NATO and the European Union – Strategic Partners
or Polite Neighbours?
NATO and the
European Union – Strategic Partners or Polite Neighbours ?
Article by Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Minuto Rizzo.
NATO. Brussels, March 16, 2004.
Today, security may be the first concern around the world.
The evolution of the European Union, the role the United States is willing to
play, the relationship amongst key security actors, how the international
community is going to deal with future threats: these are the key questions
which the international community must answer. To get the right answers –
sustainable, effective responses to 21st century challenges -- it is vital that
the international community arrives at common answers.
NATO remains the world’s most powerful and important security
organisation. At the same time, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) of the EU are raising their
visibility and relevance.
If the Western Democracies are to co-ordinate their resources
– political, economic and military – in the most effective way, it is of the
utmost importance that this process takes place in an orderly and co-ordinated
manner, avoiding any unnecessary duplication and above all misunderstandings.
To understand where this relationship is going, we must first
understand its origins.
The term CFSP appeared officially for the first time in 1992,
in the Maastricht Treaty. CFSP explicitly links Foreign and Security policy in a
typically European way, which is to say by opening the possibility of new forms
of collective activity, counting largely on the subsequent aggregation of common
interests to provide substance.
That substance began to aggregate substantially towards the
end of the 90s. It was sparked by the Kosovo campaign, which showed Europe’s
military weakness and technical backwardness.
Kosovo encouraged the European Council in Cologne, in June
1999, to agree the creation of new European security bodies.
The French-British summit in St-Malo cleared the way, in
spite of prevailing scepticism, for an European crisis management dimension,
well co-ordinated with NATO.
The main focus of these efforts has been « capabilities first
»; to spark a substantial increase in European operational capacities. The «
Headline Goal « launched by the EU in Helsinki in December 1999, which foresaw
the creation of a rapidly deployable Corps-sized European military capability,
was the clearest manifestation of this objective.
The success of these European efforts is certainly not yet
assured. There has, however, already been significant concrete progress. The
Nice European Council in December 2000 is one example, approving a dozen
important texts on security issues -- some dealing with committees and
structures, others affecting CFSP and crisis management in general.
The EU’s Political and Security Committee was established
with the mandate to provide strategic direction for EU-led operations. It relies
on a Military Committee, which in turn is fed by the expertise of a Military
This structure reflects the broad lines of NATO, although on
a smaller scale.
It should be noted that the EU is not engaged in “defence” in
the strict sense of territorial protection. There is no EU “Article 5”, as there
is in the Washington Treaty, engaging members to protect one another from armed
attack from abroad.
The European Convention has now set more ambitious goals and
established better integration of the institutional tools available to the
These steps are being finalised by the Inter-Governmental
Conference. The Union is also breaking new ground from a conceptual point of
view, endorsing in December 2003 for the first time a “Security document” which
could be the embryo of a “strategic concept” along the NATO lines.
The development of an enhanced security culture in the
European Union is certainly a welcome development. It recognises the requirement
to deal effectively with external threats, and takes steps to ensure that the EU
can be an effective security actor in its own right, as well as a true partner
to NATO and the US.
NATO is obviously a very different organisation. The Alliance
has a mandate focused on Defence and Security; it certainly does not have the
EU’s “federal” ambitions.
The Treaty of Washington of 1949, NATO’s basic charter, is
only a couple of pages long, so the Organisation has developed in a very
pragmatic way. It does not have a developed juridical culture.
What NATO does have, however, is an unique civilian-military
relationship. It is also oriented towards “doing things”, rather than focusing
on the development of elaborate conceptual and institutional frameworks. Its
evolution has been driven by requirements, rather than by doctrine.
Common costs for running the headquarters and the
International Staff are very limited. The general rule concerning operations is
that the costs fall where they lie. In other words, each country pays for its
own participation in a mission led by NATO. In the European Union, by contrast,
countries try to achieve a comparative advantage by drawing on substantial
Fundamentally, NATO is a political-military Alliance where
“political consultation” is one of the main systematic activities. All decisions
are taken by consensus, and enormous effort goes into diplomacy and negotiation
to achieve it. While this can be time -consuming, consensus ensures that all
Allies are on board once a decision is taken, making the Alliance very effective
indeed. NATO can also take decisions on short notice: the North Atlantic Council,
NATO’s highest political body, can be called on at any time.
