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The organisation of operational links between NATO, WEU and the EU

WEU Assembly

Document 1624 9 November 1998

The organisation of operational links between NATO, WEU and the EU

REPORT[1] submitted on behalf of the Defence Committee[2] by Mr De Decker, Chairman and Rapporteur



on the organisation of operational links between NATO, WEU and the EU

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM submitted by Mr De Decker, Chairman and Rapporteur

I. Introduction

II. The European Security and Defence Identity in the Atlantic Alliance

III. Cooperation between WEU and NATO and the CJTF concept

IV. Multinational forces and their relations with NATO and WEU

V. A European security and defence policy

VI. The EU, WEU and NATO in the European Security and Defence Identity

VII. Conclusions

Draft Recommendation

on the organisation of operational links between NATO, WEU and the EU

The Assembly,

(i) Noting that WEU today is a fully operational crisis-management organisation equipped with a Planning Cell, a Situation Centre, a Satellite Centre, a Military Committee and forces answerable to WEU upon which it can call independently of the assets and capabilities NATO may make available to it on a case-by case basis;

(ii) Welcoming the impressive progress which has been made in cooperation between NATO and WEU since NATO's 1996 Berlin summit and its Madrid Declaration on Euro-Atlantic Security and Cooperation of July 1997;

(iii) Noting, however, that the European Union has not yet given substance to its common foreign and security policy (CFSP) for which the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties make provision;

(iv) Noting also that the EU has not yet endeavoured to define, in conjunction with WEU, the strategic ambitions and goals for its foreign, security and defence policy which should be the basis for an effective European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI);

(v) Pointing out that with the imminent enlargement of the EU, development of the ESDI should take account of the foreign policy, security and defence interests of the aspirant states which should therefore be closely involved in this process even if they do not yet meet the criteria for economic integration;

(vi) Considering that in the light of the above, the Council should consider elaborating at 28 an updated version of its 1995 document "European security: a common concept of the 27 WEU countries" which could constitute the security and defence part of a European "strategic concept";

(vii) Considering that without a clear definition of such a policy, the European defence industry, which urgently needs to be restructured, will have difficulty in taking strategic decisions on the military programmes it should develop for the future;

(viii) Considering also that cooperation and restructuring in the field of armaments procurement should contribute to the establishment of common foundations for a genuine European armaments policy, guaranteeing Europe's strategic independence;

(ix) Aware that the United States considers a stronger ESDI as a means of addressing its concern over insufficient burden-sharing on the part of its European allies, while at the same time confirming that European and US security interests must remain linked;

(x) Hoping that the current development of the ESDI within NATO will also serve as the basis for a step-by-step process of rapprochement between France and NATO's military structure;

(xi) Emphasising that the European NATO members should seize the opportunity to give sufficient military substance to the ESDI by generating the increased European capabilities needed for force projection and sustainability;

(xii) Aware that if its European allies fail to meet this challenge, the United States will again shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility whereas the interests and policies of Europe and the United States will not always coincide;

(xiii) Recalling that for the United States, the development of an enhanced capability for the European members of the Alliance to undertake security missions on their own, where appropriate, is essential for sustaining American support for the Alliance as a whole;

(xiv) Considering in general that if WEU is to be an "integral part of the development of the Union" as provided for in Article J.7.1 of the Amsterdam Treaty, a great deal of work to bring the two organisations closer together needs to be done as quickly as possible;

(xv) Considering that the conclusion of a security agreement between the EU and WEU is essential for effective cooperation between the EU, WEU and NATO;

(xvi) Considering that, with a view to WEU working effectively to the advantage of the EU's common foreign and security policy, the WEU Secretary-General should be invited to attend meetings of the EU Council of Ministers and of the European Commission that deal with CFSP matters;

(xvii) Considering that application in the EU of the principle of constructive abstention in foreign and security policy issues, whereby a majority is able to take action if a minority is unwilling or unable to participate in that action, is essential for a rapid and decisive response in the event of crises or potential conflict situations;

(xviii) Emphasising that the new possibilities offered to WEU as a result of its cooperation with NATO should not lead WEU to deny its specifically European purpose and abandon the idea of taking action using its own assets;

(xix) Regretting that in spite of the existing European decision-making procedures and military operational capabilities, the EU-WEU tandem has still not been able to agree on decisive common positions and joint actions in demanding crisis situations requiring operations of a larger scale which are still within the remit of these organisations;

(xx) Convinced that the EU's position as an economic superpower makes it necessary to develop a credible common foreign and security policy in order to defend its vital interests and carry out peace-support and humanitarian operations, knowing that it will not always be able to count on the United States and may have to act alone;

(xxi) Emphasising that the important roles of Russia and Ukraine in the European security equation require special attention in the development of the ESDI, bearing in mind that in the long run solutions should be found which allow for their integration as free and democratic countries into European structures;

(xxii) Considering that the combination of the EU and WEU can provide an effective tool for crisis management in view of the fact that joint action by both organisations integrates diplomatic, political, economic and military instruments in a genuinely multi-dimensional and highly flexible strategy;

