Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 100-117)



Baroness Park of Monmouth

  100. But in that case how does that square with Article 10.4: "The Union shall have competence to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy". Are we going to challenge that statement?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) Article 10(4) of the draft constitution? That is exactly one of the points to which we are suggesting amendments because in the context in which this language appears, it does give the impression that there is a policy of the Union which springs almost unbidden from within the constitution to which the Member States have a duty of co-operation. What we are trying to get back to is what seems to us to be fundamental, which is it is for the Member States to decide what the policy is and once they have agreed the policy loyally to carry it out. They do not loyally carry out something that they have not agreed.

  101. But there is also progressive creep in the framing of a common defence policy.
  (Sir Stephen Wall) That particular language is consistent with the language of the existing treaties. In terms of what we want, we have to go back to the existing treaties and the way that is constrained which is not only in terms of the unanimity rule but also in terms of the very clear statement of certain Member States, and that has to be read absolutely in accordance with our obligations in NATO. That is absolutely vital for us, which is one reason why we have, frankly, held up any operations under ESDP until the Berlin Plus arrangements are formally agreed. That is absolutely critical for us.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: That is very reassuring.

Lord Bowness

  102. Sir Stephen, I understand what you are trying to do and I do not disagree with it, but is this not going to make the document impossible as a constitution to try and write into each paragraph a standing order that applies to each policy? Surely these are to go in the other part of the document?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) I am not suggesting that every single bit of what is in the existing Treaty has to go in Part I as opposed to Part II. What I do think has to be in Part I is the basis on which the Union's policy is constructed. There has to be a very clear political statement, which is also a legally watertight statement of the kind I described, so that nobody has any doubt about whence the powers of the Union come.

Lord Inge

  103. This is probably not a fair question. My concern is—and I know there is another part of the Cabinet Office dealing with defence—how can you have a credible, and I stress the word "credible", Common Foreign and Security Policy if Europe does not have what I call really credible armed forces? How much movement do you see, or do you see any movement, of Europe recognising without that there is a deep flaw in the whole thing?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) I think there is a recognition in principle, which is a long way from being turned into practice, this is one of the ironies of the situation, because the one other country that really shares that view is France. Part of the agreement which the Prime Minister and President Chirac reached at Le Touquet a week or two ago was to try and take steps that will encourage, urge, cajole and push more of our partners into putting improved resource into defence. There has always, I think, been a risk, is European defence something that you put on note paper or is it reality? For us we want to make it reality, not just something which exists in theory. That does require, as you say, more capability.

  104. Is there any real sign of that happening?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) Limited. It is going to be one of the on-going bits of pressure that we have to apply. I should say for the sake of clarity that in no circumstances are we talking about a European army, we are talking about national forces acting together in a coherent way.

Lord Watson of Richmond

  105. This idea that the EU should be able to deploy national force within 5 to 10 days, which emerged from Le Touquet, how real is that?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) For countries like ourselves and France it is real. What we were trying to do at Le Touquet is something that successive British governments have been striving to do for a long time, that is actually to have sensible coherence, both in terms of procurement and also better co-operation on deployment. If you are deploying to the Mediterranean it would make sense to do that in a co-ordinated rather than an un-co-ordinated way and obviously try to see to what extent more generally we can work together on procurement. These are very difficult issues and the 5 to 10 day thing is obviously aspirational but not unrealistically aspirational.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

  106. Does the Government agree with the idea of double-hatting. Is it not a bit difficult to reconcile the fact that it might be quite difficult for them to representing one coherent policy on a serious issue?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) We certainly need to have better coherence than we have had up to now, and that is no criticism of Solana or Patten, who have worked very well together but there are institutional tensions in their respective organisations. For us, and the Government have not taken a final decision on this, the critical element for us in all of this is that a person who is responsible, if there is a single person who is responsible for the conduct of European Union Foreign Policy, has to be answerable to the Council, clearly answerable to the Council. We could envisage that person attending meetings of the Commission but we could not envisage that person being a member of the Commission and answerable to the Commission, subject to the collegiality of the Commission. We are basically saying that the Commissioner for External Relations job gets taken over by the Patten job. That is the model we would consider. If it was the other way round we would not consider it.

