Observatory on European Defence, February 2009
February 19, 2009
EU - Energy, Ukraine, Russia
The Energy Council approved the second strategic revision on energy- "An EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan"- which identifies five areas of priority intervention: development of better energy infrastructures and diversification of supplies; consolidation of external relations with the countries supplier of energy; creation of bigger energy supplies; better energy efficiency and better use of European natural resources. These recommendations, if approved by the spring European Council, will be the basis of discussion for a new European Energy Action Plan (2013-2020).
The energy crisis of January raised doubts about the reliability of Russia and Ukraine. However, the EU continues negotiations with Russia and Ukraine for an association agreement and with Russia for a new partnership agreement (for this purpose the EU Commission President Barroso asked for legally binding laws in all of the cooperation sectors, and particularly strict laws on energy). The relations with Russia are also cooled by Moscow's project to strengthen its military presence in Abkhatia and South Ossetia, two Georgian secessionist regions that Russia recognizes as independent. On February 5th, the Czech Presidency strongly censured the Russian project, calling it "a serious violation of Georgia's national sovereignty and territorial integrity".
The EU, the dispatch continues, expects Russia to act in a responsible way and honour all of its commitments (referencing Moscow's promises to withdraw its troops from Georgia after the end of the conflict). The Russian-Western relations were also troubled by the Kyrgyzstan government's decision to not renew the rent of the strategic military base of Manas to the US, which is used today to restock the supplies of the allies in Afghanistan. It is suspected that the decision was made by Kyrgyzstan under pressure from Moscow, which in those same days granted credits and aid of 450 million dollars, and cancelled 180 millions of Kyrgyzstan's debt.
Despite these differences, on February 13th the permanent representatives of EU member states in the Political and Security Committee met Russian representatives to discuss for the second time President Medvedev's proposal for a new collective security architecture in Europe, for which an OSCE summit should be convened for the last half of 2009.
February 23, 2009
EU General Affairs and External Relations Council - Afghanistan, Middle East
The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) confirmed its support for Afghan Presidential elections to be held on August 20th (funding and dispatch of an electoral mission) and its commitment to expand the EU police mission EUPOL both from a numerical point of view (EUPOL includes as many as 170 men with 400 foreseen at the moment) and that of the mandate.
The Ministers agreed on the fact that the EU should identify other areas to intervene on, yet underlined the need of cooperation with other international actors. The GAERC also discussed the peace process in the Middle East after the political elections held in Israel on February 10th. The Ministers reaffirmed EU support of the Egyptian mediation efforts in favour of the dialogue between Palestinian factions, and of the resumption of bilateral negotiations and the Arab peace initiative.
This initiative, based on the exchange "territories in return for peace" and illustrated on February 4th at the European Parliament by Palestinian President Abbas, indicates that 57 Islamic countries would be ready to normalize their own relations with Israel if it withdrew from all of the Palestinian occupied territories. On February 24th the CSFP High Representative Solana visited the Middle East, specifically the capitals of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Israel and the Palestinian territories and Gaza, where he met among others the American special envoy, George Mitchell, but not Hamas representatives. On February 27th the European Commission announced its contribution to Gaza reconstruction: 436 million euros for 2009. Always aiming to contribute to the normalization of life in the Gaza strip, the European parliament asked, with a resolution approved almost unanimously, for the immediate and long-term opening of the borders of the Strip (the borders with Egypt and Israel are almost completely blocked at the moment). The EU continues to be available to reactivate EUBAM Rafah- the monitoring mission at the Rafah crossing, on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt- which, deployed in 2005, was suspended in June 2007 because of insufficient security conditions. 27 EU officers are in stand-by at the moment, ready to resume the operation, with possible extension to other crossings.
EU - Fight against international terrorism
On February 19th the European Commission published a document which examines EU member states' anti-terrorism policies. The document proposes to analyze the European anti-terrorism legislation, and contains informations on penal, administrative, procedural law as well as on fundamental rights. It also deals with matters such as modes of conduct of anti-terrorism investigations, employment of evidence coming from reliable sources, preservation of rules related to data protection and expulsion of those supposed guilty of terroristic acts.
The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council of February 25th- 27th has delayed again the decision on the possible reception of prisoners from the American prison of Guantanamo which, following the intentions of the new US administration, should be dismantled. Such a decision concerns the single member states and not the European institutions, even if a certain degree of coordination is needed, given the absence of interior borders in the Schengen area.
Some states, like France and Portugal, remain possibilists, unlike others (particularly Denmark, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sweden). The EU Justice Commissioner Barrot will go to the USA in the middle of March to obtain from the American authorities further information and details on the prisoners' individual cases. After this information phase, which might take months, the EU member states will make a decision. In the meantime, the European institutions continue exhorting states to accept former Guantanamo prisoners, both for humanitarian reasons and to strengthen relations with the US.
The Council took note of the conclusions of Judge Bruguière, in charge of assessing the respect by the U.S. Treasury of its commitments in the control of the Swift case. This telecommunication society had been accused to transfer data of European customers to anti-terrorism American authorities, violating European laws on privacy and arousing worries of economic espionage. Bruguière confirmed that the U.S. Treasury fully carried out the measures agreed with the EU to grant that the data extraction from the Swift database is done exclusively with anti-terrorism goals.
