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The EU Presidency – The Way Ahead

The EU Presidency – The Way Ahead

Speech by H.R. Dr Björn von Sydow, Swedish Minister of Defence in at the International workshop on political-military decision making. Snekkersten, Sweden, May 27, 2001. Source: MoD Stockholm.

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me start by quoting the German philosopher Habermas.

"The essence of modern democracy does not lay in the formal methods that make institutions work and on the democratic participation of the people, rather in an interactive communication link between the political power and an organized civil society.

This interactive link has a fundamental role in the process of formulating decisions, as decisions are continuously influenced by the views expressed by the organized society."

Maybe Habermas in my mind underestimated the representative elements in today’s democracies but the interaction is surely processed via media often in decisive ways.

Antonio Guterres the prime minister of Portugal at a lecture he gave in Berlin a week ago said that this are why the European Union as the sole organized regional space in the world plays a fundamental role in the building up of the new political architecture and needs to be strengthened further.

These observations have to be borne in mind when further developing the European crisis management capability.

A European Defence and Security Policy have evolved rapidly, which I think is a positive sign. From the Amsterdam treaty via the Helsinki Headline Goal to be fulfilled by 2003, to the European Council in Laeken this December, where the Union hopefully will be able to declare the union operational - at least on a case-by-case basis – the ESDP will continuously evolve to meet the needs of the Union in crisis management.

This process is signified by an internal dynamism and speed, that from my point of view has not been seen since the implementation of the internal market.

On the agenda for the informal meeting of the EU defence ministers two weeks ago, military capabilities and the important task in achieving the objective of making the EU crisis management capacity quickly operational and fulfil the Headline Goal by 2003 were the two focal issues for discussion. Another important issue discussed, not least from a democratic point of view was transparency. In the process of this work we must also keep our citizens informed of defence and security policy.

Decisions taken behind closed doors, excluding the possibility of public scrutiny may be questioned. Information, participation and transparency on all levels are necessary if we are to be successful in the domestic field as well as in a multinational framework.

And on the other hand – BBC and CNN and other reports turn ethnic cleansing,

  • Horror and terrors in today’s hot spots.

In a near future, there will be a clear need for the Union to mark an ability to act within the Petersberg spectrum. A strengthening of the overall crisis management recourses is welcomed by the results Euro barometer shows us.

That Europe has ena important role to play could I not enough underline after my visit to Skopje, Pristina and Belgrade earlier this week. The situation on Macedonia is very serious and time seems to be running out. The situation in Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina is not developing in the direction and with the speed av we wishdae for. Serbia, in its democratic fashion now, and the relation with the IC is proven better with the successful take-over of the GSZ.

I would like to make a few short comments on work so far during the Swedish Presidency of the European Union on certain areas within ESDP.

In January, the Political and Security Committee was declared permanent. Furthermore, the General Affairs Council appointed a permanent Chairman of the EU Military Committee on April 9. At the same time, the committee began to operate on a permanent basis.

The EU Military Staff will be established on a permanent basis no later than 30 June. Consequently, all military structures in the Union will be in place by the end of the Swedish Presidency.

Exercises are needed to certify that procedures and structures work according to plan. On 14 May, the General Affairs Council adopted the EU exercise policy and programme, covering the years 2001-2006.

The Exercise Programme is designed to allow proper testing and validation of structures, procedures and arrangements through a sequence of increasingly challenging exercises in order to ensure appropriate readiness and efficient functioning in a crisis.

Exercises can also serve as an indicator for new capability requirements demonstrating solidarity between the Member States of the Union and their willingness to contribute to crisis management, thus making a substantial contribution to the credibility of the ESDP.

We attach great importance to a genuine and transparent co-operation with NATO in the area of crisis management. A close and well functioning co-operative relationship between the EU and NATO is an essential element for the Union's work in the area of crisis management and to all individual countries.

Concrete examples are the fruitful meetings held during the spring where the situation in Southern Serbia have been discussed, the security provisions given to the EUMM, and the recent visit to FYROM. The joint efforts of the two Secretary Generals gave result in a change of attitude on the FYROM side, and the acceptance of the EU-NATO line to establish a broad coalition government.

The short experience of the cooperation points in a very positive direction. The EU and NATO have shown their ability to act, as well as ability to co ordinate their actions, which in many times can be mutually reinforcing. This proves that when EU and NATO make a common effort, tangible results can be achieved.

It is also important to strengthen the ties between European crisis management and the UN so that our efforts to create a solid European crisis management capability is understood in the right context; a tool to be used for various purposes – one being to lend support to UN missions and activities when building international peace and security.

In addition to these efforts, it is essential that the EU implement consultation and participation of other potential partners such as Canada with its important standing in NATO as well as contributions to peace support operations for decades. Other arrangements for cooperation are underway with Russia and the Ukraine. The European Council in Nice laid down the principles for this.