  107. Taking it further, the Working Group suggests increasing the CSFP budget and giving the higher external representative the authority to finance the initial stages a civilian crisis management. We know there has been problems over that. Does the Government support that?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) We do support that. It would be advantageous to that person, if they were answerable to the Council, to have that authority, it would then be subject to budget confirmation and it is also in our interests to expand the CSFP budget, and we have done so to an extent this year. It is critical for us that the budget remains under the control of the Member States of the European Union. We would not go beyond that in the conduct of the CSFP budget.

Lord Harrison

  108. Sir Stephen, I am moving on to question 7, in your impregnable defence to Lord Powell's set of questions on slippery slopes you rightly said what the British Government decide will be decided by Britain's best interests, so can I modify question 7 to say, is there any advantage, for Britain, to be gained by the EU representing Member States within international organisations? What are the principles that would govern the decision to say, yes, it would be used in this area and, no, it would not be used for another area?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) Hopefully in a reasonably enlightened way it does come back to national interests. If you take the most extreme example, which is not an active issue at the moment, nonetheless it is more than just theoretical: membership of the Security Council. If you have a single EU seat on the Security Council, from the point of view of a large number of EU Member States that would be a big advantage. From our point of view it would be a massive loss of influence and interest that is unacceptable to us. In other international organisations it makes more sense for the European Union to speak with one voice than to have a single representative. We have 25 votes and if you can exercise them in the same direction that is a good thing. In one context, namely trade negotiations, where the Commission under community law operates on our behalf, that works well in that particular context, where the power of a united European Union enables you to make trade-offs which enables you to achieve something in those negotiations which you cannot otherwise do. I think that we would be very opposed to a situation where the idea of a single EU representative meant that our own interests could not be properly represented—Lord Maclennan knows much more about this than I do because he was on the Committee that dealt with legal personality. If we go down the route of legal personality you have to protect yourself from that but it does not necessarily flow from legal personality that you have given that away. You have not given it away but you have to make sure you have steps in place to make the decisions that you want to, and maintain the individual membership of Member States, where in the vast majority of cases you will want to do.

  109. On the Security Council, clearly we are not going to give up because there would be a loss of British interest, but there is a compelling logic from the EU that they ought to have some form of representation, is there a way that we could finesse this one?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) I think it is very difficult. For those of us who are permanent members we make a real effort on the vast majority of issues to co-ordinate closely with our partners, so when we speak in the Security Council we speak if not on their behalf at least knowing what their positions are and hopefully in a way that is consistent with our common interest. There are obviously certain issues like Iraq where that cannot happen.

Lord Morris of Aberavon

  110. Is there the machinery for doing that? We saw this letter in The Times the other day of some countries in, some countries not in.
  (Sir Stephen Wall) The machinery that works in New York as between European countries that are on the Security Council, yes, and beyond. Our mission to the UN makes a point of having regular consultations with the 14 partners in terms of all the on-going business, so it does happen.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

  111. Sir Stephen, would that come back to the point that in any case if there were one EU representative, he would have to clear every major issue with the 25 countries, which he is probably fairly unlikely to achieve anyway, so would we not come down to him representing the EU basically only on things with the lowest common denominator, really minor issues that do not matter?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) Yes, I absolutely agree with you.

Lord Watson of Richmond: Lord Chairman, this is not about the Security Council issue, it is a more general towards the end of our discussion question.

Chairman: I wonder if in that case Lord Maclennan would like to come in.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

  112. Really as a follow-up to Lady Park's question about the spokesmanship role in this area of the High Representative, in your view, would the President of the Council be in any stronger position to speak on these matters than the High Representative? Would he not also be bound by the views of the 25?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) We believe that the High Representative role, as carried out by Solana, has added to the effectiveness of the European Union. I think the way he has been able to operate in the Balkans, particularly in Macedonia, is both an example of common foreign and security policy working but also working partly because of his personality and ability. If you look at the Middle East peace process, however much we regret the lack of progress there, I think since Javier Solana there has been a greater coherence to the way the EU has operated and I would argue a greater acceptance by the United States of the EU as a partner as opposed to a potential rival or nuisance in terms of the handling of the Middle East. That is one level. Our view of the role of the permanent chair of the European Council is two-fold: one is management of the business of the European Council, simply ensuring that the Council is properly prepared, there is continuity between Councils, because all the things done by the Presidency on a six-monthly basis will become very hard when we have a larger European Union simply in terms of logistics rather than anything else; but also to represent the Union at the top level in the numerous summits that take place on a regular basis between the EU and third countries. We think there is a role at a head of government equivalent level as well as what I would call common foreign minister level.

