Center for Strategic Decision Research


ESDI and the Common Foreign and Security Policy in Light of Current Events

His Excellency János Szabó
Defense Minister of Hungary

The events of the past few months have been dominated by the Kosovo crisis as well as issues involved with security. The joint British-French statement made in December 1998 underscored the need for developing European defense capabilities; the Washington NATO Summit underscored the need to develop the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). In addition, the Amsterdam Convention that came into force on May 1, 1999, outlined new features relating to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).


I firmly believe that the issues surrounding the CFSP are inseparable from the issues that relate to European defense: a creditable European foreign policy can be the only basis for reliable defense capabilities. I also believe that the Amsterdam Convention will speed up the development of the much-talked-about joint European defense because it added to the concepts of “common position” and “common actions” the notion of “common strategy.” Without this common strategy, a common European defense is inconceivable.

It appears now that the foundation on which we can build both a common European defense and a common foreign and security policy is available. We have often articulated our willingness to develop such a defense and such a policy, but we must go beyond academic discussions and actually implement them. This requires a practical approach.


Both the Defense Ministers’ meeting organized by the Western European Union in Bremen and the European Council meeting that took place in Cologne delved into the issues pertaining to European defense. The major problem, as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pointed out, may still lie in such a defense’s operational conditions—that is, we must make sure that ESDI does not paralyze NATO decision making, does not discriminate against non-EU-member NATO countries, and does not duplicate the work of other institutions. To Hungary, the most important of these conditions is that the European Defense Identity not exclude any non-EU or non-WEU member-country from taking part in decisions regarding European security and defense matters. As we have emphasized often, the security of Europe is indivisible. Allowing only EU member-countries to decide defense issues would inevitably divide Europe.

Once we have created an institutional framework for ESDI, we will need to make sure that our approach to it is task-oriented and that overlaps are avoided. The framework should be created within the scope of EU by building upon WEU and the experience it has accrued. As we work, we must make sure that no country is excluded from the development of overall European defense and crisis management simply because it is not a member of a certain organization.

The NATO Summit in Washington devoted special attention to the issues of autonomy, accessibility of NATO assets, and operational capabilities. Regarding accessibility of assets, the general agreement between NATO and WEU was a major step forward. The agreement provides for a range of transferable assets as well as more frequent consultations when NATO assets and capabilities are used in a WEU-led operation.

It is clear that enhancing military capabilities will require further development of the European military industry, including determining whether or not a modified distribution of tasks or a more reasonable common planning scheme would lead to cost reductions. Future member-countries must develop their armed forces in a way that will make them compliant with the requirements of crisis management, including interoperability, flexibility, mobility, transportability, deployability, sustainability, and survivability. These objectives are those of NATO as well, and prove that the ability to successfully participate in Article 5 operations should remain the basis of efficient crisis management. It will also be necessary to enhance other types of capabilities, such as procedures and outfitting.


Although we must enhance a number of European capabilities, this should not weaken, but should reinforce instead, the transatlantic link. We must remember that trustworthy defense capabilities can be based only on a creditable European policy and the establishment of a common strategy. We must begin to implement this policy and be guided by the role it has and the lessons Europe will learn as it works to reestablish law and order in Kosovo and the Balkans.









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