Security and defence conference highlights enlargement challenges of NATO and EU

The implications of the pending enlargement of the EU and NATO, and the broader context of European security were discussed at a security and defence conference in Brussels on 4 September.

The common goal of working together to effectively deter
threats to European security is complicated by the evolving process
of policy-making within NATO (particularly regarding perception of
Article 5), and also by differences of opinion among European
nations about the nature of cooperation with the US (including the
idea of setting up a core European military force with its own
command structures, independent of NATO). NATO has 1.4 million
soldiers under its centralised command (with an additional one
million in reserve). However, due to national constraints within
its membership, it can only deploy 80,000 troops at any one time,
showing how difficult it is to mobilise political will to act in
concert. In light of this, some question the viability of European
attempts to duplicate, or indeed challenge, NATO’s command

In particular, the conference participants

  • the effects of enlargement on CFSP/ESDP and Europe’s military
    standing in the world,
  • the role of NATO vis a vis an enhanced CFSP/ESDP,
  • the major security challenges an EU of 25+ must face,
  • the future of international/transatlantic cooperation in
    security and defence,
  • and the future shape of the Eu defence industry.


In April 2003,
Belgium, France, Germany and
Luxembourg, the four European states that most
vehemently opposed an American-led invasion of Iraq and which for a
time had blocked involvement by the NATO, proposed the
establishment of a new European military command headquarters near
Brussels to "plan and execute European operations autonomously" -
in other words, without interference from the US. Many European
officials believe an autonomous European military capacity is
needed in order for the EU to have a stronger voice in world
affairs. Otherwise, they argue, Europe's individual states are too
weak to play a role independent of the US.

US has opposed such plans as an unnecessary
duplication of NATO.
Britain also opposes these plans and has instead
proposed the creation of a European military "planning cell" to be
based in NATO's military headquarters.

While the debate goes on,
military strategists and industry analysts contend
that there is no lack of personnel and planning structures, and no
problem with access to technology for developing a common European
capability either. Instead, they believe that the problems are
rooted in a lack of efficient political commitment and financial
investment in a European defence capability.


NATO and the European Union are both preparing to add new
members to their clubs, and the pending enlargements will put a
strain on each of their decision-making structures. At the same
time, the EU is forging a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
and an European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) that require
greater coherence among its members and increased partnership with
the United States. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson gave an
opening address for a conference organised by the public affairs
and communications company GPC International in Brussels on 4
September. Speakers included high-level representatives from NATO
and European institutions.


The dilemma on whether the EU defence structures should or
should not rely on NATO will be topping the agenda of an informal
meeting of the EU's foreign ministers in Riva del Garda, Italy on
5-6 September.


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