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E.S.D.P. Meeting the Helsinki Headline

E.S.D.P. Meeting the Helsinki Headline

Address by Dr Javier Solana, WEU Secretary General and High Representative of the European Union, to the Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik, Brussels, 11 May 2000. Source: Western European Union.

As you know the European Union has taken some major decisions in recent months on the establishment of a European security and defence policy. I should like to set out the background to those decisions and tell you how we have been proceeding with their implementation.

The concept of a European security and Defence policy is not new. It has been on Europe’s agenda since WW II. But 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 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 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.

In this respect, the Kosovo crisis has been a wake-up call for European leaders and European public opinion. It revealed the shortcomings of 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 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.

Since then Defence ministers have met twice to discuss how to implement the headline goal, once on their own in Sintra and once with their Foreign Minister colleagues in Brussels. They agreed that rapid progress was essential if we were to maintain our credibility. These meetings are being followed up by more detailed work in the new EU body of military representatives, meeting today for the first time at CHODs level.

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 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.

This is encouraging progress. Reaching the ambitious objectives set out in Helsinki will require, of course, more than commitment by Defence Ministers. Bridging the gaps identified in European capabilities in the sectors of strategic transport, intelligence, command and control is likely to require, in the short-to-medium term, an increase in Defence Budgets. 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.

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

We have, I believe, managed to avoid falling into the easy 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 are being joined now 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 very 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. European leaders made clear at the Special European Council in Lisbon in March that they welcomed the progress which has been made so far and looked forward to further progress over the next few months.

Over these coming months, we shall be drawing extensively on the experiences of the WEU. I was asked by the European Council in Helsinki to use my double-hatting as WEU and EU Secretaries General to make maximum use of 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.

Building a European Security and Defence Policy 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. This will bring benefits for the Union: stability brings security and prosperity - that is good news for everyone.

But it is also a means of ensuring that the values and principles on which the Union is based are not private property. We have a duty to contribute to international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter. Once we have made these changes we will be in a stronger position to do so, 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).