Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Common European Policy on Security and Defence: EUC Report

5.2 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon rose to move, That this House takes note of the Report of the European Union Committee on The Common European Policy on Security and Defence (15th Report, Session 1999-2000, HL Paper 101).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is a pleasure to introduce this report to the House on a topic which has for the past month occupied so much newsprint and air time. In politics timing is everything. When we published our report on 25th July it sank without trace. There was not a ripple of interest. However, for the past month it has been the hottest topic around. This week, like London buses, we have had three debates on this topic in a row. Our committee was gratified to note that all the concerns discussed in the report have been featured in the past few weeks. I do not think that any issue that has been lately debated was not discussed in our report.

The newly-formed House of Lords committee on European foreign and defence policy was initially chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. I am delighted to see that he is present. But since his translation to the Front Bench opposite in April I have had the honour and pleasure to be chairman.

We took evidence on 10 occasions and also visited Brussels where we had meetings with the Secretary-General of NATO, Mr Javier Solana, and with Chris Patten. We are grateful to our Clerk, David Batt, and to our specialist adviser, Dr Anthony Forster, Director of Research at the Staff College at Shrivenham and also to our witnesses, in particular, to General Klaus Naumann who came from Germany and gave us frank and illuminating evidence.

I begin by summarising the historical background to this initiative. There has been a long search for agreement between various European Union nations on matters of security and defence. This was given a fresh impetus by the ending of the Cold War, American troop withdrawal from Europe and the decline in the relative importance of territorial defence of member states. However, new security challenges and problems in the Balkans also led to strengthened support for a WEU (Western European Union) solution to purely European issues. It has become essential that Europe should be able to manage and intervene in crises of disorder and unrest.

In June 1992 at the Petersberg Hotel near Konigswinter the WEU produced the Petersberg Declaration enumerating the so-called XPetersberg tasks". These included the deployment of military units in humanitarian and rescue tasks, in peacekeeping tasks and in tasks using combat forces in crisis management including peacemaking. It is this final task of peacemaking with combat troops that has caused us most unease and the most discussion due to the lack of clear definition and the overlap with the main tasks of NATO.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 521

The WEU, however, made no further progress on that project and failed to establish appropriate mechanisms to underpin any effective military intervention. In December 1998 at an Anglo-French summit at St Malo there was an agreement between the two most effective military powers in Europe, France and Britain, that Europe should contribute more to military and humanitarian missions and rely less on the United States. This agreement was driven by at least two major factors. The first was European failures in Bosnia and Kosovo. Only half the European troops required were actually deployed as only 2 per cent of our largely conscript armies were capable of such deployment. Conscripts on short-term engagements lack both training and professionalism.

Moreover, Europe lacks equipment such as Xheavy lift" and the satellite intelligence that is provided by the United States. It is not a matter of a lack of troop numbers. We have within European Union countries 1.9 million men and women under arms compared with 1.4 million in the United States. But our expenditure is only 60 per cent of theirs and we lack equipment and training. Instead of conscript armies with limited military utility in the modern world, we need highly mobile, combat-ready forces with appropriate logistical support in the form of planning, analysis and command and control. This will be expensive, as will be re-equipping.

The United States is also increasingly reluctant to get involved in European adventures and is not willing to commit ground troops. There is also in the United States a strong feeling that Europe should do more in the way of burden sharing within NATO. On the other hand, as has been highlighted by many speakers in the past few weeks, the United States attaches great importance to NATO and would not wish any European initiative to undermine it. Our committee's report emphasises our concern about this issue.

At Helsinki in December 1999 the European Council adopted a strengthened European policy on security and defence and declared,

    Xits determination to develop an autonomous capability to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises.

Much of our report and the public discussion since have centred on the extent to which Europe can either decide or act autonomously and on the relationship between EU members and members of NATO, including militarily important countries such as Turkey and Norway. That has also been a matter of considerable concern.

On 20th November this year in Brussels more concrete form was given to the European defence initiative with a conference at which each member state pledged its commitment to the headline goal of a force of up to 50,000 to 60,000 troops to be deployable within 60 days. I am rather astonished that this is called a rapid reaction force. In the police service rapid reaction is a matter of minutes and hours, not 60 days. However, the rapid reaction force has been the title under which this body of people has become known.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 522

It is also intended that these troops should be sustainable in the field for a year. It is intended that this will take effect by 2003.

On 30th November our committee reconvened to hear evidence from the policy heads of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. We have published a short supplementary report about their evidence.

The commitments conference provided satisfactory pledges of a pool of 100,000 troops, 400 combat aircraft and 100 ships. These are, of course, purely paper commitments and many of them overlap with other commitments to the United Nations, for example.

Progress has been made in many respects on the European defence initiative and since the deadline for the completion of this initiative is 2003, we hope that many future hurdles will be satisfactorily overcome.

However, there are still many issues which need to be resolved. Some of these will be taken up in greater detail by other members of the committee who will take part in the debate. They will address concerns such as the definition of tasks. They are referred to generally as XPetersberg tasks". But that is ill-defined and does not take account of such things as mission creep. (We have all learned a new vocabulary!)

Another question which concerns us is overstretch, particularly of our troops, and the double and triple hatting under various obligations. There is also the question of planning, analysis and command and control. Although we have been assured to the contrary by our own Ministers, we are sure that there will be the costs of equipment and training. Our committee will continue to examine those issues in the months and years ahead.

