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Transatlantic Forum of the WEU

Transatlantic Forum of the WEU

The Priorities of the French Presidency of the EU and WEU Remarks by Alain Richard, French Minister of Defense, Washington, June 28, 2000. Source: French Embassy, Washington D.C.

Our Presidency will be a short one with a substantial agenda. Thus, we have to work in the continuity of what the Fifteen have undertaken regarding European Security and Defense Policy, under the German, the Finnish, and the Portuguese conduct.

We will go on with the pragmatic approach that has proved successful since Cologne : we will aim at the simple, but ambitious goal to give the European Union the capacity to decide and act autonomously when crisis management operations are needed.

Our first two priorities are derived from this objective : on the one hand, gathering the assets that will enable the Union to act ; and on the other hand, implementing permanent decision mechanisms in order for the EU to react promptly and with one voice. Subsequently, we shall perform three important tasks:

  • beginning to implement EU-Third countries relationship;
  • defining concrete agreements for EU-NATO relationship;
  • preparing for WEU deprogrammation.

I – Capabilities

Since Cologne, our initiative has been capabilities driven. By setting capabilities objectives to be fulfilled by 2003, the Europeans have taken their responsibilities. It is now up to them to be consistent with their commitment.

Such military capabilities will allow Europe, when the Council so decides, in accordance with the Amsterdam treaty, to conduct a military operation under its own responsibility. And where the Alliance as a whole is engaged, they could represent the European contribution to the coalition.

In Helsinki, we set ourselves a "headline goal" : a commitment to be able, by 2003, to assemble up to 60 000 personnel to be deployed and sustained for at least one year in the context of crisis management operations. These forces should rely on self sufficient means of intelligence, command and control, and logistics.

This is why the "headline goal" is closely linked to the "collective capabilities objectives" that we also set ourselves in Helsinki, in the fields of intelligence, command and control, and strategic lift.

The Member States are firmly resolved to fulfil these capabilities objectives. Hence their decision to hold a capabilities commitment conference in November. It will be the moment for Member States to state their actual contributions. We expect the commitments to be ambitious and credible, and to include an assessment of shortfalls in collective capacities and concrete steps to address them.

This process will be conducted by the 15 (by a standing working group of the interim military body) with full respect for the decision autonomy of the EU.

It will be important however that we can draw on NATO’s expertise when considered needed by the EU. To this end, the standing working group of the IMB will also meet in a format including NATO experts.

Furthermore, European Allies and other candidates to the EU will be welcome to present additional contributions to those agreed to within the Fifteen, immediately after the capabilities conference.

II – Permanent ESDP Institutions

The other priority is the preparation of the operational phase of the European Security and

Defense Policy, through the setting up, as soon as possible, of its permanent decision mechanisms.

We are aware that we have created expectations by voicing our will to better contribute, through the EU, to the security of our continent. We must not dash these expectations. We will be judged on our capacity to be helpful soon if necessary, in the management of crisis. Indeed, future crisis will not be waiting for us to have perfectly finalized our institutional framework.

We will need robust decision making structures : a political and security committee (PSC) to ensure day to day political control and strategic direction ; a military committee to provide military advice to the PSC and military direction to the EU Military Staff ; a military staff to ensure watch, situation assessment, and strategic planning.

We already have interim structures since the beginning of March. They will become permanent ones. This includes setting up the Military Staff at the level of approximately 90 officers and organizing it so that it can be declared operational. In parallel, the WEU military staff will disappear.

In this respect, other constitutive parts of the WEU, such as the Satellite Center and the Institute for Security Studies will become part of the EU institutional framework.

We will also have to settle the relations of the permanent defense structures with the existing ones in the EU : High Representative and committee of permanent representatives.

It is also of great importance that the permanent mechanisms take into account the civilian dimension of crisis management, reflecting the comprehensive nature of the European Union. The variety of instruments at our disposal to deal with crisis will be the EU’s added value. The committee for civil aspects of crisis management was created in this perspective.

III – EU-NATO Relationship

The EU and NATO need to establish a permanent pattern of relationship, based on the autonomy of each organization and on the importance of being able to co-operate regarding military aspects of crisis management.

During our Presidency, the informal relations with NATO will be intensified through the four ad hoc working groups that have been created at Feira regarding security issues, capabilities, EU access to NATO assets and capabilities, and permanent arrangements. They will be progressively set up during the summer. The fourth task group will propose the framework that will preside over the relations between NATO and the EU in the permanent phase of ESDP.

I want to insist on three points : we shall hopefully enjoy an harmonious working relationship between EU and NATO on capabilities: NATO expertise will be welcome.

Full transparency will be provided by the ad hoc working group on the headline goal.

We look forward for the "Berlin +" principles to appear more concretely.

IV – EU-Third Countries Relationship

The arrangements to be concluded with non EU countries are closely linked to the permanent mechanisms for EU crisis management.

A regular dialogue with non EU European countries, whether they are NATO allies or EU candidates is important to the development of a full fledged European defense environment. Hence the setting up of the general frame at EU+15 and, within this general frame, the EU+6 meetings.

Thus, while implementing the decisions taken at Feira on consultation, dialogue and co-operation with these countries, we will prepare the modalities of their association to EU crisis management operations, in cases where they contribute. These modalities, in particular the setting up of a "committee of contributors", will be part of the arrangements between the EU and each of these countries.

V – Future of the WEU

The setting up of the permanent mechanisms of the EU will naturally have deep implications for the WEU.

As I said, most of the WEU military staff will disappear, while the satellite centre and the institute will be integrated in the EU.

The Brussels treaty will stay though, in particular its article V.

The WEU will keep its function of a large forum on security and defense, where this function is not ensured within EU/third countries mechanisms, and regarding its parliamentary and armament activities.

These are our priorities for the coming semester regarding European security and defense policy.

They are indeed the priorities of the Fifteen which France has the responsibility to implement.

We will do our best to achieve them. We are aware that our Presidency will be an important step in the development of ESDP.

There is ground to be confident. We already have achieved a lot in the last year and a half. The political will is there among all our partners, and we will progress as much as we can until the end of the year. No doubt when the following presidencies take over, there will still be plenty to achieve.

Thank you.


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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).