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Common Security and Defence Policy: Targets and Realities

Common Security and Defence Policy: Targets and Realities

Address by Dr Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Security Policy, to the European Policy Centre, Brussels, 17 May 2000.

I am delighted to be here this morning: the EPC has a first class reputation and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to start off this morning’s discussion on the targets and realities of the Union’s developing Common Security and Defence Policy.

As you know the concept of a European security and defence policy is not new. It has been on Europe’s agenda since WW II. The realities of the Cold War meant that our security was best guaranteed in cooperation with the United States. NATO became the only institution capable of both ensuring transatlantic solidarity and of organising the effective defence of a free and democratic Europe.

Since then all attempts to give substance to a European defence identity have been considered in close cooperation with NATO and encouraged by its members. Too often, the lack of progress has been the result, not of too much America, but of too little Europe.

Two main factors help to explain why this is changing. The first is the radical change in the strategic environment of Europe following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

We no longer face the threat of massive conventional and non-conventional attack on NATO nations. Instead, we are confronted by a range of risks that threaten the stability of Europe, but which fall short of threatening our very existence.

In this new environment, our transatlantic partners do not necessarily wish to intervene in every regional crisis on the continent. There will be occasions when, after appropriate political consultations, they will be happy to see the Europeans take the lead.

The second factor is the progress of European integration based on a common set of values and the development of European common interests. As a result, the member states of the European Union want to equip themselves with the tools necessary to promote those values and to defend these interests.

The European Union already has considerable instruments of a credible foreign policy in the diplomatic, economic and trade areas. It now wants to be able to back these instruments, if and when necessary, with the ability to use force where its vital interests are at stake and to be able to respond more effectively to crises.

We are not talking about war-fighting or the creation of a European Army. What we have in mind is developing our national capabilities in a way that will allow us to operate together in tackling what we call the Petersberg tasks. That is to be able to provide military support to difficult humanitarian missions, to undertake search and rescue missions, to carry out peace-keeping and indeed peace-making operations, including at a substantial level where force protection may be at a premium and where combat must be expected.

In this respect, the Kosovo crisis was a wake-up call for European leaders and European public opinion. It revealed the shortcomings of our existing European national and collective military capabilities. Although they have armed forces in sufficient numbers, Europeans can only produce a small fraction of the capabilities needed to project and sustain them in order to manage the kind of security challenges we face and shall continue to face in the future.

It was against this background that the Helsinki European Council took historic decisions on ESDP. At Helsinki, Europe's leaders set out the way ahead on the three key elements, which are essential to the establishment of an ESDP.

Firstly, they reached agreement on a common headline goal on military capabilities. Secondly, they decided on the structures, which are necessary in order to ensure the political control and strategic direction of these capabilities. Thirdly, agreement was reached on the need for sound and transparent procedures for consultation and co-operation with non-EU countries and with NATO. I should like to assess the progress we have made on each of these three issues in turn.

The headline goal is ambitious. At Helsinki, Member States agreed that they must be able, by 2003, to deploy within 60 days and sustain for at least 1 year military forces of up to 60,000 persons capable of the full range of Petersberg tasks.

Many of the forces the Union needs already exist, and feature in national declarations to NATO: the key is to agree how to meet the shortfalls in critical capabilities, such as deployability and sustainability.

Ministers and Chiefs of Defence Staff have considered a defence planning process that will establish how to meet these shortfalls. They agreed that we must avoid duplication and make good use of the existing knowledge and expertise, in Member States, the WEU and NATO, but in a process under the full political control of the EU.

An essential feature of this process would be "peer review". Member States would discuss collectively their contributions to the headline goal and debate how to make up any shortfalls. It was agreed that this phase of the process should be completed by the end of the French Presidency.

Helsinki also set out the framework for the institutions and procedures that are necessary for the management of a military capability.

We have, I believe, managed to avoid falling into the trap of overly concentrating on the institutional arrangements at the expense of substance. But proper procedures are essential if we are to ensure adequate political accountability and rapid and effective decision-making in the day-to-day management of operations.

In March, we established an interim political and security committee, which will be a permanent Brussels-based committee of senior officials and Ambassadors charged with developing the Union’s crisis management machinery. They, and their parallel military body have already got down to work and have been joined by the nucleus of the future EU military staff.

The military experts and the interim bodies will not just be focussing on the headline goal and future structures, but will also be helping to take forward work on the vital third element of the Helsinki mandate: future relations with NATO and with our non-EU European allies.