On February 19th, the European Parliament approved a resolution underlining the political, moral and juridical co-responsibility of several European states with CIA illegal activities in Europe, including transport, illegal detention and the so-called "extraordinary renditions" of suspected terrorists.
EU - Capacity, Security
The European Defence Agency (EDA) published a document of actions concerning the objectives indicated by the European armaments cooperation strategy approved last October by the national armaments directors: to promote cooperative programs oriented towards the capacities to fulfill; to make sure that the investments in the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) are oriented towards the capacities and support future cooperative programs; to improve the efficacy and efficiency of European armaments cooperation. The GAERC of February 23rd approved an updated version of the common list of military equipments covered by the Code of Conduct on arms export which, in force since 1998, was made legally binding last December.
On February 26th the Strasbourg Treaty came into force, recognizing Eurocorps (1992) as a unique European military organization subject to an international treaty and giving it operational autonomy which gives responsibilities to its General Commander for matters concerning the procurement of materials and personnel organization. This contributes to the idea of a permanent military body for European defense, as requested by a resolution of the European parliament of last June which indicated Eurocorps as the desirable permanent force under EU command and as reaffirmed by a recent relation (February 19th) adopted by a large majority who required the creation of an integrated European armed force retaining that even the European Security Strategy (ESS) and the NATO future strategic concept should support that line.
Concerning security, one year since his nomination, Joana, Special Advisor of the CSFP High Representative Solana for African peacekeeping capabilities, took stock of the strategic EU-Africa security partnership. Progress have been made on measures taken towards the formation of an autonomous African capacity for crisis prevention and management, including: the recent start-up of the cycle (2008-2010) Amani Africa (EURORECAMP) for the operational certification, in 2010, of the African Stand-by Force (for which a donors conference was held on February 6th in Brussels); support to the institution of centers of excellence for the African security force; and the possible institution of a financial tool for supporting the peacekeeping activities of the African Union. On February 12th the European Commission announced the allocation of 27 million euros to strengthen international humanitarian organizations' capacities for training and response to humanitarian calamities (particularly for the improvement of international cooperation, integrated logistical operations and the joint assessment of the decision process).
On February 23rd the Commission adopted two complementary communications: one aims to reduce the impact of natural and man-caused disasters in the EU thanks to an emphasis on prevention at a communitarian level, and the other delineates a strategy supporting the reduction of disaster risks in developing countries.
NATO - Capacity, Somalia, Afghanistan
The 2009 NATO missions budget of 2142 million euros marks an increase from the 2008 budget (2030). Such a sum covers the arrangement costs- not the direct ones- of civil (201,4) and military (1940,5) operations and retired NATO staff (24).
On February 5th NATO and OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation) signed an agreement concerning security of NATO classified information. The OCCAR, as an international procurement agency, currently manages three armament programs with NATO participation: ROLAND missiles, A400M military airplanes for transport and TIGER helicopters.
From February 13th to 27th Noble Manta '09 was held, the largest annual NATO drill for anti-submarine operations. Organized by the Allied Maritime Component Command Naples, it involved Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the UK, the USA and Turkey.
On February 19th the NATO Ministers of Defence endorsed the decision to deploy, since the end of March 2009, the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG-1) to counter piracy off the Somali coasts. Operational aspects such as the number of navy units and the duration of the mission are still to be defined and will fit the framework of the comprehensive action of the international community in the area, including initiatives based on single states like the USA and on a collective basis, like the Combined Task Force 150 ( CTF-150) and by Atalanta, an EU military naval operation.
On February 19th and 20th the informal meeting of the NATO Ministers of Defence held in Cracow, Poland, dealt primarily with the Atlantic Alliance transformation and with the situation in Afghanistan.
As for the NATO transformation agenda, the North Atlantic Council discussed the common financing of operations, capacity (helicopters and missile defence), NATO structure reform (headquarters and integrated military structures) and NATO Response Force (NRF) revision.
Discussions on Afghanistan involved 41 contributory countries to the NATO ISAF on several aspects:
- Priority of the commitment to assure the necessary security conditions for presidential elections foreseen for August 20th;
- Need of institutional reforms for the Afghan government and of an increase of civilian aspects in the country's reconstruction;
- Need for strengthening the NATO commitment supporting the local police training with a complementary training mission in ISAF and in coordination with the EUPOL Afghanistan police mission and the USA Focused District Development program (FDD);
- Commitment to the training of and equipment supply for the Afghan national army. On this point the financing problem remains unresolved: the existing fund is dedicated to the personnel costs, billet and equipments, not the functioning of operations of a foreseen force of 122000 men and 12000 reservists. Even the matter of the financial sustainability on the long term remains unclear. The idea of financing Afghan soldiers (costing 1/100 of NATO ones) was perceived by the Allies as a beginning of an "exit strategy".
- Enlargement of the ISAF mandate to direct support to the fight against drugs trafficking;
- Need for an intensified commitment in ISAF: the announcement of an increase of US troops for spring (17000, apart from the 56400 US soldiers already deployed in ISAF) was welcomed positively while other 20 Allies promised an increase of the civil or military personnel.
- Need for ISAF to limit civilian victims involved in the clashes between coalition forces and insurgents.