Mr. Markus Lyra, Director General: The Evolution of the European Security and Defence Policy, Finnish-Estonian seminar, 8th May 2001

Finnish-Estonian Seminar in
Kuressaare, Estonia, 8 May, 2001

Mr. Markus Lyra,
Director General,
Political Department,
Ministry for Foreign Affairs,

"The Evolution of the European Security and Defence Policy"

Security and defence have been and still very much are the core questions of European integration. Leading European powers have had differing views on the need and forms on European defence policy. France has since General de Gaulle stressed autonomy and the United Kingdom the transatlantic link. Germany was to start more as an object than a subject and the first designs aimed to solve her defence problems without creating concerns to others.

The creation in 1951 of the European Coal and Steal Community aimed to increase trust between former enemies and make war between them impossible. The same basic ideas lead to the Treaty of Rome(1957) which created the European Union. The overriding goals of the union are still to enhance security and prosperity for its nationals and member states. Peace, security and stability based on democratic values are also the main thrust in the ongoing enlargement of the union.

Security was first seen in the Union on a rather general level and sought trough increased economic co-operation. Issues of defence were treated separately. Parallel to the Coal and Steal Community the six nations of the Community started negotiations to create a European Defence Community. A treaty aiming to create the DCE was signed in 1952 but it failed to be ratified in France. Instead the Western European Union, where also the UK became a member, was created in 1955. But the WEU soon fell into oblivion and the EU and the idea of a European defence lived separate lives for some thirty years.

Only after the rapprochement and détente of the 1980’s did the idea of a European defence re-emerge. WEU was then by some EU states seen as a possible instrument for European military crisis management and perhaps even defence. In the Treaty of Maastricht(1991) common defence policy was set as a goal and a common defence seen as a possibility.

After the Maastricht treaty which was ratified only at the end of 1993 followed the Amsterdam treaty. In the Intergovernmental Conference preparing the Treaty two different initiatives were made. A Finnish-Swedish proposal where the Union itself should take crisis management as its task and a German-French proposal which envisaged for the Union a three-stage evolution from crisis management to common defence and even an article V type commitment in the new treaty. For these purposes the WEU should be integrated in the EU.

In it the Amsterdam treaty of 1997 the Union took as its task and membership obligation crisis management in the form of the “Petersberg tasks”. The WEU was assigned a specific role as the operative arm of the Union. Already some years earlier had NATO developed the notion of an European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) where WEU were given a central role in European crisis management using NATO assets and capabilities to be prepared for the purpose. In the Amsterdam treaty WEU was seen as the link between NATO and the Union.

In parallel with the initiatives on European defence the view of the surrounding world and especially the perceived threats changed. Military thinking underwent drastic changes in Europe. After the fall of the Berlin wall a massive frontal attack seemed less and less likely. Instead non-military threats grew in importance and the likelihood of regional military conflicts grew.

Especially the numerous and prolonged conflicts in Former Yugoslavia had a strong impact on European security policy views. For the European Union the wars in the Balkans were at first a long row of failures in the exercise of its common foreign policy and crisis management. The Union had practically no efficient means to act in amilitary conflict situation. A French-British summit in St.Malo (december/1998) was a reaction to the lessons learnt in Bosnia and Kosovo. It signified a reassessment by the UK of its overall strategy for Europe.

The St.Malo declaration determined that the EU must become an effective actor in military security management and it should have the capacity for autonomous action with relevant military resources. It thus laid to rest the EU-WEU model envisaged in the Amsterdam treaty. The EU itself should now become the operative actor not only deciding on but also conducting operations.

In the following European summits, in Cologne and Helsinki, the member states agreed to give the Union the necessary means for a common European policy on security and defence. The ESDP was to perform the so called Petersberg tasks and the Union was to get “the autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and then to conduct EU-led military operations” in support of the Union’s common security and foreign policy the CSFP. The Petersberg tasks include: 1) humanitarian and rescue tasks, 2) peacekeeping and 3) crisis management by combat forces and peacemaking.

