Terrorism highlights need for EU defence

EU defence ministers are discussing plans to speed up the implementation of their common security and defence policy in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the US. The Friday meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels has started with a discussion on the US and British military campaign against terrorist bases in Afghanistan.

EU leaders pledged to make the EU’s security and defence
policy operational as soon as possible at their extraordinary
summit three days after the 11 September attacks in the US. The
Belgian Presidency of the EU would like the Member States to define
a “common strategic concept”.

However, Turkey has reiterated its veto on the
proposed EU-NATO agreement under which EU forces will be able to
use NATO’s military assets. The EU is preparing to declare its
defence policy operational by the end of the year without an
agreement with Turkey in sight.

European defence ministers will also discuss the
exchange of military intelligence. The EU has establish an
intelligence exchange unit within its military headquarters in
Brussels, however there is no collective intelligence body in the
EU. In 2002, the EU will acquire the outgoing Western European
Union’s satellite centre for gathering intelligence in Torrejon,
Spain.

European defence capability is another important
topic that will be discussed by the ministers. The EU will organise
a conference on the improvement of its defence capabilities on 19
November in Brussels, dedicated to the worrying decrease of
Europe’s expenditure on defence. The EU is acutely lacking in
military assets, such as aircraft carriers and strategic transport
capabilities, as well as in intelligence and command and control
systems.

 

Britain is the only EU Member State engaged in the
military riposte against the Al-Qaida terrorist organisation and
the Afghani Taleban regime that provides shelter for terrorist.
However, France and Germany are considering playing a more active
role in the counter-terrorism fight.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told Germany's
parliament on 11 October that He said that Germany now had "a duty
to fulfil its new responsibility", which includes "taking part in
military operations to defend freedom and human rights".

France has said it is willing to play a larger
role in the counter-terrorism campaign. The French government is
studying several options to take part in the military campaign
against Afghanistan, including air strikes, special forces,
surveillance and aerial reconnaissance.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin called for a
real EU defence force following the terrorist attacks in the US. He
said that the EU's defence policy should co-ordinate actions to
fight terrorist threats against the Union's territory.

Professor André Dumoulin, an expert on EU defence
issues at the University of Liège, says that the EU should develop
instruments for collective defence in case of an aggression on one
of its members. He believes the EU should consider adopting legally
binding principles of collective defence, similar to NATO's Article
5.

 

European leaders agreed on a common defence strategy at the
Cologne Summit on 3 June 1999. The 15 Member States of the EU
formally decided to create a rapid reaction force (RRF) of 60,000
men at the Nice European Council in December 2000. Some progress
has been made in creating a military structure within the Council
of Ministers in 2001. The RRF should be operational from 2003 on.

 

EU security and defence policy, limited to crisis management,
should be declared operational at the Laeken summit in December
2001. By that date, the EU's political and military structures
should be able to prepare some operations, such as evacuation of EU
citizens from a war zone.

 

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