Transcript of oral evidence taken by Sub-Committee
THURSDAY 9 OCTOBER 2003
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Jopling, L. (Chairman)
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
MR N WITNEY, Director General, International Security
Policy, Ministry of Defence; DR SARAH BEAVER, Director, Europe
and UN, Directorate for Policy and International Organisations,
Ministry of Defence; MR PAUL JOHNSTON, Head, Security Policy Department,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.
1. Mr Witney, welcome. Can I thank you and your colleagues
for coming? We are, as you know, interested in the Draft Treaty
with particular reference to the elements which concern defence
in that. Sadly, Lord Inge is not with us today. Would you first
of all like to introduce your colleagues and if you would like
to make a short opening statement feel free. Perhaps I could start
by asking what are the significant changes which are proposed
by the Draft Treaty with regard to defence?
(Mr Witney) I am supported on my left by Dr Sarah
Beaver, who is the director for the EU and the UN within the MoD
and Mr Paul Johnston, who is the head of the Security Policy Department
in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I have no opening statement
to make. I know you will understand that it will be difficult
for us to comment on specifics about what the government's precise
negotiating position might be, still less what compromises might
emerge from the great negotiation which has still to begin on
defence matters, but we shall do what we can to elucidate our
understanding of the Treaty and the government's approach to the
negotiation as set out in the White Paper. You ask me about the
significant changes in the new draft. I have a list here of perhaps
seven and a half, which is possibly too long. We are not sure
that they are all significant or even potentially significant
but for the sake of completeness. Most relate to Article 40 and
the associated Articles in Part III of the Treaty and, with your
permission, I will just canter down this list. Firstly, there
is the updating and expansion of the Petersberg tasks. The details
of that are to be found in Part III, Article 210 but that relates
to Article 40.1, the first part. Second, there is the development
of the familiar language about a future perspective for common
defence which is found at Article 40.2. I think that is one of
the points we might regard as not especially significant but no
doubt we will discuss that. Thirdly, there is the establishment
of what is called in the Draft Treaty at the moment a European
Armaments Research and Military Capabilities Agency, to be found
at 40.3. Fourthly, there is the provision at 40.5 allowing the
Council to entrust the execution of a task to a group of Member
States, again we think not very significant and essentially a
Treaty based development of current Nice arrangements. Next, the
introduction of structured co-operation at Article 40.6. Sixth,
the introduction of closer co-operation on mutual defence at Article
40.7. Lastly, the removal from the current Treaty of the explicit
exclusion of military and defence matters from the enhanced co-operation
provisions which are to be found in Part III between Articles
322 and 329. Those are the seven primary issues, we think, but
for completeness I would add an eighth which is the new solidarity
clause to be found at Article 42 in the first part. I think properly
that is more a matter of the common security and defence policy,
but it has bearings on European defence as well.
2. That last point is purely with regard to terrorism
and manmade disasters? Is that right?
(Mr Witney) That is correct, mutual solidarity in
such an event.
Lord Williamson of Horton
3. Thank you for the list. You did comment on one
or two that they were not very significant. There is a slight
difference, if I may say so, in the existing Treaty provision
on the famous words that we spent a long time negotiating about
this may lead to a common defence and the current text. I realise
that there is still a stop on it but it is a little bit different
to say this will lead to a common defence when the European Council
acting unanimously so decides. There is a slight nuance which
is a little different and it implies that there is a genuine possibility
of leading to a common defence and it requires only this further
decision. I do not want to make too much of it but the people
who proposed the change must have thought there was some difference.
Would you care to comment?
(Mr Witney) I accept that point entirely. There is
a difference. The move from the subjunctive to the future is a
change in language, clearly.
4. As a classics scholar, I am sure you realise there
is a significant element of change in that.
(Mr Witney) Balanced by the explicit insertion of
the statement that this will only happen when the Council decides
by unanimity. I suppose if I sounded dismissive of the importance
of this change our view probably is that it is a statement of
political intent which is clearly important to some Member States
but has no bearing on the real world in the foreseeable future.
Lord Williams of Elvel
5. Can we concentrate on Articles 40(6) and 40(7)?
Is the government in favour of a core group of Member States collaborating
on defence throughout the EU framework? Has the Berlin meeting
changed that? Is the government in favour of the creation of a
mutual defence clause for a core group of Member States and has
the conversation in Berlin changed any of that?
