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Javier Solana Addresses the European Parliament

Javier Solana Addresses the European Parliament

Appearance of Dr Javier Solana, Secretary-General and High Representative for the CFSP, before the European Parliament (Plenary). Strasbourg, 17 November 1999. Source: EU Council.

Madam President,

Honourable Members,

First of all, I should like to express my gratitude for this opportunity to address this session of the Parliament in my new role as Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative of the Union for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. I recently had the opportunity to set out in some detail before the Foreign Affairs Committee where I see my priorities. I found our exchange of views very useful. I hope that those Members here today who participated in that meeting did so too.

I recognise that my new role will involve me in issues which are of interest to many of you, and which go beyond the scope of one individual Committee. This is why I attach particular importance to this opportunity to address the Parliament at its plenary session. I fully intend to work closely with all of you, and to keep you informed about any important policy issue. I therefore reiterate, Madam President, my firm intention to appear before the plenary session as often as necessary.

My mandate as High Representative is to assist the Presidency and the Member States in developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy. As I said to the Foreign Affairs Committee on 25 October, this will be my main priority. I shall maintain particularly close cooperation with the Commission. President Prodi, Chris Patten and myself are committed to working together. I count on the support of the Member States and am certain of Parliament's support as well.

It is of course important that I keep you informed about what I am doing and the initiatives I take. Equally necessary is for me to hear your opinions and views. The people expect us to react swiftly and effectively in the event of a crisis, and rightly expect their concerns to be taken into account. As democratically elected representatives, you have a key role to play in reflecting these views and in contributing to the development of a common foreign and security policy, which is more effective, more coherent and closer to the concerns of citizens and which reflects the values and principles which have forged our identity as Europeans.

It is essential that Europe's foreign policy is based on those values and universal principles. A key element of this must be the promotion and protection of human rights anywhere in the world. And respect for international law and conventions, especially humanitarian ones, which have so frequently and blatantly been abused in the past.

I should like this morning, Madam President, to concentrate on two issues. Firstly, I should like to update the Parliament on some of the main issues on which I have concentrated since taking up office almost exactly a month ago.

Secondly, I will address one of my main priorities: the development of a European Security and Defence Policy. I shall assess the progress which has been made so far, and look at the prospects for the future.

One of my first engagements after taking up my new post was to attend, together with Romano Prodi and Prime Minister Lipponen, the Summit with Russia on 22 October. I have already reported to the Foreign Affairs Committee on the points which were covered, particularly the situation in Chechnya, which remains a source of deep concern.

Last Monday's Council meeting condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in Chechnya, which has caused great suffering to the civilian population and forced tens of thousands of people to flee to other parts of the country. I have urged the Russian Government to respect its obligation under international humanitarian law to avoid civilian victims and to keep the frontier between Chechnya and Ingushetia open. We must continue to put maximum political pressure on the Russian authorities. They must seek a negotiated agreement through dialogue, as there can be no military solution in Chechnya. The only solution can be a political one.

I have put all these points to Minister Ivanov in the course of our talks over the last few days.

Madam President, another area of particular importance to me is South-East Europe. On 28/29 October I paid a joint visit with Chris Patten to Kosovo. This provided us with the opportunity to meet with Kosovo political leaders (from both communities), as well as representatives of UNMIK and KFOR. We stressed the Union's commitment to the reconstruction of Kosovo, and to the establishment of a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo. We urged local political leaders to support this process by demonstrating strong leadership. I stressed the importance of all moderate leaders speaking out and taking responsibility if the reconciliation process is to have any chance of success.

At the Council meeting the day before yesterday I was mandated by the Member States to assess the situation of the Serbian democratic opposition. From tomorrow, taking advantage of the OSCE Summit in Istanbul, I shall begin work in earnest on this.

I shall of course be paying close attention to the Western Balkans as a whole. I am working with the Union's Special Representative Bodo Hombach, Romano Prodi and Chris Patten to improve the coherence and effectiveness of our action in the region. I hope to be able to report in more detail on this issue on a later occasion. Another of the Union's priorities is the Middle East Peace Process. At the beginning of November, I attended the Commemoration Ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin in Oslo, and had the opportunity for talks, amongst others, with Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat. There is now clearly a commitment by both sides to negotiate in earnest for a comprehensive agreement which should be reached by the February deadline. I have made it clear that the Union obviously stands ready to offer whatever help and expertise is required to achieve this objective. In any case, I have instructed the Union's Special Envoy, Miguel Angel Moratinos, to maintain close contacts with the negotiating teams and to keep me informed of progress made in the talks.

Since taking office I have also participated with the Presidency of the Council and Chris Patten in a Troika meeting with Algeria, the first for over a year. We assessed the state of bilateral talks, and agreed to make further progress in negotiations on the Association Agreement. Our request concerning human rights issues met with an encouraging response, with confirmation that invitations had been extended to human rights NGOs to visit Algeria. We also appealed to Algeria to take advantage of the current period to improve relations substantially between all the countries of the Maghreb.

Algeria is of course in an important position in currently holding the Chairmanship of the OAU. It will also have a key role to play in working with us in the run-up to the Africa Summit which will take place in Egypt in April next year. I attach considerable importance to this meeting, which will be a valuable opportunity to reinforce relations between Europe and Africa. At present Africa is a forgotten continent which Europe cannot ignore.

