Paris '07 Workshop
The EU, NATO, and the U.N.:
How Can These Vital International Organizations Work Together?
Ambassador Linas Linkevicius
|Ambassador Linus Linkevicius (left), Lithuanian ambassador to NATO, with Latvian State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics, Hungarian UN ambassador Gabor Brodi, and Finnish UN ambassador Kirsti Lintonen (left to right).|
"...worst practice examples are numerous...although NATO has deployed in operations
under the U.N. mandate, the visit of the newly appointed U.N. secretary general
to the North Atlantic Council lasted only 20 minutes."
The EU is celebrating its 50th anniversary, NATO will soon turn 60, and the U.N. is approaching retirement age. In light of these facts, the lack of common-sense wisdom found in the relationship among these three organizations is all the more striking. The very fact that we are still struggling with the question of how NATO, the EU, and the U.N. can work together signifies a rather lamentable state of affairs.
Many great minds have pondered this question countless times and it has been the subject of a great many conferences and seminars. I myself had the opportunity to address this issue in this workshop three years ago. On many occasions, many excellent suggestions and recommendations were put forward and most nations that are members of all three organizations agree that much closer cooperation among the EU, NATO, and the U.N. is necessary. Most of us would also agree that a true NATO-EU strategic partnership would be a great asset for the U.N., indeed, for the entire international community. And yet there are few best practice examples of cooperation when they should be the rule.
Instead, worst practice examples are numerous. For example, although NATO has deployed in operations some 50,000 troops under the U.N. mandate, the visit of the newly appointed U.N. secretary general to the North Atlantic Council lasted only 20 minutes—just enough time to meet and greet. Despite the vested interests NATO and the EU share in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and despite all the talk about a strategic partnership between the two organizations, NATO’s secretary general famously labeled the relationship a “frozen conflict,” and rightfully so.
For every step NATO and the EU take forward, they take two steps back. As a result, the late Western European Union probably had a better and more productive relationship with NATO than the EU has. Because in both NATO and the EU one or two countries can block any cooperation initiative, the NATO-EU capability group, which potentially could be an excellent and practical cooperation tool, is deadlocked.
I believe that both organizations could put more effort into removing the persistent obstacles. For a start, the EU could consider granting Turkey a seat at the EDA—this would instantly help improve the NATO-EU relationship. In addition, bureaucracies of both organizations, which have competing interests and agendas and tap the same limited group of experts, could consider changes. While direct staff-to-staff dialogue is important, the direction the NATO-EU relationship follows should be defined by the member-nations themselves.