Heads of Government were clear at Helsinki on a number of key principles underlying our future policy on this particular issue. They emphasised that: firstly, NATO remains the foundation of the collective defence of its members; secondly, the EU will only act where NATO as a whole is not engaged; thirdly, that there is a need for dialogue, consultation and co-operation with NATO.

The military option will of course always be a measure of last resort. We must have the capacity to intervene militarily in order to be credible, but we are not in the business of deploying troops for the sake of it.

Effective crisis management means having access to the full range of civilian capabilities. Recent experience in Kosovo has shown clearly that we have some way to go. In this area as well, the message is clear: we have to strengthen our collective ability to respond and develop a rapid reaction capability using non-military instruments.

As I said, we were able to meet the Helsinki headline for the installation of the interim bodies. It is good news that the momentum of this process is being maintained. In our work we have been drawing extensively on the experiences of the WEU, making use of my double-hatting as WEU and EU Secretaries General to draw on the WEU in this transitional phase.

We have been using the staff support of the WEU as we design the EU structures. We shall want to transfer many of its assets to the Union. The next step will be to consider what to do about the WEU responsibilities not transferred to the EU. This is essentially the mutual defence guarantee embodied in the Modified Brussels Treaty, which is likely to be maintained under some residual WEU structure.

So these are our targets. The capability to deploy and sustain a significant force, able to tackle the full range of Petersberg task, thereby allowing the Union to play a proper role in preserving international peace and security: a role consistent with the EU’s perceptions of its place in the world and of its responsibilities.

What of the reality? Well the work we have done so far is encouraging. But reaching the ambitious objectives set out in Helsinki will require much more than declarations, procedures and processes. These are highly important, and I find the stated commitment of Europe’s leaders at Helsinki to such explicit targets highly encouraging.

Europe has a tendency to ponder important changes in its direction carefully and cautiously. But it also has a proven track record in delivering. Once the European Council commits, as it has done on enlargement, the formation of the single market, the introduction of the single currency, it delivers.

So I am confident that we shall deliver on our new common security and defence policy. But I am confident too that it will require much hard work and, here is the real challenge, the commitment of additional resources if we are to meet the shortfalls in European military capabilities that we know exist.

We know we are short of strategic transport, intelligence and command and control assets. These can only be delivered by short-to-medium term increases in Defence Budgets and, in some cases, a significant re-orientation of our defence efforts. Europe’s leaders, in defence, finance and foreign ministries must recognise that we no longer need forces oriented towards static defence.

The new challenges will often be far from home, in demanding environments. A quick glance at the news today gives one a flavour: the challenges are in Kosovo, Bosnia, the Great Lakes and Sierra Leone to name a few. The international flash points no longer lie directly on our borders and no longer require land based static defensive forces.

So, if we are to turn our targets into reality we shall need to apply our resources more effectively and in greater measure. By working together and by setting our enterprise in a European context, I believe we can realise these extra resources.

Only then, in the longer term, is there the possibility of enjoying the benefits of what might be called an ESDP-dividend: the results of more rational and efficient organisation of national resources, including military procurement.

Before we get there, EU governments and especially their Finance Ministers, as well as national parliaments will have to provide full support for this complex undertaking.

And if we are to turn targets into reality we shall have to face up to some tough decisions on how we use our forces. It is no secret that the UN is under heavy pressure to find the assets it needs to respond to threats to international security. The organisation as a whole has no troops and few crisis management assets of its own. It relies on its membership to produce the goods.

The European Union certainly perceives itself as a major force in the world. The Euro zone is the single largest currency area in the world. The Union and its member States have interests across the world. With that comes the responsibility to act.

We must be prepared to do more to help the UN tackle crises. We have well equipped, well trained, highly disciplined armed forces. They can make a big difference as the backbone of UN forces. They can provide the safe environment for humanitarian operations, help establish the right conditions for implementation of peace agreements and, where necessary, provide the strength of presence needed to impose peace in a crisis. We have a duty to do more to assist the UN and to put out more of our forces at their disposal in the service of peace.

This is a major project for the Union. If we have the capacity and commitment, we can act as a strong catalyst for stability and peace beyond our own frontiers. A more stable world means a safer more prosperous Europe.

It is also a means of ensuring that the values and principles on which the Union is based are not private property. Once we have made our changes we shall be in a stronger position to support democracy and the rule of law, and to defend human rights throughout the world. That alone is good enough reason for working to ensure that ESDP is a success.


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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).