Madam President, this week I have had many other useful meetings with, for example, the Presidents of Colombia and Latvia and Mr Kasoulides, Foreign Minister of Cyprus. This afternoon I am leaving for Istanbul for the OSCE summit. I have already referred to the issue of Chechnya, which will unfortunately dominate this summit. We shall continue to put pressure on the Russians to reduce the intensity of the conflict and attempt to achieve a peaceful solution. We shall also try in particular to ensure that they undertake to observe fully the obligations incumbent upon them under both the OSCE Treaty itself and the current Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. I hope the summit itself will be an important opportunity to strengthen the role of this organisation. The adoption of the Charter on European Security will in particular enhance the authority of the OSCE and be a valuable complement to the development of the Union's security policy.

There are many other issues which I do not have the time to address here today. I am ready to respond afterwards to any questions which Members of this Parliament might have on these or other issues.

Madam President, I should now like to turn to the issue of Security and Defence. On Monday, the General Affairs Council, with the additional participation of Defence Ministers at a meeting which may be described as historical, held an important discussion on the formulation of a European Security and Defence Policy. Its purpose was to prepare for decisions to be taken on this issue at the European Council in Helsinki.

It has been clear for some time that if Europe is to take its rightful place on the world stage it needs to have a European Security and Defence Policy, as well as a Common Foreign and Security Policy. First the Bosnia crisis and then Kosovo have made it clear that we need more than just declarations of intent. We need to be able to act. And that means having military capabilities. Deciding on what those should be, how they should be achieved, and how the Union should decide on their use, will be one of the key tasks at Helsinki.

Much preparatory work has already been done. The milestones on the way have included Berlin, St Malo, Washington and Cologne.

Cologne was not a final destination but a starting point, and I am sure that Helsinki will be a new, very important, step in this process.

We have been moving steadily towards a momentous goal. Over time the discussion of European defence has grown less abstract and more specific. The moment is fast approaching when we have to take a further decisive step and give practical effect to our commitments.

On Monday, Ministers made it clear that they had the political will to decide at Helsinki on what Europe’s collective military capacity for Petersberg tasks should be. Judging by the discussion, I expect the European Council to set a specific and concrete goal.

This is likely to be challenging, requiring Member States to look hard at priorities and to take some decisions on resource allocation. A reassessment of priorities, pooling of resources and multinational task-sharing will be necessary.

The discussion on Monday also showed that Ministers want the Union to be well equipped to evaluate crises and to have clear procedures for decision-taking in the event of having to take action. This is essential.

At the same time we need to take into account the contributions and interests of our non-EU allies. This means arrangements that allow them to express their views as we evaluate a crisis and mechanisms that involve them fully in operational decisions if we invite them to join us.

It is clear that what a single country can contribute is merely a piece of the puzzle. International peace can come about only through the effort of the international community and, more specifically, its leading actors.

We need to take all these steps for the sake of credibility.

Firstly, credibility in the eyes of the public. We shall not be credible if we simply improve our institutional and bureaucratic mechanisms. If the public are to support a European Security and Defence Policy, they need to be convinced that we are willing and able to equip ourselves properly.

Secondly, credibility with our transatlantic partners and non-EU NATO allies. If we are to expect them to take us seriously, we have to demonstrate that that is what we are. That means significantly enhancing our military capabilities. If we are serious, our allies will be more inclined to make their assets available to us.

Thirdly, credibility at international level. In crises when perhaps it is not our survival but our moral stature which is at stake, we have to demonstrate that we have the capacity to respond.

I believe that our civilisation, our way of life, our freedoms and our well-being can be defended much more effectively jointly than by each country alone.

Finally, credibility with ourselves. We will not manage to achieve that goal unless we apply ourselves to the task with energy and resolve.

I want to emphasise however that security goes beyond merely military aspects. The Cologne European Council recommended that the Council examine all aspects of security with a view to enhancing and better coordinating the Union's and Member States' non-military crisis response tools. The Finnish Presidency has done excellent work here which will be reflected in a report to the Helsinki European Council on non-military crisis-management tools.

It is important that this work go on. We have to put in place mechanisms covering a whole range of instruments to manage everything from humanitarian and civil crises, right up to military ones.

Within this range we need to enhance instruments for protecting citizens and enforcing the law, i.e. police tools, the urgent need for which has been manifest in the recent crises. I know that Parliament is very sensitive to this idea.

If we take these steps and adequately address these issues, I am convinced that we will be able to make an important contribution to the development of Europe. We will be able to strengthen our security and secure greater cooperation from our allies and partners.

May I end by restating my intention to work closely with this Parliament in all areas. My main priority in taking up the post of Secretary-General and High Representative is to contribute to the development of a more effective, more coherent and more active Common Foreign and Security Policy. This is the only way to ensure that the Union can have influence in any part of the world. It is the only way we can defend our values and shared interests. But this can be achieved only through close cooperation between the institutions of the Union and with the Member States. The support of this Parliament is essential. I hope, Madam President, that my presence here today will be the beginning of a constructive dialogue, the results of which will increasingly be to the benefit of all citizens, both of the Union and the rest of the world.


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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).