Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-279)

Mr Robert Cooper and Mr Richard Crowder

30 JUNE 2008

  Q260  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: And timescales for implementation?

  Mr Cooper: I think that is for discussion and negotiation.

  Q261  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: It is something we could call for?

  Mr Cooper: Yes. It is always good if you are going to make a commitment, the more precise you make it the more real it is and, therefore, putting in deadlines is a good thing.

  Q262  Chairman: Would that be best in the Strategy or would it be a good idea if, together with the Strategy the Council adopted, a document instructing that by a certain date something of that sort should be developed?

  Mr Cooper: Yes.

  Q263  Chairman: Both ways are possible, are they not?

  Mr Cooper: There are many different ways of doing that. It will depend. In the end when you try and draft these things they fall into a natural shape. It depends how much detail you want to go into in the different areas. I have one particular personal fetish in the area of capabilities and that is whenever we try and do anything there are several things we find we have not got, and one is helicopters, which everybody is now working on very hard, both in this part of Brussels and in the other part of Brussels and down at SHAPE as well. The other thing we always find is in very short supply is policemen and, indeed, more general civilian capabilities. That is partly because policemen were never designed to be deployed abroad. One of the things that I hope Member States will consider when they look back over the past five years is whether there might not be merit in having national programmes for deploying civilians abroad. That is something which has to be looked at on a country-by-country basis because everybody has different systems. Indeed, I think the UK has already taken steps in this direction and I believe Finland has done the same as well. If everybody thought this was a good idea there would be merit in everybody having a look at their national systems.

  Q264  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: How would you do that? Would you dual-hat existing policemen and give them a liability to be deployed abroad?

  Mr Cooper: Again, this is a national question because the police are all within national systems. For example, it would be useful if police forces recognised that serving in a mission abroad, which is often doing rather difficult things in a rather challenging environment, was something which ought to be regarded as career enhancing and to equip people for promotion, for example. At the moment the tendency is that if you go abroad when you are a policeman everyone is surprised when you come back and I do not think it necessarily does you that much good.

  Q265  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Out of sight, out of mind.

  Mr Cooper: Yes. Often the jobs that they are doing abroad are very challenging indeed and they take a lot of responsibility and that ought to be recognised.

  Q266  Chairman: It is sometimes suggested that this can be done so well by people who have Gendarmerie or Cabinieri, but it is not only that sort of policemen who are needed and, therefore, in the UK and other places we really need to think rather hard about this difficult problem.

  Mr Cooper: Exactly. We ought to recognise now that this is not something which is just an accident that has occurred once or twice, it is now a regular feature of life and we need to organise ourselves for it better than we do at the moment.

  Q267  Chairman: It is something which we are pursuing obviously in the case of the Afghanistan situation.

  Mr Cooper: Exactly.

  Q268  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: If I understood you correctly, you are positing for the sake of this discussion a European Security Strategy which is not much changed, the actual core document, with some form of accompanying document which, as it were, updates and brings within the scope of it some of the things that have assumed greater prominence since 2003, like climate change or energy security and so on.

  Mr Cooper: Climate change is the obvious one.

  Q269  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: In that context it does strike me, and also that of effective multilateralism, that it will be very important that the European Union tries to find a way out of the difficulty in actually implementing and applying "Responsibility to Protect", a way which tries to de-intoxicate that from the belief that it is a military intervention mechanism rather than a how to stop states failing mechanism, and only if they have totally failed an intervention mechanism. I do not know what you think, but it seems to me that since acceptance of "Responsibility to Protect" happened after 2003, it would be good if some references to that could be made. Of course, the other big issue for 2009 which may be quite difficult to accommodate but quite important is the whole business of multilateral nuclear disarmament and the input that a new American President now seems very likely to make to that and on which the Europeans certainly do not have a lead role to play, but unless they want to be dragged along behind it without making any effort at all it seems it is about time they started thinking about it in a more purposeful way.

  Mr Cooper: I do not know how one should describe our role but it is not negligible because where the European Union has been able to get its act together in the context of NPT Review Conferences, for example, it has quite a lot of impact because we represent states ranging from Ireland to Britain and France. Something that commands consensus in the European Union at the very least attracts a lot of attention from parts of the non-aligned movement, for example, and can become the focal point for a consensus. In that multilateral context the EU is not a negligible actor at all. On the whole, what either of the US potential presidents is going to do takes them much more in the European direction and ought to assist the process of creating the large consensus that is very important. All of those developments seem to me to be very welcome indeed.

  Q270  Chairman: "Responsibility to Protect"?

  Mr Cooper: It seems to me it is a little bit like the phrase, "human security", that somehow the phrase has taken on a life of its own. In a way, it is what we do. We do our best to try and catch states before they fall. It was what we were doing in the case of Kenya where there was a very major effort mounted by the European Union and the US together to try and prevent the last elections from bringing about a collapse of the state. I do not think there is a problem with the substance, it is somehow that the language has become—

  Q271  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Yes, but surely you need to unpack the language a bit, do you not, and get away from a kind of acronym which simply gets people behind barricades shooting at each other and gets them to thinking seriously about how it should be done. After all, as an important player, as you rightly say, in somewhere like Kenya we should have our say also and try to move the debate away from this because it damages one of our objectives, which is effective multilateralism. If every time somebody talks about "Responsibility to Protect" nothing happens and everybody just says, "Oh well, it's completely useless and we can't do that", then we are damaging one of the pillars of our own Security Strategy.

  Mr Cooper: Yes.

  Q272  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Presumably even if the word has to be redefined, because the concept is now in greater currency, there would have to be some response in a new Security Strategy.