(Mr Witney) Taking the question of the core group
first, the position is that we regard the language here as a little
cryptic. There is talk of this core group being defined by higher
criteria and there is talk of the core group undertaking more
binding commitments. In the White Paper we make clear that we
do have detailed military, robust arrangements to provide for
flexibility in ESDP and we are concerned that provisions of new
forms of co-operation such as possibly this core group should
not undermine these arrangements. To a degree, we approach this
with caution. That said, we do see potential possibilities and
opportunities from this concept. I think the government has been
clear that it wants an inclusive ESDP, one in which the fundamentals
are agreed by unanimity, an ESDP with which all 25 Member States
are comfortable. There is also a recognition that once the Union
expands to 25 an effective ESDP may well benefit from provision
for some Member States to be more ambitious, to go faster, to
do things which other Member States would not feel comfortable
to do. To that extent, this is possibly an opportunity. The other
thing that is potentially attractive about this is the concept
of peer pressure, the way in which it might well be used to leverage
European capabilities to encourage people to spend more on defence
or produce more effective forces for the tasks of ESDP. At the
moment, a cautious attitude. We see potential problems. We see
potential opportunities with this.
6. We are not proposing at this stage, as I understand
it, to tie in what I will call the Tervuren group?
(Mr Witney) We thought the 29 April summit was perhaps
not a particularly happy precedent for small group activity. It
is well known that some of the proposals that came out of that
the government has had difficulty with. This would, as we read
the text, involve clear criteria for the group to come together.
We would like it as inclusive as possible and it would involve
clear commitment, so no direct read across between the Tervuren
group and what might come out of this Article on structured co-operation.
7. With regard to the activities of the group of
four and the concerns about setting up a command structure which
was apart from NATO, I see in a press handout that we have had
circulated, in The Financial Times, "In a symbolic gesture
Paris and Berlin could agree to the military centre being located
within NATO's European military headquarters in Belgium."
Is that a true reflection and to what extent does that relieve
anxieties which were created by the proposal of the four to set
up a separate command/control structure?
(Mr Witney) There is no doubt that a certain amount
of political symbolism has now begun to attach to the very word
"Tervuren". We know that there are anxieties and concerns
in the United States about this. Tervuren has acquired a certain
resonance as a place name. Nonetheless, our concerns about this
are not really an issue of geography. As the Prime Minister's
spokesman made plain shortly after the Berlin summit, we just
do not see this as the way ahead. The issue here is the function
of a European operational headquarters in Brussels. There are
things that we believe can be done with the EU military staff
in the centre of Brussels. We see some scope for expanding their
capability to undertake strategic planning. We have advocated
the idea of an EU planning cell being established at SHAPE to
improve co-ordination with NATO but at the moment an operational
headquarters in Brussels, whether at Tervuren or not, seems to
us not the way ahead, in the words of the Prime Minister's spokesman.
8. I do not think you have answered fully Lord Williams's
question about a mutual defence clause.
(Mr Witney) I am sorry. That is 40.7. The starting
point has to be the White Paper and what the government had to
say there, a fairly categoric statement that we will not agree
to anything which is contradictory to or would replace the security
guarantee established through NATO. To pick up the words of the
Prime Minister's spokesman after Berlin, he said that nobody at
that trilateral meeting was challenging the fundamental point
that NATO remained the basis of our territorial defence. Our view
remains that ESDP is essentially about conducting crisis management
operations outside the EU's borders and that collective defence
is the province of NATO. As the solidarity clause recognises,
if an individual Member State were to suffer attack, it is clearly
the case that other EU Member States would not stand by, but the
wording as it is currently presented in this Article 40.7 is difficult.
This must fall under the heading of the sort of language which
the government was alluding to in the White Paper when it said
it could not support all the proposals in the current Draft Treaty
as currently drafted.
Lord Williams of Elvel
9. There has been some discussion of an extension
of the Petersberg tasks. Does that fit anywhere near government
(Mr Witney) I think we are very happy with what is
proposed for the extension of the Petersberg tasks. They do not
in practice extend the range or difficulty of the tasks being
set out. The most challenging task is peacemaking and has been
included for a number of years. That has been, if you like, the
top of the menu in terms of challenge. What the revision of the
tasks does is to round out the range of activities that we could
see ESDP tackling and reflect the realities as we have seen them
develop in Afghanistan, in Macedonia and as we have seen potential
for future possible ESDP engagements.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
10. On mutual defence, Article 40.7, this is not
very different in its formulation from the provision in the Western
European Union Treaty under Article 5. Why is there concern about
it and what sorts of changes would make it more acceptable?
(Mr Witney) On the first part of the question, the
WEU commitment predated NATO and when NATO arrived it was made
explicit that the commitment there was to be discharged through
NATO. To benefit from the WEU guarantee, you must be both a member
of the European Union and NATO. That seems to us a rather different
proposition from what we find in the text here which is plainly
a Treaty for the European Union as such. It is possible that one
of my colleagues is more expert on this and could elaborate.
(Mr Johnston) That is the main point. The Western
European Union guarantee was never in any sense a guarantee that
was backed in terms of the WEU by a military structure that would
be capable of providing collective defence because NATO was already
there. In the presidency report on ESDP endorsed by the European
Council at Nice which effectively set up the permanent architecture
of the European Union, the Council recognised that NATO remained
the basis for the collective defence of its members; and emphasised
specifically that the European Security Defence Policy was about
conducting crisis management tasks. That seemed to us an entirely
appropriate and complementary division of labour between the European
Union and NATO. It is underpinned by the EU/NATO permanent arrangements.
