Observatory on European defence, October 2008
ESDP Missions - Chad, Kosovo, EU military naval operation in Somalia
The Council approved Moscow's participation in the EU military operation EUFOR CHAD/RCA in Eastern Chad and in the North-eastern areas of the Central African Republic. This support consists of a military contingent of 200 units under Russian command (liaison officers will be present in the EUFOR CHAD/RCA at different levels of command) and means of transportation for the EU and UN (MINURCAT) operations so as to favour the latter's complete deployment, also in view of the future completion of the EUFOR CHAD/RCA mission (15 March 2009).
Ministers also decided on US participation in the EU mission on the rule of law in Kosovo (EULEX KOSOVO). The agreement provides for the deployment, as of November, of about 80 police officials as well as 8 judges and prosecutors. As stated by the High Representative for CFSP, Solana, this will be a distinctive aspect of US participation in an ESDP civilian mission.
On 14 October, the PSC chose Northwood as the EU NAVFOR operational Headquarters and the British Rear-Admiral Jones as designated Commander. A number of States (Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, UK, Spain, Sweden, and Russia) are willing to participate in the mission at different levels; they would act in coordination with the other international presences in the area: the USA, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), NATO SNMG2. The EU NAVCO, activated in Brussels within the EU Military Staff, shall follow its deployment. The PSC shall take the strategic direction and political control over the Cell and the EUMC shall direct the military activities.
EU capabilities - Defence Ministers informal meeting, European Defence Agency, European Defence Market
On 1-2 October, EU Defence Ministers held an informal meeting, in which the strengthening of European military capabilities (flexibility and interoperability) was one of the most disputed issues. A number of projects on developing capabilities, namely those concerning transportation and training, were discussed. Among them, the most important are those dealing with the modernization of helicopters and joint training, on the basis of an Anglo-French initiative involving the European Defence Agency (EDA), as well as the creation of a European Air Fleet of strategic transport aircraft (A400M) for military purposes, based on common purchasing, pooling and joint training. They also confirmed the importance of developing these capabilities in accordance with the priority areas set out by the EDA Capability Development Plan (July 2008) through projects aiming at rationalizing production.
Furthermore, on 15 October, EDA met at the Armament National Directors' level and approved a strategy concerning cooperation in the armaments field in support of the ESPD. The strategy provides for a series of detailed actions for each of its three main goals:
- making cooperation easier by taking care of the first phases of a programme ("Guide to the Conduct of a Programme Preparation Phase") and by promoting cooperative programmes dealing with capability needs;
- ensuring that the investments in the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base, EDTIB, are oriented at capabilities and support the future cooperative programmes against a background of transparency and mutual comprehension between governments and industries;
- taking advantage of the work already done by EDA to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of cooperation in the armaments field.
The ministers' discussions also dealt with joint training, assessing the feasibility of the proposal made by the French Presidency about developing joint basic training programmes (like Erasmus programme for Universities) with the possible participation of the European College of Security and Defence.
Ministers also discussed EU missions at length. It is important to remember that ministers reached an agreement on the transformation of the EUFOR-Althea military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina into a civilian or a military training one. The new deployment, scheduled for the end of the year, will also involve NATO as a result of activation of the Berlin Plus Agreements that regulate the mission.
In conclusion, the critical aspects outlined by the informal meeting dealt mainly with:
- the strengthening of EU operational planning and conduct capabilities; in this regard, the French Presidency sent a working paper to the State Members' Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence on how to improve these specific capabilities. Such an improvement - lacking an agreement for the strengthening of the Operational Centre of the EU Military Staff's Civil-military Cell, created in January 2007 and not used so far - is based, above all, on an internal reorganization of the Council Secretariat and on the pooling of military and civilian planning capabilities;
- the effective financing and use of battle groups: to this end, the President of the EU Military Committee, Bentegeat, was asked to make some proposals;
- EDTIB: they underlined the need for developing a European industrial policy providing for specialization and a division of competences. With regard to the integration of the European defence market, they hoped for the adoption, by the end of the year, of the two proposals for directives concerning the "Defence Package" (in December 2007, the Commission adopted a series of proposals aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the defence industrial sector, limiting the applicability of article 296 of the EC Treaty, which allows for the exemption from common market rules for reasons of national security, and providing for an alternative regime that takes into account the specificities of this sector. The initiative includes two proposals for directives concerning public contracts (goods and services) in the defence field and the simplification of intra-Community transfers of military equipment and hardware.
On 7 October, the procedures for final approval of the two proposals for directives made some progress with the adoption, by the European Parliament Internal Market Commission, of the report on amendments. Besides, on 24 October, the EDA approved a Code of Conduct on the Offsets (to come into effect on 1 July 2009). The Code provides, on a voluntary basis, for measures aimed at improving the transparency of the procedures for resorting to Offsets, as well as at reducing their application.
EU - Georgia, EU Energy Security
On 8 October, High Representative Solana expressed his satisfaction for the withdrawal of Russian military forces from areas neighbouring on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, completed before the time-limit set by the 8 September agreement (10 October). However, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kouchner, following the 10 October meeting with Georgian President Saakashvili, doubted that Moscow's withdrawal was complete. The EU Special Representative for the Georgian crisis confirmed that the withdrawal had not been completed, since Russian peacekeepers were still deployed in the Kodori and Akhalgori valleys, which Moscow considers as parts, respectively, of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's territories: the diplomatic negotiations aimed at allowing the EU observers to reach these areas did not prevent the Abkhazian chief diplomatic officer to state, on 17 October, that EU observers were not allowed to enter the region.
