Print version

Observatory on European defence, December 2008


8-9 December 2008
EU General Affairs and External Relations Council - ESDP, Middle East, Somalia, Western Balkans, Chad

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) has endorsed several documents concerning ESDP to be submitted to the European Council: a Declaration on the enforcement of international security, a Declaration on the enforcement of civil and military capabilities and a Statement of CSFP High Representative Solana on the European Security Strategy, ESS.
The six-monthly report on ESDP Developments was approved including the mandate for the incoming Presidency (Czech Republic) which, assisted by Solana and in association with the European Commission, will support the development of ESDP on a number of points. They include:
- Civil and military capabilities, including the capability of the Military Staff to plan and conduct EU missions (EUMS) at the strategic level;
- Training and common exercises;
- European Defence Agency, EDA, particularly as concerns its operating activities (projects);
- Strategic partnership with NATO in crisis management;
- Development of African crisis management capabilities.
The GAERC made a thorough assessment of the peace process in the Middle East. The Council reaffirmed Europe's commitment for the peace process in Palestine, reiterating the EU's intention to strengthen ties with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel, drawing up with Israel a new instrument for cooperation by April 2009. The European decision provoked a reaction from Egypt, which claims that Israel has given no proof of openness to the peace process. At the end of December, conflict broke out again between Israel and the Palestinian fundamentalist party Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. On December 19th, at the end of a fragile truce repeatedly violated by both sides, Hamas declared that it was not interested to renewing it and subsequently intensified the launching of Qassam rockets and mortar fire towards the south of Israel in retaliation for the blockade put on the Strip's borders by Israel more than 18 months ago, which has brought the local economy to its knees.
On December 27th, Israel launched a series of air attacks on the Gaza Strip, bombing various structures belonging to Hamas and the Gaza police force (even in the city center).
The action causes 155 victims, partly civilians. On the same day, a declaration by Solana asked for the immediate suspension of any military action on both sides and the opening of Gaza border crossing for the transit of humanitarian convoys and ordinary commercial traffic. He also confirmed the EU's willingness to reactivate the monitoring mission at the Rafah crossing, on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The mission (EUBAM Rafah), deployed in 2005, was suspended in June 2007, after the short but bloody armed conflict between Hamas and the rival party, Fatah. In the following days, while Hamas continued to launch rockets, Israeli attacks intensified, hitting the Ministry of the Interior and the University of Gaza, considered to be controlled by Hamas. The victims rose to more than 329, with more than 1400 injured. Israel also started to gather tanks on the Strip's border, and reservists are called up in view of a land operation. On December 30th, Solana, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Member States and the European Commission met to discuss the situation in Gaza. An EU proposal to solve the crisis emerged from the meeting. It included:
- A permanent and immediate cease fire to allow the crossings to be reopened, reiterating the EU's willingness to reactivate EUBAM Rafah and extend it to other border crossings;
the EU is also present in Gaza with the EUPOL COPPS mission, in support of the PNA police;
- Immediate humanitarian intervention, sending food and medicine, evacuation of the seriously injured and access for humanitarian operators;
- Reactivation of the peace process as required by UN resolution no.1850, on the basis of the Annapolis process, and the creation of a Palestinian state that coexists peacefully with Israel.
Concerning the missions, the Council adopted the decision launching EU NAVFOR Somalia - operation Atlanta, the first EU naval military operation to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia. The deployment of the operation was made possible by a Coordination Unit (EU NAVCO) activated in Brussels at the EUMS last September 19th , over which the COPS will maintain strategic direction and political control while the EU Military Committee directs military activities. The financing for the mission is 8.3 million euro for running ordinary common costs and will have a (renewable) length of one year, starting from the declared starting operating capability.
The Northwood base is the operating headquarters under the command of British General Jones.Force Commander , Greek Rear Admiral Papaioannou, will take charge for the first four months, after which the command will be taken over by Spain and the Netherlands. France, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, UK, Spain and Sweden took part in the force generation process. On December 14th the EU operation Atlanta took over from the NATO operation Allied Provider - in operation from October 24th to December 12th 2008, through the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 under the command of the Italian admiral Gumiero, requested by the UN to escort WFP humanitarian ships.
The Ministers took note of the starting operating capability of the EU mission on the rule of law in Kosovo (EULEX KOSOVO) reached on December 2nd. The beginning of the mission's mandate is foreseen for December 9th and it should take over responsibility for matters concerning war crimes, the fight against corruption, organized crime, inter-ethnic crimes, money laundering, terrorism and property crimes throughout Kosovo territory.
For the moment, the mission includes over 1500 men on the ground (1054 police officers and international experts and 465 local staff).
With regard to the EU's operating commitment in the Western Balkans, Italian General Castagnotto took command of the the Althea military operation EUFOR- in Bosnia-Herzegovina on December 4th.
The Council approved a document which summarises the progress achieved by EU EUFOR-Chad/RCA. The balance seems to be positive with respect to the previous years as concerns security in the concerned zones, however the EU remains cautious in that the situation has still not been stabilized, especially in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as shown by the letter of December 5th of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, asking for the dispatch of EU military support for the MONUC UN mission while waiting for reenforcements of from 17,000 to 20,000 men.
Both during the GAERC as well as later, during the European Council, the hypothesis of an EU mission has supported almost exclusively by Belgium, which declared that it was ready to send up to 500 men. Expiry of EUFOR-CHAD/RCA's mandate (March 15th 2009) will not prevent member states from re-configuring their operating commitment within the UN framework (even if formal decisions along this line are lacking at the moment), or put an end to the EU's commitment in the region: missions (the EUPOL RD Congo police missions and the EUSEC RD Congo mission assisting reform in the security sector), humanitarian aid and support for the political process.

