Institutional Aspects of a European Security and Defence Policy (Rede beim Kangaroo Lunch in Straßburg

Institutional Aspects of a European Security and Defence Policy

As far as European Affairs are concerned, I have always been a believer in the ideas of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet who said that Europe would not come about by one single political event but step by step in the context of common projects of the European nations.

Therefore, since I became a member of the European Parliament in 1979, my ambition was to be involved with the most important European project at the respective time.

From my former activities in business, I had become accustomed to work with probabilities. I therefore decided to choose the most promising European project which had a chance of realization of more than 50%.

When I made this analysis in 1979, I came to the conclusion that the Internal Market was the most important project fulfilling these requirements. In 1992 it was the common currency.

When the introduction of the Euro became irreversible in1998, I came to the conclusion that the next project with the capability to be a driving force for Europe with an adequate chance of realization was the common Security and Defence policy.

Since then, much has happened in this field. In 1998, France and Great Britain declared in Saint Malo “that the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises”.

In 1999, the Heads of State and Governments decided in Helsinki to make available troops in the order of magnitude of 60 000 soldiers which would be available for missions under European command. Military missions of this kind have meanwhile taken place in Macedonia, in Bosnia and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A European Defence Agency has been set up in order to develop a long-term view for the necessities of armament. One of the tasks of this agency is to avoid unnecessary duplications between the member states.

Javier Solana, the High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy, has developed a European Security Strategy which has been adopted by Heads of State and Government of the Union.

Today, two Battlegroups of about 1500 soldiers plus support can be deployed by the European Union at short notice in international crises.

What is the present institutional situation under the treaty of Nice?

The Treaty in its present form says that the common foreign and security policy includes the progressive framing of a common defence policy. This might lead to a common defence should the European Council so decide. The possible missions under these rules include:

  • The tasks of combat forces in crisis management as it was the case in Bunja where troops under European command cleared a situation which included the possibility of massacres,
  • Peacekeeping and Peacemaking missions as for example those in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kinshasa,
  • Humanitarian and rescue tasks as for example the mission in Aceh.

The Security Strategy of the European Union defines a very large notion of security including military missions, police missions, the protection of the outside borders, the critical infrastructure of the European Union and disaster management. With other words: It covers events from the Congo operation to the next Tsunami.

Structure of command

Moreover, the European Union has developed a structure of command which is able to lead the missions mentioned above:

At the top of this structure are the Heads of State and Government. The European Council defines the principles, general guidelines and common strategies.

The ministers of foreign affairs in Council take the necessary decisions for implementing these decisions. They adopt joint actions and common positions. Joint actions for specific situations where operative action is required and common positions to define an approach to a particular matter of geographical or thematic nature.

The High Representative and General Secretary of Council, the Political and Security Committee, the Military Committee and the Military Staff are other important elements of this chain of command. Meanwhile an operation center and a civil military planning center have been established.

Operations can be run under the so-called Berlin Plus agreements where the European Union can use planning assets of Nato. This model has been used in Macedonia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The operations in Bunja and Kinshasa have been conducted through national Headquarters in Paris and Potsdam. The third possibility consists in running such operations directly from Brussels. This will probably be the case with the rule of law mission in Kosovo.

Equipment, Internal Market

Parliaments have a role to play when the equipment of the troops is concerned. Soldiers run unnecessary risks if the equipment is not adequate. This is mainly a responsibility of the Parliaments of the Member States. However, some of the deficits which have become obvious can only be solved by cooperation at the European level.

We need a common system of satellite based observation, a common basic system for telecommunications and additional capabilities in the domain of air and sea transport. In some of these areas, common European projects are under way, as for example in air transport where the Airbus 500 M is developed by some of the member states.

The Defence Agency is an important instrument for the establishment of a common defence and security market. It has proposed a code of conduct for defence procurement, which is already in place and showing its first results.

On the side of the European Commission, a budget of 1.4 billion over seven years has been decided for security research. Another 1.4 billion has been allocated to space. Galileo and GMES are important projects for satellite navigation and satellite observation. Both are of civilian character, but they also have an important security and defence aspects. Therefore a close cooperation between Council and Commission in this domain is necessary.

It is very important to note that the Agency runs some of its programs in cooperation with the Commission, for example in the field of telecommunications.

When we were analyzing the deficits of the European Union in the areas of disaster management, protection of the outside borders and military missions, we have identified deficits in satellite based observation, telecommunications, air and sea transport and others concerning the chain of command. But one of the most important deficits is the institutional deficit.

This institutional deficit can best be described by the fact that Javier Solana as High Representative of Council can speak with authority about Security and Defence operations but not about the defence industry whereas Guenter Verheugen as Vicepresident of the Commission can speak with authority about space and security research but not about defence. However, if we want to develop a consistent security and defence policy a consistent approach in both areas is necessary.

Therefore the Minister of Foreign Affairs proposed in the draft constitution who will be at the same time Vice-president of the European Commission is certainly the most important institutional proposal as far as the common security and defence policy is concerned.

However, this will not completely cover the institutional deficit. In the European Parliament we have established a Subcommittee for Security and Defence because some of the questions which have to be decided and debated now are the typical tasks of a inistry of Defence. The European Parliament has therefore proposed in its resolution of November 2006 a deputy of the High Representative in charge of security and defence policy.

Internal market

The Treaty says in its article 296 that member states may exclude the application of the rules of the common market for arms procurement if they consider this necessary for the protection of the essential interests of their security. The European Parliament in its resolution concerning the European Security Strategy of November 16. 2006 has proposed that this article should remain in place at this time, but that it should be used less extensively.


If one adds the defence budgets of the 27 member states one arrives at the sum of 160 billion Euro which are spent every year for defence by the Member States of the European Union.

As opposed to this impressive sum, the budget of the European Union foresees about 250 million available for missions under the European security and defence policy. Military missions are excluded from this budget line. These are financed by the member states under the so-called Athena-Mechanism. Parliament has expressed the opinion that all the expenditure for ESDP-Missions should be financed from the European budget.

Parliamentary Scrutiny

The European Parliament has the right to be informed and consulted about the European Foreign and Security Policy. The Treaty says that the Presidency consults the European Parliament and insures that the views of Parliament are taken duly into consideration. In daily life, this is not always simple. Parliament undertakes major efforts to be well informed about forthcoming missions of the European Union. It has the ambition of giving a recommendation before an ESDP-Mission is finally decided upon. As an example, Parliament formulated its conditions and expressed its opinion before the mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo was initiated.

What the citizens most expect from the European Union is an assurance that they can live in security and peace. We have achieved this between the member states. We now have to make sure that Europe improves its capabilities to contribute to international security and peace.