Center for Strategic Decision Research


European Security after Washington, Bremen, and Cologne

His Excellency José Cutileiro
Secretary General of the Western European Union


Since the time I started dealing with defense matters, I do not recall ever seeing Europeans trying to improve their performance regarding their security with such keenness and interest. I think a lot of the credit has to go to Tony Blair, who last autumn said that Europeans were lacking several things in this field: a common political will, which should be expressed in the European Union; strong military capabilities; and, less important from his point of view, a proper institutional fit. In other words, he was open to institutional changes.


Institutions are much easier to deal with than the military means or the political will, and it is there that movement has taken place. Over the last few months, a combined effort has been made by countries acting through different organizations to allow the European Union to develop a crisis management capability. Part of this effort took place at the Washington Summit, where NATO said that it was ready to help with planning and with a presumption for the use of assets, building on what was done with the WEU. Recently in Cologne, the European Council also decided that crisis management capabilities should be developed with the necessary support elements, such as a Military Staff and a Military Committee. In the WEU, we have been carrying out an audit of European security capacities, which will be ready by the end of 1999, and, by putting it under the nations’ responsibilities, we will authoritatively highlight both what Europeans have and, perhaps more importantly, what they do not have.

All of this work is focusing on crisis management, not on defense as such. No one, at least at this stage, is talking about trying to promote in the European Union a defense capability against territorial aggression, an Article 5 role. Indeed even though many WEU functions will be taken over by the European Union, Article 5 of the WEU will not be taken over by the European Union.


Regarding the creation of a common political will, obviously Europeans in the EU want to move forward. The first High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy has just been appointed, and, in my view, a better man could not have been chosen to do the job. But, obviously, forming a political will will be a long haul and a difficult thing. You will have a common political will regarding security when you have a stronger awareness of common interests.

Not until very recently have Europeans shown a great capacity for this. However, the situation is improving. The fact that the European Union is taking over the WEU’s role, plus voluntarism, the Euro, and an awareness that Europeans, after 10 years of the Yugoslav crisis including the current Kosovo crisis, should increase their capabilities, is very important.


As far as military capabilities are concerned—and I am not only talking about characteristic European deficiencies such as a certain lack in satellite intelligence, large transport aircraft, or precision weapons, but more pedestrian things such as having your army ready to go and to address a modern crisis—there has not been much movement since last autumn. I have learned of some reductions in overall defense budgets and some small efforts to modernize armed forces in order to move them from being able to deal with Article 5 missions to being able to deal with crisis management. The British probably lead the way in this; others, including the French and the Dutch, are doing their bit. Still others are involved in this effort but are doing it more slowly. But many of our countries are doing little as far as increasing real capacity and being able to deliver it on time.

Much has been said about convergence criterion, an idea picked up from the currency that has been around for some time. Of course, in the currency there was a fundamental element: everyone was very keen on getting there. The problem with convergence criteria in the defense view is that some people think that others do not want to get there. That makes the criteria more difficult to define and certainly more difficult to enforce. But perhaps more work should be done on this—we might find that peer pressure and the notion that Europeans should have a more important role to play will be applied in a more rational manner to resources different countries use for defense.

What we are talking about is the overall capacity of countries to meet their commitments—their defense commitments as well as their crisis management commitments both within and outside the Alliance—and I do not think you can make a neat distinction and say that we are putting this money here just for ESDI and then not have money for other things. I do not think it works like that. If countries spend better and perhaps more, and modernize and adapt their armed forces in a common structure, we will have the capacity for crisis management and, if necessary, the capacity for defense. Europeans might take part in a NATO crisis management exercise, through NATO in a European-led crisis management exercise, in a European-led and European-run crisis management exercise outside NATO, in a coalition of the willing, or in some other exercise with the blessing of the European Union.

I believe Kosovo has shown, to me at least, that, while Europeans can no longer be considered as political lightweights, they remain very much military lightweights, at least as far as the first part of the exercise was concerned. Obviously, this was a case in which Europeans—some Europeans, at least—were as keen as the U.S. to get into action, so the political will and the political capacity to organize were very important. When the Yugoslav troubles began in 1991, Europe’s political incapacity came not from lack of attention or technical weakness but from the fact that the most important European players saw the conflict in different ways and had different prescriptions for the ideal solution; they could not do much jointly to impose a solution because they had different notions of what the solution should be. In Kosovo they were together, but the post-Kosovo work will be very important. That is because the effort to be made by Europeans, inter alia, through the Stability Pact, will be an attempt to reach out to Southeastern Europe, to the Balkans, to promote democracy, prosperity, and security. It is an attempt that is long overdue.


When the Cold War ended, Western Europeans concentrated more on improving their own internal mechanisms, making it better for themselves within the European Union, than on trying to help Central Europe. However now there is an opportunity to do this work and prevent future conflicts. Conflict prevention is a very unrewarding art, though, because if there is no conflict you may never be certain that your work prevented one. But such work, in the OSCE, for instance, has been extremely important. It has helped in different parts of Central and Eastern Europe, and it has obtained results.

Generally it is very difficult to put together crisis prevention efforts because it is difficult to convince parliaments and governments and the public that you should go there. However, with luck and a common purpose, the effort that is now beginning in the Balkans may duplicate what happened in Western Europe after the Second World War—not only the Marshall Plan, but the vision that eventually became the European Union. For many years, the Union, and the European Community before it, dealt basically with economic questions and had nothing to do with security. But we all know that the entire effort was started basically to prevent the Germans and the French from coming to blows with each other every 30 years. And that effort has worked. A similar effort in the Balkans is probably the best way to prevent further conflicts there.


Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research