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Discussing the Concept of a European Security and Defence Union


Discussing the Concept of a European Security and Defence Union

Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium on European Defence. Statements made by M. Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr. Gerhard Schroeder, Chancelor of the Federal Republic of Germany, M. Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and Mr. Guy Verhofstadt, Prime Minister of Belgium. Brussels, 29 April 2003. Sources: Quai d'Orsay and Palais de l'Elysée, Paris, German Federal Website, Berlin.

Photo Bundesbildestelle, Berlin


Jacques Chirac: Thank you, Prime Minister. I'd like to begin by thanking our colleague, our friend Guy Verhofstadt, for organizing this meeting. He has always had a strong and dynamic vision of Europe, he has always been one of the instigators of advances in building Europe and, once again, he's putting his stamp on a positive development in our major joint European project. I'd like to express my gratitude to him.

Defence is an issue to which our four countries, which are among the [EU's] founding members, have always attached the greatest importance. You will remember that in their letter in 1991, the Federal German Chancellor and President of the French Republic set the European Union the goal of defining a common defence policy. Our joint commitment led at the time to the creation of the European Corps.

Today's summit is the result of work which, as the Prime Minister has just reminded us, has been going on for several months, since Guy Verhofstadt wrote to us on 18 July last year to convey his concern about progress in the development of European defence.

Since then the work has continued. There's been the Franco-German contribution to the Convention [on the Future of Europe], supported by Belgium, the Elysée Treaty's fortieth anniversary, the Defence Group's report to the Convention, and the Franco-British Le Touquet Summit, which signalled a significant step forward on several important points, particularly in the capabilities and operations sphere.

These various contributions have, in a complementary way, highlighted both the progress made since Saint-Malo, Cologne, Nice and Laeken and the illusory nature of a Defence Europe emerging spontaneously from the development of Europe's foreign policy.

As in other areas of European policy, we think that today there's a need to be proactive and display a real ambition for Defence Europe.

So in this spirit, we have decided to put forward for consideration by our 21 partners a paper on both the institutions and operational tools at the European Union's disposal.

As the Prime Minister has just reminded us, it includes a presentation of our approach, which places particular emphasis on our desire to build a credible European defence and on the fundamental nature of the strategic partnership between Europe and the United States in the framework of the Alliance.

Indeed, our countries see their commitments in the European Union and NATO as complementary. By building a stronger Europe, we're obviously contributing to a stronger Atlantic Alliance. This is also the purpose of the so-called "Berlin Plus" arrangements, to which our four countries are obviously very committed, and of our decision to participate in the NATO Reaction Force (NRF).

The paper also contributes to the discussion of the concept of a European Security and Defence Union, which we proposed to the Convention. We see this Union as bringing together member States which are ready to move faster and go further towards strengthening their cooperation on defence.

The States participating in the European Security and Defence Union will inter alia undertake to help and assist each other in the face of every type of risk and particularly, of course, the risks of terrorism. We ourselves have already signed pledges of this type with Germany and the United Kingdom. ESDU States will systematically seek to harmonize their positions on security and defence issues and will also make a number of concrete commitments on their forces' equipment. (...)

Finally, we have drawn up for our European Union partners proposals on concrete measures to align more closely our national defence capabilities so as to complete the political and military structures in place since the Saint-Malo summit. We propose to consider, with our partners, the creation of a nucleus capability for planning and conducting strategic-level operations, backed by member countries' national staffs.

This strategic headquarters, or to be more precise, nucleus, could be used when the European Union decides, in accordance with the Saint-Malo and Cologne European Council declarations, not to use NATO's assets and capabilities, for example in European Union-led operations carried out under United Nations aegis, as we – British and French – had decided or, more precisely, proposed, at the last bilateral summit in Le Touquet.

The intention isn't of course to create a European SHAPE, but more simply to try and align more closely European Union member States' national capabilities, limiting any unnecessary national duplication. It isn't to duplicate SHAPE. It is to eliminate, because it's costly, unnecessary and absurd, any current duplication between our different States in the defence sphere. So it's obviously not to "decouple" the defence efforts of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance.

We shall also be proposing the creation of a European Agency for developing and acquiring military capabilities, a measure obviously also designed to achieve greater economies of scale and thus an overall strengthening of our common defence effort.

So all these projects fall within the framework of our joint participation in EU- or NATO-led operations.

In conclusion, I'd quite simply like to stress that this contribution seems to us to be capable of enabling Defence Europe to take a genuine qualitative leap forward.

At the political level, setting up a European Security and Defence Union requiring its members to make genuine commitments will be a major step towards establishing Defence Europe and thus also a European foreign policy.

On the assets front, everyone knows that Europe today lacks capabilities. Our proposals are designed to step up our countries' defence efforts, pool capabilities and end unnecessary duplication, i.e. to allow the European Union to spend more and more cost-effectively on its defence and thus become a solid element of the pillar we form, the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance.