(xxiii) Stressing that purely and simply integrating WEU in the EU will not be possible for as long as certain EU member countries refuse to contemplate a common defence policy for the European Union;

(xxiv) Wondering whether the current development of the ESDI with its increasing dependence on NATO will produce a fair balance between the undeniable force of NATO and a credible European involvement, and whether it will indeed give Europe the role to which it aspires;

(xxv) Welcoming the formation of multinational forces since they not only allow for the pooling of national funds, reducing the financial burden on each individual nation, but also bring together different countries in political solidarity, helping to overcome individual reservations and dividing the political risk among them;

(xxvi) Noting that in this context WEU member countries should work together to set up a WEU multinational strategic airlift force and to strengthen the European intelligence and communication satellite programme;

(xxvii) Recalling that, unlike NATO and the EU, WEU has offered central European countries the highest possible degree of integration short of membership, enabling them to participate in discussions on security and defence issues on an equal footing;

(xxviii) Stressing that flexibility and tolerance are needed for the development of an ESDI in order to allow the different categories of non-member or non-aligned countries to become part of the new structures through a step-by-step process;

(xxix) Recalling that Europe cannot overlook the importance of the civilian component that is necessary in any military intervention,


1. Give fresh political impetus to rapprochement between the bodies of WEU and the European Union respectively;

2. Suggest to the EU Council of Ministers that the WEU Secretary-General be invited to attend its meetings and those of the European Commission that deal with matters concerning the common foreign and security policy (CFSP);

3. Speed up its reflection on implementation of the principle of constructive abstention in WEU and the EU;

4. Conclude a security agreement between WEU and the EU at the earliest possible opportunity in order to facilitate the flow of classified information between the two organisations, thus rendering their cooperation more effective;

5. Allow the Planning Cell to engage in more detailed contingency planning as regards possible crises which may constitute a threat to peace and security, and keep both the WEU Permanent Council and the EU Council of Ministers informed of its work in this respect;

6. Promote enhanced cooperation between WEU and the EU and between WEU and NATO as regards planning, logistics and intelligence, drawing in the first instance on informal structures for the analysis of specific crisis situations;

7. Ensure that NATO's new strategic concept, to be adopted at the Washington Summit in April 1999, will leave ample room for Europeans to take military action in the framework of the ESDI;

8. Cooperate closely with NATO in drafting a suitable definition of the new tasks of the European Deputy SACEUR, to be adopted by NATO, which will enable him to perform his task as a key figure in the ESDI, being in charge of CJTF and acting as the operations commander of WEU missions using NATO assets;

9. Intensify efforts, together with the European Union, on the elaboration of a common European strategic concept including Europe's common values and strategic interests and integrating all instruments at the disposal of its common foreign, security and defence policy, while making the fullest possible use of WEU's unique position as an organisation in which not only the full members of the EU but also the aspirant EU members and the European NATO members which are not EU members, discuss security and defence issues on an equal footing;

10. Intensify the dialogue with both the Russian Federation, which is bound to remain a major factor in the European security equation as was demonstrated in the recent crises in former Yugoslavia, and also with Ukraine;

11. Promote, through the pooling of national funds, the establishment of a WEU multinational strategic airlift unit directed by WEU and made available to the member countries;

12. Speed up and strengthen the European intelligence and communication satellite system;

13. Continue its efforts with a view to regrouping on a European scale the armaments industries of the countries participating in WEU.

Explanatory Memorandum

(submitted by Mr De Decker, Chairman and Rapporteur)

I. Introduction

1. After the conclusion of the Treaty of Amsterdam in June 1997 and NATO's Madrid summit in November 1997, the WEU Assembly, wishing to take stock of the new situation, organised a colloquy, with NATO's support, on the European Security and Defence Identity, which was held on 4-6 May 1998 in Madrid.

2. Although both the Madrid and Amsterdam summits and the earlier NATO Council meeting in Berlin apparently established a clear course to be followed for the development of a European Security and Defence Identity, elaboration of the agreed principles will take time and numerous hurdles are still to be overcome.

3. Many questions remain to be answered. Do all the EU member states share the same opinion on the development of an ESDI? Do they have the necessary will to assume their responsibilities? How are they going to overcome the lack of credibility of Europe's security policy which failed to deliver effectively in the crises in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo? What is the state of affairs in relations between WEU, the EU and NATO? Under the present circumstances, the development of an ESDI cannot take place without taking into account the attitude of the United States and those European states that are not members of the European Union.

4. Since the colloquy in Madrid, new developments have taken place in the continuing debate on the ESDI. On 12 May 1998, the Council adopted the Rhodes Declaration and recently the British Prime Minister suggested that European nations should "think more boldly and imaginatively" about defence and be able to "speak and act more effectively"[3]. No specific proposals have been made but apparently the debate on the ESDI has been given a new boost. These developments are taken into account in Chapters VI and VIII of the present report[4].

