Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-132)



  120. What about EU enlargement? Has there been any discussion or approaches from those countries who are clearly seeking future membership of the EU in respect of what they might deliver towards achieving the Helsinki Headline Goal if and when they are successful in their application?
  (Mr Ingram) We would view that enlargement by one definition must be beneficial. It does not mean to say there will not be problems associated with enlargement and clearly we could spend a long time debating that. In terms of countries which have very specific capabilities which are outwith the EU coming into the pool and offering something, that would only enhance the capabilities. It does not take anything away. The more nations there are coming in with something to offer, by definition I would argue, the more it strengthens the overall range of capabilities, but clearly it brings with it its own issues as well because it depends when they come in. It will probably be post-2003, so things may well be in place and how do you then plug some of those capabilities in, but it is all progress, it is all development to a better purpose. It would not be a weakening of what we were doing, only a strengthening of it. That is the best way I would describe that, so it would be something to be encouraged.

Mr Howarth

  121. Before I turn to the specific question of Turkey and what actually happened at Laeken, Minister, can I ask, do you foresee circumstances in which NATO and ESDP could be engaged at the same time?
  (Mr Ingram) Again, we are into this scenario-painting. If I say no and then along comes something which is different, it is brought to mind. If I say yes, I would be trying to call to mind why you are asking this very specific question.

  122. It is not a trick question.
  (Mr Ingram) I could envisage an occasion where there would be engagement at the same time, there is no question about that. Whether they would then be using the same resources is then the debate, because it depends how much of the resources have been used at any point in time. So it could be a very low scale operation which does not detract from what we have put into the pool or into the resource allocation, and NATO is drawn upon in part and not in total. The answer is, yes, but it is a range and a spectrum we are talking about there and it may be difficult to put any examples to it.

  123. I had assumed that the Ministry had done some scenario-painting exercises to see just what might happen in those circumstances, because quite clearly there could be difficulties, for example, if we had ESDP forces deployed in the Balkans, undertaking peace-keeping operations, which it looks like we will be doing for the foreseeable future, and then something else sprung up which became a NATO commitment. What do we do then?
  (Mr Ingram) Priorities come into play. It depends what has been asked of NATO. What scale and what fighting and in what security area would NATO be deployed? What is the immediate threat? What is the immediate problem which has to be dealt with?

  124. But it does have implications for the whole—
  (Mr Ingram) Priorities come into play at any stage in terms of what we are doing as a nation. We could be deployed, as we are, globally in a whole range of theatres, but if a threat is posed to us then we have to make very quick judgments in all of that. There is no difference in that type of judgmental approach by NATO or by individual countries.

  125. I understand that and I can see that in terms of force deployment it is possible to make priorities, but then you have a joint planning operation as well, but it is not a joint planning operation, you are going to have the EU military committee working together with the NATO military committee, not the same members as we know, and there could well be some conflicts of interest there. Mr Webb is going to put my concerns to rest.
  (Mr Webb) It is a fair question though it does not feel as terrifying to us because we deal with this all the time. We spend all our time with Ministers saying, "We are involved here, we might have to do something there, we reserve this, can we manage that", so it is a bit of a natural process for us. Can I come back to something which I perhaps did not spell out enough in an earlier question about the role of the Deputy SACEUR. One really important role he can play in that situation is act as what is sometimes called a strategic co-ordinator. In other words, he, Deputy SACEUR, has visibility across the piece here. There is no problem at all of course about ESDP running operations simultaneously, and NATO runs several operations simultaneously. ESDP could be going off to Mozambique while NATO was in the Balkans, for example, but if you had some question about assets—to put it crudely, you wanted the aeroplanes here rather than there—the Deputy SACEUR is able to provide visibility and co-ordination, and it is a very important part of that job.

  126. So he would be in pole position looking across both fronts?
  (Mr Webb) Yes, and would be able to offer advice and is formally in a position to offer advice in both directions.
  (Mr Lee) The original basis of ESDP, the notion of an EU-led operation, is "caveated" in a way by the EU agreeing it would launch an operation, might launch an operation, where NATO as a whole was not engaged. So it is a sort of premise, if you like, of an EU-led operation, that the situation is one where NATO is not engaged, so that is a kind of given, if you like.

  127. I understand that, but I was trying to paint the scenario where that might have been the initial circumstances but then the circumstances changed and NATO did become involved on some other front, and what do you do about the planning structures in those circumstances. Mr Webb has very helpfully answered my queries about that. As far as finance is concerned, this is clearly going to be costly, and we have all seen the financial contributions of our European partners, who are going to be our partners in this ESDP exercise, and basically they are not pulling their weight, except probably France, in terms of their contribution.
  (Mr Webb) I would not say that in The Hague, if I were you!

  Mr Howarth: Shall I add in our Dutch friends then? At your suggestion, I am happy to do that. We know that the European average is, I believe, 1.8 per cent of GDP, the United Kingdom's is 2.5 per cent, NATO's is 2.2 per cent—or the other way round—but certainly the NATO figure is hugely skewed by reference to the United States' contribution—

  Chairman: And Greece and Turkey.

Mr Howarth

  128. And Greece and Turkey. Our report published this week concluded that if we were to write another chapter on the SDR there is going to have to be an increased financial commitment, but is there not going to have to be an increased financial commitment from the United Kingdom and from our EU partners in this ESDP exercise, and what are the prospects of that happening?
  (Mr Ingram) In terms of increased financial commitment to what we are putting in the ESDP, clearly there will be some commitment because of the pooled arrangements at the top decision-making level. It is about £200,000. You can do your conversion to Euros if you are so desirous. That margin is not the type of figure which would scare you. Insofar as there are demands for increased defence expenditure, that is part of the on-going debate in Government, and we want to see what response you give us in your report, which may or may not be helpful to any discussion we may be having in Government.

  129. As far as Turkey is concerned, we understand, and you referred to this a bit earlier, that Turkey is having problems in giving up its veto over the use of NATO assets for ESDP. Has that issue been resolved? Are the Greeks happy about that? Is the ESDP now fully operational?
  (Mr Ingram) I am not going to give a different answer, maybe slightly different words, from what I gave earlier.

  130. It is quite important.
  (Mr Ingram) I am not going to particularise this into individual countries. What I was trying to explain earlier was that these are issues which we are coming to a conclusion on, and to rake over the coals of the sensitivity of this would not be helpful. If those countries which have concerns want to publicly expose them and argue them, that is a matter for them, but what we are seeking to do is get a conclusion to this process and to satisfy the needs, the demands, the concerns of those countries which have raised the issues which are of concern to them, whether it is about access to NATO assets or about the relationship between the ESDP and non-EU countries. These are real issues which have to be resolved but I do not think they will be resolved by debate here or consideration here.

  131. Have they been resolved yet or are they still in the process of resolution?
  (Mr Ingram) Without dealing with the specifics of the premise of the question, we have not rounded off those issues, otherwise that would have been within the Laeken Communiqué and would have been a step forward. We are confident we can get to that point though.


  132. Thank you very much. That is very helpful. We will be producing a report before the end of the session and we would like to invite you back in to tell us what the situation is immediately prior to our writing of the report. Thank you all very much.
  (Mr Ingram) Thank you very much.

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