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Observatory on European defence, March 2008


10 March 2008
EU General Affairs and External Relations Council - ESDP missions: Afghanistan, Iran

Ministers discussed Afghanistan's situation and reaffirmed the EU's long-term commitment to sustaining the population and local Government. Particular reference was made to the "Afghanistan Compact", a 5-year political agreement launched in 2006 by the Afghan government and the United Nations, meant to organize international cooperation by improving security, countering drug trafficking and boosting Government structures, as well as economic and social development. In June an international donors conference will be held in Paris in order to evaluate the progress in the "Afghanistan Compact".
The Council evaluated the progress in the ESDP's EUPOL Afghanistan police mission which started in June 2007 and was aimed at forming a local police force and has recently reached full operational capacity at the central, provincial and regional levels. The mission, currently operating in 4 northern and western provinces, will cover all regions (16 provinces) by the end of spring 2008. Moreover Ministers took into consideration the possibility of a further strengthening of their involvement in Afghanistan - in particular in the police and rule-of-law sectors - always in close cooperation with the United Nations' Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
On the 17th of March, in Lujbljana in the presence of the Chairmen of the External Relations Commissions of member States, the CFSP High Representative Solana admitted that the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated compared to 3 or 4 years ago as concerns security governance and countering drug trafficking and therefore requires a renewed commitment and coordination between the local Government and the international community.
Ministers also discussed the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s report on the Iranian nuclear program and the adoption on the 3rd of March of the Security Council's Resolution 1803 (2008) which reinforces the sanctions - in particular by further freezing assets and imposing travel bans on Iranian officials - which have already been implemented in resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007). Iran has 3 months to suspend any activity linked to uranium enrichment. The same day, a declaration of UN permanent members (with Germany and the backing of Solana) condemned Tehran's lack of cooperation , while confirming the validity of a dual approach which, while insisting on sanctions leaves open a door for negotiations.

13-14 March 2008 
European Council - Climate change and Security; Middle East and Libanon

The European Council discussed 3 main topics:
- relaunching of the Lisbon strategy for the 2008-2010 period
- preparation of an integrated policy on energy and climate change
- stability of financial markets.
The second issue was put into relationship with a report by CFSP High Representative Solana and the European Commission on the effects of climate change on international security and stability and which recommends more EU capability in facing conflicts and disasters from the point of view of research, monitoring, early warning, civil protection and multinational cooperation.
The Presidency declarations following the Council concerned the Middle East situation and confirmed the 27 member states' support for the Annapolis process (November 2007). The Israel's right to self-defense was reaffirmed, as well as the need for all checkpoints to be reopened - with the needed controls - in order to improve the extremely serious humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the meantime, the Commission allocated 300 million euros to the Palestinians for aid purposes, 71 of which were given to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).
The Council confirmed its willingness to strengthen and extend the EUPOL COPPS mission in order to support improvement and reform of the Palestinian security corps, and to reactivate the EU Assistance Mission on the Gaza-Egypt Rafah/EU BAM Rafah Border-Crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
The Council also expressed its support for the Lebanese people and institutions' efforts to protect the integrity, sovereignty, independence and stability of national territory, even in the current political impasse. Regarding the latter, Solana informally expressed the need for more EU pressure on the Syrian government.

15 March 2008

EUFOR-CHAD/RCA, EU military operation in Western Chad and in the north-western region of RCA, has reached initial operational capacity (almost 1,700 troops, 1,100 from France), which marks the beginning of the mission's annual duration. Full capacity of 4,000 troops is estimated to be reached by June.
The mission is part of the multidimensional presence established by Security Council Resolution 1778 (2007) on the deployment of the UN MINURCAT mission which authorizes the use of force in the framework of Chapter VII. Tasks include: protection of the civil population and of UN personnel in the region, facilitating of access to humanitarian aid and of the movement of people.
EUFOR-CHAD/RCA faces a difficult situation: the deployment of European contingents was stopped in February due to poor security conditions resulting from clashes between rebel and government forces, which caused casualties among French troops on the 6th of March.
An attempt is being made to raise the number and contributions of European and other countries involved. Albania and Russia have announced their participation, while negotiations with Norway and Ukraine are pending. Moscow will provide helicopters, to meet the most pressing needs of the mission, which are in strategic and helicopter transportation.

28 March 2008
NATO - Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE)

A statement of the North Atlantic Council confirmed the Allies' strong attachment to the CFE Treaty - considered the lynchpin of the Euro-Atlantic security system - and expressed its hope for rapid ratification of the modified version, which reaffirms that the forces of third countries can stay on a member state's territory only with the permission of the latter.
The Russian Federation, which unilaterally suspended the application of the Treaty on 12th December 2007 - though confirming its willingness to continue negotiations- has been urged once again to rescind the suspension and to find a compromise solution also regarding the pull-out of Russian troops and facilities from Georgia and Moldova.

March 2008
EU Capacity - Civil protection and humanitarian crisis, arms export

On the 5th of March, the European Commission presented an action plan for the strengthening of the EU response to natural or man-made catastrophes in the member states' territories and beyond. The plan, to be implemented by the end of 2008, is centered on civil protection and humanitarian aid, in order to achieve better coordination of national assets. Main recommendations include the improvement of early warning systems, the transformation of the Monitoring and Information Center (MIC), a communitarian civil protection mechanism, into an operational instrument provided with available resources and a monitoring instrument (linked to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, GMES) and the creation of a "European-wide Disaster Response Training Network".
On the 10th of March, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the European Commission presented a manual on civil and military coordination in humanitarian crises situations.
On the 13th of March, finally, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging a common position on the adoption of a binding EU code of conduct on arms exports.