I believe there are two major issues. First, this initiative has to be fully interlocked with NATO decision- making and support. I welcome, therefore, the Prime Minister's Statement after the Nice Summit in which he said:

    XIt was made plain, first, that European defence would operate only when NATO chooses not to be engaged; secondly, that it be limited to peacekeeping, humanitarian and crisis management tasks; and, thirdly, that ...the commitment of national assets to any EU-led operation will be based on 'sovereign national decisions'".--[Official Report, 11/12/00; col. 120.]

My second major concern is that this is essentially a political initiative. I am concerned that to some extent it does not take sufficient account of the needs of troops in the field. If it is to work, it must be based on sound military planning and decision-making.

It has been clear to the committee throughout that the European initiative cannot be free standing. To set up parallel structures to NATO would be inordinately expensive and would severely weaken not only NATO but also our relationship with the United States and other important countries such as Turkey. However, if this initiative is successful and produces more effective European military forces, then NATO will be not be weakened but strengthened. I beg to move.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 523

Moved, That this House takes note of the Report of the European Union Committee on The Common European Policy on Security and Defence (15th Report, Session 1999-2000, HL Paper 101).--(Baroness Hilton of Eggardon.)

5.12 p.m.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, I am sure that I shall carry every member of the committee with me in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, for all she has done in leading us during the past few months since my noble friend Lord Howell disappeared to the Front Bench. She has led the committee extremely well. I should like to be the first to pay tribute to her.

Over the past 13 or 14 years I have heard the continual cry from my friends in the United States that, XYou Europeans must start to do more about your own defence. You must make a better effort within NATO, with United States support and without it, to look after your own interests". I heard that cry in the 10 years before I joined your Lordships' House when I was a member of the NATO assembly. I heard it in the seven years before I joined your Lordships' House when I was the leader of the British delegation to the OSCE assembly. I have heard it in the almost 14 years that I have had the honour to be the secretary of the British-American Parliamentary Group. It has been a continual loud cry from our American friends.

What is clear is that military forces in the European states are neither sensibly co-ordinated nor seriously effective to deal with the Petersberg tasks to which we are now committed. If Europe is to do more in response to the pleas from the United States, serious changes are necessary. The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, referred to the fact--it is a surprise to many when they hear it--that the Americans have fewer troops under arms at 1.4 million than we have in the European states at 1.9 million. As my noble friend Lord Hurd said recently, although within the European states we spend only about two-thirds of the amount spent by the United States, we do not get two-thirds of the capability of the United States. Clearly, it is entirely right that we move in that direction.

I have made this clear to noble Lords previously but I think that it is worth saying it again. In approaching this problem, I am no Eurosceptic. I do not react like one of Pavlov's dogs at the mere mention of the word XEurope". I am convinced that the currently proposed European reaction force is in no way a European army. I see the current proposals as a logical outcome of the past 10 years of negotiations by three Prime Ministers.

In assessing how Europe should do more, we have to pose a number of questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, posed some of them. Some have been satisfactorily answered by Ministers within this week. On Tuesday of this week, to my pleasure, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said at col. 345 of the Official Report, that,

    Xnone of what we are doing means weakening NATO, nor building a competitor to the alliance".

14 Dec 2000 : Column 524

That was a welcome statement. On Monday, at col. 120 of the Commons Official Report, the Prime Minister said that,

    XEuropean defence would operate only when NATO chooses not to be engaged".

Those are statements I wish to hear in contemplating this initiative. These should be the rocks of the policy which the Government are enlarging. Woe betide this Government or any other government if they were to use stealth policies to side-step those essential conditions.

However, over the next year a number of vital questions arise which could cause the whole policy to sink or swim. I hope that when the Minister responds she will be able to answer them. First, we want to have made clear to us the attitude of the United States to the proposals. One seems to be able to read whatever one wishes into Mr Cohen's various statements. We have heard quotes from him which seem to lead us in many directions. But now that we have a new President-elect in Washington, it is essential that we get from the new administration as soon as possible a clear statement of full-hearted support for this project. What are the Government doing to clarify the attitude of the United States?

My second question has not been satisfactorily answered at Nice or at the earlier pledging meeting in Brussels. How will the non-European Union or non-NATO European states be integrated? Turkey is an obvious example. We now hear of recent discussions between France and Russia on these matters. We must have it made clear where Russia fits in.

We must have made clear to us what tasks are to be undertaken by this European force. I have detected a certain backsliding by the Government in recent weeks on the issue of tasks. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, rightly said, the Petersberg tasks clearly embrace peacemaking. However, that word seems to have dropped out of a good deal of the rhetoric of the Prime Minister, the noble Baroness and others. I hope that the Minister will make it very clear that peacemaking continues to be one of the force's tasks.

I think that I saw the Minister nodding at me a few moments ago. If peacemaking is still to be undertaken by the force, we want to know a great deal more about how the essential heavy lift and intelligence provision is to be acquired. It is clear that if the Americans are not involved and we are into the business of peacemaking, we shall need a great deal more heavy lift and intelligence provision than we currently have. We need to know how long it will take for those resources to be put together.

Are the Government satisfied that the United Kingdom could continue to enjoy its current privileged intelligence relationship with the United States under the new circumstances? Would the United States allow us to take the intelligence position within a European organisation that they have been able to give us within NATO, where intelligence information is not freely shared among all the allies? It is vital that the United Kingdom continue to be able to share intelligence and information from the Echelon

14 Dec 2000 : Column 525

system and other sources that we currently enjoy within a worldwide system that includes Menwith Hill and Fylingdales.