One of the things that has changed since the adoption of the ESDP
permanent arrangements at Nice is of course 11 September and the
much greater political and practical recognition of the dangers
posed in European countries by the threat of terrorism or of natural
disasters, which is why the Treaty recognises this with a cross-pillar,
in the old terms, solidarity clause. We regard it as a political
reality that if a Member State was attacked, using all the instruments
at its disposal, the European Union and its Member States would
want to help. We see, as our White Paper says and as the Prime
Minister's spokesman says, that commitment to helping out a partner
in trouble as being very different from a collective EU territorial
defence commitment, in particular one that appeared to sit alongside
NATO rather than being exercised through NATO. One has the additional
point that, whereas all WEU Member States were NATO Member States,
that is not the case in the European Union and still will not
be the case after enlargement. You will have a number of EU Member
States who are not or are not likely to become members of NATO.
11. I remain a little unclear as to what it is you
take exception to in the language and drafting of subsection (7)
which does actually spell out in the second last sentence that
participating Member States in this sphere shall work in close
co-operation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The
language is very close to that of the WEU and I am bound to say
it seems a little as though you are starting at shadows.
(Mr Johnston) One of the points about which we are
unclear relates to the Article 3 elucidation of this Part I Article
which makes it clear that what one is talking about here is not
a provision that applies to the European Union as a whole, but
suggests that a small subset of states would establish this mutual
defence commitment amongst themselves. That is one of the areas
lacking in clarity which we think the IGC needs to probe. This
is not solely a British preoccupation. There have been quite a
few Member States both in the Future of Europe Convention, as
you will know Lord Maclennan, and in the general discussions rather
than specific discussions of a draft constitution, who have raised
concerns about this and how it relates to the other forms of co-operation
provided for. It is worth noting that the reference to Article
51 of the UN Charter implies something more than simply providing
help to a Member State facing problems. It does imply some form
of collective self-defence. We start from the position as set
out in the White Paper that nothing should be done that would
undermine NATO's security guarantee but, with that position we
are prepared, as we have been ourselves in advocating a solidarity
clause, to look at ways in which one can recognise and turn into
practice the reality that in the modern security environment the
EU is a community of nations with common security interests. We
would not stand idly by if another member was in trouble. It is
a question of making sure that whatever the EU does complements
rather than in any way undermines the basis of what NATO does.
12. Is that not exactly what this sentence provides?
Not all members of the EU are members of NATO and it would be
difficult to go further than that without ruling out any kind
of mutual defence arrangement affecting non-members of NATO.
(Mr Witney) There is also a more fundamental point
here. Our vision of ESDP is that it is part of crisis management.
It is there to serve the purposes of the common foreign and security
policy. We are not attracted to the idea of ESDP concerning itself
with territorial defence. We see that as the business of NATO
and we regard ESDP and NATO as two complementary instruments with
distinct roles. To associate ESDP more closely with armed aggression
against the territory of a Union Member seems to us something
of a misdirection of what is the important, main thrust of ESDP.
That is why we can regard this as one of those articles which
the government would find difficulty in accepting as drafted here.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
13. The Solana strategy, which we were told I believe
is not going to be part of the Treaty, is nevertheless being taken
quite seriously and is at the IGC going to be recognised as an
acceptable policy. Would you not say that one of the problems
in all this is that more and more the EU or rather that group
of enhancement people in the EU is moving towards taking on defence,
which is a very different thing from the Petersberg tasks on limited
peacemaking? I notice that the strategy speaks about defence very
frequently and says that there is no reason why we should not
"be able to sustain several operations simultaneously. We
need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid,
and when necessary, robust intervention and operations involving
both military and civilian capabilities". The whole tone
of that is going to encourage, is it not -- and here I am entirely
with you -- that group of states who wish to set up their own
particular group to behave more and more as if Europe is in practice
and in reality self-sufficient? It is not just a question of the
Americans not liking this; it is a very dangerous issue for us
because our troops are already double hatted and treble hatted
and now they are probably going to be quadruple hatted. It is
still only one soldier. Would you not agree that one of the problems
is that sidelining NATO -- and this does sideline NATO -- is going
to bring appalling problems?
(Mr Witney) We rather like the Solana strategy. It
seems to us to focus on exactly the right things. It deals with
the true threats that ESDP should concern itself with as being
the global threats that are coming from terrorism, weapons of
mass destruction, state failure and ethnic conflict. These are
things which are out there, beyond the borders of Europe, nothing
to do with the collective or territorial defence of Europe. We
think that strategy is heading in the right direction. You are
quite right. It is an encouragement to the development of robust
and realistic military capabilities for Europe to take its share
of responsibilities around the globe. That does not rule out --
and I am sure it is acknowledged in the strategy -- that Europe
also has a great many other instruments to bring to bear on dealing
with international crisis management. We see it as one of the
comparative advantages, if you like, of the ESDP that so many
other instruments, civil as well as military, can be brought to
bear on these circumstances of state failure and so forth.
