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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There is a great deal of confusion about the issue of defence and the Nice treaty. Perhaps I may attempt to set out the position.

The arrangements for the European security and defence policy are not in the Nice treaty. A declaration attached to the treaty makes clear that the treaty does not need to come into force for the defence arrangements agreed by EU member states to become operational. The position is straightforward: the treaty is not necessary for the defence mechanisms to come into effect.

The European security and defence policy had its origins in the Maastricht treaty, which agrees,

The Maastricht treaty was introduced when the party opposite was in power. Nothing in the Nice treaty changes that. There is no specific treaty base for the rapid reaction force. The details of the terms for EDSP are not in the treaty of Nice but in the separate political conclusions, which were adopted by the European Council at Nice. It is important to get that point absolutely clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked how much this would cost and the point was taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. There are no additional costs involved in so far as armed forces or

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equipment are concerned. We shall examine better co-ordination for the Petersberg tasks—I shall discuss that in a moment—as regards armed forces and consider ways in which their equipment may be mutually supportive. That is what both the headline goal—which the Committee has discussed—and the capability conference, which is due to take place in December this year, are all about.

The additional cost, in so far as one may be attributed to this, might arise in the political and security committee. As the Committee may recall from our previous discussions, that is a small committee; I take into account also the secretariat that supports it. However, there would be offset costs for the disbanding of the WEU. In so far as costs exist, they are not costs for armed forces or for equipment. The sole additional cost would be incurred in the drawing together of the political directing committee.

I am sure the Committee understands that the treaty removes references to the WEU as that no longer reflects reality. As I have indicated, the other new element is the reference to the new political and security committee which is being set up and to which the Council will, following Nice, be able to delegate individuals for the political direction of operations. It is important to remind ourselves that the EU only exercises high level political military control. There really is not an EU military operational structure. I know that we have been over the issue before in the Chamber but it is as well to reiterate it now. The EU political control mechanisms—that is, the political and security committee and the EU military committee—link with the operation commanders in headquarters, who are either from NATO in the form of DSACEUR and SHAPE and therefore use all NATO's military operational tools, or are from national bases such as our own PJHQ in which case national or NATO resources would be used. Therefore, there is no separate EU military operational structure. I hope that that is clear.

Having heard what some Members of the Committee have said, one might be forgiven for thinking that, somewhere hidden away in the treaty is a clause which sets up a permanent Euro army or brings under the control of foreign generals our own Armed Forces. That is not the case to any greater extent than exists already. The fact is that British servicemen and women have been under the control of overseas commanders in Kosovo, Bosnia, during the Gulf War and in East Timor and, in fact, in any UN peacekeeping operation to which we contribute troops which does not have a UK force commander. There is nothing peculiar or extraordinary in that and it constitutes no great departure from the way in which we have operated in the past.

The European security and defence policy is about improving military capabilities of the European nations to conduct certain EU-led military operations. Here we come to what have been termed the Petersberg tasks, defined as those where we would not wish necessarily always to invoke NATO and where NATO might not wish to become involved. They are humanitarian tasks such as the delivery of aid or, for

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example, the military operation that we undertook to deliver aid to flood torn regions of Africa in the past year or 18 months. They might also involve peacekeeping or peace enforcing—those kinds of crisis management. I stress that that would occur when NATO itself chose not to become engaged in such operations.

We believe that the ESDP can make a real difference in a practical way. EU member states have committed to overcome important shortfalls in their military capabilities. We have discussed those shortfalls on a number of occasions in this Chamber. I refer to shortfalls, for example, with regard to strategic airlift and the sheer readiness of armed forces to move into action. The capabilities improvement conference, which I mentioned a moment ago, is designed to meet some of those shortfalls. It is a critical step in that process.

6.15 p.m.