How will it all be paid for? The evidence that I heard in the Select Committee over the first eight or nine months of this year led me to doubt greatly whether all the changes can be achieved and the new facilities acquired across the European states against a background of falling defence budgets merely by shuffling the money and the effort. The states that have signed up to the commitments have to understand that a sensible force of 60,000 troops--which comes to 180,000 troops if we take into account rotation over a year--cannot be put in the field on the basis of present budgets.

Finally, there is a crucial question about command and control. It is a great sadness to me that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, is unable to be with us today through ill health, because he has added a huge amount of expertise on the subject in the sub-committee. The command and control structure is unclear. What will be the role of Deputy SACEUR? What will the command structures be? Will we need a new headquarters--maybe at Northwood or in France--for these enterprises?

I was interested in the reply that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, gave on Tuesday, when she was asked whether a separate command structure or operational planning system would be created. She said:

    XI should make clear again that the EU is not establishing such things".--[Official Report, 12/12/00; col. 345.]

With respect, that does not answer the question that my noble friend Lord Howell put to her at col. 235, when he quoted from the Presidency Conclusions about the defence arrangements--Standing Arrangements for Consultation and Co-operation between the EU and NATO. The document said:

    XThe entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation, after consultation between the two organisations".

There is some misunderstanding on the issue, which I hope that the Minister will clear up, particularly given the piece on the front page of The Times this morning, which speaks of the French still demanding that the European Union force should be independent of NATO. The issues appear not to fit together. It is essential that the Minister clarifies the situation.

Finally, I hope that the enterprise is successful. I hope that it is a more powerful manifestation of Europe's defence capacity and responsibilities. It would be unmitigated disaster if it fell flat on its face and the European nations were unable to come together and look after their own responsibilities.

5.27 p.m.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to follow the two very thoughtful speeches that have just been made. This is the first time that I have taken part in a defence debate in the House. I confess at once that I do not feel qualified to discuss many of the technical questions that have been raised about the

14 Dec 2000 : Column 526

rapid reaction force. I leave them with great confidence to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, and her colleagues. Many of those important issues of the kind raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, are highly relevant to the issues under discussion.

I shall concentrate on the broader picture. It might be said that we had the opportunity to discuss the broader issues on Tuesday, when I was away, but that would be a wrong view in a debate that is explicitly focused on the so-called rapid reaction force. We should be clear about the long-term vision behind it. What are we trying to accomplish?

I found this recent Select Committee report and its evidence extraordinarily interesting. I do not say that in the usual way in which we pay compliments in the House, when any report, however dull, is praised as enormously exciting and any speech, however bland, is regarded as the most eloquent speech ever delivered. I genuinely found the report very interesting, particularly the evidence.

What are the main issues? First, it is clear that it will take time for the force to develop. As the noble Lord, Lord Carver, said on Tuesday, what has been announced is a first step. He added that he thought that it was a step in the right direction. I shall say more about the direction in a moment. At this stage, it is still largely a paper exercise.

Secondly, we do not yet have a clear common European defence policy, because that depends on having a common foreign policy. There is not yet a clear European foreign policy. To reassure possible critics, it has been emphasised on the British side again and again that it is not a European army. The force will operate only when NATO is not engaged. It has been emphasised again and again that NATO is the basis of our defence policies. We have received many reassurances that it is an inter-governmental operation and that it will not be moved into the first pillar of the European Union. After all, as the Nice conference made very clear, at the moment inter-governmentalism rules. Whether or not that is for the best is a separate question.

As I said, I want to ask a fundamental question. This is a first step, but a first step to what? I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked some very pertinent questions in the course of the evidence. She stated:

    XIt seems to me quite extraordinary that we should be prepared to accept and involve ourselves in yet another [commitment]"--

when we have many other commitments--

    Xwhen surely either the United Nations or NATO ought to be able to deal with most of the problems that any of us could encounter militarily".

I believe that it must be clearly established when the force will operate independently and for what purpose.

The French have a clear view about the ultimate reason for the force. In a way they see it--not now but in time--as an alternative force to NATO. They see it as part of the vision of the European Union as a superpower. They do not see Europe as a superstate--that concept appears to be almost wholly confined not only to Conservative Europhobes but to those who

14 Dec 2000 : Column 527

live in a strange world where every new step in Europe leads immediately to a superstate. That is not something which worries other Europeans. But the French see the need for some redress of the balance in a world where the United States is over-mighty. They envisage a multi-polar world and Europe as one of the poles.

It may be somewhat unfashionable but I have some sympathy with the French view, and I do not see myself in any way as anti-American. Why? First, if we are to be realistic, I believe that we should realise that the European Union and the United States often see the world differently and have somewhat different interests. They take a very different view of the Middle East and a somewhat different view of UN peace-keeping. In his speech on Tuesday, my noble friend Lord Roper pointed out that the European Union spends more than 50 per cent more than the United States on UN peace-keeping. The European Union is more interested in Africa; the United States is much more directly concerned with East Asia. That is inevitable. Of course there are different interests, but that does not mean to say that they need clash.

Secondly, if we are being realistic, it is unwise to take for granted for all time the United States commitment to European defence. I am amazed by how long that commitment has continued. Decades ago--certainly 10 years ago--the US commitment was questioned constantly, but the Americans have continued to commit themselves to the defence of Europe and to committing forces to Europe. In my view, the United States has been one of the most enlightened world leaders of any power in the past which has been a world leader. Despite areas where one might differ about the effects of its policy--perhaps in South America or the Middle East--overall, it has kept the peace and has done so in a most enlightened way.