14. Mr Johnston referred to the WEU. Have we some
sort of timetable for the demise of the WEU?
(Mr Johnston) I do not think so. There was, as I
recall, a declaration by the WEU Council in 2000, in which the
WEU Council agreed that the WEU had now served its purpose. There
was a collective agreement among the governments concerned that
ESDP, now being well on its way to being up and running, the operational
purpose of the Western European Union had ceased. It was in effect
put in cold storage. There is still a continuing WEU formally
in the sense of the Assembly and it not having all been wound
up. Part of the reason for that was a recognition that there was
going to be after Laeken, in a different part of the forest, a
convention on the future of Europe and a future Inter-Governmental
Conference. The decision was taken, probably wisely, not to decide
what would be the timetable for the rest of the WEU's future until
it was clear what was happening in the IGC on CFSP and ESDP. My
understanding is that that is still the position.
Lord Williamson of Horton
15. I would like to come back to Article 40, paragraph
2, but this time to the second paragraph of it which is the NATO
paragraph. We have had acres and acres of column inches over the
last year about the relations between NATO and the European Union
and the rapid reaction force, the European non-army and so on.
It is very important that we should be absolutely satisfied that
this text which is 40(2)(2) is really satisfactory for us, because
it is a definitive text at the end of rather a long saga. It is
going to be quoted again and again. I quite understand as a long
term civil servant myself that you cannot say absolutely whether
the government will query one word or another word in these texts
in the IGC, but basically do you think that this definitive part
of Article 40(2) does provide the belt and braces that we need?
(Mr Witney) My colleagues will correct me if I am
wrong but my understanding is that these words are verbatim from
what has been in the Treaty on European Union before and therefore
are a tried and trusted formula.
(Mr Johnston) Article 17 of the Nice Treaty has the
very same formulation as the second subparagraph of Article 40(2).
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
16. 40(7) seems to provide belt and braces. It seems
the government needs to have assurance that nothing in the provision
for mutual defence will undermine the commitments and obligations
of the NATO arrangements and makes it the more difficult to understand
the not very clearly specified objections to Article 7. Article
2 recognises that different members of the Union have different
views about how their common defence is to be realised but Article
7 is dealing in part at least with the situation which is not
covered by the NATO obligations. Why, because we are members of
NATO, should we seek to exclude from mutual defence provisions
within Europe those who are not members of NATO? Is it the view
that they should sign up to NATO? What lies behind this objection?
It remains elusive and unclear. What language in Article 7 would
supplement Article 40.2 and make it more acceptable?
(Mr Witney) I am not sure I can improve on what I
have tried to say about Article 40(7) in itself. We are concerned
that it looks duplicative of the NATO guarantee.
17. Which does not apply to other non-members, if
I may interrupt.
(Mr Witney) Non-members who have not joined NATO
so far have not felt the need for a mutual security guarantee.
18. Why should they now not be permitted to have
(Mr Witney) Our concern is that ESDP, in the government's
view, should be directed towards crisis management activities
beyond the boundaries of the European Union and that collective
defence should be left to NATO and that you would get into a position
of unnecessary duplication between the two organisations if we
went down the track of collective defence as part of the European
Union's mandate. There is the further concern that we do not seem
to have, judging by Part III of the Treaty, a very inclusive proposal
here. It is for a limited number of Member States. As for whether
our concerns should be adequately regarded as covered off by what
you find in Article 40.2, this comes down to the overall feel
and balance of the text in the round, the possibility for individual
Articles to be taken and used out of context in the Treaty overall.
I am afraid I cannot speculate as to exactly what language or
negotiating positions might be acceptable, other than to indicate
the government's discomfort with the draft as it currently stands
on 40.7 and the reasons for it.
19. It really does sound increasingly like a spoiling
operation to prevent countries that are not covered by the NATO
mutual assistance arrangements from having any under this Treaty.
You are saying it is all right for them to have ESDP arrangements
but they may not have mutual security arrangements. I cannot understand
why the government would take this view. It is quite clear from
the drafting of Article 7 that it only applies to those who wish
it to apply.
(Dr Beaver) The countries that are not in NATO have
not expressed a wish to be part of such a mutual security guarantee.
Indeed, they would have difficulty because many of these are by
constitutional arrangements neutral countries. Our discussions
with fellow Member States suggest that other countries would also
have a difficulty and would not wish to see a mutual security
guarantee through the EU.
20. With respect, I think they may be allowed to
speak for themselves. That has not surfaced in the Convention.
It may be the case but that remains to be seen. What we are looking
at is the attitude of the British government to this. It looks
to me just like a spoiling operation designed to distinguish us
from the non-members of NATO and saying, "Up with this we
will not put because you are not members of NATO."