Earl Attlee: The Minister told us that we would not incur any extra cost from these arrangements but now she is telling us about improvements in capability, particularly with regard to strategic airlift. We agree that we need improvements in strategic airlift, but what do the arrangements do to overcome our shortfalls in strategic airlift?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I did not say that no extra cost would be incurred. I said that there were minimal extra costs and that they were not necessarily associated with equipment, for example. I assure the Committee and the noble Earl, who has a particular interest in defence matters, that we would improve the United Kingdom's airlift capacity anyway. The point I am making is that we should examine European capabilities in general and try to determine the best way to co-ordinate those capabilities. We are not talking about additional costs; we are talking about deciding in Europe how our forces intermesh, both in terms of personnel and in terms of the kind of equipment they have at their disposal. Certainly, as someone who was responsible for defence procurement, I am well aware of our shortfalls. Increased airlift capacity was something the UK needed anyway.

Lord Watson of Richmond: The Minister explained the situation with absolutely admirable clarity. But does she not agree that one of the encouraging results thus far of the European defence initiative is that not only as regards the United Kingdom but also as regards other member states there appears now to be a stated willingness to review future purchase of equipment so that it meets the gaps that exist within any European defence capability? That is important because historically in Europe what we have all done is to produce the same kind of defence capability. We have replicated ourselves and that is one fundamental reason why, although within the European Union we

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spend around 60 per cent of what the United States spends on defence, we only get about a 15 per cent capability from that spend.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The noble Lord has expressed the point admirably. That is, of course, the reason for going ahead with the capability conference later in the year. It is also, of course, one of the reasons we set up OCCAR; namely, to seek with like-minded EU countries better and more effective ways of defence procurement within our defence budgets.

Improved European military capabilities will also strengthen the contribution Europeans can make to NATO operations. That is an important point and one that is recognised by the United States and our other allies in NATO. NATO will remain—I echo here absolutely unequivocally the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—the cornerstone of Europe's collective defence. NATO is, and will remain, our first choice for managing crises. There is no equivocation on those points.

It is tempting for us all to scan the newspapers to find quotes wheresoever we may in support of the view that we take. But, however hard we try, I do not think that there is any gainsaying the fact that the United States has long wanted Europe to take more responsibility and improve its capability to be a more effective set of allies within NATO. That is what we are doing now and that is why the United States so strongly supports us. I remind the Committee that President Bush said at his meeting with the Prime Minister on 23rd February this year:

    "The United States welcomes the EU's European Security and Defence Policy intended to make Europe a stronger, more capable partner in deterring and managing crises affecting the security of the Transatlantic community".

It is not just the United States who do not want that to happen at the expense of NATO; the United Kingdom and our European allies within NATO also do not want it to happen at the expense of NATO.

It is important to repeat that nothing in the Bill involves the establishment of a European army. The commitment of national resources by member states for the operations that I have described will, of course, be based on sovereign decisions. NATO will remain the crucial basis for the collective defence of its members.

I shall not go into the details of what Signor Prodi said, because I thought that he was unequivocal when the points were put to him on the "Today" programme this morning. The questioner put various words into his mouth, but he pointed out that that position was completely wrong. He went on to explain his position, which was not very different from what I have just explained.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, pointed out that General Hagglund heads the military committee, not the political and security committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Biffen, was worried about the position of Turkey. I remind him that Turkey has supported the development of the ESDP. At the

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December 2000 ministerial meeting, Turkey and the other allies reaffirmed NATO's readiness to support the ESDP and the EU operation.

Of course Turkey has some concerns, but the EU's openness to involve non-EU NATO members in Europe in this important step is addressing those points. We shall continue to engage Turkey, because we all understand that it is a much-valued NATO ally. It is very important that we proceed on that basis.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, raised questions about intelligence, which have been raised in your Lordships' House before. We shall not pass intelligence to the EU unless we are confident that it is as secure as with NATO. I hope that I have dealt with the other questions raised on the Petersberg tasks.

We do not believe that Amendment No. 40, tabled by the Opposition, is necessary. Few government policies have received as much attention as the ESDP. It is right that it receives such attention, but we have debated the policy a great number of times in your Lordships' House and I am sure that we shall go on so doing. Another government report to Parliament on the implications of the ESDP for NATO and the WEU would not add anything to the information that the Government have been at pains to make available to your Lordships' House already.

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