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Washington Conference of the WEU Transatlantic Foru

Washington Conference of the WEU Transatlantic Forum

Address by Mr. José Cutileiro, WEU Secretary General, 2 March 1999. Source: WEU, Paris.




Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me begin by paying tribute to Hans Haekkerup and his team in Copenhagen and Brussels who have put so much effort into organising an impressive series of events during their Transatlantic Forum Presidency. The range of countries here represented at Ministerial level is just recognition of your work.

The Washington Conference itself takes place at a defining moment in transatlantic security relations: we are a few days away from the first post Cold War enlargement of NATO; we are little more than a month away from the NATO Summit meeting here in Washington; and we are faced with new peace keeping challenges in the Balkans. Each of these events is obliging us to take a fresh look at North American-European security relations. This is reinforced by broader developments on both sides of the Atlantic. Let me just cite two on the European side: first, the introduction of a single currency and second, the impending entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, with its objective to strengthen the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Moreover Europeans have now engaged in a new debate over their own role in defence and security. This is the context in which our conference is taking place. Let me confine my introductory remarks to two issues: first the importance of further developing the European security and defence identity at the NATO Summit; and second the impact of the European defence debate on transatlantic relations.

NATO and WEU have already achieved much of the European security and defence identity agenda set out at the Berlin and Brussels NATO Ministerial meetings in 1996. NATO has agreed the ESDI responsibilities of Deputy SACEUR and has developed European command arrangements as part of its restructuring. WEU-NATO consultation arrangements have been set up to allow the two Organizations to work together from the earliest moments of a crisis and establish whether and how Europeans should take on a distinct role. WEU is now exploiting the NATO defence planning process to test Europeans' capacity for crisis management and to identify shortfalls. NATO and WEU military staffs are working closely together to dovetail our military planning processes. We are also negotiating a framework agreement on all the practical questions needing solution when WEU uses NATO assets and capabilities. It is important that we complete this work - particularly the framework agreement - by the time of the Washington Summit and then use the Summit to agree guidelines for developing ESDI further. The WEU-NATO joint crisis management exercise in the year 2000 will be the opportunity to test what we have achieved and to identify what we can do to improve our cooperation.


The renewed European defence debate launched by President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair last year was born out of a realisation that Europe should do better in confronting crisis situations. Three sets of issues quickly emerged from this debate: How can Europeans mobilize a common political will to tackle a crisis situation? How can Europeans enhance their defence capabilities to meet the new security challenges? And how can European decision-making and institutions be streamlined? Just as quickly, the United States Secretary of State analysed the implications for the transatlantic alliance and identified three potential dangers to be avoided : strategic decoupling ; duplication of force structures ; and discrimination among interested European states.

Two of these three concerns have been addressed by Europeans from the outset. All key statements reaffirm NATO's role in the collective defence of its members and decisions over Kosovo demonstrate that when American and European strategic interests are shared, NATO is the crisis management instrument of first choice. When European-led operations are launched, the use of NATO assets and capabilities will often be the preferred, if not the only, choice for carrying them out and the need to safeguard the NATO-WEU arrangements giving access to them will be an interest of all Europeans.

This leads me to the third concern of avoiding discrimination between European States. In WEU, we have achieved a workable arrangement where all EU member States and all European NATO members participate broadly on an equal footing in WEU crisis management activities and where those Central European countries with the perspective of EU membership also participate.

Any EU-based new institutional arrangements must take into account the other European NATO countries quite simply because these countries will have to give their agreement to the use of NATO assets and capabilities by Europeans.

These are sensitive questions but I hope they can be grasped as an opportunity to develop an inclusive approach to European defence, which keeps the attention on the things that unite a very wide community of Europeans in this field rather than letting institutional barriers divide them.


Avoiding these pitfalls is important, but succeeding in that and tinkering with institutions will still not make us do more operations or do them better. The key issues here are the Europeans' common political will, their readiness to act in a more collective fashion and their willingness to pay what they have to pay for a good defence. If Europe can meet these challenges, it will be an achievement of historic proportions and, in my view, a happy day for the trans-Atlantic relationship as well.


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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).