Battle lines drawn over link between NATO and EU defence policy

European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) will
be high on the agenda of the 5-6 September informal meeting of
25 EU and acceding country foreign ministers at Riva del Garda
in Italy.

In the wake of the Iraq war, the EU Member States remain
divided over the future role and prospects of ESDP and
there are also diverging views about how the EU should
formulate its relationship with the US. Although the EU
Member States work closely on defence and security-related
issues, they still see the links between Europe and NATO
differently.

 

Britain

, a traditional US ally, believes that alongside
strengthened cooperation among EU Members in the fields of
boosting capabilities and improving operative cooperation,
the EU should create a permament and dedicated military
planning "cell" at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers
Europe (SHAPE), NATO's planning headquarters outside
Brussels, to "contribute to planning in the pre-decisional
phase. According to a "food for thought" paper circulated
by London, "with NATO, the EU should make a reality of the
strategic partnership". Britains welcomes the proposals to
modernise the Petersberg Tasks and to create a solidarity
clause to strengthen EU cooperation. At the same time, the
UK remains opposed to proposals which would "fundamentally
alter the balance achieved at Nice, especially any which
would imply competition, rather than complementarity, with
NATO".

Germany

and
France

, along with
Belgium

and
Luxembourg

, are not enthusiastic about the idea of further
strengthening institutional arrangements between the EU and
NATO. Based on an agreement reached at their "mini-summit"
on 29 April, these countries are proposing the
establishment of an independent EU planning and command
staff for operations in which NATO is not involved. Belgian
Foreign Minister Louis Michel said the British proposal for
a planning "cell" was "a step in the right direction" but
was "not enough". These four countries would set up the
EU's separate "cell" in Tervuren outside Brussels - and
outside NATO's grounds. To date, the latter plan has
received minority support among the 25 current and future
EU Members.

 

The European security and defence policy was launched by
Britain and France in 1998 in an effort to complement the
EU's economic and political institutions with a defence and
security arm. Five years down the road, key decisions are
still pending on "structured cooperation", strengthening
capabilities and institutional development.

 

The meeting at Riva del Garda will likely be followed by
further exchanges leading up to the intergovernmental
conference on the new EU Treaty to be officially launched
on 4 October in Rome, where defence will be high on the
agenda.

 

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