Jaakko Blomberg: Europe´s Defense Dimension after Cologne and Helsinki

WEU Institute for Security Policy Seminar SECURITY AND DEFENCE: WHAT POLICY FOR THE UNION Paris 24-5 February 2000

What policy, and what for ?

Remarks by Jaakko Blomberg, Under Secretary, MFA Finland

The current project to reform the security and defence policy of the EU (ESDP) has an institutional dimension and a capabilities dimension. The institutional reform involves mainly setting up the functions of military conflict management (the Petersberg tasks) in the EU instead of the WEU where they were located by the Amsterdam Treaty. The other dimension calls for an enhancement of the European capabilities for the purposes of military conflict management.

I agree with those who emphasize the capabilities dimension. Without it any institutional reform would amount to an empty shell. Despite almost a decade of experience of conflict management in the Balkans, the European countries were hard pressed to mount their share in the KFOR-operation in Kosovo. The Helsinki European Council decision on the headline goals was timely. To implement it will be crucial. For some countries it probably means added spending, in all countries it calls for a restructuring of existing forces and resources and an adjustment of defence doctrines to suit the current and future needs.

Even before the Amsterdam arrangement had entered into force, it was deemed inadequate. One can argue that the arrangement is too complicated: two institutions and two stages of decision making is one too many. In any major challenge it probably would not work. Conflict management requires an institutional setting that is effective and therefore simple. If the EU is the actor, it will have to be able to act upon its decisions directly, not through other organisations. This is what is meant by a capability for autonomous action.

Yet there are other things involved than only the effectiveness of the EU. The WEU has been developed as a means of cooperation between other European countries, not specifically or uniquely between members of the EU. And it has been developed as a European pillar of NATO. Therefore, as it has become clear during the reform process last year, the establishment of the crisis management functions in the EU, i.e. replacing the WEU by the EU as the future European actor in military crisis management, has proven to be a challenge.

The issue is indeed a complex one. To simplify, I suggest that there are three main motives driving the European Union defence reform.

First, one motive is the need to further develop the EU "towards an ever closer union". The union and in particular the CFSP is perceived as incomplete as long as it is lacking a military arm. The union is seen as driven by a finalité, the idea of an economic and political union, still fully to be realized and lacking in many respects. In particular, with the onset of the monetary union the EU must develop an effective defence.

Second, this idea of a complete union has been reinforced by much of the experience of the post cold war period. The EU is naturally aspiring for a significant international role. In the course of the Balkan crisis the union has found itself to be a minor player, devoid of a political role commensurate with its economic and other resources and contributions to protect its common interests. Although it can be argued that the reasons for this have more to do with the lack of political will, i.e. unity of purpose among the EU member states, still the missing military functions have played a part. Hence the conclusion that the union needs to complement its external policy instruments with a military role.

Herein lies a third main motive. It has to do with how the relationship between the EU and the US is perceived. The transatlantic relationship has undergone a fundamental transformation during the nineties, with the disappearance of the bipolar power structure. Europe is searching for her identity, suitable to the new situation, and the US is adapting its policies to its position as the sole superpower.

During the latter half of the nineties a view has gained ground among the allied members of the EU according to which the transatlantic relationship can remain strong and valid only if it is developed in the direction of greater equality, in all aspects, not only in the economic - where Europe and America are equals - but also in the political and security aspects. And the US has supported it in the name of burden sharing.

Since the 1996 Berlin ESDI initiative, NATO has been working on building a European pillar in the alliance. Much of it is directed at developing cooperation between NATO and the WEU. The goal has been to make the WEU to act as a real operative European arm using NATO assets identified and prepared for that eventuality. At the same time the EU defined the WEU as an integral part of its development. The WEU has been transposed between the EU and NATO.

When the EU decided to do away with the WEU as its military instrument and assume its role, the goalposts were moved for NATO. The WEU was (still is) for NATO the military instrument of European allied countries. The EU is much more. It is an independent organisation with broad functions and purposes including supranational competences and institutions and a membership partly different from the WEU.

From the NATO point of view, it is sometimes proposed that the ESDI relying on a WEU role would simply be transformed by substituting the WEU with the EU. The ESDI of NATO, however, does not correspond as such with the ESDP of the EU. Institutionally, the EU does not want to - and cannot - be conceived as a European pillar of NATO. Politically, the relationship between the EU and NATO is a much more complex question than that between the WEU and NATO. The question of the diverging memberships is a problem but not a major one; the real issue is the future of the security and defence role of the EU as part of its overall development.

The issue is to develop cooperation between the EU and NATO while preserving the integrity of both organisations. Underlying this is the relationship between the EU and the US, the question of leadership and autonomy. The EU objective of an ever closer union calls for autonomy in its common policies incl. in the military field. How can this objective be reconciled with the leadership of the US in the Atlantic alliance ?

And beside the US role, there is the important contribution to the European security and stability that those countries can play that either belong to NATO but not to the EU or belong to neither but aspire to become members.

This issue found an expression in the discrepancy between the relevant formulations last year of the NATO Washington declaration and the EU Cologne summit conclusions on the consideration given to NATO’s role in the development and employment of the EU’s capability for military crisis management. If there is a problem of formulation, it was solved in the EU Helsinki summit conclusions that recognized NATO’s leading role. But the issue underlying the concept of an EU autonomous capacity to take decision and act on them remains. It will have to be tackled in the follow-up to the Helsinki decisions on an EU-NATO interface and the EU’s consultation and cooperation with non-EU countries.

The capability dimension of the EU defence reform primarily refers to the indigenous capacities of the member states and the multinational resources to be developed among the family of EU members. The challenge facing the EU and its members is to produce added value to the European military crisis management capability through implementing the headline goal set in Helsinki.

But the dimension also involves the question of dependence of the EU on NATO resources. It is not reasonable for the EU to aim at being able to equip itself to perform the full range of Petersberg tasks without resorting to NATO resources which are mainly American assets. The dependency of the EU on American military means in a wide range of foreseeable situations is a fact which is clearly recognized in the Cologne and Helsinki conclusions. The issue is how to divide the burden, in terms of preparedness and in terms of mission, and how to set up a system of cooperation whereby the necessary resources would be available for EU-led operations. Such an EU-NATO interface can only function if it is based on sufficient transparency, consultation and cooperation between the EU and the US over international security issues. Needless to say, the transatlantic dialogue, which is evolving in this direction, will acquire an additional and significant purpose from the emergence of CESDP.

To sum up, the EU crisis management reform is about union building but it has another function as well: the reassessment of the transatlantic relationship.