Center for Strategic Decision Research



A Holistic Approach to NATO-EU Relations

Lieutenant General Michel Maisonneuve (Canada)
Chief of Staff, Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation

Afew years ago, while I was working for the OSCE, I testified against Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague. On cross-examination he accused me of being an agent of NATO—I wonder what he would say today because now I am indeed an agent of NATO. And if you think NATO has a hard time marketing itself, as I have heard here several times, we on the other side of the Atlantic at ACT in Norfolk have a hard time marketing ourselves as the only NATO headquarters outside of Europe, the only one in North America. So when people talk about the transatlantic link, our people are that link, and they live that link every day. With 24 of 26 nations represented as well as seven PfP nations, I believe we in Norfolk are the primary means of cooperation with the U.S. and Canada on the military side.


Since I am a military officer, I am going to speak pragmatically and leave the political issues to my colleagues. I want to make three quick points. The first point is that I think logic and reason make it apparent that closer cooperation between the EU and NATO is needed. The security challenges are enormous in today’s world and there is enough work out there for any global security organization that wishes to get involved. So I think we should try to improve and cooperate to make things better.

Europeans have been making good progress in developing their security structure within the EU. There is a lot of maturity now and the back and forth is great. But since NATO has 57 years of experience in the areas of military interoperability, process development, and so on, I think we can assist the EU in developing its security apparatus—why should they reinvent the wheel?

Similarly, NATO has a lot to learn from the EU—a lot of good ideas have been generated as they set up their apparatus. NATO’s comprehensive political guidance states a desire to closely coordinate and cooperate with the EU. My boss, SACT, has the task of establishing strong working relationships, and General Back, ACT, is developing means for enhancing operation coherence between the different actors on the ground. This cooperation is now taking place in all our operations but we need to formalize them by, as the Secretary General says, “Applying military, political, economic, and other instruments in a well-coordinated way.” This includes as a priority the European Union. And “the EU can only be an effective security actor when it is a partner for NATO and not a counterweight.” So, logic and reason dictate that we need to create these linkages before a crisis, before we need them.


My second point is that in the current situation, there are definitely areas of cooperation. For example, at the Military Committee level, there are regular meetings between the EU and NATO. DSACEUR has his responsibilities regarding operations, but there is a question now whether we should actually be looking at these responsibilities again and whether they need to be enhanced and widened. There is the NATO permanent liaison team. There is the international staff that has a NATO-EU capabilities working group of which ACT is a member. There are informal talks at the lower staff levels as well, particularly in the defense planning area. And, for the first time, in December of 2005, I took a number of my flag and general officers to the EU Military Staff meeting and Jean-Paul Perruche and I worked together during a series of meetings. We discussed issues of mutual interest and got to know each other a little bit better. We also agreed to continue our cooperative work and will do so in the fall of 2006 when the EU Military Staff sends a delegation to Norfolk. Of course, because of the relative size difference, it is important when we get together not to have the NATO side overwhelm the other side—we tend to overwhelm, and so we need to temper our aspirations there. We need to build on and increase all these areas of cooperation.

But how should this cooperation take place? The first thing I recommend is achieving a common understanding of the security environment, how it is today and how it will be in the future. Then, to develop that common understanding, there has to be a sharing of intelligence and a sharing of assessments through discussion and joint assessment; we also need to update the rules that currently exist regarding information sharing and security exchanges.

My second point is that we need to have a strong dialogue, routine contact, and an exchange of information. Again, I think we need to be pragmatic here, by building on the current arrangements. But we should also have more liaison officers and review any bureaucratic obstacles to facilitating contact, for example, document release and participation. The NATO school that answers to us for curriculum reasons is undergoing real trouble right now having EU officers participate in NATO school courses. These are obstacles to cooperation that need to be reviewed and destroyed. We would also favor having a much stronger relationship with the European Defense Agency, with Allied Command Transformation, because in the areas of lessons learned, in the areas of training, concept development, experimentation, and process development, I think there is a lot that we can help each other with.


My third point is in the area of capabilities development. Of course, there is already, as I mentioned, some work going on, but we need to do away with conflict. Development should be complementary, for example, between the European Defense Agency and Allied Command Transformation, and we should try to work at all levels. This includes developing the EU battle group with the NRF. There are things we can learn from each other here and I think we should try to enhance the learning.


I believe we can build on current mechanisms, which are coming along well. But a holistic approach, with coherence between all actors on the ground, should be the basis for future cooperation, both in planning and during operations. I am certainly in favor of stronger relationships, and I believe Canadians very much support a strong and effective EU as a partner for stability and security operations.


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