Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)



  120. I am using the Prime Minister's words.
  (Mr Vaz) Of course, the annexes to the Nice Report do not contain the Camp David communiqué, of course they do not, that is a matter of fact. The Nice annexes are entirely in keeping with the statement made by the Prime Minister and the President on 23 February, and Sir John has said that he thinks it is open to interpretation. Well, it is not open to interpretation; we have made it quite clear that, except in the small cases where we are going to be able to act on our own, or in concert with other countries, this is something that is going to have to go through NATO. And, no matter what Mr Iain Duncan Smith does, in order to try to confuse people, or what people do, take this as an assurance that is absolute, NATO remains the corner-stone of our defence policy. We have said it on numerous occasions, President Chirac has said it on numerous occasions, it is really not an issue that needs to be discussed.

  121. Minister, you are rambling off into issues I did not ask you about. Let us come back, alright, to what President Bush said at Camp David; he said, "He" the Prime Minister, "has assured me that European defence would in no way undermine NATO. He also assured me there would be a joint command, that planning would take place within NATO and that should NATO not wish to go on a mission that would serve as a catalyst for the other forces moving on their own." I suggest to you that there is nowhere, in the annexes to the Nice Treaty, where it says there will be a joint command and the planning will take place within NATO. In fact, it says the opposite, it says they will deal with each other on an equal footing, and it talks repeatedly about the autonomy of the EU's capability. Can you point to anything in the annexes to the Nice Treaty which supports the undertakings that apparently the Prime Minister gave to the President?
  (Mr Vaz) No; because, Mr Maples, not everything is in the annexes to the Nice Report. As I made it absolutely clear, and I have tried to go very slowly so that I can explain where this all began, it all began, Mr Maples, with your colleagues, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Hurd, when they met at the Petersberg Hotel in 1992 just outside Bonn. You nod your head. That is the fact. And it was all to do with the way in which we were to deploy the capabilities of the WEU; that went on from the Petersberg tasks and the Petersberg Agreement to St Malo—

  122. That has nothing to do with it.
  (Mr Vaz) And it went on from there.

  123. Yes, (I agree with that ?).
  (Mr Vaz) You will not have every single bit of information put into the annexes.

  124. I am asking a very, very simple question, whether or not the Prime Minister's undertakings to the President of the United States are based on things that are in the annexes to the Nice Treaty, and I am suggesting to you—
  (Mr Vaz) Page 2; page 2 is very clear. Have you got page 2?

  125. Page 2 of what?
  (Mr Vaz) Of the annexes.

  126. I have the annex here, and actually it says—
  (Mr Vaz) What does it say?

  127. Well, the version I have, which, admittedly, was the draft that was around at the time of the negotiations, says; well, it was very, very difficult to obtain any of these documents, if I may say so, Minister,—
  (Mr Vaz) That is simply not true.

  128. And one is suspicious that the Foreign Office made it deliberately difficult to obtain them. The annex I have says: "The entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation." And the Presidency's conclusions, that came before the Nice summit, talk about setting up the military staff of the European Union: "The strength and resources needed for the operation of such bodies, in particular the military staff, will have to be increased without delay." Actually, everything that is in the document surrounding the Nice Treaty leads one to the opposite conclusion of what the Prime Minister said, that the planning will not be locked within NATO, and there is no NATO veto on the EU's operation?
  (Mr Vaz) Right; page 2, quote: The EU will act only "where NATO as a whole is not engaged"." Page 52: "For operations requiring recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, operational planning will be carried out by the Alliance's planning bodies, and for an autonomous EU operation, i.e. not using NATO assets, within one of the European strategic level headquarters," "E.g., a national HQ capable of strategic level planning, such as the UK's PJHQ, or the French equivalent." The crucial point is that the EU military staff cannot and will not do operational level military planning. There will be no duplication of SHAPE.

