Select Committee on European Union Fifteenth Report


PART 6: OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE

The general purpose of the CESDP

94. We are convinced that European nations must do more to contribute to peace and stability. We welcome the initiatives that have been taken but we have reservations. Whether the CESDP is the right instrument for achieving this will depend upon whether the issues that we now set out are resolved.

95. Europe's critical need is for forces that can contribute effectively in international crises. Therefore what is needed is military capabilities, not symbolism. General Naumann told us that "what we need in Europe are capabilities and not new institutions" (Q264). We agree.

96. NATO is an effective organisation, and therefore it is also important that the CESDP creates capabilities to strengthen—and not to rival—the Atlantic alliance. The French Embassy told us that "Strengthening the European capabilities is to reinforce and not weaken the Transatlantic partnership." (p45) This principle must be adhered to.

97. We note that the CESDP does not envisage the creation of a European army, and we have been reassured of this on countless occasions. We confirm that we do not believe that EU should consider the creation of such an army.

Tasks

98. We do not wish to draw boundaries as to when and where the EU may or may not act. However, there are certain guidelines that the EU must consider before it becomes militarily involved in any situation.

99. We note that the Petersberg tasks cover a wide range of missions. At one end of the scale, they include "peacemaking", which can include war fighting. The latter is not suitable for the EU's crisis reaction force as envisaged at Helsinki.

100. In any situation in which the EU wishes to intervene, it must as a matter of course consult NATO before committing itself to intervention, and NATO must be the first choice to lead any mission involving military personnel. The EU should only act alone when the alliance as a whole is not engaged. We also believe that in any mission where the EU is involved but the United States are not, it will be vital for the EU first to secure the goodwill and tacit support of the United States.

Capabilities

101. The principal headline goal set out at Helsinki is the creation of a force of 50-60,000 personnel, capable of being deployed within 60 days and sustained for a year. Past experience shows that if this force is to be of any great use, it must consist of highly trained and versatile troops with appropriate naval and air support and operational logistic support. Furthermore, the force must be capable of deployment within a significantly shorter time than 60 days, and with rotation it must be able to remain in the situation area for longer than one year.

102. It has been optimistically put to us that the headline goal capabilities can be achieved through efficiency savings and a refocusing of defence budgets. Most European Union governments hope that this will be enough. But it is unlikely that this will be the case. The Secretary of State told us that "a number of countries are going to have to look very hard at the way in which they spend their defence budget" (Q363). As far as we are concerned, this is an understatement. The fulfilment of the headline goals cannot be achieved without a large increase in expenditure by most European Union governments.

103. The deadline for the achievement of the headline goals has been put at 2003. A lot rests on the ability of the EU to reach the main goal by that date, and it is vital for the credibility of the CESDP that substantial sums are set aside to equip the 50-60,000 force so that that force is capable of acting effectively in a crisis. General Naumann was concerned that "we have created expectations for which we cannot pay the bill and that, I think, is a point that will give us a lot of justified criticism from our American friends. For that reason, it is so important that we do something by 2003 that is tangible." (Q279) We agree. We cannot express too strongly our anxiety at the danger of the CESDP turning into a damp squib and consequently into seriously deteriorating relations with the United States.

Command and control

104. It is vital that an effective command and control mechanism is set up. NATO already has an effective command and control structure, but the EU does not yet have such a system in place for the occasions when an EU mission takes place without the assistance of NATO. This will require effective mechanisms from the geo-strategic level to the commander on the ground. It will be important for the EU to pay full attention to the needs for clarity of command and transparency. The EU will need to develop an appropriate planning and analysis capacity, which will allow it to have an effective relationship with NATO. However, it will also be of utmost importance that the EU does not set up rival or duplicative structures to NATO.

105. In any crisis, it will be essential fully to consult non-EU NATO members at all times. In setting up its command and control mechanism, the views of the non-EU members of NATO will be paramount.

Accountability

106. Defence is a responsibility of national governments and parliaments. However, accountability to national parliaments does not exclude the scrutiny functions of other multinational parliaments, notably the WEU Assembly and North Atlantic Assembly and the European Parliament. This is an issue which will need to be addressed in the current Intergovernmental Conference. In our view, the initiative to develop the CESDP highlights the weakness of current government mechanisms for ensuring scrutiny and accountability. These will need to be addressed in order to ensure that the British Government is held to account in parliament.

107. The Committee considers that the Common European Security and Defence Policy is an important initiative, which will require further scrutiny as it develops. We will wish to return to it as it progresses, and especially after the capabilities commitment conference which is due to take place in November 2000; but in the meantime, we make this Report to the House for debate.


 
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