This is in Europe's interest, it's in the Atlantic Alliance's interest. And our Foreign ministers will present this contribution to our partners at the informal foreign ministers' meeting. We shall then talk about these ideas at the Thessalonica European Council, and the discussions will naturally go on with all our partners.


Question: If there's a new defence heart, as you foresee with the European Security and Defence Union, how many countries would you like to have in it? And what would be the position of the non-aligned members like Finland?

Jacques Chirac: First part of the question: who do we want in it? For me it's simple. And for us, it's simple: the Twenty-Five, i.e. the whole European Union, of course.

Second part of your question: but there are countries with special characteristics, particularly with respect to defence. The answer is that we obviously have to respect these and there's no question of us of imposing anything at all on them. Moreover, that's the European Union's current contract and there's no question of modifying it.

Question: Do you want – and you've talked about this – to go on doing this on your own if the other European partners don't accept your invitation? And, Chancellor Schröder, you stressed that this wasn't being done against NATO or the United States. But, all the same, aren't you demonstrating here a little bit of emancipation from the United States?


Jacques Chirac: Everyone will be interested in this initiative and I have no fear at all of us being in the slightest way isolated. All European progress has come from initiatives taken by two of three of us.

I'd like to remind you that, as regards Defence Europe, separate from the German-French origins I mentioned, there was a declaration by Mr Tony Blair which went virtually unnoticed at the Pörtschach European Council in Austria. Then there was Saint-Malo. I still remember all the media and political observers saying: it's a farce, it will never come to anything. The criticism was unanimous. If you're curious enough to take another look at what the political and media observers said, you'll be astonished to see their unanimity. And then, afterwards, everyone joined in and the global concept was born.

Last July, at Guy Verhofstadt's instigation, we thought the time had come to bolster this common defence policy. We've done this – and there's absolutely no connection or link with the political situation we have today – with the desire, as the Chancellor has just said, first and above all, to avoid unnecessary duplication of our efforts and expenditure in order to strengthen NATO's European pillar, obviously without in any way undermining the Atlantic Alliance, on the contrary, by strengthening it. I don't doubt for a single moment that, on the basis of our proposals, all the European countries, as has happened in every sphere and particularly on defence, will join together so that we can reach positive conclusions, naturally taking on board everyone's initiatives and ideas.


Question: In your conversation with President Bush, you said that NATO might be able to play a role in Iraq. What specific role are you envisaging and with what mandate?

Jacques Chirac: I did indeed talk about this matter at President Bush's initiative. I naturally pointed out that there had to be a UN resolution to ask NATO to act and, if that were the case, France would be totally ready to discuss the relevant terms and conditions.

Question: When I see the compromise or the final text, I note that there's no mention of investment and military spending. When I compare this text with the Belgian "reflection paper" a few weeks ago, it's far less ambitious than Belgium seemed to want. Why did you change, or not adopt, the proposals on military investment and spending?

Jacques Chirac: The question's been put to me, but I'll hand over to Guy Verhofstadt, because we haven't changed anything over the past few weeks and that's a drafting matter and the drafting was entrusted to the Belgian presidency.


Question: Yesterday, your colleague Tony Blair gave an interview, against the background of today's meeting, to defend the argument that the world should have only one centre of power, namely the United States. What's your opinion? Can there be just one centre of power, the United States?


Jacques Chirac: (...) I'd like to begin by pointing out – I'm of course speaking only for France – that France and Britain are joint players in the European enterprise and, in this respect, share the same feelings on a very large number of subjects. You were talking about defence: let me remind you that it was a Franco-British initiative which, in Saint-Malo, launched, or more exactly relaunched, the European defence process.

We share the same will to build Europe. Nevertheless, Britain and France have different traditions, cultures and histories which lead them – it's wholly normal, and is in fact the case for most of Europe's countries – to have what may be slightly different, or even conflicting visions about what the future should be. I don't, of course, intend expressing the slightest criticism of the positions the British Prime Minister set out in that interview. I shall, of course, refrain from making the slightest criticism, because I haven't got any to make and can't think of any. I hope, incidentally, that the British Prime Minister takes the same approach, which I don't doubt.

Nevertheless, when you look at the changes in the world, we're clearly, quite naturally, witnessing the creation of a multipolar world, whether we want it or not, it's inevitable, and in the near future, i.e. in the next fifty or hundred years, alongside the United States, not just Europe, but also China, India and South America will form entities; and the links between them will have to be strong if we want to avoid clashes, particularly between entities with the same culture, i.e. essentially between Europe and United States. But for this balance to exist, it will plainly be necessary for there to be a strong Europe and a strong United States linked together by a strong pact, by shared cultural values.

That's what we ourselves are defending and it naturally requires relations between Europe and the United States to be ones of complementarity, of partnership, between equal partners of course, or there's no relation of partnership and it's another world, one which France isn't seeing today or seeking.

That's why we can have a slight difference of views. It will be for the Europeans, together, for the twenty-five Europeans today and I hope a few more tomorrow, together to answer this fundamental problem. (...).


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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).