(Mr Johnston) In conceiving the European Security
and Defence Policy, we did so against a backdrop that this had
been an issue which had been controversial in European and domestic
terms. It is in some ways quite remarkable that a community of
Member States in which you have full NATO members, one country
which is not fully in NATO, a Member State, Denmark, which has
an opt out from ESDP and a number of Member States who are not
in NATO at all, could have all coalesced around a project which
defined its ambitions in terms of the Petersberg tasks and its
scale in terms of the headline goal, has developed ESDP very quickly
over the last few years, and has been conducting three operations
this year. I think there is a concern which is not solely a British
concern but has come up with a number of other countries that
the clear parameters of ESDP, in terms of doing crisis management
outside the European Union, are not fully reflected in this text
and that there might be political difficulties for a number of
countries if it looked like the European Union was being moved
from an organisation with the military capacity to support its
foreign and security policy towards third countries towards an
organisation which was developing either as a whole or as a subset
some sort of embryonic mutual defence commitment.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
21. Surely there is the practical point that the
members of the EU recognise that if they were dealing with armed
aggression they could not do it without NATO.
(Mr Johnston) Yes.
22. I know this is something Lord Inge is bothered
about. Is there not a danger that we have here a grey area, a
sort of wilful misunderstanding between those states within the
Union who wish to see a much stronger European military capacity
in competition with NATO and those other states who think in the
way you have described this morning that NATO is the prime area
of defence co-operation? In 40, paragraph 2, when it talks about
a common defence without really setting out what "common
defence" means, are you not worried that there is this grey
area between so-called common defence and reliance on NATO which
means that various groups or individual states can go their way
but in the end it will end up with a mighty row in years to come?
(Mr Witney) Whether or not the aspirations of Member
States who do not think entirely like us are to act as a counterweight
to the US, it is a fact with which we have had to live for many
years that there are Member States who have a long term aspiration
for something called common defence. It is something that I do
not think successive British governments have been particularly
enamoured of as an aspiration. We have to recognise that there
will be different views within the Union and we have lived with
that since the words "common defence" were first introduced
at the time of Maastricht. The language is evolving slightly here
but not as fast as the pace of the actual development of a real,
practical, useful ESDP which we strongly support.
23. I notice in your CV that at one time in your
life you worked on the Common Agricultural Policy for the European
Community Department before seeking refuge in a secondment to
the Ministry of Defence. I must say how much I sympathise with
anyone who seeks refuge from the CAP. I would like to turn to
the creation of an armaments agency which is proposed in Part
I, Article 4(3) and Part III, Article 212. I would like you to
give us the views of HMG in the light of a couple of comments.
First of all, perhaps you could say what the government thinks
would be useful about an armaments agency, especially in the light
of Lord Robertson's general comments about the money that the
European taxpayer pays and hence the British taxpayer pays, and
whether we get value for the money we put into common defence
as a whole. Of course the creation of an armaments agency may
help to ensure that our money is better spent. Could you say a
little bit about what are some of the problems which you envisage
with the creation of such an agency? It has been put to our Committee
that it could be vulnerable as a tool for protectionism or indeed
constrain the ability of Member States to order armaments independently.
Perhaps you could balance those two and say why the government
on the whole does favour the armaments agency, which I think it
(Mr Witney) Yes. The government does favour the creation
of this agency and the only thing that we have a particular problem
with about this is simply the title, as is currently reflected
in the Treaty. The full title is European Armaments Research and
Military Capabilities Agency. We think it has that the wrong way
round and that the starting point for the agency's activities
should be capabilities. The European Council Thessaloniki conclusions
produced an alternative version. It is more of an essay than a
title: "An inter-governmental agency in the field of defence
capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments."
It is not just a semantic point. Our fundamental concern about
what the agency should focus on is the development of Europe's
defence and military capabilities and, in support of that, what
could be done to extract better value for money out of the defence
technological and industrial base and ensure that that base prospers.
We have a very clear sense of priorities. The defence industry
is there to support European defence ministries and their armed
forces and not, as perhaps some others have tended to think, the
other way round. This particular issue is being quite intensively
negotiated through the normal European channels and we like to
think we are making good progress. All Member States have explicitly
agreed that the agency should be capabilities driven. They accept
that work in relation to strengthening the European defence technological
and industrial base must be directed at creating an internationally
competitive base. It is absolutely no use attempting to establish
Fortress Europe or constraining people's options to buy military
equipment overseas, significantly from the United States. At the
moment, we feel that the way the discussion within Europe on the
agency is going is quite satisfactory. We do strongly support
Lord Robertson and collectively European states spend in the order
of $200 billion or 200 billion euros a year on defence and we
do not get enough out of it. A clearer view on what we actually
need in the way of capabilities, a clearer approach to seeing
where we can harmonise our requirements, do things together and
achieve economies of scale hopefully will mean that that money
is better spent.
24. What about those two possible criticisms that
it will be used as a tool for protectionism and constrain the
ability of Member States to order armaments independently? Do
you have those worries?