11-12 December 2008 
European Council - Lisbon Treaty, ESDP

The European Council tackled different topics : the Lisbon Treaty, economic and financial issues, energy and climate change, common agricultural policy, external relations and security and defence policy.
As for the Treaty, an agreement of principle was reached, setting the date for entry into force within the end of 2009. Ireland took on a commitment to find a solution after the negative result of the referendum held on June 12th 2008, for ratification before the end of the European Commission's mandate (November 1st 2009).The conclusions again underline some points of the Treaty, among them the fact that it does not prejudice the security and defence policy of the member states.
As for ESDP, the Council expressed its intent to give new impulse to the sector, as expressed by the Declaration on the enforcement of the ESDP concerning capabilities (recommending the development on a voluntary basis of forms of specialization limiting duplications), bodies (with a recommendation to Solana to set up a single strategic civilian/military planning structure for EU missions), industry (recommending a revamping of the European defence technological and industrial basis (EDTIB) and a partnership with NATO (operational cooperation).
The Council adopted the conclusions set out by the GAERC:
- The six-monthly Presidency report on ESDP Developments including the mandate for the incoming Presidency (Czech Republic);
- A Declaration on the enforcement and optimization of civil and military capabilities (including the enforcement of EDTIB through initiatives gravitating around the EDA and voluntary commitments concerning the increase and use (even jointly) of funds focused on research and development);
- The Solana report on the ESS (2003) "Report on the implementation of the European Security Strategy - Providing security in a changing world", confirming the threats indicated by the Strategy (proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organized crime,..) given that 5 years later they have become more complex, and identifying new areas of emerging interest: computer security, energy security and the impact of climate change. With regard to stability, even beyond the EU's frontiers, the report underlined the importance of some elements (the link between security and development, piracy, small arms and small calibre arms, ammunition and landmines) in strengthening partnerships and pursuing effective multilateralism with some nearby countries. The Report does not mention a strategy "revision", considering the text and its implementation a work in progress;
- A Declaration on strengthening international security, providing further details on the principles and objectives expressed by the ESS with regard particularly to the fight against terrorism, proliferation and disarmament, conventional disarmament, security in space activities (the GAERC endorsed the idea of a voluntary EU Conduct Code on security in the states' extra-atmospheric activities, supporting transparency as a basis for consultation even with third countries), drug trafficking and piracy.

December 2008 
EU - European Defense Industry and Market

The GAERC adopted a Common Position which makes the Code of Conduct (1998) for the EU regime on military equipment and technology exports legally binding. The common criteria that prevent export to third countries at-risk (wars, proliferation, human rights violations) do not prevent the member states from applying more restrictive rules.
On December 8th and 9th, during a forum organized by the EC in Brussels devoted to restructuring in the defence industry, a "European partnership for the anticipation of change in the defence industry" was created.It is made up of European institutions (EDA), the governments of member states, industries, and social actors. The initiative specified some measures aimed at promoting monitoring, the exchange of best practices and the importance of the employment aspects in order to anticipate changes caused by the restructuring of the sector.
On December 16th, the European Parliament plenary session approved the Directive on intra-community transfer of military products.

