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Observatory on European defence, December 2002


13-16 December 2002 
EU-NATO “Berlin +” Agreement

On 16 December, after an exchange of letters on 13 and 16 December, the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance issued a common statement that makes the permanent cooperation agreement known as “Berlin+” official. The two institutions mutually recognise their respective roles in enhancing European security and establish a partnership based on reciprocal consultation, cooperation and autonomy. The EU commits itself to involving the non-EU European NATO members in ESDP, while NATO guarantees its support (which includes military assets) to EU missions in which the Alliance is not directly involved. The implementing arrangements of the agreement shall be defined and adopted on 1 March 2003. Once the agreement becomes operational, the EU could take over some NATO missions in the Balkans.

After a long series of failures due to Turkish opposition, a permanent agreement between NATO and EU has finally been reached. The formal link between the two institutions guarantees the EU permanent access to the NATO assets needed to carry out the first Petersberg type operations. It therefore represents an important step for making ESDP militarily and politically operational . The decision-making and force-generation procedures will now be tested to verify the effectiveness of the framework agreement. The EU will be allowed to use permanently NATO’s planning, command, control, communication (including space-based) and logistical support facilities , as well as the AWACS fleet. This represents a relevant contribution for the first future EU-led missions. Nevertheless, the complementarity between EU and NATO initiatives still has to be proven. The European force’s specialisation in stabilisation operations alone would not be consistent with the ESDP’s long-term objective.

12-13 December 2002 
EU Council - ESDP Missions, Enlargement

The European Council in Copenhagen held at the end of the Danish Presidency of the Union approved the enlargement of the Union. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus will become EU members on 1 May 2004; the Council hopes a settlement on the division of Cyprus will be found before 28 February 2003, otherwise only the Southern part (Greek Cyprus) of the island will enter the Union. While talks with Turkey will start after the December 2004 EU Council, Bulgaria and Romania could join in 2007, provided that the criteria for adhesion (so-called Copenhagen criteria) are satisfied. The agreement reached with the Atlantic Alliance allowed the EU to issue a declaration of willingness to take over from NATO the missions in Macedonia-FYROM (Allied Harmony, formerly Amber Fox) and Bosnia Herzegovina (SFOR). The relations with NATO are clarified in the second annex to the Presidency Conclusions, which state that the agreement interests only those EU members that have bilateral relations with NATO. Therefore, Cyprus and Malta will, for the moment, be excluded from EU military missions using NATO assets, but will benefit from all rights connected to their access in the Union.  

Apart from the permanent agreement with NATO (see above), the Copenhagen European Council will be remembered as the “Enlargement Council”. The process of enlargement will have different impacts on European defence. The area of stability will be enlarged, as will the number of potential contributors of military forces. But the problem connected to the different memberships with NATO will remain and the process of strengthening ESDP will be more difficult, given the probable opposition of some countries, in particular the new members of the Atlantic Alliance. Without a procedure that can overcome the obstacle of unanimity decision-making, CFSP and ESDP decisions will be restricted to the lowest common denominator among all members. A strong backing from the Convention for adopting constructive abstention and reinforced cooperation in security and defence matters could avoid this risk. The declaration on the EU’s intention to operate in the Balkans reinforces its willingness to act after the time-consuming process of reaching an agreement. There is a risk however that this enthusiastic engagement in the Balkans could hinder involvement in more significant operations in the near future. The operations in Macedonia and Bosnia should not be the ESDP’s greatest ambition; this first engagement should be the training ground for an increasing European role in international situations requiring the use of force. Some EU members and partners tend to interpret the Petersberg Tasks quite restrictively , since they would like the Union to get involved only in low-intensity stability operations. This interpretation should be rejected in political and practical terms, since it would not allow the EU to have any influence oin the international scene.

20 December 2002
EU Convention - ESDP and CFSP

The reports by the Defence (chaired by Michel Barnier) and External Action (chaired by Jean-Luc Dehaene) Working Groups are presented to the European Convention. The documents do not present a common position of all members and put forward different proposals for the Convention. The level of “communitarisation” of national foreign and security policies accepted differs from country to country. The “neutral” countries are against, while Spain and the UK are worried about the potential problem of coordination with NATO on collective defence; on the other end of the spectrum, France and Germany seem more willing to develop a true defence policy in a European framework. Moreover, there is a problem of consistency between the two working groups’ conclusions, since the institutional settings proposed by the External Action Group would have a direct impact on the crisis management options analysed by the other Group. The Defence document will be analysed by the Plenum; it suggests:

  • updating the Petersberg Tasks, including conflict prevention, arms control programs, military assistance to third countries, post-conflict stabilisation and support to the fight against international terrorism.
  • guaranteeing the consistency and effectiveness of crisis management through institutional and financial arrangements centred on the role of the High Representative, in cooperation with the recommendations of the External Action Group.
  • improving the decision-making procedures, through the adoption of constructive abstention and majority voting and allowing for reinforced cooperation.
  • adopting a solidarity clause allowing for the use of any EU means in the fight against international terrorism. This will not represent a true collective defence commitment, given the absence of a common position on the inclusion of such a clause in the Treaty.
  • improving cooperation in armaments matters, establishing an intergovernmental European Armaments Agency; the support for this initiative varies from country to country. Some members think it should be in charge of developing common military capabilities and are in favour of adopting precise criteria for membership.
  • establishing a formal Defence Council.

The experience in the Defence Group revealed the different positions of the members on communitarising security policies, which will be crucial for the role of the Union in the world. The Group gave up seeking a common ground. This allowed it to present solutions calling for a stronger EU role in security and defence matters. On the other hand, there was no consensus on proposals to develop a genuine European Defence. Given the divergence between the members, what is needed is a reform of the institutions and decision-making procedures to abolish the unanimity requirements and allow the countries willing and able to develop their security and defence policies and assets within the EU framework. The text that the Convention will draft on the basis of the Working Groups’ recommendations and present to the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), will represent a fundamental step for the strengthening of the Union. The IGC will have to discuss the possibility of developing within the EU framework actions and initiatives by smaller groups of countries, adopting procedures that could be modelled on the NATO Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) experience. Without these reforms and strong political support, the EU and its member countries will be forced to play a minor, reactive role in the international arena. The evolution of the crisis in Iraq is a clear demonstration of this prospect.