I have no doubt that, while NATO lasts and is effective, it should be the basis for our defence policy. If it is the basis for our defence policy with a firm American commitment, we should accept the American overall command. It is an effective alliance; it can take effective decisions. However, it takes time for nations to adjust to new circumstances.

It seems to me inevitable that a change of balance of power in the world with the end of the Soviet Union means that we cannot expect the United States to be for ever committed to the European Union's defence in the way in which it has been in the past. Many more voices have been raised in the United States, particularly among those who have been advisers to what is likely to be President Bush, which have questioned the nature of United States commitments in different parts of the world. The US does not see itself as continuing as the world policeman in every part of the world.

That is no argument for following any policy which is likely to accelerate United States withdrawal. I believe that we should be extremely careful in that regard. Everything that has been said by the Government and by the noble Baroness's committee has quite rightly indicated that that must be avoided.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 528

However, it makes sense to prepare now for the circumstances which may arise if the American commitments fade. Therefore, I return to the fundamental question: first steps to what? And what should be the nature of the force to which we are committed? Must it remain for ever a purely inter-governmental arrangement?

At the moment I do not personally advocate a federal Europe. I am not absolutely sure what a federal Europe means. The kind of federal Europe advocated by Mr Joschka Fischer is a very decentralised one. However, at present the tide is flowing against federalism in Europe. When there is talk of a democratic deficit, I do not believe that that will be met by granting more power to the European Parliament, although there may be a case in individual instances for more accountability to the European Parliament.

At the moment, democracy in Europe is based on national Parliaments. They are real; they are what citizens care about, and those citizens do not know who their MEP is. That does not mean to say that there is not an important role for the European Parliament, but that is not the direction in which sentiment is flowing at present.

There is a further, important point which I have stressed time and again. I wrote about it in a paper on the euro and tax; I have spoken about it in this House; and it was emphasised on Tuesday in a notable contribution by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf. It is nonsense to talk about a federal Europe when it will have no resources. Everyone is agreed that a maximum of 1.27 per cent of the budget should be available at the centre. But one cannot run an effective federal superstate with a central budget of 1.27 per cent of GDP.

Nevertheless, with national vetoes there are limitations to the inter-governmental approach, especially if one seeks to evolve an effective foreign policy and common defence. There will be a need for decisive action and quick decisions. That is the whole virtue of NATO at the present time--it can be effective because it takes decisions quickly.

If in Europe we base our policies on national foreign policies, the influence that they can have is extremely limited. I do not say that such influence is meaningless--we have only to consider the intervention of Britain in Sierra Leone, the intervention of France in Francophone parts of Africa or, indeed, the role played by Italy in the Albanian crisis. However, the European Union as a whole can be far more effective than the sum of its parts. If we are to have real influence on the world, it must be within the European context. There is every reason to wish to see effective European common foreign and defence policies. In time, that will be possible only if there is, in this field, some extension of qualified majority voting, perhaps with an opt-out. Personally, I prefer the idea of an opt-out to an opt-in.

What sort of institutional solutions will that require? In my view, those are some of the most difficult questions which the rapid reaction force will have to face. I do not favour the move of defence into

14 Dec 2000 : Column 529

the first pillar. I do not think that it would be helpful to have direct control by the European Parliament in that particular field. But we should not let a serious debate about maximising the influence of European defence and foreign policies be inhibited by phobias about a European superstate.

A European superpower perhaps. I do not particularly like the superlatives. But the question is: how can we make the European Union a more powerful force in the world? In the field of trade, there is no doubt about it: we need an effective European policy on trade. If, in co-operation with the United States, in time, looking at the long-term--and not in opposition, rivalry and competition with the United States--we create an effective European defence force, then that is something which will be good for Britain, good for Europe and good for world peace.

5.54 p.m.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I begin by thanking the sub-committee for producing these two excellent reports. They are reports of great intellectual distinction, as one might have expected from the members who make up that particular sub-committee.

So far there has been a lot of talk, as, indeed, there was on the debate on the gracious Speech, about what one might call the nuts and bolts of the European security and defence initiative. As the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, said, that raises much wider problems than the somewhat mechanistic problems of how to set up a force and who commands it.

Two major issues emerge from a careful reading of the report. They are two issues on which I suspect the Government's mind is already made up. They have their policies clearly defined and I believe that it would take a lot of argument to shake them from them. So perhaps I should be directing my strictures this evening to the Opposition Front Bench in the contingency that they might perhaps soon be responsible for those policies.

The two major issues to which I should like to refer are our future place in what is now a totally new international global structure; and secondly, and perhaps not entirely unconnected with it, the role of armed force in the conduct of international relations, which is becoming rapidly very confused.

I take first the place of this country in the international structure of today and the future. As has been pointed out already in the debate this evening, and, indeed, is pointed out very clearly in the report from the sub-committee, we are now in the post-Cold War phase. The assumptions and scenarios which underpinned all our foreign and defence policies for all those years have now gone. As the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, rightly said, there is now a very distinct possibility that the United States will--withdraw is perhaps too strong a word--resile or recoil a little from too much involvement in the rest of the world and certainly too much involvement in Europe.

As the noble Lord rightly said, if we are sensible and intelligent about our policies, we must prepare for that. It would be foolish not to. However, having said

14 Dec 2000 : Column 530

that, I draw different conclusions from the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, about how we should be preparing for it.

