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European Security and Defense Policy

European Security and Defense Policy

Opening Remarks by François Bujon de l'Estang, Ambassador of France, at the CSIS/U.S. Senate, Washington, October 10, 2000. Source: French Embassy, Washington D.C.

I would like to thank Dr. Hamre and Simon Serfaty for this excellent initiative taken by the CSIS.

From St. Malo to today, some apprehension has been expressed on Capitol Hill regarding European security and defense policy. This apprehension has been largely due, I believe, to misconceptions and lack of understanding of our intentions and our objectives. Perhaps terminology has not helped either, with the European predilection for ominous acronyms.

After the excellent presentations of my British and German colleagues, there is little left to add. However, there is only one thing worse than a European conspiracy : a French-inspired European conspiracy. According to a rather popular theory in Washington, ESDP is a dark and dangerous plot organized by France to finally break up the Atlantic Alliance with the unknowing complicity of its blind European partners. Therefore, people are undoubtedly paying close attention to the current French Presidency of the EU. Let me spend a few minutes to shed some light on our plans until December 31, and briefly go over the goals - and achievements - of our current presidency in order to dispel any doubt that might still be lingering in your minds.

1. To quote Lord Robertson, ESDP is about three things : capabilities, capabilities and capabilities. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this assertion, for at least two reasons : first of all, France has always prided itself, on a national level, with a strong commitment to robust defense capabilities, and our present forces are there to show it - it is only natural that we attempt to pursue our European endeavor with the same priority. Second, because capabilities are the key to the success of ESDP, in terms of political credibility of course but also in terms of our military objectives.

Let me tell you what our projects are in terms of capabilities :

As you all know by now, at Helsinki, last December, the fifteen heads of State or Government set themselves two series of targets in terms of military capabilities.

- On the one hand, the quantitative so called "head-line goals" (60,000 troops rapidly deployable, self-sufficient for a whole year with the necessary air and naval support) ;

- On the other hand, qualitative targets regarding collective capabilities in areas such as command and control, intelligence and strategic transport. What we are doing today is to transform these political objectives into concrete goals, in a very detailed manner. In other words, the dozen or so lines in the Helsinki conclusions on capabilities have, thanks to an alchemy performed by EU military planners with input from their NATO colleagues, turned into some 50 pages of specific requirements.

This allows us to match up what we need to what we currently have, and of course measure the gaps, which we will aim to close at the Capabilities Commitment Conference, to be held in Brussels next November 20 by Defense Ministers of the 15. This event will allow each member State to make pledges toward meeting these requirements. We also aim to decide, before the end of our Presidency, on a European review mechanism that will allow us to continue narrowing the gap until 2003, and more generally to review the nature and composition of European military forces.

Just to give you a flavor of this work, which suddenly makes all of these debates very real: the Defense Ministers of the 15 agreed, two weeks ago, that in order to fulfill the Helsinki objectives the EU needed : 80,000 troops in order to allow for a simultaneous contingency and still be able to project 60,000 as agreed (allowing for rotations, this means of course 200,000 to 230,000 troops); 300 to 350 fighter planes; some 80 combat ships... these are just some of the elements in this catalogue of forces that have been agreed. I could also mention strategic lift, UAVs, amphibious landing ships...

I would like to mention in passing that, as you can see, we are not just aiming at operations on the low end of the peace-keeping spectrum as I have sometimes heard. Does this mean that we would be able, in 2003, to carry out an operation such as "Allied Force" entirely by ourselves? Of course not - and it would be dangerous to create such expectations. But the imbalance between U.S. and European forces which we witnessed last year would be substantially reduced – and 2003 will be an important stepping stone on the path to such a capability, which we need to keep as a longer-term goal in order to be prepared for all non-article 5 contingencies.

3. I often hear people complaining about the fact that the EU is not working to improve its capabilities, but just creating new institutions. This is inaccurate on both counts: as I have just pointed out, we are actively working on reinforcing our capabilities. As for institutions, I would agree with Sir Christopher that we are re-organizing, not multiplying European institutions. As we have reiterated at the last European Councils, our goal is to "develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises". The capacity to take decisions and to conduct EU-led military operations requires the adequate political-military decision-making structures, procedures and expertise. During our Presidency, we are working hard in order to allow these new EU structures (the Political and Security Committee, the Military Committee and the Military Staff) to get up and running in their permanent configuration, taking over from their interim one. These bodies are analogous to those that existed in the past in the WEU, and which will be disbanded.

I might add that those new institutions that are being created are those which fulfill the objective of allowing consultation and cooperation with NATO and with non-EU countries, two goals that I know are very dear to many of those here today, as they are indeed to us. Under our Presidency, we have already held a joint meeting between the North Atlantic Council and the Interim Political and Security Committee (and there will be more to come), as well as several meetings of the newly set up joint working groups between the EU and NATO. These are needed to address, in a pragmatic and solution-oriented way, the issues that the two organizations need to work out together (access to NATO assets, information security, etc.) and to work out the elements of the long-term EU-NATO relationship. We have also set up an inclusive forum for the 15 European non-EU partners and, within this forum, for the 6 non-EU NATO allies. Several meetings have also already been held in the two months that have gone by since we took up our presidency. These countries will, of course, be closely associated to the November Capabilities Commitment Conference.

One final word : after having gone into such detail into our current projects, just to give you a taste of how complex this whole endeavor is and how seriously we are taking our task, I wouldn't want the trees to hide the forest.

The crucial element to bear in mind is that we are at a turning point in the history of the European Union, of the Atlantic Alliance and of transatlantic relations. There is much at stake, both for the future of the EU's foreign and security policy, and therefore for our ability as Europeans to play our role on the world stage, and for the transatlantic link as well. We have taken the full measure of what is at stake and are pleased to see that quarreling and suspicion have given largely given way, on this side of the Atlantic, to a better understanding of our common interests and our shared objective.


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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).