Print version

Observatory on European defence, February 2000


7 February 2000

The Portuguese rotating Presidency of the EU has scheduled the timetable of the meetings of the Ministers of Defence (28th February, informal meeting) and the General Affairs Council (14th February).
The Council is expected to shape the future of the Political Security Committee (PSC-COPS), the Military Committee and the Military Staff.
The Ministers of Defence will undertake an analysis of the decision taken in the European Council held in Helsinki in December.

The meetings launched by the EU Presidency are aimed at continuing the pace of the Union towards a real common military capability; today this capability is limited to the so-called "Petersberg tasks" in which the Atlantic Alliance is not involved. 
Following the decision taken under the former Finnish Presidency, the Member States committed themselves to develop, by the year 2003, a common military capability of 50.000/60.000 soldiers to be deployed within 60 days and over a period of one year to sustain "Petersberg type" missions.
To reach this goal, the countries must agree on the political and the command structures heading the military instrument (interim bodies of the Council) and must identify broad general objectives.
The evolution of the whole process of European integration in this sector depends on these meetings: without a clear political direction, it would be difficult to develop a military structure.

14 February 2000
Meeting GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL : Foundation of Interim Committees of ESDP

The General Affairs Council has established three interim structures to develop the common foreign and security policy: the Political Security Committee (PSC), the Military Committee and a group of military experts within the General Secretariat (Military Staff).
The problem of the Presidency of the PSC during a crisis (whether it is the President-in-office or the High Representative) has not yet been solved; the Military Committee will be dependent on both the PSC and the High Representative.

The Council took a further step in the institution-building process, establishing the political and military structures responsible for the control, political guidance and co-ordination of the future operative capability.
While the creation of the PSC, once a major source of contrast among Member States, does not solve the problem of co-ordination with the High Representative (Solana), it does clarify the command structure.
The three structures, composed by high-ranking officers, are expected to meet on a frequent, regular basis, thus providing guidelines for the European security policy.
The interim bodies constitute the framework within which the future permanent organs will develop and shape the policy of the nascent military structure.
This solution is temporary, until the revision of the Treaty will make it possible to set up a more articulate structure in a more defined institutional framework.

22 February 2000
Meeting EU PARLIAMENT and NATO ASSEMBLY - Emerging problems

The first joint meeting of the two organs took place in Brussels; rules were established to guarantee the mutual participation of the two bodies in the meeting of the Assemblies. This will guarantee the necessary co-ordination of the EU security and defence initiative with the Atlantic Alliance.
Some concerns emerged on the problem posed by the different membership in the EU, NATO or WEU of the countries involved in European security, and regarding the future of the transatlantic relations, as well as the feasibility of the "headline goals" in the present situation of reduced defence spending.

The Parliamentary meeting not only started the indispensable consultative procedure among the main organisations that will guarantee the security of Europe in the future, but also focused on the principal obstacle that the European initiative will have to overcome.
First, the institutional process by which the European countries will participate, according to their membership, in the current security institutions, will have to be established. Of the 15 EU countries, 4 (Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden) are not NATO members and only 10 are WEU members. At the same time, there are 8 countries (Iceland, Norway, Turkey, the USA, Canada and the three new members Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary) that belongs to NATO but not to the EU or the WEU (some are observers or associate partners).
The future of the WEU Parliament is still unclear, considering that the EU will absorb its function. Some countries like France and the United Kingdom wants to keep the Assembly and are against the involvement of the European Parliament (EP) in the field of the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy). However, the EP has a general competence for the budget and would be involved when EU funds are used. The problem of a further connection of European and national Parliaments is still open. The kind of role the United States of America should play in European security is still unclear; the role of NATO will also depend on this. One solution could be to give NATO the right to engage in a crisis before the EU structure is activated (so-called "right of first refusal").
The EU Ministers of Defence will meet in Sintra on 28th February to discuss these items, preparing for the European Council in Lisbon (23rd-24th March).

28 February 2000

The 15 EU Ministers of Defence met in Sintra (Portugal) to discuss the decision taken by the European Council on 11th December 1999 in Helsinki and reached an agreement to operationalise the interim structure of the ESDP from 1st March.
A commitment has also been taken to appoint as soon as possible the military personnel of the interim military structures, in order to ensure their readiness by the end of March.
The Ministers approved a time schedule that envisions holding a conference on the establishment of the Intervention Force by the end of the year, as provided by the Final Act of the Helsinki Council.
The French Minister of Defence, Richard, suggested that each country should commit a fraction of 0.7% of the GDP to the military procurement.

At the informal meeting, held soon after the 14th February meeting of the General Affairs Council, national governments reached a first agreement on the road of a genuine constitution of a military policy with an operative capability. 
The agreement will allow operationalise the ESDP structures within very short time laps. The quick response to the European initiative from the national governments could be a sign of a real interest and commitment to the development of a European military capability. No decision was taken, but the meeting has defined a timetable for the institutional progress, avoiding the dispersion of the previous efforts.
Moreover, a first problem has emerged, in particular the difficult question of the needed economic resources for the development of a strong ESDP with an efficient military capability. The national governments have understood the need to adopt common convergence criteria at the level of operational capability and of financial burden which will imply an increase of the military spending of EU countries.
EU Member States’ defence expenditures are not proportionate, to the future exigencies, both quantitatively and qualitatively; the French proposal to reach an adequate level of investment aims at modifying this situation and avoiding free riding. Concerning Italy, it will require a substantial increase of the defence budget; this policy is not popular, but could become acceptable to the public if it is part of an international security framework.
The General Affairs Council of 20th March will discuss the outcome of this meeting in order to take the first decision on this argument.

Research area