This idea of a common security and defence policy and a common defence and foreign policy for Europe has a direct impact on the role which I believe this country should be playing in Europe, although, as I said, it would be of only limited utility for me to try to impress those issues upon the Government.

I agree that it is foolish and profitless to talk about a European superstate. There is also not much use talking about a European superpower. I feel that Europe cannot ever be a superpower, a superstate, united states or any other kind of common organisation of that kind. Unlike the United States, it consists of a large number of countries of different languages, cultures, backgrounds, history and, more important, interests in foreign policy. In my view--and I hope this is not too heretical--the whole idea of a common defence and foreign policy for Europe is a pipedream. I do not think that it could ever possibly be evolved.

And yet, as we know, there are still people, in spite of what has been said by noble Lords this evening, who are pushing in that direction. There are federalists in Europe. There are people who believe in a high degree of political integration in Europe and they are trying to bring it about. I advance the proposition that the European security and defence initiative is a part of that process.

I do not suggest that there is any conspiracy or hidden agenda; that those who propose the establishment of this force are using it consciously as some kind of trick to bring about a greater federation in Europe. But there is a dynamic here which simply cannot be ignored.

I wish that we could get away from this ridiculous idea that it is not a European army. Perhaps I may borrow a phrase from someone else. If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, the chances are that it is probably a duck. As Romano Prodi said, you can call it Margaret; you can call it Mary-Ann; but it is a European army. I do not see why people do not accept that. There is nothing wrong in having it if that is what you believe is wanted. I do not happen to believe that it is wanted, but that is another matter.

The whole idea of common European institutions--the euro for one and the common defence policy for another--has a dynamic towards an increased political integration in Europe. The whole idea of a common foreign policy, a common defence policy, a European central bank, all the other institutions, are moving inexorably with a dynamic of their own towards closer political integration in Europe. For some people, that may be all very well. For some people, it obviously is. But I want to make the point--and this is where I come to our role in the world--that that will have a considerable effect upon our relationship with the United States of America.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, raised the question of intelligence, as, indeed, I did on the debate on the Address. That is an absolutely vital link that we have

14 Dec 2000 : Column 531

with the United States of America. If we move any further towards political integration in Europe, and especially defence and foreign policy integration, that link will be placed under threat. We should be in no doubt about that. Any respectable commentator in Washington, journalist or politician, will underline and endorse that.

I bring this part of my speech to a close. I believe that we should be thinking very hard about the proposition put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, that if we are to have a role in the world, it must be in Europe. I dissent from that most strongly. It is not necessary that that role should be in Europe at all. If the other countries of Europe wish to become closer, wish to become federal and wish to have a European army, let them do so. But we must be looking at our own national interest, which may lie elsewhere.

It may be idiosyncratic on my part, but I believe that our links with the United States of America are far more important than our links with Europe. In considering our future we must also not forget certain countries that we do not seem to talk about much nowadays, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I believe that those countries should be considered in relation to our future role in the world. At the moment in this country we appear to have become disastrously eurocentric in our policy thinking.

I turn to the use of armed force, which is entirely relevant to the common defence policy. We are moving into a time when the use of armed force is changing. The Kofi Annan doctrine in the United Nations and the recent changes in the strategic doctrine of NATO mean that armed forces, national and others, are mainly for the purpose of intervening in--one may say interfering in--the domestic affairs of sovereign nation states. The aim of armed force now appears to be humanitarian and peace-keeping rather than what I take to be the conventional use of armed force in international affairs.

The result is that our forces are now dispersed in penny-packets all over the world. They cannot be trained in the high-intensity warfare in which they should be trained and which--make no mistake--may yet still be required of our forces. The idea that high-intensity warfare will exist no more is a very dangerous assumption indeed. Now we have armed forces that are stretched beyond their capacity because we do not seem to be able to provide the equipment or the manpower to fulfil all the commitments. However, I am sure that the decisions have been made and I am probably being quixotic in thinking that there is any possibility of changing them now.

However, I want to mention the effect of the growth of the European strategic defence initiative upon NATO. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said that it was not clear to him whether the force would be autonomous, with a separate chain of command. I am not surprised that that is not clear to the noble Lord; I do not believe that it is clear to anyone.

The fact is that after the conference in Nice, the Prime Minister said that the matter had been settled; that there would be no separate chain of command;

14 Dec 2000 : Column 532

and that the whole of the European strategic defence initiative and the whole of the European army would function under the umbrella of NATO. No sooner had those words left his lips than the French said exactly the opposite. They said that there has to be a separate chain of command which has to be autonomous and it must be within the European Union and not within NATO.

If the French are saying one thing and the British are saying another--the two most important countries, politically and militarily, in Europe--what will be the outcome? The matter is not settled at all. The Government may claim that it is, but it is not. There will be major debates and arguments before such a force can be set up.

Bringing together those two issues, I believe that if we do not handle this issue properly we shall face a serious breach in our precious links with the United States of America. What for? I believe that it is dubious whether the European strategic defence initiative will come to anything.

The report of the Select Committee makes it clear that the capacity of Europe to enter into something like this is limited. In the report one can see that the level of expenditure on defence in Europe has declined. The majority of EU countries spend less than 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. That is in the report. Unless that is changed, the possibility of a European strategic defence initiative coming to fruition is remote. That outcome would be dangerous. If we sacrifice our links with the United States of America and with other countries in the interests of something that in the end will be a damp squib, we shall find ourselves in an extremely dangerous situation.

