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Canada Cautions Europe On Autonomous Security Initiative


Canada Cautions Europe On Autonomous Security Initiative

Speech by The Honourable Art Eggleton, Canada's Minister of National Defence to the WEU Parliamentary Assembly and the Interim European Security and Defence Assembly, Paris, France, December 7, 2000. Source: Department of National Defence, Ottawa, Canada, December 11, 2000.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to such distinguished parliamentarians. As the Western European Union turns an important page in its history, I also feel very privileged to share with you, Canada's view on the future of European security and defence.

Over the past decade, there have been far-reaching developments in European security. No longer is there a divided Europe; no longer the great confrontation between East and West. The security concerns of the Cold War that weighed so heavily on our shoulders -- individually as nations and collectively as allies -- have all but disappeared. We are now entering the second decade of the post-Cold War era.

And we have, during this period, witnessed some profound changes in European security. Some of it disturbing -- as the turmoil in the Balkans and other regions of the European continent have shown us. Some of it very progressive and welcome -- as the movement towards a greater European responsibility in crisis management.

Virtually all of us have had to review our defence policies, to take account of a very different security environment -- an environment blessed with big pluses after the Cold War, and some disturbing minuses. Canada was no exception in this regard. We began to wrestle with the implications of this new world in the early 1990s. The result was a White Paper on defence in 1994.

It has since serve our country well in steering us through unpredictable times. Times when our armed forces have been called upon for peacekeeping and peace enforcement duty. Times of constant operational involvement in European security issues -- largely in the Balkans.

We determined that:

  • Canada's vital interests would be best served through continued participation in multi-lateral efforts to restore and strengthen global security;
  • This required the maintenance of multi-purpose, combat-capable armed forces; and
  • Such a force should focus on developing capabilities to meet a wide variety of security challenges.

We also determined that the stability of Europe is, and will remain, a central concern for Canada. The reasons for our involvement in European defence may evolve - as they have done over time. But the heart of our policy is a constant - validated by experience. Namely, that Canada's vital interests are best served by a peaceful and stable international system. A system based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

It is no coincidence that these principles and objectives form the basis of the NATO Alliance, as set out in the North Atlantic Treaty.

The experience of the past decade has demonstrated that the elimination of an immediate military threat to Western Europe has not diminished the importance of NATO. NATO remains the primary body for consultations and coordination of policy on issues affecting the North Atlantic community of nations. It embodies the transatlantic link, which is essential to our collective security and defence.

But we are not talking about the NATO of the Cold War. We are talking about the new NATO. A NATO with a substantial and enduring role to play in the Euro-Atlantic region. A NATO that can promote the values enshrined in the Treaty, and thus contribute to greater stability and security across the European continent.

  • By opening its doors to new members;
  • by fostering consultation and cooperation with other European states through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace;
  • by establishing a privileged dialogue on security issues with Russia and Ukraine - NATO has taken great strides forward in demonstrating its relevance in the post-Cold War world.
  • By promoting limitations on conventional military forces through the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe;
  • tackling the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • by offering a new dialogue with Mediterranean countries -- NATO is a key actor in enhancing regional stability well beyond the territories of its member states.

And NATO can act -- effectively and decisively.

  • With the deployment in 1995 of the NATO-led Implementation Force in Bosnia, the Alliance entered a new phase of its existence. IFOR was a real-life multinational military force, under NATO command, to help bring about long-lasting peace by providing all parties with a secure environment.

The Kosovo campaign and the deployment of KFOR demonstrated once again Allies' preparedness to employ military force to achieve political aims of peace, justice and the rule of law.

Canada has been actively involved in every one of the Alliance's military missions from IFOR onwards. From IFOR to SFOR to KFOR, Canada has been there on the ground. And in the air. We flew a significant number of air missions during the Kosovo air campaign.

To Canada, NATO is therefore much more than "just a military alliance."

Accordingly, we have strongly backed every stage of NATO's post-Cold War adaptation and reform. Today, one can say truthfully that we have an Alliance that exhibits the characteristics of a regional security body with interests and influence well throughout the trans-Atlantic region.

These are developments which have a particular interest for Canada and which we have welcomed and supported. And we certainly want this to remain so.

Which brings me to the specific issue of the European Security and Defence Policy. Canada's position in this debate is in many ways unique. We are not a super-power. We possess neither the capability nor the intention of operating alone on the international stage. Nor are we a member of the European Union. But that does not mean that we are indifferent to the efforts to create a European Security and Defence Identity. Or that we wish to sit idly on the sidelines in the event of European operations. Indeed, our record to date speaks for itself.

Canada has taken part in numerous overseas missions with EU member states -- occasionally ones where the United States was not involved. For example, at the very beginning of the Yugoslav crisis, Canada was involved in the European Community Monitoring Mission, while the US was not.

Canada also made a significant contribution to the UN Protection Force, which included providing UNPROFOR's deputy commander. It is therefore by no means a hypothetical possibility that Canada would see its interests served through participation in an EU-led operation.

We are confident that, given our experience of working together both in NATO and elsewhere, EU-member states would find it in their interest to have Canada along.

Let me put it in a nutshell. Our commitment to European security is as strong as ever. It is a commitment of interest and of deeds.

Through two world wars, throughout the Cold War, in peacekeeping and in peace enforcement -- Canada is part of European security. Our history as a nation has been stamped indelibly by this commitment, and by the sacrifices it demanded -- and took -- of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. Over 100,000 of our soldiers are buried today on European soil. They are eternal symbols for Canada.

For anyone who may think that Canada has "gone home" after such endeavour, -- my riposte is this: we have never left! Canada's link to Europe on defence and security is provided by the North Atlantic Alliance.

