, accompany or follow an EU mission. But, quite aside from the different opinions concerning the ultimate goal of the defence initiative, there remain dangers in this approach, namely:

    (i)  the potential for inappropriate issue linkage with other EU issues and

    negotiations, and the potential for bargaining between countries: as noted by Dr Menon, "decision-making culture in the EU centres on compromise, trade-offs and logrolling both between issues and between Member States on particular issues. This is not the most appropriate kind of setting within which to place defence." (p134); and

    (ii)  the scope for friction as a result of the different memberships of the EU

    and NATO (most notably in respect of Greece and Turkey). As Mr William Park, Principal Lecturer at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, made clear "The Greeks are inside the EU, the Turks are not, and that gives them an advantage…" (Q404) For the Turkish Government "…any decision to transfer assets from NATO to an EU-led operation would require consensus. If that carries with it a message, the message is that they want to have a right of veto" (Q411).

82. EU member governments have made clear their commitment to develop a CESDP on the basis of inclusiveness and flexibility. The need for this has been stressed by the United States Embassy, who told us that "Formally, NATO and the EU will maintain independence of decisions—but in practice, they have to be closely linked and co-operative, not competitive, and between NATO and the EU there needs to be complete mutual transparency and co-ordination." (p214), and by the Secretary of State, who thought that "it is very important that whatever command and control structures we develop should not be seen to be somehow exclusive to EU Member States. That is why it is so important that there is full transparency in this decision-making process between the European Union and the NATO structures." (Q391) Such flexibility and transparency will be necessitated by the wide potential membership of coalitions: where the alliance as a whole is not engaged non-EU countries including Russia may opt in to EU missions. Likewise, any members of the EU including the 4 non-NATO EU countries (Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden) may opt out.

83. To ensure satisfactory arrangements continual dialogue will need to be maintained with potential partners both inside and outside the EU. Sensitivity towards the six European non-EU members of NATO, which have a veto over the use of NATO assets by the EU, is a key consideration. This is recognised by the Government: the MoD and FCO aim to achieve this "by setting up a permanent framework for dialogue between the EU and the Six on security and defence policy, and a mechanism for consultation with the Six in the initial stages of a crisis, before any decision to act has been taken by the EU." (p13) Such dialogue is regarded by the six as a pre-requisite: the Czech Embassy told us that "A sine qua non for the Czech contribution is participation in the political decisions concerning the relevant operations" (p156); and the Norwegian Ambassador said that a basic requirement was "that after the formal decision making has been made, that we are fully integrated and treated on equal terms with full Members of the European Union in the execution of the mission." (Q195) The Norwegian Embassy laid down the principles for the structures between the EU and NATO as follows: "(a) regular and back-to-back meetings between the EU and European allies; (b) inclusiveness and genuine dialogue; (c) joint agenda-setting; (d) broad agenda on security and defence, including crisis management; and (e) military co-operation and consultation, corresponding to the political co-operation arrangements." (p60) We must stress, however, that all of the above may be difficult to achieve: "ad-hocery" is not best suited to defence areas, where a high level of trust and well practised decision making and command procedures are essential for co-operation.

84. A particular concern is the case of Turkey. Turkey has the potential and the willingness to make a significant contribution to any EU operation, as it has powerful military resources. Furthermore, as a country at an important crossroads straddling the European and Asian continents, it can play a useful role in a range of military operations. It is clear that Turkey's interests need to be treated in a sensitive manner: of all the NATO members, Turkey has been the most reluctant in supporting the CESDP. Mr William Park, a specialist in Turkish affairs, reminded us that they would have much preferred an ESDI where NATO and not the EU was the starting point. He said "I do not think the Turks are likely to be that satisfied with any fudge that is short of their guaranteed involvement in decision making" (Q398). Turkey has considerable strategic interests in many of the areas where the Petersberg tasks are likely to apply, and in some cases their sympathies may not automatically align with those of the EU. In view of this, the Turkish Embassy pointed out that "Turkey should have the right to participate in all operations, whether autonomous or using NATO assets and capabilities, in pre-designated crisis areas which directly affect her national security." (p210) Turkish governments have made clear their commitment to membership of the EU, a goal they have sought for 30 years. William Hopkinson, Deputy Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, referred to the "playing of politics" (p182) linking the EU's access to NATO assets to how the EU deals with particular non-EU NATO countries on other issues.[41]

85. The EU will also need to act sensitively in respect of Russia. Like Turkey, Russia may wish to contribute to EU missions, as they are doing with the NATO mission in Kosovo. But the Russians have always been sensitive about NATO, and they are likely to become more sensitive about the EU as it becomes involved in military matters, especially if in enlarging eastwards, the Union impinges on Russia's security. According to Dr Andrew Cottey of the University of Bradford and University College Cork, "To date, in contrast to its strong opposition to NATO enlargement, Russia has been relatively sanguine about the eastward enlargement of the EU. As the EU develops a defence dimension and enlarges eastward, Russia may become more wary of the EU in general and its enlargement in particular" (p154).

Treaty changes

86. In addition to such practicalities, there is the issue of whether the creation of the CESDP requires treaty revisions. The Government believes that it does not, and it is supported in its position by most other EU countries[42].

87. Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union may provide a basis for adopting measures affecting the WEU and the development of a common defence policy outside the framework of the IGC. Such measures would have to be agreed by the European Council and approved by Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Alternatively, the Helsinki proposals could be incorporated into the current IGC negotiations (either separately or parallel) and could be endorsed at the Nice European Council in December 2000 as part of the package of treaty amendments. Finally, treaty amendments could be avoided altogether and the European Council could propose a format for governments to follow.

88. There is much division on this issue. Those who favour treaty amendment point to the difficulty of incorporating the WEU and winding up its structures without treaty amendment, even though the modified Brussels Treaty allows for the original signatories to terminate the Treaty without reference to the EU. They may also argue that if a body similar to the North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee of NATO is to be created, then this needs to be done through a treaty amendment since it lies outside the powers of the European Council to grant responsibility to these structures. In addition, there is an argument that defence competencies cannot or should not be introduced by stealth and that they require the endorsement of the electorate to obtain legitimacy.

89. Conversely, those who favour the avoidance of treaty changes argue that such changes are difficult: the problems of ratifying the Maastricht Treaty are still fresh in many minds. The 4 "non-aligned" EU governments may also find it difficult for parliaments and peoples to ratify a treaty which contains the CESDP, especially if it contains references to collective defence through NATO. If there is consensus on the nature and scope of CESDP and the political will to make it a reality, any treaty changes will become essentially a technical matter.


90. Defence is a responsibility of national governments, and the issue of scrutiny and accountability rests with national parliaments. However, with the development of a CESDP, the EU has acquired a role in the management of a wide range of military missions and there will be a need for new mechanisms to ensure full scrutiny. This will not be simple to achieve.

91. There are several reasons for this. First, national parliaments have clearly demarcated national responsibilities and competences. Second, there are competing assemblies and parliaments in this area. Under the present Treaty arrangements, the European Parliament (EP) has competence in budgetary matters, including CSFP expenditure, and a right to be consulted on "the main aspects and basic choices" of the CSFP. The WEU Assembly and the North Atlantic Assemblies have important oversight powers of their respective organisations. In addition Parliamentary scrutiny is further complicated by the creation of CESDP. A range of Council bodies with overlapping responsibilities will be involved in the preparation of Council decisions and in policy planning, yet their activities will be shrouded in secrecy. Moreover, flexible participation in defence policy making will lead to variable engagement of EU member states and non-EU members of NATO. The role of the Commission will also be important since unlike the Council Secretariat (and its component parts) it is directly accountable to the EP. As pointed out by Professor Monar, "it will be increasingly difficult for national parliaments to exercise adequate democratic scrutiny of the collective elements of decision making at the European level." (Q231) Professor Monar and his colleague, Dr Wyn Rees, note:

92. The Secretary of State for Defence has argued that "where you are deploying British forces to an operation where they are risking their lives, the only place where the Government is held to account is in Parliament. I feel very strongly about that. I do not think there is a real possibility of any multi-national institution of the kind that the WEU Assembly is, or the European Parliament for that matter, holding governments to account, when it is British subjects and British citizens who are being deployed into an operation where they are risking their lives." (Q381). The sub-committee supports this view. However, accountability to national parliaments need not, as the Secretary of State seems to imply, exclude scrutiny in some shape from other multinational parliaments such as the WEU Assembly, the North Atlantic Assembly and the European Parliament when their institutions have a role to play. Partnership with democratic bodies at the European level will be important. Whilst there is little enthusiasm for handing the European Parliament new powers in respect of defence and security, the EP will in all probability develop a role in this area. The Minister for Europe, Mr Keith Vaz, informed us "the European Parliament has no role in the decision-making process that we envisage" (Q334). However evidence suggest that funding and accountability of the European Commission will inevitably lead to a greater role for the European Parliament whether the British government supports this or not. In written evidence Professor Monar and Dr Rees suggest EU governments may be reluctant to meet the financial costs of political obligations they have previously committed themselves to and in an attempt to pay for any shortfall the temptation may exist to fund this from the EU budget, thus directly involving the EP. In addition a procedure already exists for supporting non-military crisis management tasks from the EC budget which directly draws the EP into the decision making process. In our view these problems cannot be solved either by the WEU Assembly, the North Atlantic Assembly or the European Parliament alone. This is an issue which will need to be addressed in the IGC.

93. There is also a need to further improve Government reporting mechanisms in the area of CFSP which are already failing to ensure the Government is held to account in Parliament. Specifically there is a need to ensure that suitable scrutiny of decisions taken in the Council of Ministers by British ministers regarding matters which are less than war, but which cover humanitarian and crisis management decisions, and in which British lives are at stake. This will require significant improvements in national procedures.

See also Monar and Rees (p69). Back

42   At the European Council meeting at Feira in Portugal in June 2000, the Portuguese presidency's Report on Strengthening the Common European Security and Defence Policy took note of the opinion of the Council's Legal Service, whose conclusion on this subject was as follows:

"The Council's Legal Service is of the opinion that the conclusions of the Cologne and Helsinki European Councils regarding European security and defence policy can be implemented without it being legally necessary to amend the Treaty on European Union. However, such amendments would be necessary if the intention is to transfer the Council's decision-making powers to a body made up of officials, or to amend the Treaty's provisions regarding the WEU. Furthermore, it is for Member States to determine whether amendments to the Treaty would be politically desirable or operationally appropriate".

The Council endorsed the report. Back

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