Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 217-219)

Dr Javier Solana

30 JUNE 2008

  Q217 Chairman: Secretary-General, we have to begin by giving you our warmest congratulations on yesterday evening. [Victory of Spain at the European Championship of football]. We share your personal pleasure.

Dr Solana: Thank you very much. I got several SMSs from London and I do not know what the significance of that is!

  Q218  Chairman: Given we did not have a team we were very glad that the right team won! Secretary-General, we are, as usual, very grateful that you have found time to see us, particularly after you have had a busy time recently. As you know, we are doing a study on the way in which the European Security Strategy is going to be reviewed and the way it has been applied. We know that, unfortunately, because 10 days ago the European Council was rather busy dealing with one or two other problems you were not able to discuss it with them on that occasion as I am sure you would have liked to do. Nonetheless, we would be very grateful if we could raise one or two issues today. I suppose the first question, if you would not mind, would be to ask how do you feel you will be able to take forward your work on reviewing the European Security Strategy and will the fact that you were not able to discuss it with the European Council 10 days ago hinder that in any way? What role do you expect from the French Presidency? Of course, we have read your speech to the European Parliament where you talked to them about it and this morning we were talking to people in the Commission. It is obviously very important that although this is an extremely important document which this time, as last time, you will lead, it is accepted and there is a sense of ownership throughout the whole of the European Union, including the Commission and the Parliament. We would be very interested to hear your views as to how you see the review being taken forward.

  Dr Solana: Thank you very much for coming and for this opportunity to discuss these important issues. Let me start by saying that today is the last day of the Slovenian Presidency and tomorrow will be the first day of the French Presidency. But I will not have the certainty that I used to have before a new Presidency starts, to tell you the truth. That has nothing to do with France but more the outcome of the referendum in Ireland. I say that because, as you know, the analysis of the referendum is still being done, including the effect that some debates may have in the coming months. As you know, one of the issues that had not been discussed much in the campaign in Ireland was the question related to security. At this moment I do not know exactly what the repercussions of that debate in Ireland will be and the result of the referendum on the French Presidency. Next Monday I will be going to Paris and I will see President Sarkozy to try to fine tune how these issues are going to be tackled in the French Presidency. In any case, let us suppose that the rhythm will be the same. As you said in your introductory remarks, it was supposed to be discussed in the report given by me to the European Council but there was no time to do it and nobody wanted to enter into that on that day. As I said, next Monday I will be visiting the French. I will be there tomorrow but it will be symbolic with raising the flag and having dinner with the Government. Supposing that nothing changes, the idea is by the European Council of October, and as you can imagine the agenda of that meeting will be slightly different because the consequences of the Irish referendum will be discussed, there will be another report that I will have to make to the Council. What is it we intend to do? First, we think that the Strategy is a document that has been very useful. It is five years old and it is a document that is useful for the European Union. It is a non-bureaucratic document, written in a much clearer manner, not with paragraphs coming from different countries. It is a document that comes wrapped. That was not easy to do, as you can imagine. For those who know how we work you will know that it was very difficult to do it in that manner. I intend to continue doing it in that manner, to have a document that can be read easily. On the issues that have been agreed already, defining the challenges, defining the threats, et cetera, I would like to touch it as little as possible. We should add some new elements where the document has gaps which are important. One is energy, which was not dealt with in 2003 in the manner that we are dealing with it today, energy security for instance. The issue related to climate change has to be tackled in much more detail. From 2003 until today we have added some action plans which I think will be more important that can change the basic trend of the document. My idea, and that was agreed in the PSC, is to change what is necessary and to add what is necessary, but not to change what is not necessary and leave it as it is as much as possible, and try to work in the same manner as before. Apart from energy security and climate change, we have to look at other challenges that we have, for instance the development of military capabilities in the world, which is another thing that is difficult to touch upon but we have to mention it. The other thing that I would like to touch upon a little bit more is anti-terrorist capabilities. I have to convince our friends in France that is something that would be useful to develop more. There is no need to go into all of the details but make a call on the importance of capabilities militarily and also in general. The other thing I would like to develop more is the co-operation between civilian and military, and military and civilian. That is something which is necessary. We have done a lot but we have to underline that part and do more. That is one of the challenges that we have in front of us. Many of the Member States, the UK for instance, are doing a lot nationally and we have to see how we can handle that also in the EU. The other thing we have to look at is the question related to problems that are not manmade but nature made such as crises that may come from other sources and we have to see how we can co-ordinate better and give a line in that direction in the Security Strategy. One of the criticisms that can be made is that it is not quite a new strategy, it does not say exactly how to do it. We define the challenges but we say less about how to go about handling them. Some of this issue we will have to review. I think some difficulty may come with a possible debate on Russia. It is very difficult to tackle it well, to put it in written form. I sense we may have some differences of opinion inside the European Union on how to define and tackle Russia. That is a tricky point and we will have to see how we do that. Apart from that, I do not see any big difficulty. The Commission has demanded that I co-operate with the Commission and we are doing that. With the Parliament, I gave a little bit of information on that on the day you mentioned and I will try to maintain that. It is a document that has to be assumed by everybody. But the ownership is that of the European Council and the Member States will have to deal with security as the most important first category. It is good to have the Commission engaged and to inform the Parliament as much as we can, but I do not think we should have big debates in the Parliament to get it approved or something like that. That would not be a good idea.

  Q219  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Can I ask how you envisage the documentation to be done on this because clearly there is much to say about capabilities, action plans and implementation, and presumably that should not be in the Strategy itself but in a separate document.

  Dr Solana: What we have done so far on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is we have—


 
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