EU has a unique potential in the field of crisis management. In order to develop this potential into a real ability the Union needs to further explore how to coordinate different tools and institutions at hand. In this respect, civil-military cooperation and coordination is fundamental. Initial work on achieving this objective began with a seminar in Ystad 18-19 April.

As the EU gradually acquires the ability to carry out military crisis management operations, the Union must also be able to provide civilian components of coordinated operations. Concrete targets for civil aspects of crisis management are being discussed.

Within the Union, work on capacities is of primary importance to reach our shared ambition to fulfil the Headline Goal till 2003.

I warmly welcome a continuous development of the relations with the countries candidates for accession to the EU and non-EU European NATO-members on issues of contributing with capacities, in order to simplify cooperation and coordination in case of joint efforts to prevent, confine and resolve crises – existing or up-coming ones. It marks a profound interest and solid commitment from all to take part in wider European crisis management architecture.

As of today, the majority of countries among the countries candidates for accession to the EU and non-EU European NATO-members already take part in exercises and related activities within NATO and the Partnership for Peace framework. I believe this framework to be the focal point also in the future for exercising forces.

The purpose of the work on the Helsinki Progress Catalogue (HPC) and a discussion on priorities on the political level is to give the incoming Belgian Presidency a solid base for the upcoming Capabilities Conference this autumn. There will certainly be a need for preparing this conference also in terms of openness towards the public and in relation to a strategic context.

The role of the EU is to define and decide on a solid, viable and comprehensive basis against which national decisions are taken. Priorities made in relation to contributions and commitments are of course in the end national decisions.

The Nice European Council established the objective of making the EU quickly operational. This implies that steps enhancing a quickly operational status should, while maintaining the overall capability goal of 2003, be given priority. Hence, measures, which as soon as possible give the ability to reach a higher and more demanding level of capability for the Union to undertake Petersburg tasks should be considered.

The importance of enabling capabilities must be properly recognised when considering military operations, regardless of scale and level of intensity.

Possible recourse to NATO assets and capabilities is another vital parameter of significant importance for political deliberations on prioritising among capabilities in general and shortfalls in particular.

Detailing the mandate from Nice, an agreement on a review mechanism for developing EU military capabilities will hopefully be reached by the European Council in Göteborg.

Additional criteria for prioritising will most certainly need to be addressed as well.

EU and NATO are in agreement on arrangements for consultation and cooperation. Formal negotiations on a security agreement will commence shortly. However, an agreement on Berlin+ is still pending. Any delay in this respect will result in a negative impact on the Unions ability to act on a more demanding and complex level of the Petersburg tasks.

Significant progress towards meeting the police target is expected during the Swedish Presidency and work will continue up to 2003. Furthermore, the aim is to agree on quantitative as well as qualitative targets for Civil Protection, Civil Administration and the Rule of Law at the latest in Göteborg.

The Nice European Council established the objective of making the EU quickly operational and invited the Swedish Presidency to implement all necessary measures to fulfil the mandate given in Nice. On the basis of what I have said here today the Union will progressively develop and refine its structures, procedures and capabilities, continuously improving its ability to undertake demanding conflict prevention and crisis management tasks. Progress made so far indicates that the Union soon will be able to operations on a case-by-case basis.

  • To summarize:

In the process of this work we need to keep our citizens informed. To promote the public’s sense of involvement and comprehension of decisions taken as well as future decisions, communication of the underlying rationale for those decisions is vital. Transparency and openness – not the least towards our own citizens - are crucial aspects for progress and consolidation of EU crisis management mechanisms.

Practically all EU-countries are currently in the process of reforming their national defence in order to meet post Cold War challenges. A public debate is needed, on the domestic arena and in various EU contexts. We must encourage the feeling of moving towards a peaceful Europe, a Europe capable of managing future challenges in crises management.

The challenges may prove to be at the Balkans again. The situation in Croatia and Serbia is totally different in a positive way with the advents of Democracy. But Bosina-Hercegovina and Kosovo still depends on a strong military presence by the international community. And Macedonia – up until now a parliamentary democracy is in danger of full civil war. Our efforts may again be in demand on the Balkans.

For my own part as Swedish Minister for Defence - and equally so as representative of the Presidency - I would like to see the European Defence and Security Policy as an open project. In its relation to other countries and organisations, the Union should have an open attitude to these issues. We must therefore find ways of filling the Nice arrangements for consultation and cooperation with the countries candidates for accession to the EU and the non-EU European NATO members with relevant substance to guarantee transparency and inclusiveness to the maximum extent possible without jeopardizing the decision-making autonomy of the Union. This will also pave the way for a smooth working climate in preparation for and the conduct of an operation with the participation of countries not members of the Union but partners in crisis management.

Thank you for your attention.


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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).