  Mr Cooper: I do not want to commit myself because I would like to see what the debate is going to be like on that. When the existing Security Strategy was drafted the word that caused more attention than anything else was—

  Q273  Chairman: "Pre-emptive".

  Mr Cooper: The concept did not actually cause that much difficulty and if you read the document carefully you can see the concept is still there. The word caused enormous trouble.

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: It is just Article 51.

  Q274  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: I have trouble with the words, I must say. I do not man the barricades against Lord Hannay on this, but it has an awfully open-ended sound to it to me and it then says to me that if you find it necessary this "Responsibility to Protect" takes you into Chad but it does not take you into Zimbabwe. That is the worry I have about it. Why do you think Chad is more worthy of being saved? I know why it is, but under that umbrella I do not see you can really differentiate between one or the other.

  Mr Cooper: The trouble with real life is that one is faced everyday with particular problems and you do your best.

  Q275  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Yes, exactly, but inevitably you pick and choose and that is the world we live in. I would like to move on to terrorism. The question is whether it should be added into the document? I hate asking that question because I do not think anything should be added into your document at all. Do you think that the reaction to terrorism has been covered? Do you think people are aware of the threat really to our cities in Europe?

  Mr Cooper: This is a personal view, I have not been so involved and Richard probably knows better than I do the debates that have taken place so far. Personally, I thought this was a good moment to have another look at terrorism because it is the kind of thing where if you do not have a major incident for 18 months then everybody tends to forget about it. Secondly, it does seem to me that there is a sort of secular trend that there is going to be more, the means for terrorism is more and more available and, like it or not, there is going to be more and we do need to take it seriously on a continuous basis. Thirdly, it is an area where there is an underlying difference of approach between Europe and the USA which needs to be resolved and therefore it would be a good thing for us to clarify our ideas on this in advance of a new American administration. You do not find people in Europe use the phrase "war on terrorism", it is clearly seen in different terms from the USA. However, that said, I am not familiar with how the debate has gone so far.

  Mr Crowder: The only point I would add to that is there might need to be more of a focus on home-grown terrorism compared to five years ago.

  Chairman: If one looks at the French White Book where in a sense they look at security in this sort of way, this might be one of the inputs which the French looking in your direction would favour.

  Lord Anderson of Swansea: The Director of Chatham House in his inaugural speech made that distinction. For us terrorism is a domestic issue needing all the sensitivity it requires; for the US it is a foreign policy matter dealing with nasty individuals in far away places.

  Q276  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: It is quite interesting even with home-grown terrorism, the degree to which they are cued into the Internet, the information they are getting and the encouragement to commit an atrocious act does come from abroad.

  Mr Cooper: It is both national and international.

  Q277  Lord Anderson of Swansea: My question follows Lord Hamilton's. Clearly WMD is going to arise in the document and the question, therefore, is posed whether the 2003 document, together with the document on non-proliferation, in your judgment is adequate and whether there will be a need for amending in any way and, if so, in what way?

  Mr Cooper: I do not think we have done badly on WMD. I find the extent to which the EU is conscious of WMD as a challenge and a threat and is active on the subject is very different now from five years ago. We have also done perhaps better at WMD than we have on terrorism in identifying the things that can be done well at a European level. We have quite a lot of programmes designed to help support the IAEA in different ways. We are the principal contributor to something called the Nuclear Security Fund which helps ensure that countries have got adequate security systems, adequate safeguards, adequate administrations to—

  Q278  Lord Anderson of Swansea: So you are content effectively?

  Mr Cooper: One can always look at these things again, but what we have done with WMD is we have had five years of activity and rather than rewrite the 2003 paper on WMD we have had a continual six month process of updating the priorities. During this Presidency there is going to be another look at the EU dual use list on export controls, which I am told the US takes round when it is visiting countries in Central Asia and says, "Here is a model piece of legislation. If you could do something like this, this is a good example of it". That needs continuous updating because technology moves on. Dealing with WMD is a matter of continuously taking small steps and the EU is quite good at that and we have been doing that for five years.

  Q279  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Could you speculate briefly about where we are likely to be by December with the Iranians given that that will undoubtedly affect the way in which people address all these issues? You have just been to Tehran, I think. Secondly, on this nuclear area, there is the small picture stuff which you have talked about, which the EU is very good at, the incremental stuff, and there is the big picture stuff which we talked about 10 minutes ago about the possible American input to a renaissance of multilateral nuclear negotiations which is absolutely fundamental to whether or not the 2010 Review Conference turns out to be a fiasco or is a step back on the road to more effective non-proliferation.

  Mr Cooper: That is absolutely vital and in my mind it links in a little bit to the subject of Iran. We find that when Iran is discussed in the IAEA Board, for example, it is still somehow seen as being a north/south question, but that is ridiculous because the people who are going to suffer are going to be the south, the north can look after itself. Therefore, the right moves by the USA to promote real international consensus on this are vital in terms of everybody understanding that proliferation is a problem for them and it is not us trying to deny people technology or anything like that. Those all go together and they go with the Iranian case specifically to try and get away from the Third World reflex. We have not made progress with Iran in the last three years and it would be very surprising if we made progress between now and Christmas while they are waiting for the new US administration. We went to Tehran for all kinds of different reasons, to continue to demonstrate that we are serious about seeking a negotiated solution, and I think that we somehow got through quite well to some of the people in the government who seemed to listen to us. If you looked before Solana's first meeting they put out a press statement saying that they totally rejected everything he brought with him. After the second meeting they put out a press statement saying that perhaps his visit had opened a path towards negotiation. I do not build too much on that but, nevertheless, he seemed to have made some impact there. Where we did make some impact was in the wider Iranian public because we held a press conference that was like nothing I have seen. You would have had to have a press conference for Madonna or somebody to see something similar.

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