As we know, NATO has transformed fundamentally over the past
couple of years.
NATO’s history started with the Cold War: four decades of a
static, territorial concept of security.
Stage two, in the decade after the collapse of the Berlin
Wall, was a period in which NATO became an agent of political change, by looking
into the wider Europe: opening to new members, and bringing the Alliance’s
political and military resources to bear to bring peace to Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia (1).
Since 9/11 NATO has now entered stage three: transforming
rapidly into an Alliance which is fully geared to the new security environment
of the 21st century.
The Alliance is developing a new set of tools to meet modern
requirements: from a new command structure, to a series of initiatives to
improve military capabilities, to the NATO Response Force, etc..
In doing so, the Alliance is building on its comparative
advantage as the only multinational organisation in the world devoted to
security and defence.
NATO’s take-over, in August 2003, of the leadership of the
International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan – thousands of
kilometres from Europe, and with strong support from the UN -- illustrates
NATO’s new missions, and its new engagement beyond its traditional borders.
While the full implications of these new roles are not yet clear, one thing is
certain: In the 21st century, NATO remains as essential to defending
Euro-Atlantic security, interests and values as ever.
International security is best served by a coherent, co-operative
approach. It was true before 9/11, even more so since then.
If you take the Cold War as a reference point, NATO is less
central than it used to be. But today its relevance must be measured by its
added value in addressing security in a broader way. The Alliance offers
military experience, command arrangements and interoperability that no other
organisation can match. Security today is a global issue like the environment or
energy. Each actor on the international scene has to contribute according to its
specific added value – and that includes Europe working together with NATO, in
the most efficient and effective way possible.
The relationship between the North Atlantic Council and the
Political and Security Committee of the EU is a new one. It suffered, in its
early days, from difficulties in finding a formula for the “participation” by
European-non-NATO Allies in future crisis – a formula that was found, and agreed,
in spring 1993, and which has allowed for the EU to make use of NATO assets and
capabilities for EU-led operations..
There is still undoubtedly some ambiguity and lack of clarity
in important areas of cooperation between NATO and the EU, for instance, on the
scope of the political dialogue. Should it include crisis management? Military
crisis management? Conflict prevention? How broad should the interface be?
Another logical area of common interest is in capabilities
and armaments. Each EU and NATO country has only set of forces and one defence
budget. In an era of stretched defence funds, it only makes sense to ensure that
NATO and the EU develop capabilities in a way that is fully transparent,
coherent and complementary.
The potential of NATO-EU cooperation to deliver security is
The first High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security
in Europe, Javier Solana and the Secretary General of NATO, George Robertson
worked closely together to defuse an incipient conflict in the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia .
NATO launched its third Balkans operation in this country in
August 2001. It was the first successful example in the Balkans of a preventive
action by the international community to avoid a civil war. It was too quickly
forgotten, but it remains very important.
The political leverage of the European Union and the military
expertise of NATO helped this country in a decisive way. A similar case of
successful co-operation was when the two organisations helped to defuse tensions
in Southern Serbia, close to Kosovo, in 2001 and 2002.
The EU launched its first military operation in March 2003,
taking over from NATO in Macedonia while making recourse to NATO assets. It was
the first case of practical military co-operation between the two organisations
– cooperation so profound that the operational Commander of the EU-led mission
was NATO’s Deputy SACEUR, the number two of the NATO military chain of command,
wearing a second, European hat.
This cooperation, including the use by the EU of NATO’s
assets and capabilities, was the first successful test of agreements reached on
March 17, 2003, by the two organisations (after many observers had given up the
hope of arriving at an acceptable formula). This set of agreements (about 12
texts all together), known as “Berlin Plus” by the specialists, sets the stage
for the future of practical NATO-EU cooperation.