I end by looking at page 30 of the 15th report of the Select Committee. A number of points made there should be inscribed in letters of fire in 10 Downing Street, in the Ministry of Defence and in the Foreign Office. I shall read some of them. First:

    XWe confirm that we do not believe that the EU should consider the creation of such an army".


    Xit will be vital for the EU first to secure the goodwill and tacit support of the United States".

If anyone believes that that support and goodwill will come in the context of a French view of the European strategic defence initiative, they live in a dream world.

I end by reading what I believe is at the heart of the report and what I believe should ring in our ears as we go away tonight:

    XWe cannot express too strongly our anxiety at the danger of the CESDP turning into a damp squib and consequently into seriously deteriorating relations with the United States".

5.56 p.m.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, first I pay tribute to our chairman, not merely for her chairmanship of the committee but also for her cool, elegant presentation of the main findings of our report earlier this afternoon. It is of enormous help to be able to speak against a background of that kind.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 533

I cannot proceed without paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who has made more sensible comments on this subject than anyone since the public controversy of whether we are to have a European army or not burst out some months ago. It has been a real joy to listen to him. I agree with virtually every proposition on which he has spoken, including his clear statement that it is ridiculous for us to imagine that we have only a European role to play and that therefore we need and should envisage an ever-closer integration of our country, in all its affairs, including military and foreign policy, with that of the European Union, when quite clearly our interests, connections and strength lie just as much outside that continent as they do inside. That is one of the great truths that we have to remember. So frequently in these ongoing debates we forget that.

The noble Lord referred to the European army and the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, dismissively, but correctly, said that a lot of rubbish has been talked about it. I agree, although one cannot help but be amused by the fact that the main references to a European army have come from the lips of that well-known eurosceptic, the President of the European Commission, Mr Prodi, whose words were sensibly quoted by the noble Lord.

I am amazed at the lack of historical knowledge that so many commentators display. One more recent statement on the subject came from the present German Finance Minister, Herr Hans Eichel. In January 1999, just before he took over as Finance Minister, when talking about EMU and the fact that they had achieved agreement, he said,

    XWe will now strive towards political unification ... EMU will not be enough. Why do we still need national armies? One European army is enough".

Those sentiments, as those who have studied these matters know well, were stated with perhaps even greater force and clarity a few years earlier by Chancellor Kohl. Those of us who have some memory of events--most of us are not youngsters in this House--will remember in 1953 the first attempt to create a European army. The European Defence Community agreement of 1953 was passed under the French initiative, and would have been achieved but for an extraordinary failure of nerve when the French abandoned it. They lost their nerve and withdrew from it.

But agreement on that European army was achieved down to battalion level. The armies of the six had been brought together. So when people say that European armies and things of that kind are just Eurosceptic rubbish, they are being ridiculous. In fact it is worse than that. Those comments come from people who believe that there has been no history or that history began on 1st May 1997.

I put that matter to one side; it is only part of my complaint. I am grateful to my committee colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, for spelling out so well the fact that many questions remain to be resolved. Our committee has been rather Xcool" about it. We

14 Dec 2000 : Column 534

said that if, as the Government appear to think, it is simply a question of strengthening the European side of NATO so that it can take more effective action with the United States, excellent; we are genuinely for that. The trouble is that we know very well--again I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont--that not everyone in Europe believes that that is what it is or should be about.

Our principal opponent in all this is the Government of France. But they are not alone. Although other governments are somewhat cross-pressured, the truth is that there is a difference of purpose which exists between our stated position and that of a number of our European allies.

The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, rightly asks what is the purpose. Is this not just the first step? It must be embarrassing for the noble Lord to admit that it is the first step, because we know the steps he wants to take and the general direction of his thinking.

I too want to turn to the question of purpose. There has been a misunderstanding from the beginning of this public debate. People talk about a European defence policy. But it is nothing to do with defence--again as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, pointed out. NATO is about defence of the borders of its member countries, which includes most of the European Union countries, though not all. This is about something entirely different; it is about the projection of military force by the European powers elsewhere in the world.

Some people may say that it is an excellent thing for Europe to develop the capacity for intervention elsewhere. But I have considerable reservations in that regard. I trust NATO and the American presence much more than a separate European initiative and armed force.

A point so often forgotten in these debates is that what the European Union is trying to do is not just to create a military availability for projection elsewhere; it is trying to create a common foreign and security policy. In the evolution of that policy it begins, quite properly, by using the mechanisms of the Rome treaty. It is the Commission that initially applies all the economic and trade sanctions against an offending nation, such as Serbia. Then we get a foreign policy Xcreep", quite naturally. If the enemy does not respond to external economic pressures, we put in a police force. In fact we created one in the last summit but one. If that does not work, we then have to put in military force.

What is evolving is not merely a kind of European military weapon of defence; it is a growing comprehensive European Union foreign policy reflecting its own priorities, its own interests and now backed up with the military means of enforcing, if necessary, those policies. That is not a minor matter; it is a major development in European history and the history of the European Union.

As I say, we start from the knowledge that we and the principal partner, the French, have an entirely different agenda. Let us be clear about this. The French intend to create an autonomous military power, and they have every entitlement to do so. I do

14 Dec 2000 : Column 535

not know whether anyone has read recently the St Malo joint declaration which we trace back to the fons et origo of the whole of this enterprise. That communique is only around four paragraphs, part of which reads:

    XThe European Union needs to be in a position to play its full role on the international stage"--

Xits" full role, whatever that might be--

    X... to this end, the Union must have capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military force, the means to decide to use them and a readiness to do so. (St Malo Joint Declaration, Chirac/Blair, 4 Dec.1998)".

