Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-245)

Dr Javier Solana

30 JUNE 2008

  Q240  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The trickiest one of all to do without Lisbon, of course, would be Russia. That is the one where the lack of an overall European Union approach which factors in some of the foreign policy issues as well as all the economic policy issues is undoubtedly one of the things that enables the Russians to divide and rule, but of course it is much trickier because it is not an emergency situation like Afghanistan, Macedonia and so on.

  Dr Solana: (The answer was given off the record)

  Q241  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Can I just come back on the United States. I feel really that it does not make any difference who wins the presidential election, the Americans are going to cut back on their defence expenditure, they have got serious financial problems, they may undergo major economic recession, their foreign adventures have been mixed to disastrous, so we are going to have a post-Vietnam time, I think, when they are going to be rather drawing back and much more cautious about foreign adventures. How do you think the EU plays into all that? You must have been thinking about that.

  Dr Solana: Yes, a lot, not only thinking but talking to them. I think the test for us is going to be Afghanistan. They may have differences on Iraq but in Afghanistan they have a bipartisan policy. Whatever is done there, it involves both the European Union and NATO, we both have a responsibility. That is something where we should give signals of maintaining engagement, helping to find a solution together which will be very, very important for our strategy. If we do it properly that will allow us to go very far.

  Q242  Chairman: Secretary-General, we have taken a good deal of time but we have one last question if we might be allowed another couple of minutes. One of the things which we have learned in the last day is although perhaps in London, Paris, and I do not know about Madrid, but in the larger countries, because there are capacities for developing security strategies on their own maybe the Security Strategy does not play as large a role as it should, and there are a number of other Member States who do not necessarily have the inherent capacity to develop security strategies to get a broad overview. Here, as an educational function in creating an environment, we have got the impression that the Security Strategy already has played a rather important role and it would be interesting to hear from you whether you could confirm that.

  Dr Solana: That is true. I do not want to exaggerate but I think the fact that it was a straightforward document and was readable has helped a lot for different actors within the Member States to talk about it. We have maintained the idea of seminar in different capitals which creates the dynamics for debate inside different countries and we are going to continue. We will have a seminar in Paris at the EU Institute. Others in Warsaw, and Rome. It is, important to keep on discussing these matters without necessarily having a commitment to get conclusions. Everybody has their own conclusions but we do not write down conclusions or paragraphs. Ideas, yes. That is good because it mobilises the security community in different countries.

  Chairman: I was at the seminar that was held in Warsaw at the end of last week and having been originally involved in the creation of the WEU Institute I am very proud of the way that Institute is playing an important part in the development of the European security culture collectively.

  Q243  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I think you have answered my question, but just for completeness could I say that there is this astonishing contradiction between the fact that everyone who sees it agrees that the European Security Strategy is a good document that has been useful to a lot of people and so on, but if you go outside a very small charmed circle nobody has ever heard of it. At the same time, when Eurobarometer goes round and asks people what they would most like to see the European Union providing them, security comes right at the top. Somehow or another in all the agonising after the Irish referendum, much of which is about the same question, the disconnect between the elites and the electorate, I do think we are going to have to come up with some kind of answer as to why it is we cannot do better at telling people about these security issues and what the European Union is trying to do about them.

  Dr Solana: One thing that is much more delicate but we also have to tackle is national security.

  Q244  Chairman: Yes.

  Dr Solana: Not only external security but also—

  Q245  Chairman: That is why the French White Book was very important and why, in a sense, we need to incorporate some of those ideas perhaps into the review of the Security Strategy. Secretary-General, as I think you know, our Sub-Committee really appreciates the time you are always prepared to give us. We hope that our reports are better because we have the chance to discuss these things with you.

  Dr Solana: Thank you very much.

  Chairman: We wish you well. Life has become a little more complicated because of events on the other side of the Irish Channel, but there are lots of tasks still ahead of you and we wish you well with what is going to be an interesting Presidency. We wish all those well who are involved in the task of making sure that we have an even better European Security Strategy in the next few months. Thank you.

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