(Mr Witney) It has been a debate which we have been
engaged in for some months to establish the consensus that this
is an agency fundamentally directed at making sure that we get
the tools for the job, not just in terms of armaments but in terms
also of force structures and military capabilities in the round
and not as a benefit bonanza for the defence industry. Defence
industrial policy is always tricky ground. It can never be entirely
divorced from the very particular position of governments as the
sole customer for their industries. All governments have concerns
for employment. We know that the European Commission is interested
in finding ways to promote and support defence industries within
Europe. I am sure this is a debate about the exact balance between
looking after industries and promoting capabilities that will
continue. We think that on balance this is a good proposal and
we are tolerably confident today that the agency will come out
with the right pedigree.
(Dr Beaver) One of the things we have been discussing
in our more detailed negotiations in Brussels is how the agency
might operate. We have made it clear to our partners that we would
expect to see the agency working for the progressive adoption
of the kind of agreements that have been LoI framework agreements
and any procurement to be done through OCCAR which involves the
renunciation of the narrowly based juste retour principles. Although
some countries would not necessarily be able to sign up for LoI
framework agreements, I think there is a general acceptance that
we might be able, through the agency, to encourage those states
to at least adopt some form of adaptation of those agreements.
I think it could be quite a useful instrument for opening up the
European defence market.
25. I am very grateful to Dr Beaver and Mr Witney
for those answers with which I wholly agree. My criticism therefore
is this: is the government not being lukewarm about this? Is this
not an area which we should really drive home with enthusiasm
because of the kinds of benefit in terms of how it would strengthen
our defences and so on, as well as the Robertson point about taxpayers
getting value for money?
(Mr Witney) I do not think we are being lukewarm.
It is mentioned in the White Paper as an innovation which the
government welcomes. Dr Beaver was in Brussels last week pursuing
this. I shall be in Brussels next week pursuing it. It is buying
up quite a lot of our time at the moment.
Lord Williams of Elvel
26. I am trying to penetrate the thicket of language
here. Does this particular paragraph allow for a move towards
(Mr Witney) The concept of the agency is very much
in terms of ensuring that the capabilities that we develop are
indeed able to work together to meet the needs of operations as
ESDP is beginning to undertake them. There is a recognition that
much of the basis for interoperability within the European Member
States is inevitably all the good work that NATO has done for
50 years on standardisation and standard procedures, but the large,
central thrust of the agency proposal is that Member States should
come together, understand and agree collectively what are the
capabilities that they need to generate together, be able to field
together, and therefore interoperability is very much part of
the equation. Whether we have the language that reflects that
(Dr Beaver) We are trying to develop a more detailed
specification of what this agency would be trying to do. We are
not content with the language that we have in 212 where it says
"Evaluating observance of the capability commitments given
by Member States." What we see the agency doing is taking
a much more proactive role in assessing and evaluating the contributions
of Member States against agreed criteria, one of which, although
it is not spelled out, would be interoperability.
(Mr Witney) Mr Johnston has just pointed out to me
that at Article III- 212, subclause (b), there is reference to
promoting the harmonisation of operational needs which is the
ghost at least of this interoperability idea.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
27. Can we go back to peacemaking, crisis management
and the Petersberg tasks and so on and ask you to speculate about
what situations you think the EU would be involved in. In Bosnia,
we needed United States assistance to be effective. Most other
operations outside Europe have been individual countries like
ourselves and Sierra Leone. What sort of scenarios do you see
as being appropriate for peacemaking?
(Mr Witney) We are still very much at the foothills
of this enterprise. The Helsinki Headline Goal set quite an ambitious
target for European capabilities to be achieved by the end of
this year and at the mid point of this year, when Thessaloniki
took stock of how far we had got to, there was acknowledgement
that there was a degree of operational capability achieved across
the range of the Petersberg tasks but limited and constrained
by recognised shortfalls. We have a way to go. After the hold-up
over Berlin plus, we have had less than 12 months in which ESDP
has been there ready to operate, with its operations in Bosnia,
Macedonia and, most recently, Bunia, which have all been good
learning and development experiences. We are by no means even
at the first target point that we set ourselves in this enterprise
and therefore the scope of what could realistically be undertaken
tomorrow is still limited and constrained. The aspiration is clear.
At the highest end of the activity, it would be peacemaking, which
would be the separation of warring parties. The headline goal
was intended to produce a capability to tackle that sort of task,
modelled on some of the experience of the Balkans in the 1990s.
In what scenarios could one envisage peacemaking activity taking
place? I think we must think of ethnic conflict situations, probably
in a broadly consensual diplomatic or political environment, but
where maybe the writ of the central government does not run or
where there are still parties who are determined to pursue their
conflict and obstruct the diplomatic or political process. The
Balkans have shown recent examples. There must be other examples
in Africa which one can only speculate what might emerge.
