Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 164-179)

Mrs Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Mr Patrick Child and Mr Richard Wright

30 JUNE 2008

  Q164 Chairman:Commissioner, it is extremely kind of you to have found some time to see us. As you know, our Committee is carrying out an inquiry about the review of the European Security Strategy and we were very interested to come and get the views in RELEX and of yourself and we are very grateful you have brought your colleagues. We have a certain number of questions which I think you have had some indication of which we would like to talk to you about. I know you have to leave after half an hour but it may be possible for us to continue with Patrick and your colleague.

Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Absolutely.

  Q165  Chairman: When they do speak, if they could say who they are so that we have got it on the record. Can I begin with the first question? How far do you feel that the existing Strategy provides a coherent and well-balanced assessment of the challenges, threats and risks facing the Union? Should the Strategy pay greater attention to the underlying political and socio-economic sources of threats in addition to the obvious symptoms?

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Let me welcome you, first of all. It is a great pleasure to meet you. On one of the last occasions, unfortunately, I was not there, therefore I am more enchanted to see you personally today. Of course, I have known Lord Hannay for many, many years, and others, Lord Anderson of Swansea. I am very happy to see you. Let me make two remarks at the beginning and then I will go directly to your question. You know that the European Commission has been associated fully with the task of re-examining the implementation of the European Security Strategy and particularly working on that now. The core analysis of the 2003 Security Strategy remains clearly valid, it is terrorism and non-proliferation. They are key threats to our security and, of course, will remain so for a long time to come, unfortunately. Therefore, the Strategy's emphasis on the role of multilateralism is the best approach to promote peace and security. At the same time, we also have to recognise that the risks and threats to global security, and also the security of our own citizens, have evolved. What we see on the global scene is much broader including climate change, energy security, economic insecurity and the threat of diseases, as well as in the last few months questions of foodstuffs and food security. If you think of bird flu, for instance, it has suddenly become a global issue. Also, questions of migration have to be taken into account. This is more or less what I want to see the Commission doing. In addressing these issues, as well as terrorism and non-proliferation, we should take into account more and more the fact that external and internal EU policies are being blurred. That is very important. We have seen this in the last few years and are working more and more on both issues. For instance, I personally work a lot on questions of energy security. We are going out and working on that as a very horizontal question. I also would like to say what the UK calls "drivers" in your paper about security in an interdependent world, from our standpoint is highly important also. Personally, I have always been involved in questions of human security where the citizen is the main focus of concern—if not for the citizens, for whom do we make these policies? I have always had this human-centred approach. This is what lies at the heart of what we would like to contribute. While there is a need to develop our analysis of threats and risks beyond CFSP, we should not develop a concept of security that is so wide that it embraces the whole of the EU's external action. This is a healthy debate and there are still the development questions remaining. Under the French Presidency, as you know, the questions will continue. Let me now go into your first question.

  Q166  Chairman: Thank you.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Let me say that we should remember the context in which the European Security Strategy in 2003 was submitted. This was particularly created by the Iraq War and there it was essential to create a structure around which EU foreign policy could coalesce, come together again. It was essential to develop the EU's ESDP capacities also, both civilian and military. This was reflected in the Council's wish to reinforce the EU's capacities to act in international affairs. We have contributed to that with a Communication called Europe in the World. While this Strategy of 2003 did refer to the global challenges and also the relationship between security and development, as well as energy dependence, it focused on the threats directly affecting CFSP and also on reinforcing the concept of multilateralism within the United Nations. The threats and challenges we face today cannot be fully addressed, we think, within the confines of this relatively narrow definition of security and, therefore, we think it has to be broader. There is also a clearer understanding that threats and risks cannot be properly addressed if their underlying causes are not equally addressed. This is something I adhere to very much personally. I think it is important we have both a more coherent and more efficient Strategy and, therefore, it is good to go for the implementation of the Strategy.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.

