Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the European Security Defence Policy

  When I gave evidence to your Committee on 7 March we discussed the European Security and Defence Policy. I promised to send the Committee a copy of the Presidency Report on ESDP agreed at the Nice European Council. This is enclosed. It may be helpful to the Committee if I list here some of the key references in the text to the extensive involvement of NATO and NATO structures in ESDP. You will recall I quoted one or two instances to the Committee.

    —  The EU will act only "where NATO as a whole is not engaged" (page 2).

  NATO Foreign Ministers have repeatedly stated their commitment to pursue common security objectives through the Alliance wherever possible. They reaffirmed this at their meeting in December 2000, just after Nice. What the EU and NATO positions mean in practice, as Tony Blair and President Bush have said, is that the EU will act militarily only once NATO has agreed that it will not. This is the purpose of the extensive EU/NATO consultation agreements proposed at Nice, which NATO has welcomed and which the two organisations agree constitute the elements of their permanent relationship.

    —  "NATO remains the basis of the collective defence of its members and will continue to play an important role in crisis management" (page 2).

    —  The EU "will call on NATO for operational planning of any operation using NATO assets and capabilities" (page 9).

    —  The EU's capabilities review mechanism will, "to avoid unnecessary duplication . . . rely on technical data emanating from existing NATO mechanisms". The mechanism will reflect the need to ensure "compatibility of the commitments taken on in the EU framework with the force goals accepted in the framework of the NATO Defence Planning Process" and the need to ensure "mutual reinforcement" of the EU's goals and those of NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative (pages 20-21).

    —  An EU/NATO capabilities group will "act to ensure the consistent development of EU and NATO capabilities" (page 27).

    —  European NATO Allies outside the EU have the right to "participate if they so wish in the event of an operation requiring recourse to NATO assets and capabilities" (page 49).

    —  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" [ie one not using NATO assets] ". . . within one of the European strategic level headquarters" (page 52).

  What this means is that, as at present, operational planning will be conducted by NATO for any substantial operation. For a minor task, as I said to the Committee, planning could be done by an existing national headquarters, eg 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.

    —  NATO/EU contacts will take place at Ministerial, senior official, senior military and expert level. The report sets this out in some detail. (page 55).

    —  These contacts will be intensified in a crisis (page 56).

    —  NATO will have "the final decision" (page 59) if SHAPE cannot satisfy EU and NATO planning requirements. What this means is that if an Article V NATO operation is envisaged that takes priority over any EU request. NATO can recall planning capabilities if necessary.

    —  When NATO provides the EU with a command structure, that structure will, for the duration of the operation, "remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU" (page 60). That is surely common sense. If UK troops are being deployed in a national operation, the UK government is responsible. If NATO is running an operation, the NAC decides collectively. If the EU is running an operation, who else but EU nations, acting by unanimity, should be responsible for the direction and control of the operation?

  Finally, it may be helpful to the Committee to clarify the status of the EU's proposals for NATO/EU relations (Annex VII of the Report and its Appendix).

  NATO Foreign Ministers welcomed the proposals for permanent consultation and co-operation (Annex VII). They confirmed that NATO would reciprocate EU invitations to senior NATO officials and military officers to attend EU meetings. They proposed that the NAC and PSC should meet at least three times per Presidency and NATO and EU Ministers at least once per Presidency. These proposals were accepted by EU Ministers at their January GAC meeting. The NATO Secretary-General and EU Presidency have agreed that these proposals taken together constitute the elements of the permanent relationship between the EU and NATO.

  NATO is also studying the EU's proposals on how EU access to NATO assets should be provided (Appendix to Annex VII). This is the subject of discussion at the moment in NATO and the EU.

14 March 2001

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