The principles of Berlin+ reflect those set out at NATO’s
Washington Summit in 1999, with four main elements: to ensure European Union
access to NATO operational planning capabilities; the presumption of
availability of NATO’s capabilities and common assets; command options and a
role for the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (an European by tradition);
The adaptation of the Defence Planning System of NATO was
also adapted to take account of EU-led operations.
The arrangements prove to be working well: these ingenious
formulas help to ensure good co-ordination, and to avoid unnecessary
duplication. The presence of neutral countries in the EU does not seem to
constitute a problem.
(Of course, the option exists for EU-led operations without
recourse to NATO’s assets and capabilities. A first case was in Congo in summer
2003, when a French-led EU force intervened to restore order. )
NATO-EU interdependence is clear in another important area as
well: that of capabilities. Indeed, NATO’s expertise and long experience in this
field can be very relevant to the European Union.
The Defence Capabilities Initiative launched at the
Washington Summit in 1999 and the Prague Capabilities Commitment agreed in
November 2002 are designed to improve overall Alliance military capacities – but
of course, European forces have the most catching up to do.. They have lagged
behind US defence development since the end of the Cold War, when many countries
reaped the “peace dividend” and slashed defence budgets.
In conclusion, there are obvious linkages and inter-relations
between the two organisations. NATO-EU cooperation therefore clearly makes sense,
to reinforce planning, capabilities, inter-operability or even strategic
The overall aim is as clear as it is important: to enhance
the effectiveness of Western democracies to contribute to security together.
An analysis of this kind cannot avoid looking at the larger
picture. The political added value of NATO lies in its experience, the mutual
defence commitment, and above all in the transatlantic dimension. So the obvious
question is, is this dimension maintaining its relevance today?
Even if perfect equilibrium between the US and Europe is not
foreseeable, NATO is still an organisation which can achieve “effective
History shows that North America and Europe, working together
in security, were a winning ticket in the last century. Are new threats such as
terrorism, proliferation and failed states making this teamwork less relevant?
This is perhaps the hottest topic in conference halls and
academic circles. Ideas such as a possible division of labour between NATO and
the EU, functionally and geographically, are constantly debated. So are
proposals to streamline decision-making in the Alliance to adapt to the speed of
response required to meet modern challenges, and to allow progress in meeting
politically divisive operations.
The key, however to effective transatlantic security
cooperation, both NATO and US-Europe, will be to foster open strategic
discussions on controversial security issues. NATO-EU cooperation is here to
stay. What we need is the political will, the courage and the vision to chart a
course together towards a shared future.
In Brussels, the relationship between Evere (NATO) and
Cortenbergh (EU) is going to be there for many years and probably it will go
trough cycles. Which is only natural because co-ordination between two entities
so relevant and proud cannot be easy by definition. Military contacts are good
and the potential for co-operation is intact. A first common exercise has taken
place in November 2003.
NATO today is not only transformed – it continues to evolve.
In 2004, the operational focus of the venerable Alliance is now in Afghanistan.
NATO has opened its door to countries of Central and Eastern Europe, it has a
close working relationship with Russia, and works closely with the United
Nations, the OSCE, and a huge range of international organisations and NGOs .
The European Union, for its part, is also going through a
very profound evolution. Indeed, it is an institutional construction site. ESDP
is part of that.
Our challenge is to ensure that these two important
organisations develop, and work closely together, to enhance our common security
in real, concrete ways. Symbolism and institutions are important, but they are
no substitute for real political influence and effective military forces.
The EU’s relationship with NATO is essential in many regards,
not least as a link to the United States and to a larger security framework.
Indeed, through the North Atlantic Alliance and its broad agenda, Europe can
count for more in the world.
There is simply no alternative to this relationship. – a
relationship from which both partners benefit.
The EU’s development as a security actor has depended heavily
on NATO – as a model for construction, and as a resource on which to draw.
At the same time, Europe has blossomed increasingly into a
security actor able to deploy significant economic, political and military tools
to manage crises. A win-win scenario for both organisations, as long as they
cooperate in an open and transparent manner, and unnecessary duplication is
No institutional agreement between the two Organisations will
ever be perfect. A culture of collaboration amongst all governments involved,
however, is the key ingredient to serve NATO, the EU, and our common security.
(1) Turkey recognises the
Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name.