Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 246-259)

Mr Robert Cooper and Mr Richard Crowder

30 JUNE 2008

  Q246 Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for coming to see us. You know better than anybody else the subject of our discussion. As you know, we are doing an inquiry, you have seen where we have been and who we have been seeing. We have taken evidence in London from a range of people. We are seeing Mr Murphy later this week to get a view from the Government. This morning we met people from elsewhere and then the Commission, and now with you and the High Representative. You have seen the European Security Strategy in a whole variety of ways from its inception right the way through. How far has this sort of document proved useful in the development of the EU's external actions? Are there any lessons, as somebody who has seen the thing through the whole of one cycle, from those who as your neighbour are now involved in the review of the Strategy and a possible minor redrafting?

Mr Cooper: It had a particular use at the time that it happened, it had a political use in the particular situation of the EU in terms of bringing people together at a moment when they were very divided. Thereafter I was going to say it has depended partly on how different people have chosen to use it. For example, I believe in Sweden it was taken as a starting point, or maybe even the starting point, for their defence review as an overall picture of the kind of defence forces that they wanted. It is not enough for that so they must have elaborated the ideas quite a lot. That is an example I am aware of, but perhaps there are others as well.

  Q247  Lord Anderson of Swansea: To what extent has work already been done on the redraft? There have been the various documents published from March onwards. Is there a preliminary draft available already, or redraft?

  Mr Cooper: Richard may know better than I do. No, I do not think so. I do not know that we are really thinking in terms of redrafting anyway, it is more likely to be a document to supplement that.

  Q248  Lord Anderson of Swansea: To supplement, so the original document will stand and there will be a sort of self-standing update?

  Mr Cooper: Yes.

  Q249  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Based on experience.

  Mr Cooper: That is my guess, yes.

  Q250  Chairman: There might be some phrases which could be tweaked, or do you think that it is a sacred text?

  Mr Cooper: Once you start redrafting a bit of it you end up redrafting the whole thing. My guess is that there will be a self-standing document which will in a kind of nuanced direction change one or two parts.

  Q251  Lord Anderson of Swansea: What will be the role of the French Presidency? Presumably they have their own ideas. The Council will be in the driving seat, but where will the French Presidency come in in this new stage?

  Mr Cooper: It was a French proposal that this should happen and I am sure they will take a very strong interest in it. They are in the chair and that gives them not an enormous power but the possibility of steering things and this is one of the things they have wanted, so I assume they will make an important impact on it.

  Q252  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Do you see any major, I will not say confrontations, difficulties arising from various priorities of the French that will not be acceptable to others?

  Mr Cooper: No.

  Q253  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Where are the major points of confrontation?

  Mr Cooper: What I see in this is there is going to be a kind of tension between those who want to put everything that you can possibly think of into the document and those who think it is better that it should remain focused. I belong to the second category.

  Q254  Chairman: Surprise, surprise!

  Mr Cooper: I thought that one of the merits of the original document was that it dealt with areas that the European Union otherwise does not often deal with, the kind of hard security. The term "security" is very large and you can interpret it in many different ways. I think it is good for the EU to reserve a little bit of time to think about these rather difficult areas and, therefore, too much dilution with a whole range of things which the Community deals with in other ways, trade protection, is—

  Q255  Lord Anderson of Swansea: In your judgment, which are likely to be the most thorny issues? Mr Solana mentioned Russia where he thought there would be substantial differences arising presumably from the different commercial interests in gas and so on. What would be your list of areas which would prove the most difficult in the negotiation?

  Mr Cooper: Well, apart from the one I have mentioned between the maximalists, the Christmas tree supporters, I am sure Javier is right that anybody who attempts to write down too much about a strategy to Russia, even if you tried to do that on a national basis, you would find there would be differences of views within the different Whitehall departments, some of whom saw Russia as an important partner and some of whom saw Russia as a very difficult country. Those differences are magnified when you have countries with very different experiences in dealing with Russia.

  Q256  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Geography and history.

  Mr Cooper: Exactly. For my part, what I personally hope for this, and in a way it is at an early stage, is that what happens in the coming semester will do some things which will make this document into something more like a strategy. What we have at the moment is a description of what you might call a conception of security. To make that into a strategy you would have to say something about how you were going to get there and there is probably some scope for doing that.

  Q257  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Including a timetable?

  Mr Cooper: Initially the term "strategy" was not in the draft which the High Representative proposed because we did not think this was a strategy. I do not know how far you go in the way of timetables, but personally I would be happy if we finished at the end of the year with a document that involved some commitments to doing something.

  Q258  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: I think you should be congratulated because there has been unanimity among all the people who have talked about this, which is becoming quite numerous, that the existing document is short, concise and totally comprehensible. There has been slightly less than unanimity on the fact that if you rewrite it, it will probably become longer and less comprehensible and if you are not very careful it will achieve nothing, it will be completely negative by extending it. Can I tease out with you, if we are going to talk about implementation, which I think is the main concern as to what has not happened and perhaps this needs to be written down, do you see this as an addendum to the Strategy?

  Mr Cooper: Yes.

  Q259  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Would you put capabilities in that?

  Mr Cooper: Yes, certainly.

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