To fulfil these tasks the member states decided to put together a multinational military force, create necessary new political and military bodies and negotiate arrangements for consultations and co-operation with NATO. The aim is to create a military force of up to 60.000 men deployable in a crisis area within 60 days and sustainable for a year at least.

Last December at the Nice European summit the Union could note that necessary force contributions had been assigned by member states and that the new political and military bodies could be agreed upon in principle. Much remains still to be done; the co-operation structure with NATO is still without its final finishing touch, not all new bodies are declared permanent, planning and exercise schemes have to be put into operation.

The time frame for these preparations is set at the beginning of 2003. At the end of this year in the European summit in Laeken the Union intends to declare itself operational, with permanent institutions and mechanisms in place presumably by the end of 2002.

To understand correctly this new evolving European defence capacity one has to know what is it not intended to be. First, it is not intended to become an European army and General Hägglund, who recently was appointed chairman of the EU military committee is not the commander of a new army. The tasks of the EU military crisis force are the above mentioned Petersberg tasks.

Secondly, it is not intended to substitute for NATO or to create an alternative or competing structure to NATO. In all more military demanding or larger operations will the EU force rely on NATO assets and capabilities. Neither will it create operative command structures, intelligence or planning facilities of its own. Also here will it rely on NATO, national or multinational EU member state’s capacities.

Thirdly. It will not end or diminish member states involvement in UN or possible OSCE peace keeping operations. In fact, the Union might in the future participate, as a whole in UN or OSCE mandated operations. The geographical reach of an EU operation is not predetermined.

Generals, and often even diplomats usually plan for their previous war. For the Union this previous war is, as I already mentioned, the war in the Balkans. This explains perhaps the troop size, planning and command structures envisaged in the ESDP.

The situation in the Balkans, as in many other places of crisis, proved also that military measures are not enough alone. They have to be complemented with civilian tools of conflict prevention and crisis management. The Union has therefore added a civil track to its work on crisis management. A fast track during the Swedish presidency as you might have noted.

The ESDP is open to and interested in contributions from all European nations and Canada. Among the EU candidate countries Estonia has already assigned a significant contribution to future EU operations. The ESDP will provide Estonia and other candidate countries with an additional opportunity to be involved in the Union’s activities even before membership.

The ESDP is based on two important principles. All member countries, allied and non-allied, participate in the ESDP on an equal footing and in EU/NATO co-operation full autonomy of both organisation’s decision making is respected.

Finland has therefore accepted without reservations the obligations and responsibilities included in the development of the ESDP, including the vision of a possible common defence.

A common defence, which was envisaged in the Maastricht treaty, remains however still only a long-term goal for the Union. ESDP has not brought about new initiatives in this field. In fact defence in its traditional meaning has in the European discussion more and more been replaced by crisis management as the most urgent and relevant task for defence reforms. It seems today even more unlikely that the Union would replace NATO in ensuring collective security among its members.

Future development of ESDP depend on many factors. Will the views of European powers convergene or differ more in the future ? How will the enlargement of the Union effect defence thinking ? In which direction is Russia moving ?

The future of the transatlantic relationship is crucial in shaping future of the ESDP. US reactions to European defence have been mixed, but generally positive and supportive towards ESDP, although some Americans prefer to call it ESDI. The concerns of Washington have sometimes been formulated into three “Ds”: NO decoupling, duplication and discrimination. The main concerns of the US were taken care of by the close co-operation between EU and NATO and through the formula “where NATO as a whole is not engaged” giving NATO in practice the jus primae noctis in any crisis situation.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will remain the leading military security organisation in Europe. Its resources are today, at least in Europe, beyond real competition. NATO itself is undergoing a significant change and not only through enlargement. Also in its work conflict prevention and crisis management are increasing their role.

The European Union is today a central actor on the international arena. An efficient capability to act in military crisis management is essential for the Union’s credibility. The EU will not turn into an military organisation but remain primarily an economic and political power. At the same time the ESDP is part of the deepening European integration as a whole.