It goes on, and this is perhaps even more significant,

    XThe European Union will also need to have recourse to suitable military means (European capabilities pre-designated within NATO's European Pillar or national or multi-national European means outside the NATO framework)".

Both are envisaged. And we signed that declaration in St Malo with the French. So this is clearly something about which we must have our eyes wide open from the beginning; that we are embarking upon a venture for which our principal partner has an entirely different objective, or is likely to have.

We then move on, inevitably, to United States worries. It is hardly surprising that the United States expresses concern. I am not pleased with the Government. They have rather foolishly, but deliberately, tried to minimise the extent of American concern. Statements have been made that there is not a single American of distinction who does not willingly associate with our joint endeavour in the European Union defence capability.

The Americans are entirely in favour of the European end of NATO being strengthened within NATO. However, as one would expect, they are desperately concerned about the three XDs". The first is decoupling from the Europeans the second is the duplication of the facilities which NATO already has; the third is the disintegration as it might affect members of NATO who are not members of the EU, for instance Turkey.

The Americans have said that repeatedly. General Wesley Clark said it--I could quote him but I shall not. Most recently--and most embarrassingly for the Government--the American Secretary of State for Defence, on the eve of the Nice meeting, deliberately restated what the Government have denied by stating that everyone in important positions in America is wholly happy with what is happening. On the contrary: the Secretary of State clearly raised the danger not merely of weakening but of destroying NATO.

Anyone who has been following these events knew from the beginning that such problems and tensions existed. It does the Government no credit to pretend that they did not exist and, frankly, their credibility has not been helped by their handling of that situation.

I have a final point to make about autonomous capacity and European separation from the Americans. Two important aspects of military action were mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Jopling, who are committee members. They

14 Dec 2000 : Column 536

referred to the necessary intelligence gathering and to heavy-lift capacity for transferring tanks, guns and so forth. The French are developing precisely that intelligence gathering capacity in their Helios 2 satellite system. And who is their partner in that enterprise? It is Germany, which signed up for its development in June this year.

Beyond that, Europe has chosen for its heavy-lift capacity the A400M, the military version of the airbus. The French will have more than 75 and we and the Germans will have about the same. Whether they are assigned to NATO or whether from the start they will be available in a national capacity is not clear. Obviously, they will be available in both capacities if needed. I should have thought that that was conclusive evidence of the way things are going.

Finally, we signed almost blindly the commitment to a rapid reaction force: one of our aircraft carriers, a substantial number of our aeroplanes and almost certainly 36,000 troops in order to make that real. And we have not catered for any increase in our military spending. It does not sound right to me, particularly when a year ago we made the same commitment in larger quantity terms to the United Nations. In that memorandum of understanding, we agreed to have available rapid reaction forces for UN Security Council purposes world-wide.

I apologise for speaking at length but I believe that it is a major issue. We are engaging in something which could turn out to be disastrously and dangerously wrong for our own country. That does not have to be the case but, my goodness, we need to be vigilant in the period ahead.

6.14 p.m.

Lord Roper: My Lords, I, too, begin by thanking members of Sub-Committee C for their work in providing the 15th report and the update which we are considering tonight. I thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, who chaired the sub-committee during that period.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to hear that I shall be joining Sub-Committee C and I look forward to taking part more actively in its work. The report is extremely valuable, as is the update which the sub-committee produced a few days ago.

I am also grateful to the Government for their reply to the first part of the report. However, as it was made in October, no doubt the Minister in reply will be able to update it.

The noble Lords, Lord Shore and Lord Chalfont, will not be surprised to hear that I do not share all their views. But I do share their concern about the relationship between this country and the United States. However, there is an important difference. I see absolutely no contradiction between being a good Atlanticist and a good European. In my view, this is not a zero-sum game; if we do it well, it can be a win-win situation. We need to think about how we can do it well and how we can make sure that it is a win-win situation.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 537

That view is held not only by a few eccentrics in this country but by most of our European allies. They are both our allies within NATO and play a part in the European Union. I am sometimes surprised when I hear remarks about countries in the European Union, because people seem to overlook that they are also our partners in NATO. It would appear that NATO cannot be so effective if those inadequate countries are members of it!

I return to our relationship with the United States. I agree with the committee that if the project does not succeed a great deal of harm will be done to the NATO alliance, which we agree has been the cornerstone of our defence, and to the European Union--but some may be less worried about that than I. I agree with noble Lords who have spoken that it will not succeed unless European countries are prepared to strengthen their defence capabilities in order to fulfil their obligations under NATO's defence capacity initiative and to the European Union.

That can be done either by increasing the resources which they devote to defence or by using the existing resources more effectively. One of the reasons why Europeans get bad value for money is the absurd duplication among European countries. By using our resources more effectively, we shall be able to achieve better value for European taxpayers. It will not succeed if we do not obtain the necessary agreement between the European Union and NATO, a point which the Prime Minister made in his Statement on his return from Nice.

On the other hand, if the European countries live up to their commitment, by increasing the defence capabilities of the European members of NATO it can provide the basis for a more effective transatlantic partnership on defence and security. It can provide us with an ability to be better partners of the United States. In addition, it can provide the European Union with the crisis management capability which would give substance to its common foreign and security policy.