  113. I understand that, but I was simply seeking to clarify whether you thought that the top role, as it were, the role of the Chairman, would be any more unconstrained than you thought the role of the High Representative would be?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) No, it obviously has to be constrained in the same way, but one of the things that Javier Solana has shown is if he has the authority of the Council behind him—obviously he has to report back to the Council—nonetheless, most of the situations he is dealing with are dynamic situations and individual ability does count for a lot in terms of moving the situation forward. He has to have very clear regard for the views of the Member State and one of the things Solana has done extremely well is to keep in very close touch with the Member States to ensure he is not getting out of sync with them.

Lord Watson of Richmond

  114. Sir Stephen, you may think this is a slightly mischievous question but it is seriously meant. Standing back and looking at these rifts which have opened within NATO and the European Union on foreign policy and defence policy, is not one of the more unexpected aspects of the current situation the emergence of Donald Rumsfeld as a kind of recruiting sergeant for CFSP?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) One thing from Romano Prodi's speech to the European Parliament yesterday that I agreed with was his statement that our effectiveness does depend on a very close relationship between the European Union and the United States. It seems to me that has to be a very central aspect of everything that we are trying to do. So if that has been the effect of what Donald Rumsfeld has said—and I question whether it has—it seems to me that we have got to try and get back to a situation in which it is seen by, not just ourselves and those who are clearly on the same tack as ourselves, but more generally as being absolutely in the interests of the European Union to have a really close and effective relationship with the United States. The United States on the one hand and we on the other do represent the two greatest forces for democracy in the world, and it is absolutely critical, therefore, to our mutual interests that we work together, and I think that has been central to the policies of successive British governments and has to remain so.

Chairman: Are there any more of my colleagues who would like to ask any more questions?

Baroness Park of Monmouth

  115. Might I ask a question which is way wide of the mark. We happen to have been discussing earlier the latest Council decision on Zimbabwe. I wonder, Sir Stephen, whether you would agree that from the very beginning the measures were unlikely to be seriously effected because of that let-out clause which allows each country to decide whether there might be serious advantage and wise policy results from stepping outside the agreement and for instance inviting Mugabe to Paris. Do you feel that since that is going to have to happen for the rest of it to be renewed, the rest of the sanctions in any way compensate for that major flaw?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) I think it is a case where something is better than nothing. We have this regime and, as you say, it has with it the flaw that had we not agreed within the Union to the meeting in Paris going ahead then the sanctions would not have been rolled over. At the same time it is not yet absolutely decided but we have a very real prospect that either the EU Africa Summit will be postponed or it will be clearly established that Mugabe is barred from attending. That seems to me a net plus. Not a very big net plus but it is better than having a situation where you have nothing. When I think back to the 1970s when I first had the privilege of knowing you when we were dealing with Rhodesia, there was a British policy and an American policy and no European policy at all. I do think that what we have got is preferable to the absence of any policy, even though this one does not go as far as we would like.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: Unfortunately, one thing that is visible to Africa is that he could be attending as a guest of honour. Still I entirely accept what you say. It is another example of lowest common denominators as a result of a common policy.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

  116. Is this an example of the convoy moving at the slowest pace and might that situation point to the possible justification in some circumstances of qualified majority voting being the better way here?
  (Sir Stephen Wall) It is a very good illustration of the dilemma and there is a trade-off between the potential ability to take decisions and preserving all the things which I have been arguing that actually we need to preserve because the interest in preserving them outweighs the interest in getting a decision. I also do feel that if you have got a European Union which is divided on an issue of action, as you would by definition have under majority voting, then the effectiveness of the policy is pretty limited. If you have a visa regime which is only operated by the majority and not by the minority, it is worthless.


  117. Sir Stephen, thank you so much for coming. You are having an extraordinarily busy time at the moment, therefore we are doubly grateful to you for finding time and bringing Mr Griffin and Mr Bourne to whom we also owe our thanks although we are sad not to have heard from them as well.
  (Sir Stephen Wall) I will probably get stick for that afterwards!

Chairman: Thank you very much.

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