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European Security and Defence Policy and the Role of WEU

European Security and Defence Policy and the Role of WEU

Speech by Mr. Roland Wegener, WEU Deputy Secretary-General. Athens, 27 November 1997.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to address this distinguished audience of representatives from the diplomatic and academic communities.

The first Greek Presidency of WEU in the first half of 1998 coincides with the 50th commemorative anniversary of the Brussels Treaty. Anniversaries lend themselves to stock-taking. Looking back over the period since WEU's reactivation after the end of the Cold War three key achievements stand out: WEU's role is today clearly defined; as a politico-military organisation it is institutionally developed and operationally ready.

1997 has in many ways been a defining year for European security: the summits of Amsterdam and Madrid have laid the foundations for the future European security system: they have consolidated WEU's role as an organisation to conduct European-led crisis management operations and as a forum for developing a European Security and Defence Policy.

The concept of a European Security and Defence Identity has meanwhile taken shape in three dimensions: first, a NATO whose structural reform enables Europeans to shoulder more responsibility in security and defence; second, a European Union which through a Common Foreign and Security Policy will be able to react rapidly to events; third, a WEU capable of assuming the politico-military control of Petersberg-type operations.

Almost seven years ago, after the 1991 Maastricht Summit, the WEU Member States defined WEU 's pivotal role as the defence component of the European Union and the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance.

The WEU Declaration of July this year, annexed to the Final Act of the IGC, sets out the future agenda with regard to WEU's relations with the EU and NATO as well as its further operational development. A priority in this agenda is the implementation of key decisions in the Amsterdam Treaty, the future European Council guideline competence for the CFSP in its defence aspects, the inclusion of the Petersberg tasks in the Treaty on European Union as an EU competence; the EU-WEU cooperation in the field of armaments and the full participation of Observer States in EU-requested operations.

Where does WEU stand after the Erfurt ministerial meeting and shortly before the start of the Greek Presidency?

First, in terms of WEU's operational development. Over the last years, WEU has prepared itself for the conduct of Petersberg-type operations, that is humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. Today, the basic elements of a crisis management capability are in place. A Planning Cell, Situation Centre and Satellite Centre operate. The Planning Cell has developed the Forces Answerable to WEU (FAWEU) system, which provides an inventory of military national and multinational units WEU can draw on for the conduct of operations. Politico-military decision making procedures in the event of operations are tested in the framework of the WEU exercise programme. I would like to emphasize the latter point: self-evident though it may seem, exercising procedures is crucial to the strengthening of WEU's operational capability. On a concrete level, exercises allow us to identify shortfalls; on a more psychological level, exercises constitute a means of acquainting the armed forces of nations with WEU and of improving WEU's military credibility.

One of the key tasks in this respect is the implementation of the military committee which will be completed during the Greek Presidency. The aim is to ensure that the military components find their proper place within the overall politico-military structure which characterises the organisation. The military committee will strengthen the role of national military authorities in WEU and prompt them to make even greater efforts to ensure that WEU is capable, when the time comes, to undertake the type of operations it is being prepared for.

Second, WEU's relations with the European Union. Effective crisis management requires Europeans to have at their disposal the full range of options, not only in the politico-diplomatic field- through cooperation in the framework of CFSP- and in the economic field- through the instruments of the European Commission- but also in the military field. The European Union must, through WEU, have access to a politico-military crisis management capability. This is the underlying rationale for the development of close relations between the two organisations.

In the years from Maastricht to Amsterdam good progress has been made in developing WEU-EU cooperation. The duration of Presidencies in both Organisations was harmonised in 1994. Coordinated meetings of working groups were held and meetings synchronised. Closer cooperation took place between the Councils. Cross-participation between the Secretariats was established and the Commission was enabled to participate in WEU meetings which touched on the Commission's responsibilities under the Maastricht Treaty.

The Amsterdam Treaty has developed the WEU-EU relationship further and laid the foundations to guarantee that WEU and the EU will, in the future, be able to operate jointly. Concrete steps to this end have already been taken: the sequence of Presidencies in both organisations has been harmonised. Modalities have been agreed enabling Observers to participate fully in WEU operations in accordance with Article J.7.3 of the Amsterdam Treaty. The WEU Declaration also contained important mandates related to the involvement of the 28 WEU nations in operations. In the future, all WEU operations will be open to the 18- a decisive step to consolidate our format at 18 and to streamline our decision-making progress. The modalities for Associate Partner participation in future operations have equally been clarified.

Over the coming months it will be important to take forward the work on the so-called flow-chart, an illustrative, practical model for linking the decision-making processes of WEU and the EU.