We would therefore have serious difficulties with anything that weakened NATO's current consultative practices and consensus-based decision-making. That is to say - anything that would weaken a full partnership - such as an EU caucus within NATO. From Canada's point of view, exclusion or marginalization is not an option for the Alliance of today or the future. Nor is polarization. For a polarization between the US and the EU on security and defence issues, would leave Canada caught in the middle.

A further concern is essentially that parallel EU capabilities and structures might undermine or hamper the role of NATO as the principal forum for North Atlantic security. Or impede the ability of the Alliance to carry out its tasks effectively. But such possible duplication between the EU and NATO has other aspects to it.

All Allies are aware that each of our countries maintains only one set of forces and operates from one defence budget. Some of those budgets may have experienced modest increases recently. But they are unlikely to reach levels that would permit even a modest duplication of capabilities without, at the same time, affecting the Alliance. This too could have serious negative consequences for the transatlantic link.

The perception that European Allies were funding the establishment of parallel structures would raise many eyebrows among skeptical parliaments and publics.

How could North American governments explain and justify their own NATO expenditures and projects, in light of apparent deliberate duplication?

A second area of concern for Canada relates to the transfer of NATO common-funded assets and capabilities to the EU.

Among those assets are units such as the Airborne Warning and Control System or AWACS. The AWACS includes a sizable Canadian component. We are the third largest contributor to the system.

It would be politically unacceptable to Canada to have Canadian Forces personnel transferred to EU command without oversight by the North Atlantic Council of the role and manner of deployment of those forces.

A third area of concern is the arrangements for possible Canadian participation in EU-led operations.

While the EU has welcomed the possibility of Canadian participation, we have yet to come to agreement on the modalities for that participation.

For Canada, we believe that we should be able to participate -- if we so choose -- in EU-led missions that use NATO assets and capabilities. However, a central issue will be to ensure that we have adequate access to decision-making on matters affecting the deployment of Canadian Forces in any EU-led operations.

As you know, the non-EU European Allies are also discussing with the EU, the question of their participation in EU-led missions.

But Canada's situation is unique. We are not an EU member. We are not European. However, we do have a long history of commitment to European security - both prior to NATO and within NATO. And we do have significant capabilities and experience in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations.

This should not be under-estimated. So, what should we do about these concerns?

I believe that by working together in a cooperative, transparent and mutually supportive manner, we -- Canada and our EU friends and Allies -- can find solutions satisfactory to all concerned. Let me set out some ideas on how this can be done.

First, notable progress has been made over the past year in setting force goals and capability requirements for possible EU-led crisis management and peacekeeping operations where NATO as a whole is not involved.

NATO's readiness to support this new departure by providing assured EU access to Alliance assets and capabilities has, I believe, helped in fostering progress in the development of a European Security and Defence Policy.

Canada has strongly supported such progress in the strengthening of EU capabilities. We have long welcomed our European Allies' desire to assume a larger role in defence. And we continue to do so. But it is a political support that is reinforced with practical considerations.

If NATO is to provide assured EU access to Alliance assets and capabilities, then surely it makes sense that we -- NATO and EU members alike -- seek to increase flexibility and interoperability among our armed forces.

Let us be realistic. The vast majority of NATO and the EU's capability requirements for crisis management are identical. If we are to share such capabilities, let us ensure that they are utilized effectively, efficiently, and in a manner that is, above all, militarily sound. We must enhance the ability of all Allied forces to operate together. It would strengthen NATO and the European Union, as the EU strives to give substance to its Common Security and Defence Policy. It would also, more than anything else, strengthen the transatlantic link.

We already have initiatives that can serve as the vehicles for promoting such interoperability and flexibility.

NATO has the Defence Capabilities Initiative, launched at the Washington Summit. And the EU has the Headline Goals of the Helsinki Summit. It is imperative that these two initiatives complement one another. Not only does it make sense politically, there is also a practical aspect.

Anything less could result in a new EU defence and security mechanism without the military capabilities to make it effective.

Looking to the future challenges of crisis management, we have even more reason to work closely together. If the so-called revolution in military affairs is to be harnessed and directed to our mutual advantage, then no Ally can afford to try going it alone.

That is why I am convinced that a joint defence planning and review arrangement would go a long way in fostering transparency and confidence, reducing duplication to a minimum, and ensuring the smooth conduct of EU-led operations.

Regular contact would develop the habit of consultation and co-operation. Joint NATO-EU planning could provide a process that would meet some, if not all, of the concerns that I have expressed about the possible impact of parallel structures. A joint planning process would also enhance the capabilities available to both NATO and the EU, and would facilitate the capacity of non-EU Allies -- including Canada -- to participate in European-led missions.

A continuing and transparent dialogue is key to its success. In short, the way forward lies in the closest possible collaboration in defence planning between the two organizations -- NATO and the EU.

Recently, US Secretary of Defense Cohen proposed a European Security and Defence Planning System. Such a system, while respecting the autonomy of each organization, would allow for a combined and fully reciprocal NATO-EU defence planning process involving all 23 NATO and EU members. We strongly support this approach, and I commend it to this audience for review and considered reflection.

Let me conclude. As I noted at the outset of my address, the decade of the '90s was a period of reflection and reassessment for defence policy.

As a new century opens, that reflection is bearing fruit on both sides of the Atlantic. It is bearing fruit in the form of plans and programs for a more coherent, flexible and effectively equipped armed forces.

Armed forces capable not only of fulfilling traditional defence tasks, but also of protecting and advancing the values -- peace, stability, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law -- which all our countries share.

Canada's security and defence policy has consistently sought to find the best and most effective ways of contributing to these objectives.

That is what we have done in our participation in European security in the past. And that is what we want to do in our participation in European security in the future. In this regard, we count upon your support.



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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).