28. The Balkans obviously are a European concern
but countries beyond Europe's borders surely should be under the
auspices of the United Nations rather than a separate EU initiative?
That is what I find rather puzzling. Surely we should be going
in at the request of the United Nations rather than an EU initiative?
(Mr Witney) That is exactly right. That was indeed
the basis upon which the operation in Bunia was undertaken. There
is quite a wide consensus within the European Union that as ESDP
is developed it should be developed in ways which make it available,
on many occasions, as a tool essentially for the United Nations.
29. This is another matter which I know Lord Inge
was bothered about. Let me ask whether you are satisfied with
the extended terms of Petersberg which are in general set out
in Article III, 210? Are you satisfied with that extension and
what exactly will be the practical implications as far as the
EU and the UK are concerned in order to be able to fulfil those
(Mr Witney) The expansion of the tasks is essentially
a rounding out of the definition of the sort of missions that
we should be thinking about rather than making them more difficult
or challenging. If you interpret peacemaking as the separation
of warring parties, it is the most militarily challenging aspiration
for ESDP and that has been around since the original Petersberg
tasks were formulated in 1992, I think. The new bits here are
joint disarmament operations, the task that NATO undertook in
Macedonia, Operational Essential Harvest. That is a precedent.
Military advice and assistance. Conflict prevention and peacekeeping
tasks. I suppose you could characterise Bunia as an example of
conflict prevention. And post-conflict stabilisation, which might
look forward to a potential European role in the sort of situation
which NATO is handling in Afghanistan at the moment. So nothing
more militarily challenging but a wider sense of the range of
how ESDP might usefully be employed overseas.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
30. I cannot lay my hands on it but I am sure I have
seen recently a statement about a proposal for the EU to co-operate
closely with the UN on operations, including training together,
planning together and so forth. What do you feel about that?
(Mr Witney) We have just had a reorganisation in
the Ministry of Defence and Dr Beaver has only within recent days
assumed a responsibility for the United Nations which reflects
exactly the thought that you are bringing out there, that we are
going to have to think about the EU and the UN and the way they
interact on the global stage more closely in future.
(Dr Beaver) This is very much an initiative of the
Italian presidency, which I think in principle we support. There
are quite a lot of things in the statement which would be quite
challenging in terms of achieving full interoperability between
the EU and UN. There is obviously a wide range of quality of forces
available to the UN. The UK would like a bit more time to work
through the details of these proposals. In principle, we are very
supportive of the idea of getting more effective synergy between
the EU and the UN.
31. Have we the resources? Or has the EU the resources?
(Dr Beaver) I think the general view of the UN is
that the EU under-commits military resources to UN peace-keeping
operations. One thing that the EU might be able to do is through
the ESDP it has a way of assembling forces and developing and
presenting capabilities which could be used on an UN operation.
So we do see them as essentially complementary, but obviously
there is only one set of forces which can be used at one time
for particular operations and decisions would have to be made.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
32. I wanted to clarify what Mr Witney meant when
he said that the definitions of the Petersberg Tasks in Article
32(110) would not involve anything more militarily challenging
from the wider range of situations which would be covered. Is
the confinement as described purely a reflection of the current
limitations of military capability? If the wider range of situations
gave rise to challenges which are mentioned in the Government
White Paper as actually requiring a greater military capability
than at the hands of the Union would that be excluded by the language
of the definitions, as I understand it?
(Mr Witney) I may have been guilty, Lord Maclennan,
of slightly underselling the importance of the expansion of this
list of tasks. When I said there was nothing more challenging
there, I was referring to a scale of intensity of military operations,
the sophistication of the fire-power you would need to bring to
bear to deal with the situation and peace-making remains at the
top of the scale in those terms. Certainly the explicit inclusion
now in the list, or proposed new list of Petersberg Tasks, of
post-conflict stabilisation could be very challenging in terms
of the resources and capabilities which might have to be brought
to bear on a situation over a considerable period of time. I cite
Afghanistan as an example of that. There could be much more that
governments need to do to make sure they could undertake those
operations and sustain them over a considerable period.
33. Is it fair to say this is an attempt, which the
Government accepts, to construct an enabling clause that reflects
not the capabilities but the challenges?
(Mr Witney) I think it would, yes.
Chairman: Let us move on to the last series on QMV.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
34. Are you satisfied that Part III Article 201(4)
is sufficient to ensure that CFSP decisions with defence implications
cannot, under any circumstances, be decided by QMV? I wonder how
that can be reconciled with Article I-39(8) which states "The
European Council may unanimously decide that the Council of Ministers
should act by qualified majority voting in cases other than those
referred to in Part III", in other words a passerelle clause
for the CFSP? We are concerned too because the Minister is going
to have a formal right of initiative right across that area. He
has to be mandated I believe by unanimous decision by the Council
but nevertheless there are a lot of pitfalls, again such as Article
III 201 2c when "adopting any European decision implementing
a Union action". That in shorthand, I understand, is if there
is a common strategy or a common position, action within that
is implemented and therefore could be decided by QMV and not by
unanimity. How do you feel about whether we really have a technical
position as far as defence is concerned?