On 24 October, the German diplomat Haber, chief of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), pointed out the incomplete Russian withdrawal and reported to Brussels on the slow deployment of the mission (225 observers) and the 35,000 evacuees' return home. Given these circumstances, the mission will focus on stabilization and normalization tasks. On 13 October, the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council discussed the situation in Georgia, analyzing in particular the implementation of the 12 August and 8 September agreements, concluded thanks to EU mediation, as well as the deployment of the EUMM. The Council Conclusions also dealt with the withdrawal of Russian troops from the areas neighbouring on the two separatist regions, defining it as a "further" essential step toward the full implementation of the aforementioned agreements, inviting the parties to carry out their respective engagements, with reference to the EU and the UNOMIG observers' role. The UNOMIG mandate, active since 1993 to check on respect of the ceasefire between Georgia and Abkhazia, was extended until 15 February 2009.
On 15 October, the International talks on how to create security conditions and ensure stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia began in Geneva, under the auspices of the EU, the UN and the OSCE. The debate aimed at reconciling the parties without touching the question of the statute of the two separatist regions, whose representatives, contrary to Moscow's requests, were present only at technical and informal tables. For its part, Tbilisi asked for the Georgian minorities of both regions to be represented. However, due to tensions between the parties, negotiations were postponed to 18 November (meetings are going to be held twice a month so as to sign a final agreement by mid-February 2009).
On 22 October, the European Commission and the World Bank called a Donors' Conference for Georgia in Brussels, involving 67 international donors and financial institutions to assist evacuees and provide impulse for economic recovery. The estimate for the next three years is 2.38 billion Euro; EU engagement provides for 500 million Euro in financial aid for the 2008-2010 period, 100 of which to be allocated by the end of the year. The EU also plans to make visa procedures easier and to accelerate implementation of a free trade zone to attract investments in the country. In addition to priority issues such as the international financial crisis and energy security, the 15-16 October European Council also discussed the Georgian crisis. The assessment of Russia's withdrawal was exactly the same as the one expressed the final conclusions of the 13 October Council.
Furthermore, the Head of States did not reach an agreement (due in particular to the positions of Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, UK, Czech Republic and Sweden) on restarting negotiations with Moscow for the new Partnership Agreement begun in July 2008. To this end, a complete and deep assessment of EU/Russia relations, which the Commission is drawing up in view of a bilateral summit to be held in Nice on 14 November, is expected. These assessments are part of a general framework characterized by several tensions. At the beginning of October, the Russian Ambassador to the EU, Chizov, asked for a EU embargo on Georgia, claiming that Member States had delivered arms to Tbilisi, thus violating the EU Code of Conduct on arms exportation. On 21 October, Moscow announced that it would build, at the request of the local Authorities, two new military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2009. The bases, each hosting 3,500 military units, will be completed in about a year and, according to the Russian Chief of Staff, will defend Moscow's and the two regions' interests.
For its part, on 23 October, the Georgian Parliament approved a law suspending investments in the two separatist regions and refusing foreigners' admittance (including humanitarian aid) without Tbilisi's preventive authorization. This measure aims at isolating the two separatist regions, considered occupied territories.
The Council confirmed the importance of energy security for the EU and adopted a series of guidelines for the work of the Commission (in cooperation with the Council itself) based on proposals and initiatives on the subject worked out by an Extraordinary Council on 1 September. The guidelines take into account the considerations of the 9-10 October TTE (Transport, Telecommunications, Energy) Council, which identified the six pillars of energy security: energy effectiveness, energy sources diversity, visibility in terms of energy supply and demand, solidarity instruments, infrastructures, external aspects.
NATO - Capabilities, Georgia, Afghanistan
On 1 October, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, allowing for the organization of NATO Strategic Airlift among Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, USA, Sweden and Hungary, was officially confirmed. The programme, which other countries are invited to join (Italy and Czech Republic will do so shortly), provides for the common purchase and maintenance of three C-17s (the first to be delivered next spring and the other two in summer 2009) stationed at the NATO base in Papa (Hungary). The aircraft are part of a Heavy Airlift Wing expressly created and initially put under US command for operations in international (NATO, EU, UN) and national missions.
From 26 September until 10 October, the annual NATO Noble Midas 2008 naval training took place in the Central Mediterranean, involving 15 Allied countries (about 38,000 military units, more than 30 ships, 4 submarines, aircraft and helicopters). Its main goal was to train maritime forces to be assigned in 2009 to the NATO Response Force (NRF) for its twelfth changeover (NRF12).
During the 9-10 October meeting of the NATO Defence Ministers in Budapest, the first meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission took place. The latter was created last September to improve the mutual political relationship, coordinate the Allies' engagement in rebuilding Georgia and support Tbilisi in carrying out economic, political, and defence reforms in view of its possible accession to NATO. This first meeting dealt with support for reconstruction and cooperation in security and defence reform, as well as air space management. Ministers also confirmed their support for Georgian territorial integrity and for its Euro-Atlantic ambitions, even though they did not consider its accession in the short or medium term: the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), rejected in April, is going to be reviewed in December, but resolution of all territorial disputes is a precondition for taking future accession into consideration.
Afghanistan: Ministers evaluated the success of the NATO ISAF mission and confirmed their engagement in guaranteeing the security of next year's elections. NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer, deplored the lack of the Allied countries' helicopter support. As for the contingent, on 16 October, Germany approved the dispatch of 1,000 soldiers so as to raise the number of German soldiers deployed in Afghanistan to 4,500, although not modifying caveats related to actions conducted in the South. With reference to the ISAF mandate, on 10 October, NATO declared it wanted to include, among its tasks, the fight against drug dealing (initially considered a specific task of the Afghan police forces) due to its strict connection with rebels' activities. This possibility, requested by local Authorities, does not entail any change in the mission's planning since it depends on decisions taken at the national level, while awaiting a formal position expected in February 2009.