II. The European Security and Defence Identity in the Atlantic Alliance

5. Mr Perrakis (Secretary-General, European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greece) recalled that the Brussels Declaration stated that:

"the development of a European Security and Defence Identity, reflected in a strengthening of the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance through WEU, will consolidate the integrity and efficacy of the Alliance as a whole, strengthen the transatlantic link and enable the European Allies to shoulder greater responsibilities for their collective security and defence".

He noted that:

"A decade-long debate on whether Europe should acquire its own defence capability, or use that of NATO, was brought to an end in June 1996, when the North Atlantic Council, meeting in Berlin, opted in favour of developing the ESDI within the Alliance. This solution was finally chosen because were WEU to acquire its own capability, separate from that of the Alliance, this would represent an enormous financial burden for Europeans and also weaken the transatlantic link, which was not what the European Allies wanted."

He also stressed that:

"While no one would deny the need to develop the European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance, given that such an identity is directly linked with WEU's operational development, WEU's development as the defence component of the European Union is, for a majority of member states, including Greece, the raison d'être of this Organisation."

6. Mr Grudzinski (Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland) addressed the question of what sort of role "Europe" should play as a unitary actor on the world stage. He ventured that the Amsterdam Treaty did not add any new objectives to the modest vision reflected in the list of rather unexceptional objectives cited in the Maastricht Treaty for the European Union's CFSP. Article J.1.2 mentions the following:

"the safeguarding of common values; strengthening the unity of the Union; preserving peace and stability; promoting international cooperation; and developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms".

7. There was no indication of whether Europe is striving to become a "superpower" with a global range of interests and the political and military capabilities to pursue these worldwide, a regional power with limited instruments for crisis management and peacekeeping in neighbouring regions, or a civil power with no ambition of developing European military capabilities beyond what exists now on a national level within the framework of NATO and WEU.

8. Without well defined strategic ambitions and goals for the foreign policy, security and defence role of the EU and WEU, it would be difficult for European defence companies to make strategic decisions on what sort of military project should be developed.

9. Mr Grudzinski noted that the complex institutional web of NATO-EU-WEU relations had not yet been satisfactorily structured and organised.

10. The imminent enlargement of European institutions was a complicating factor for the development of the ESDI. Should this identity reflect the EU in its current or future composition, or even the whole WEU family? Mr Grudzinski indicated that the process of ESDI's development should be an "instrument of early reaching" to the aspirant countries, involving them in work on the EU's foreign and security policy before they were able to meet the economic criteria of membership.

11. He said that in widening the European "security community", the EU was bound to play a more central role than NATO since, as a "modern" security organisation, it was building cooperation on a high level of interconnectedness, if not interdependence. By its nature, the EU created what he called a "sphere of affluence" which was not threatening, but rather incited others to join.

12. Mr Vershbow (Permanent Representative of the United States to NATO) recalled that President Clinton had embraced the idea of a stronger ESDI as a means of addressing traditional concerns in the United States about insufficient burden-sharing on the part of the European members of the Alliance, provided that it was based on the concept of "separable but not separate" European capabilities. Implicit in this approach was that US and European security interests remained linked. Situations could, however, occur where American interests were less directly engaged and where American capabilities were not essential to the success of low-intensity operations. In such cases, it could make sense to enhance the potential for the European Alliance members to act, using WEU, with the United States in a largely supporting role. The main elements of the ESDI from the NATO perspective were:

  • enhanced responsibilities for the Deputy SACEUR in preparing for and commanding WEU-led missions;
  • more European officers in command positions within the NATO command structure;
  • harmonisation of WEU's and NATO's planning and decision-making procedures so as to facilitate the transfer of NATO assets when there was a political decision to do so;
  • implementation of the CJTF concept, which would both enhance NATO's flexibility for crisis-management operations and serve as the mechanism for WEU-led operations.

13. Mr Vershbow said he hoped that the present development of the ESDI would also serve as the basis for a step-by-step process of rapprochement between France and the NATO military structure. Given France's capabilities, this would make the ESDI within NATO even stronger.

14. The question of how to develop and make use of the ESDI was a central issue in the present review of NATO's strategic concept. Mr Vershbow noted that "while the European members of the Alliance have made a lot of progress in creating additional capabilities for mobility and for force projection over the past decade, there is still some way to go".

15. He argued that from the US point of view, there is still "... a real danger that the European members of the Alliance could fail to seize the opportunity to give sufficient military substance to the ESDI. If the revision of the strategic concept fails to generate the increased European capabilities needed for force projection and for sustainability, then the United States will end up shouldering a disproportionate share of the responsibility, as it does today". This, he said, "would leave the ESDI as something of an empty shell. That would not be good for NATO or for those who sincerely hope to see the ESDI become a reality. For the United States, development of an enhanced capability for the European members of the Alliance to undertake security missions on their own, when this is appropriate, is essential to sustaining American support for the Alliance as a whole."


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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).