  Q167  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: One of the things that has happened since 2003 is that the United Nations has endorsed the concept of the "Responsibility to Protect", which was in the Outcomes Document of the summit of 2005, along with very much the analysis you have just given us, which is that security issues go much wider than just WMD proliferation and terrorism.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: I think so.

  Q168  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: "Responsibility to Protect", having been announced in 2005 and endorsed by everyone, including all 27 Members of the European Union, has remained a pretty dead letter since then, it has proved very difficult to implement.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Yes, that is true.

  Q169  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Each time the subject comes up, first of all there is this almost exclusive concentration on the military dimension, which is the last point you would reach if all else fails, and also there has been a great unwillingness to do anything about it. What I wanted to ask you was whether you thought the review of the Security Strategy should factor in "Responsibility to Protect" but also perhaps promote the idea that the European Union could play a role in reducing the tension around this issue and trying to get a more sophisticated, nuanced approach to applying "Responsibility to Protect" which does not leave us every time confronting the simple question, "Do you or do you not use military force?"

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: You are absolutely right in your first analysis. In Burma/Myanmar, the French at least have mentioned this idea of "Responsibility to Protect", but what do you do? It may be too late at that stage because you can only go in with a military force and you cannot do these things like that. We support the concept of "Responsibility to Protect" which was endorsed at the 2005 UN World Summit. I was there and I remember it very well. What we should try to do is go for a "Responsibility to Prevent" first. That means going in the direction that you have mentioned. It is one of the most essential parts. Here the European Union can play a very strong role. We have Peace building Commission, the Council of Human Rights and all these matters are very important. Indeed, our soft diplomacy, which I sometimes call smart diplomacy, as well as the smart instruments that we have are very important. As I said, there is always an underlying root cause and we have to consider this much more. We have a lot of instruments, be it policy dialogue, development co-operation, external assistance, trade policy instruments, which are sometimes very important, social and economic policies, and co-operation with international partners but also with civil society. Indeed, we, the Commission, apply all of these instruments. In all fairness, I must say that sometimes we do not have the budget for everything, we could do much more. As you know, I have clear budget lines and I am implementing the country programmes. I would like to do more because very often if we changed these we would have much less to think concerning the "Responsibility to Protect". That said I think of Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, there are areas where you think you are impotent, you cannot do anything, and when you try to do things and politically it is not enough.

  Q170  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Commissioner, you have said that you believe the essential Strategy of 2003 at its core remains valid and perhaps, therefore, the picture just needs a few brushstrokes and a little emphasis here or there.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Exactly.

  Q171  Lord Anderson of Swansea: One of those presumably is climate change which has achieved a greater salience since that time, and also what I suspect Tony Blair would have called insecurity and the causes of insecurity, poverty and climate change. Would you like to say a little more about those areas where you think there needs to be greater emphasis, more brushstrokes?

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Together with Javier Solana I produced a special paper which looked at the multiplying threat.

  Q172  Chairman: Our Committee has received it and is certainly including it very much in the study which we are undertaking.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Thank you very much. It is an important paper in that it shows what could happen if we do not do things immediately by mitigating or adapting ourselves. We speak about desertification, diminishing water resources, but we even go as far as saying there are going to be conflicts because clearly these are the most important human resources. What is necessary, on the one hand, is an enhanced political dialogue with all the third parties. On climate change this is now the issue with all the important partners, whether it be China, now Russia (we might talk about the Russia Summit afterwards), or the United States of America or any of the other big players. We alone will never be able to do things even if we try to go alone, even if we are the locomotive. One of the underlying causes is certainly the question of poverty. The poverty stricken are always the people who are most affected and, therefore, we should take a fresh look at the development strategy and the development goals which are our guiding principles. Gordon Brown in particular mentions, as he did at the European Council, that there should be a new aim to really implement what is there, the 0.7 per cent, which not every country has reached.