  129. This is obviously a more recent document than has been available to me, and I would be very grateful if you could send me—
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Maples, is it my problem that you have been reading the wrong document?

  Mr Maples: It is, I think, your problem that the documents which are available do not say what you are saying, and they do not say, anywhere,—

  Chairman: Minister, we will read the transcript with interest.

Mr Maples

  130. They do not say anywhere that the planning will take place within NATO?
  (Mr Vaz) I will make sure that Mr Maples does not have to rely on Mr Duncan Smith. We will give him a fresh copy of the document.

  131. Minister, I think I do know a little bit about this issue—no, I just want to finish this because I have just been patronised by the Minister, who, I believe, made it extremely difficult to obtain these documents, and the ones that are—
  (Mr Vaz) In what way have I made it difficult for Mr Maples to obtain this document; it is absurd.

  132. The ones that are available say what I have just said, which is, the chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation, and I would say to you that the French Chief of Staff, and I am quoting now from evidence of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said to the Assemblée Nationale that the Nice Treaty was specifically worded to rule out any interpretation that would give NATO a decision-making priority in the reaction to crises. So what I would suggest to you is that the Government is playing at words here, it is saying one thing to Parliament here to try to allay fears that this is going to be a separate organisation from NATO, and then it is going to the United States and saying something different. And the danger is that this distinction will come into the open and become clear. And if the Government does not get this nailed down very, very soon, it is going to find itself in the difficulties that I am describing.
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Chairman, that is complete nonsense. Mr Maples now realises that he was reading from the wrong document. I will get him a fresh copy. I have not been keeping these documents from him. I did not know Mr Maples was going to raise this particular point today. These documents are not suppressed in some drawer in my room, in order to prevent Mr Maples from doing his job as an MP. I will make sure that he gets the references that I have made to the Presidency report. He should not work himself into a lather over this.

  133. I am quoting from Annex Seven to the Nice Treaty, which is the document that was tabled at the meeting, and later documents were not available by the middle of February.
  (Mr Vaz) NATO remains the corner-stone of our defence policy.

  Chairman: We have covered that ground. I think that Dr Starkey wants to come in; on this one?

Dr Starkey

  134. I just wanted to clarify about these documents. Are they documents that would have to be obtained from the Foreign Office, or might one reasonably have expected the House of Commons Library to be able to get the up-to-date documents? I am merely asking?
  (Mr Vaz) I have no idea, but I will certainly let you have them. I understand, they are in the Library, as Dr Starkey has said, and—

  135. What, the up-to-date version, that you have quoted from, is in the Library?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes; yes.


  136. And, presumably, it is on the Internet, in any event?
  (Mr Vaz) On the Internet, on the website.

Dr Starkey

  137. So it could have been obtained from the Library?
  (Mr Vaz) (Yes. ?)

Dr Godman

  138. Minister, am I right in thinking that the Response Force could not undertake any kind of military operation without the technical support of NATO; that is true, is it not?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes; except in the very limited cases that I have outlined, and Lord Robertson has outlined.

  139. Okay, then you have given me your answer there. Might I ask, are there any other dissenting voices over the relationship between NATO and the Response Force, we know the position of the French, but what is the view of the Governments of Finland, Sweden and the Irish Republic, do they have the right not to engage in an operation that is supported by NATO?
  (Mr Vaz) Of course; because, in the end, this is a matter that must be left to the Member States. It is for a British Prime Minister, in the end, no matter what is decided or agreed, or what happens, it is for a British Prime Minister to decide whether or not to commit British troops. But what we have done, Dr Godman, and you have raised this issue, is, we have kept our non-NATO allies informed when sitting as the EU, and we have kept our non-EU colleagues informed when sitting as NATO. Throughout this whole process, and I have been to a number of these meetings, we have gone out of our way to make sure that everyone knows about what is going on, everyone except the British Conservative Party, which certainly has not followed this view, but everyone else, in the whole of Europe, seems to understand what is happening.

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