Having decided to initiate that policy, there is an obligation on the member states of the European Union to do their best to make it succeed. Failure to do so would have a negative effect on the arrangements for collective defence which we have developed and relied upon for the past half century.

However, tonight I want to concentrate on one of the most difficult remaining aspects. Even as we speak, it is being considered at the ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels. I hope, as was suggested by the Foreign Secretary at lunch-time, that it will be possible for them to welcome unanimously the decisions made in Nice.

The matter to which I refer is the relationship between the developing European security and defence policy and Turkey, which was referred to this morning by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, in his interview on the BBC. Turkish membership of NATO during the cold war was critical to our collective defence. At that time we argued that 25 Soviet divisions were deployed

14 Dec 2000 : Column 538

just on the border with Turkey. Therefore, if they were there they were not facing us on NATO's central front. Now that Turkey does not have that function she has legitimate concerns about the risk of being marginalised in the post-cold war situation.

It was partly because of that--I remember it well--that Turkey was pleased to become an associate member of the Western European Union in the early 1990s when it was thought, following the Treaty of Maastricht, that the WEU might have some responsibility in developing European security and defence policy. But when Turkey saw the more recent developments, it was anxious to maintain the privileged position that it had enjoyed in the WEU along with Norway and Iceland. There was very lengthy discussion on this matter last year at the Washington NATO summit. One of the most difficult tasks at that summit was to get Turkey's agreement to this matter.

At the Cologne and Helsinki Councils, the European Union tried to find ways to work with the six members of NATO who are not also members of the European Union, Turkey, Norway and Iceland, together with the three new members, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. As for the last three, this is only an interim problem as they are likely to be members of the European Union by 2004. Neither Norway nor Iceland currently seeks membership. The problem arises with Turkey. It has been accepted that in due course Turkey should become a member of the European Union, but it is a country with which negotiations have not yet been initiated.

Two problems have arisen: the interaction between Turkey's immediate relationship with the European security and defence policy, which we are discussing this evening, and its long-term aim to become a member of the European Union. As we have learnt from recent discussions, that has become linked with Turkey's option as a member of NATO to block NATO's relationship with the European Union on defence. The EU has tried hard to find a mechanism whereby the six European members outside the European Union, and the nine other European countries which are candidates for membership, can be involved in the policy formation process and, if they contribute forces to an action, the operational decision-making of the EU's force.

However, the EU has maintained that the specific decision as to whether to use force would be reserved to the 15 EU members. Turkey has been reluctant to accept that position, although it has proved acceptable to the other countries concerned, including apparently the United States. Turkey has been perceived as maintaining a block on the availability to the European Union of NATO planning staff and the equipment conditionally promised to the European Union in the Washington declaration of last year. In spite of those problems, we should remember that at the capabilities commitment conference held in Brussels on 21st November Turkey pledged a brigade to the force which was to be set up.

14 Dec 2000 : Column 539

Recently there have been more worrying developments. Last week, just prior to the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers, the Turkish Defence Minister, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, gave a press conference in which he said that Turkey had not been given the role which it wanted and expected in the common European security and defence policy. He went on:

    XIf the arrangements in question are not bettered in a way that will satisfy us, it would be impossible to record progress in [the] demands of the EU from NATO".

There is no doubt that if such a block were maintained it would considerably strengthen the arguments put forward by some EU countries that the European Union should develop its own parallel systems of planning, command and control, with all the costs and disadvantages referred to in the report which have been discussed both in this House and another place in recent weeks.

It has been suggested by American journalists writing in the International Herald Tribune and elsewhere that it was Turkish obstructionism within NATO that could block a satisfactory agreement which was one of the principal targets of the anger of Secretary of State Cohen at the meeting in Brussels last week. Since then, in the Nice documents, which we have an opportunity to consider this evening, the European Union has made further progress in offering facilities to European members of NATO outside the EU.

The EU has also made progress in the past 10 days in providing an outline road map at least for the progress of Turkey to membership of the European Union. But there remain Turkish objections to the agreement which in some European countries are seen as approaching a blackmail. According to reports from Ankara that I have received, those objections have led to such concern in Washington that earlier this week President Clinton wrote to the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, to try to persuade Turkey to support the development of the common European security and defence policy within the European Union at today's NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. The President was reported to have stressed that co-operation between NATO and the European Union would be to the advantage of all. Such a message from the President of the United States will have removed any illusions in Ankara that might have arisen from reading much of the British press and listening to some of the observations made from time to time in another place and occasionally even in your Lordships' House. Ankara will see that the United States wishes this project to succeed if the President is prepared to write in those terms to the Prime Minister of Turkey.

I hope, therefore, that the president's letter and other contacts which have taken place at a very high level earlier this morning between the Turkish and the American authorities will lead to a more positive approach from the Turkish Foreign Minister at the NATO meeting today in Brussels. I do not know whether when the noble Baroness replies to the debate

14 Dec 2000 : Column 540

she will be able to give us any information on today's developments in Brussels, but I very much hope that there has been a satisfactory outcome.

I am aware of Turkey's concerns and the complications created by the involvement of Cyprus in the ESDP, but I believe that an inflexible attitude from Ankara would have a serious effect on long-term relations between the European Union and Turkey. To remove this Turkish objection and possible veto to NATO co-operation with the European Union will not guarantee the necessary agreement between the EU and NATO which is central to the satisfactory development of the European security and defence policy, as is made clear in the committee's report. However, without it the opportunity to reach such an agreement and to develop a satisfactory policy will be very small.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page