 See also: " L'Ue verso un mercato unico della difesa"[EU towards a common defence market], by Michele Nones, AffarInternazionali, 19/12/2008

The agreement upon first reading (including the amendments negotiated with the Council) will allow the latter to take the final (formal) decision on the text, in accordance with the co-decision procedure followed. Upon approval, states will have 2 years' time to adjust their rules. The Directive, aimed at harmonizing the national systems of licencing, is part of the "Defence Package" adopted by the Commission in December 2007 to boost competitiveness in the defence industrial sector, limiting the cases of applicability of art.296 of the EC Treaty which allows for exemption from common market rules for interests that are essential to national security. Given the division's specificity, it supplies an alternative regime.

December 2008 
EU - Fight against international terrorism

On December 4th the European Court of First Instance cancelled the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) from the European list of terrorist organizations. Inclusion in the list, updated every six months, entails the freezing of the funds and possessions of the organization and the people connected with it, in addition to a limitation on the latter's circulation.
To include an organisation, a state has to request it and it has to be agreed upon unanimously. To renew the inscription of an organization in the list six months later, it is enough for no state to oppose it. The judgement of the court is based on a lack of evidence (the Council did not want to supply the Court with some information concerning the accusations against the PMOI). The Iranian organisation represents the opposition in exile to the Teheran regime, and renounced armed resistance in 2001, laying down its arms in 2003. France seems to be considering appealing the decision of the court. In the meantime, the PMOI forwarded a claim to recover funds frozen in the past.
On December 16th, on request from Spain, the EU placed two parties of the Basque nationalist Left (Basque Nationalist Action and Communist Party of the Basque Homelands) on the list, as well as 13 people considered ETA members. The two parties are considered close to Batasuna, the political arm of ETA declared illegal in Spain in 2003.
On December 8th the GAERC adopted a Directive (2008/114/CE) which establishes a procedure for identifying and designating European Critical Infrastructures (ECIs) and a common approach to the assessment of the need to improve their protection. ECIs are defined as assets or systems (or part thereof) essential for the maintenance of vital societal functions, and the destruction of which would have an impact in at least two member States. The Directive focuses on energy and transport sectors, but it could be extended to other sectors (first of all the ICT sector). Member States have to conform to the Directive by January 2012.

December 2008 
EU - Russia, Georgia, Ukraine

On December 2nd, the EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council appointed Tagliavini from Switzerland (UN special representative in Georgia from 2002 to 2006) as head of the European mission assessing the origins and development of the Russian-Georgian conflict of last August. The mission will be composed of approximately ten experts including jurists, soldiers and human rights experts. At the end of the month, a reduction in the frequency of the EU civil observation mission's patrols in the Abkhazia region was announced because of the danger of accidents. The EU fears repercussions from the possible signing of a military cooperation agreement between Abkhazia and Russia. The observation mission and, generally, the EU's commitment in the country were also discussed at the 9th meeting of the EU-Georgia Cooperation Council held on December 9th.
On December 3rd, the EC presented proposals for strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) through the institution of an "East Partnership" with six countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: Ukraine, Georgia, Moldavia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
The goal is to promote reforms in these countries and bring them closer to the EU, even without offering the prospect of adhesion in the short or medium term. The proposal was approved by the European Council on December 11th and its launch is expected for June 2009.
Also on December 3rd, the North Atlantic Council reaffirmed NATO's decision to gradually take up dialogue with Moscow, but only in an informal way and not at a high level.
During the middle of the month, the worsening of the situation on the border between Georgia and the two secessionist regions obliged the EU Presidency to express its concern and reiterate its request to Russia for an immediate and definitive withdrawal, in accordance with the agreements of August 8th and September 12th. The Presidency also took part in the Geneva international debates of December 17th/18th , in which all parties involved in the Russian-Georgian conflict participated. Measures to avoid border accidents and improve the living conditions of the people stricken by the war were discussed.
The next meeting is expected for February 2009. A new crisis between Russia and Ukraine on natural gas supplies contributed to worsening the relationship with Russia. This winter, like the previous two winters, a controversy threatened to stop Russian gas supplies to Europe. In the middle of the month, the European Commissioner for Energy, Pielbags, contacted Russian representatives and the administrator of the Ukraine gas transport network Naftogaz, to receive reassurances that the controversy between the Russian company Gazprom and Naftogaz would not have repercussions on European supplies. Soon afterward, Moscow warned the EU that the negotiation had failed. To confirm the EU's concerns about the situation, on December 22nd Solana appointed a special representative for energy security and climate change, the British citizen, Everts.