One of the priorities in the short to middle term is the need for closer coordination of the work of the staff of the WEU Secretariat-General with the General Secretariat of the EU, including the exchange and secondment of personnel. This work should take account of the progress in establishing the EU's Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit.

Finally, the Amsterdam Treaty has opened up the longer term perspective of further institutional integration. To the extent that such a development would require new political decisions, this is not a focus of discussions at present. Third, the last six years have seen a rapid development of WEU-NATO relations: joint Council and working group meetings were held regularly; the Secretariat and Planning Cell established close cooperation with the IS, IMS and SHAPE, the civilian and military staffs of NATO.

The real milestone in WEU-NATO relations was the NATO Summit of January 1994: politically, NATO lent its full support to the development of a European Security and Defence Identity and to the strengthening of WEU; operationally, NATO announced its readiness to make available its command structures and communications as well as other assets for WEU operations and endorsed the Concept of Combined Joint Task Forces to provide separable but not separate military forces for use by the WEU. The framework for cooperation between WEU and NATO agreed in Berlin last year ensures that the development of WEU will proceed with the full encouragement and support of our US and Canadian allies. The development of this relationship is the key for WEU to ensure the availability of a wide range of effective capabilities for European led operations. Here also, we have made important progress in fleshing out this framework, by developing a common understanding with NATO on a whole range of ESDI-related issues: for example, WEU's involvement in NATO's defence planning; and on the modalities for coordinated planning and decision making; and on the transfer of NATO assets. During the next months joint work should take place on the modalities for cooperation between WEU and NATO in the field of military planning, on an agreed consultation mechanism and on a framework agreement between WEU and NATO on the general principles governing the transfer, monitoring and return of NATO assets and capabilities.

In the longer-term, cooperation will also be required in the areas of reconnaissance, transport and logistics.

Last but not least, in the year 2000, the first joint WEU/NATO exercise will be held, putting to the test the detailed work done in both organisations since the NATO Summit of January 1994 .

Fourth, beyond the circle of the 28, WEU entertains important relations with third countries. Given Russia's essential role in Europe's security and stability, WEU has developed a relationship based on political dialogue and practical cooperation. We hope that consultations with Russia on cooperation in the field of long-haul air transport will soon bear fruit. WEU's relations with Ukraine, an important European partner of WEU, are also based on political dialogue and practical cooperation which we will seek to intensify further. Looking south, WEU entertains a dialogue with non-Mediterranean countries, in a climate of dialogue, transparency and cooperation. Clearly, this dialogue needs to be fostered and I believe that the Mediterranean countries in WEU are particularly well placed to take this further.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that WEU is now set on the right course: the further strengthening of its relations with the EU and NATO and the enhancement of its operational capabilities with the involvement of all 28 WEU nations.

At the same time, it is important to remember that operations are the reality test for any military organisation. WEU gained valuable practical experience during its operations in former Yugoslavia: the joint WEU/NATO operation 'SHARP GUARD' to monitor the embargo in the Adriatic; the police and customs operation on the Danube to enforce UN sanctions against former Yugoslavia, organised with the cooperation of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania; and the WEU police operation in the context of the EU Administration of Mostar.

At present, WEU is running a small-scale civil police operation in Albanian. The WEU Multinational Police Advisory Team provides training and advice to the Albanian police and has achieved good results in a relatively short time. Its present mandate runs until April next year.

The MAPE operation is the first-ever WEU operation decided at 28 from the outset. It is also the first WEU operation effectively run by the WEU Council, with the support of the Secretariat-General and the Planning Cell. We are now making use for the first time of some of the mechanisms and procedures put in place over the last few years. There are, of course, special adjustments to make given that MAPE is not a military operation.

However, important as they are, operations such as the police assistance mission to Albania do not exactly correspond to the type of operations we have laboured to prepare ourselves for these last few years. Let us be clear: ultimately WEU's credibility will stand or fall on its ability to organise and run a military operation.

Equally, it will always remain a matter of political will for nations to make use of WEU in a particular crisis, provided the military conditions obtain.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me conclude on a less sombre note: on the basis of the relevant WEU and NATO Summit and ministerial decisions, WEU will also continue its work on a common European defence policy. The focus will be on the definition of principles for the use of armed forces; the organisation of operational means for Petersberg tasks; strategic mobility and defence intelligence. Any assessment of the progress Europeans have made towards the goal of a European Security and Defence Policy must take account of the fact that this is a longer-term process since it requires a synthesis of:

  • Political cohesion within the framework of the EU;
  • The strong capabilities organised within the NATO framework; and
  • The effective tools for crisis management within WEU.

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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).