  Q173  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Far from that, most are failing.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Yes, but there are others who are not. There are a few, of course, you are right.

  Q174  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Clearly climate change is also relevant to other key interests of the Union, such as migration. To what extent do you believe that the Union should give greater resources to help those countries most affected by climate change, otherwise if we do not go to them, they will come to us?

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Personally, as I said before, in reality I think we would need a greater budget for all of these matters because if we want to avoid them then we have to prevent them, and preventing means working with them. That goes for migration as well as health questions. We try to tackle as much as we can but we have a certain limit and the limit is the financial limit that we have because we cannot offer more.

  Q175  Lord Anderson of Swansea: What is the nature of the assistance that you would give to those countries threatened by climate change?

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: We are giving assistance for all the underlying questions that are there already, but in the future we might target these things even more precisely. We are working on the questions of helping them with water, with food security, all of those most basic things that are necessary for a human being. That is why I say human security as such is very much at the centre of our thinking. Sometimes it is more on the educational front, because this is also important, sometimes more on the health front, sometimes both. We are targeting the whole scope, but sometimes our programmes are not big enough in order to be able to do that. From the side of the recipient countries, I also need to see good governance because without good governance a lot could go in the wrong direction. I am speaking in general now of the world outside Sub-Saharan Africa where we have particularly difficult conditions and my colleague, Louis Michel, is working on that.

  Q176  Chairman: Going back to the point you make about more resources, it has been examined that conflict prevention can be a very good investment.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: I think so.

  Q177  Chairman: Spending money in this way spares us spending a great deal more money if things go wrong. This sort of cost-benefit analysis which, for example, Professor Paul Collier of Oxford has been working on for some time, suggests what a good return there is if this is used properly.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: I absolutely agree with that. I do not know his particular analysis but that is exactly what I feel. If it is properly used there is a big difference that can be made over a certain time. You need time because some of these are generational changes that we are doing.

  Q178  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Can we move on to strategic objectives. What is the EU's definition of effective multilateralism? What reference should be made to it if the Strategy was to be revised?

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: First, we have been working on the enlargement process which is a very important instrument per se to have a much better strategic objective on security matters. We have also been working on the Neighbourhood Policy which has an important component of strategy on security. By the way, we are trying to do much more on frozen conflicts. Going further, we have developed a specific instrument which is the so-called Stability Instrument and Richard Wright is leading on this particularly in the CFSP area. I must say that sometimes with only small amounts of money, we can do quite important things. If you think of Aceh, if Aceh really was a great success I can boast that President Ahtisaari got great support from us, or in the Western Balkans. We use this Stability Instrument more and more on the one hand in the Middle East and, on the other hand, in the Caucasus, even in North Africa. We see that sometimes with smaller things that can be done quickly we can make a contribution sometimes to resolving or preparing the ground for resolving something. We are now extending our scope of partnerships very strongly to the global players, that is the US, Canada, Japan, but also China and India. This is very important. This Stability Instrument also helps respond to crises and it is rapidly available because we can use it for six months and then a further six months and can establish it very quickly in order to stabilise conditions that are necessary for development. We can go for contracts immediately which we cannot do on normal development policy which, on the one hand, is good because of the financial control but, on the other hand, sometimes takes too much time and we cannot immediately show a difference. Here very often we can work within six to eight weeks. That is what we have tried to push in this new 2007-13 Financial Framework.

  Q179  Chairman: I watch the time with concern, but I would like to pick up two things that you said there, and on this issue you might wish to go off the record. Frozen conflicts and relationships with Russia. I got the impression that at least over lunch in Siberia that there was some discussion about the possibility of the EU continuing to play a rather useful role in the Southern Caucasus and perhaps particularly in Georgia. Obviously, as we have been concerned about these matters we would be very interested if you did feel either on the record, or we could stop taking a note if you felt it was more appropriate, you could comment.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: I think it might be better to do it off the record.

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