Center for Strategic Decision Research


European Defence after Washington and Cologne

Mr. Doug Henderson
U.K. Minister of State for the Armed Forces


The subject of the way ahead for European security and defense has been high on the agenda of NATO, the European Union, and European governments for some months. Its debate has been far from theoretical. We are facing important issues of European defense and security, which I would like to discuss.

However, before I outline my views, I wish to pay tribute to our conference hosts for their solid support and excellent cooperation during the action in Kosovo. Despite being one of the three newest members of NATO, Hungary played an essential part in the campaign against Serb oppression in Kosovo. I join many others in thanking the government and people of Hungary for their efforts. Hungary, I am sure, will play a full part in working out the details of NATO’s future involvement in Kosovo, and in the future reconstruction of the area. While Mr. Milosevic may be a destabilizing force in the Balkans, the events in Kosovo have shown him to be completely isolated. As part of NATO, the most formidable military and political alliance in the world, Hungary can rest assured that it is in a very strong position.


In the autumn of 1998, we proposed the development of a security and defense capability to back up the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. We have always sought to build strong foundations for Europe’s security, and have contributed to the successful growth and evolution of our security organizations in response to changing circumstances. We also firmly believe that a strong Europe will be a better partner to a strong America, reinforcing transatlantic relations. In addition to strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy, we want to strengthen Europe’s military capability. A stronger capability will enable Europe to take action when NATO as a whole is not engaged.

The Cologne Summit brought us to what I call the end of stage one. Now we have an excellent opportunity to review the progress we have made so far, and to start mapping the way ahead. We have steered the debate away from the stale institutional arguments that have dominated European security questions since the end of the Cold War. Now there is genuine enthusiasm among European governments to focus on the means to deliver capability—capability to decide and capability to act.


The United Kingdom has pressed hard for the fullest possible involvement and participation of non-European Union allies in the new arrangements that are building on the existing arrangements in the Western European Union. We will continue to seek to involve Partners. Cologne recognized the importance of this inclusive approach in both the Declaration on European Security and Defense and the Presidency Report. We believe that these are very positive texts.

Clearly, future arrangements must take full account of existing provisions and of the vital contribution that all European nations make to our collective security. The new arrangements will work only if all who have a stake in European security agree to them.


The recent Cologne European Council invited the incoming Finnish presidency to move forward with a program designed to allow the EU to make decisions with military implications. Cologne capped a busy and productive spring, of which the NATO Washington Summit in April was the first milestone. All of the events of the year have made clear that NATO is, and must remain, the cornerstone of Europe’s security policy. We have invested 50 years of effort in building the Alliance. Its current work and its continuing evolution are testament to the determination of its members that it should remain coherent, credible, and relevant to today’s security challenges.

The program that was proposed by the United Kingdom and discussed at the Cologne Summit was to develop a capability that would allow the European Union to make decisions on military aspects of crisis management while the bulk of military necessities—such as planning and preparation of forces—would be handled by NATO. The Washington Summit supported the aspirations of the European Union and agreed to provide the European Union with ready access to NATO resources for crisis-management operations when the Alliance as a whole is not engaged. This work will build on existing arrangements between the WEU and NATO, and will include assured access to NATO’s planning capacities and a presumption of availability of NATO common assets and capabilities. Cologne was able to build on the Washington agreement, and under the Finnish presidency the European Union will start to develop the means to make sensible military decisions and to take political control of crisis-management operations.


Let me now look at the way ahead. Defense decisions will be intergovernmental, respecting member-states’ sovereign rights to deploy and control their own armed forces. There is certainly no question of a European army or a defense role for the Commission or Parliament beyond that which they currently have in the Common Foreign and Security Policy. We have agreed that Defense Ministers should, when appropriate, take part in Common Foreign and Security Policy decision making alongside Foreign Ministers. There will also be a permanent committee of officials, based in Brussels, to deal with the whole range of Common Foreign and Security Policy issues, including politico-military matters.

In addition, there will be a European Union military committee to provide ministers with independent military advice, plus a small military staff to support this committee. These bodies will give the European Union the knowledge and expertise to act as an “intelligent customer.” The Union will be able to ask the right questions of military resource providers—primarily NATO, but in some circumstances multinational and national providers—and be able to understand the answers.


As part of the process of moving ahead on European security and defense, we have agreed to look at ways to include in the European Union the WEU functions that are necessary for crisis-management tasks. Such inclusion will provide the European Union with the decisionmaking capacity needed to be consistent with our approach in other areas of European defense. We do not support institutional rearrangement for its own sake, nor do we want to get involved in stale debate about institutions. What is clear to us is that “form must follow function”—the structures we put in place must truly support the tasks we wish to be able to achieve. We intend to have these new structures in place by the end of the year 2000, at which point the WEU as an organization will have completed its purpose.


We have continually stressed that our aims will amount to nothing if our armed forces are not capable of meeting our political aspirations. Our armed forces must be readily deployable, flexible enough to meet diverse challenges, and sustainable over long periods. This must be just as true for collective defense contingencies as it is for crisis-management missions, whether under NATO or European auspices. The development of a genuine operational capability is a demanding goal. It will not happen overnight. But we cannot use this as an excuse to shy away.

Those of us in Europe need to find ways to spend our defense budgets better. We need to look at what percentage of our defense expenditure we use on defense equipment, and at the level of high-readiness, deployable forces—those forces we are likely to need in the future—that we get for our money. We need to examine our ability to field key capabilities, such as strategic lift, combat, and logistic support; and precision munitions. Europe could and should do better in these areas.


In addition to Cologne, the Defense Capabilities Initiative, launched at the Washington Summit, and the WEU’s audit of collective European capability, are making important contributions toward improving Europe’s collective military muscle. We fully support their focus on making our armed forces more employable. But we should not be fixated on the numbers of military personnel or the quantities of equipment. Rather, we should concentrate on measures to improve our ability to make use of our armed forces where necessary to meet the challenges of the future. We intend to ensure that there is a mechanism for reviewing progress and for seeing that we deliver, both individually and collectively. Our defense capabilities must keep pace with the changing world. We must fill the gap between our aspirations and our ability to deliver.


The European Union now needs to concentrate on working out the details of what was agreed to in Cologne—for example, the means by which the European Union will make sensible military decisions and take political control of crisis-management operations. This work must be clearly focused and coordinated to ensure that there is no mismatch between expectations and results. We have already seen advances in addressing European security and defense issues. NATO and the European Union will continue to work in parallel and should put in place measures that will meet the objectives that we have set. Europe can and should make a fuller contribution to its own security. We can and should make more of a difference in world affairs. We can and should be a better partner to our North American allies. But we must do more than only think about the problems.We must overcome them by translating intentions into reality, by turning words into actions.


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