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Europe’s Quest for a Common Security and Defence Policy

Europe’s Quest for a Common Security and Defence Policy

Words of Welcome to French Minister of Defence Alain Richard by Professor Dr. A. van Staden, Director of the nederlands instituut voor internationale betrekkingen, Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael'). The Hague, Thursday, February 10, 2000.

Ó Photo European-Security

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, a good afternoon! It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this special meeting convened for the public lecture by our guest of honour, the French minister of defence, Mr Alain Richard.

I am happy to note that the interest in this meeting is overwhelming; the large turn-out underscores that the topic at issue, Europe’s quest for a common security and defence policy, is widely perceived, in the Netherlands too, to be one of the major political challenges in the years ahead. But it also illustrates, I feel, our awareness of the crucial role France is playing in the current security debate.

It must be clear that right from the start of the process of European integration France has been the leading actor in making the case for closer defence co-operation among the countries of Western Europe.

The names of René Pleven and Christian Fouchet evoke memories of French proposals or schemes in the past aimed at enhancing Europe’s profile on matters of security and diplomacy.

I reveal no secret that French ambitions to seek more independence of Europe from the United States have been, at least for a long time, met with distrust, if not outright opposition, on the part of the Dutch.

The Netherlands felt quite comfortable in NATO, also because the United States was seen as a guardian of the interests of the smaller nations in Western Europe. Dutch policies were guided by the fear of erosion of the Alliance and American disengagement in view of self-fulfilling effects likely to arise from ill-considered plans for autonomous European defence structures.

This is the picture of the past; we are aware that the political landscape has radically changed. There have been numerous calls from Washington on European capitals to shoulder a larger part of the common defence burden. It is increasingly realized that European countries cannot rely forever on the United States for bearing the brunt in regional crises in Europe’s backyard touching on European rather than on American interests. The Kosovo war acted as a catalyst in this respect. The war created a never again mood, not only in the United States but also in Europe itself.

Europeans found themselves embarrassed with the high level of their military dependence on the United States.

Triggered by the British-French rapprochement in St. Malo December 1998, the member states of the European have now made clear commitments to translate the goal of establishing ‘a capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces’ into military capabilities earmarked for crisis management operations.

Of course, I am referring here to the important decisions made at the Helsinki Summit last December.

So will Europe be ready for military action without reliance on the US in three years time? As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ll see. Right now we are looking forward to hearing the French view on this important subject.

Monsieur le Ministre,

J’ai le plaisir et l’honneur de vous souhaiter la bienvenue à notre Institut, l’Institut Néerlandais des Relations Internationales ‘Clingendael’. Nous apprécions énormément, qu’en dépit d’un agenda très chargé, vous ayez accepté notre invitation à nous présenter les positions françaises concernant la coopération en matière de sécurité et de défense au sein de l’Union Européenne.

Permettez-moi, Monsieur le Ministre, d’exposer à notre audience votre carrière professionnelle et politique qui me semble particulièrement impressionnante.

Ancien élève de l’ENA, vous avez commencé votre carrière au Conseil d’Etat. Parallèlement vous avez été chargé d’enseignement dans plusieurs universités prestigieuses.

Membre du Parti Socialiste, vous avez été élu député à l’Assemblée Nationale en 1978, dont vous avez d’ailleurs été le vice-président pendant quelque temps.

Elu Sénateur en 1995, vous avez été nommé deux ans plus tard ministre de la défense, un poste-clé du gouvernement Jospin.

A ce titre, vous avez été l’architecte et l’artisan de la transformation de l’armée française en une armée de métier.

Enfin, je souhaite faire remarquer que vous êtes administrateur de notre homologue français, l’IFRI, l’Institut Français des Relations Internationales.

Monsieur le Ministre, I am very pleased to give you the floor now.

Link: Address given by the French Minister of Defence, Mr Alain Richard

 

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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).

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