(Mr Witney) This is a very dense and complicated
area. I myself feel ill-qualified to be very definite on this
point and this has been considered by government legal advisers
on a cross-government basis. Provisionally the advice I have had
is, yes, we think we are all right here. The only explicit exception
to the unanimity rule on defence implications is the proposals
for the agency we have been discussing to be set up by qualified
majority voting. We do not have a difficulty with that because
we think in practice the agency will come into being before this
Treaty enters into force. There is an article in Part III, Article
201, which sets out that the CFSP decisions and therefore those
which concern us will be taken by unanimity. There are derogations
in the following two sub-paragraphs and the final clincher says
that those derogations do not apply where there are military and
defence implications. None of that deals with your point about
the famous passerelle clause, which is an issue which is being
thought about at a cross-government level.
35. What concerned me was when the Foreign Secretary
spoke to the House of Commons Committee, he expressed great confidence
that all would be well but he went on to say later that if it
were not so, he recognised in a very short aside that it was not
impossible we would be confronted with exactly what we do not
want. What is being done to ensure there is an absolute veto on
(Mr Witney) I am afraid I am not able to help you
on exactly what is being done. This is, as I say, being dealt
with by government lawyers broadly across the whole of the Treaty.
There is an interesting contrast between this sub-paragraph you
have just quoted, the passerelle clause, at 39.8 and the immediately
preceding sub-paragraph which seems to state equally explicitly
that "European decisions relating to the Common Foreign and
Security Policy shall be adopted by the European Council and the
Council of Ministers unanimously."
36. "Except in the cases referred to in Part
(Mr Witney) Yes, "... except in the cases referred
to in Part III."
37. That is Article 319.5 I think you will find,
"Positions of the Union: Implementation of Actions and Position."
(Mr Johnston) If one looks at the Part III provisions
which cover this, which is Article III 201, it replicates in a
sense the structure of Part I in that paragraph 1 says, "The
European decisions referred to in this chapter", i.e. the
CFSP including ESDP, shall be done unanimously. Then in paragraph
2, as Mr Witney says, a certain number of derogations are set
out. In paragraph 3 the derogation is set out which is essentially
the passerelle clause referred to in Part I in Article 39.8, i.e.
that the European Council may decide unanimously that the Council
of Ministers will decide on an issue by qualified majority. Paragraph
4 clearly states that paragraphs 2 and 3 do not apply in the field
of ESDP. So we take that to mean that the passerelle clause does
not apply to ESDP.
38. Could I suggest with regard to your difficulty
in answering Lady Park's questions, you should write to the Committee,
or rather get legal advice which you understandably do not have,
so the Committee can be acquainted with what the Department's
current view is on the questions Lady Park was asking? I think
that would be helpful.
(Mr Witney) Thank you, Chairman. We are very glad
to do that.
39. I think we will bring this to a close now because
we have to consider other things in private; the Committee will
be reverting to a private session. Can I say to you, Mr Witney,
as a fellow escapee from the Common Agricultural Policy, that
we are very grateful to you and your colleagues for coming. I
think you have certainly enlightened us most helpfully. Thank
(Mr Witney) Thank you, Chairman.
Supplementary Memorandum from Sharon Wroe,
HCDC, Liaison Officer, Ministry of Defence
When Mr Witney and colleagues appeared before your
Committee on 9 October, they agreed to provide a written response
to your question whether "Article III-201(4) is sufficient
to ensure that CFSP decisions with defence implications cannot
under any circumstances be decided by QMV".
Article I-39(7) sets out that European decisions
relating to CFSP shall be adopted unanimously except as set out
in Part III. The only specific provision with defence implications
in Part III which requires QMV is III-212(2): the decision on
the Defence Agency's statute, seat and operational rules. In practice
the Agency is likely to be established, by unanimity, by a Council
decision before the Treaty comes into force. The Government supports
this. I-39(8), the "passerelle" clause, additionally
provides for a future European Council decision taken by unanimity
to authorise the Council of Ministers to take decisions by QMV,
including in CFSP.
The detailed provision for CFSP are set out in Part
III. III-201(1) sets out the general rule established in I-39(7),
adding provision, as in the current Treaty, for constructive abstention.
III-201(2) and (3) specify the limited areas where the general
unanimity rule does not apply. In particular III-210(3) merely
repeats I-39(8), the "passerelle" clause. III-201(4)
makes clear however that the exceptions in the previous two clauses
do not apply to decisions having military or defence implications.
In other words such decisions are by unanimity.
The Committee will accept that the draft Treaty itself
is subject to change, both substantively in the IGC, and through
a process of legal toilettage to clarify ambiguities or inconsistencies,
as well as to ensure that the various translations of the Treaty
properly match. Equally our legal advisers' work on the draft
Treaty and its implications continues.