WEU Parliamentary Assembly

Time for Defence

A plan for action proposed by the WEU Assembly

Document 1638 16 March 1999

Adopted by the Standing Committee on Tuesday 16 March 1999 at the French National Assembly, Paris, with the participation also of parliamentarians from national foreign affairs and defence committees.

A historic opportunity without precedent is opening before us, providing the chance to take a decisive step towards the organisation of defence in Europe - something that has not been possible hitherto because the basic conditions were not right and European governments lacked the necessary political will.

We, the Parliamentarians of the WEU Assembly, members of our national parliaments, conscious of the legitimacy bestowed upon us on two particular counts, having been elected by universal suffrage and appointed as representatives of our countries, and invested with the moral authority that goes with membership of an Assembly which for 44 years has led the public debate and exercised democratic scrutiny within WEU, solemnly declare that the time has come to take a qualitative leap forward and give the European Union a political and operational defence capability. The year that has seen the advent of the euro can also be the one that marks the start of a proper European defence. This is why we urge our governments to rise to this historic occasion and not shirk their responsibilities. 

What must change

The crises in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo have shown (i) that conflict, war and ethnic cleansing are still possible in Europe and (ii) that Europeans have not been capable of handling such crises effectively and with authority. This situation cannot continue.

The weakness shown by European countries is largely the result of governments having come to depend wholly on the security guarantees provided by the United States, through NATO in particular. To such an extent that we now find ourselves in a situation of dependence and imbalance that is extremely disadvantageous to Europe and even to our American partners, who have insisted on our taking a fairer share of the burden of defending Europe.

While we consider it indispensable to maintain, improve and enlarge NATO as an organisation essential to the defence and security of the northern hemisphere, it is also necessary to redress the balance so that Europe plays its proper role both within and outside NATO, in the institutions of a unified Europe. This implies that Europe must be more involved in its own security.

The WEU Assembly formally and fully supports the consolidation and enlargement of NATO and the adoption of an appropriate new Strategic Concept in order to meet the new challenges of the future. We want a strong and effective NATO based not on a narrow view of geostrategy but on a wider international concept. We want a NATO which guarantees peace and security over an area stretching from the Americas to Europe but which is not an instrument of globalisation or the world's "policeman". A NATO in which Europeans will make a bigger contribution and have more responsibilities. And finally, a NATO that is strengthened by the bonds between its transatlantic allies and is perfectly compatible with and complementary to European defence structures. 

European defence is indispensable

The Assembly is accordingly insisting that Europe acquire its own defence capacity. When having to contend with certain crises, Europe's political credibility and diplomatic authority must be backed up by a real capability to exert military pressure. Europe must be able to provide effective military intervention where the need arises. This means it must have its own defence posture, based on WEU's operational and military structures; otherwise, there will be no real European defence. The time has therefore come for decisions. Europe can no longer continue to pile up institutional hypotheses for the future. The future is already here.

The Assembly fully approves the Saint Malo approach according to which it is first and foremost the European Council that should be given the power, on an intergovernmental basis, to take the decisions and actions necessary for Europe to play its part on the international stage.

Saint Malo is the first step. But there is no point in building monetary union with the euro if Europe is incapable of guaranteeing peace, security and freedom for its citizens. If it is to achieve that objective, it is essential for the member countries to agree on the nature and purpose of a European Union encompassing a security and defence dimension.

It is for these reasons that the WEU Assembly urges our member governments to muster the requisite political will and take action, on the basis of a concept and sound analysis, within the constraints imposed by circumspection and feasibility.

Until now, WEU has been the sole European defence organisation. It has accomplished an important task over a long period. Today, with the modified Brussels Treaty, it is able to provide Europe with considerable defence capabilities. This is common knowledge . But the new institutional arrangements for European defence must now take shape around the European Union.

We agree with the principle and want the EU to preserve all the capabilities on which WEU can draw at present. In the long and complex process of the transfer of areas of competence, WEU's achievements must be kept intact. We must not lose sight of the complexity of this operation. WEU can still solve many problems and that is why its transfer to the EU must be seen as a process in which it can continue to be highly useful and effective for some time to come.

We know that we are not going to establish a common defence in the immediate future. We have to proceed in stages and are at present only in the first phase, that of beginning to build a defence instrument in the European Union by drawing on what already exists.

The Assembly is therefore in favour of gradually integrating WEU into the European Union so that the Union can become a really autonomous instrument for European security and defence with a political decision-making capacity and its own military capability.

We therefore propose that the European governments which are members of the North Atlantic Council, the Council of WEU and the European Council do what is necessary so that 

at the Washington Summit

a new Strategic Concept is adopted which, while strengthening the transatlantic link:
  • maintains the Alliance's "core function" which must continue to be the collective defence of its members, but includes participation in crisis management as a complementary function;
  • ensures that in any wider responsibilities the Alliance may have, it respects the ultimate authority of the United Nations and its Security Council as regards maintaining peace;
  • ensures there is perfect compatibility between the Euro-Atlantic structures and those of European defence;
  • guarantees the development of the European Security and Defence Identity within NATO;
  • ensures that the principles adopted in Berlin and Madrid on the ESDI and consultation, coordination and cooperation between WEU and NATO are ratified so that they could be applied in the new institutional defence arrangements which are to take shape around the European Union;
  • ensures that after the Washington Summit, the process of working out political, legal and military arrangements continues so that NATO assets can be used for operations carried out under the political control and strategic direction of the Europeans;
  • guarantees that the framework agreement on the transfer of NATO assets to WEU and the provisions for a European chain of command within NATO will provide Europeans with real autonomy;
  • respects the principle whereby in the event of a crisis, Europe (EU/WEU) takes decisions outside NATO on the measures it deems appropriate, even where they are of a military nature.

What needs to be done in Bremen and Cologne

Take account of the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, with the firm resolve of:
  • conferring upon the EU a capability and responsibility in the defence sphere for the purpose of managing crises effectively and credibly, in the first instance by placing WEU under the authority of the European Council;
  • embarking on a process of gradually integrating WEU into the European Union on an intergovernmental basis, either in a fourth pillar or in the framework of the CFSP;
  • taking the necessary measures to ensure that this is achieved without abandoning all that WEU's achievements in this area represent today;
  • maintaining the mutual assistance clause enshrined in Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty as an integral part of the revised Treaty on European Union and not merely as an option contained in a separate protocol.
Provision must be made to ensure that the European Union, endowed with a capacity for autonomous decision-making and action, will maintain an independent operational capability equal at least to that on which WEU can draw at present. This means it is essential to preserve, within the European Union framework, a capacity for independent situation analysis, intelligence and planning similar to that provided by the WEU Situation Centre, Planning Cell, Satellite Centre and Military Committee, while retaining the option of having recourse to NATO assets or to national or multinational assets outside the NATO framework.

At present, only WEU provides both the European members of NATO who are not members of the EU and the central European countries with a real possibility of participating in the framing of a European security policy and benefiting from the advantages offered by a European security area. This is why it is essential that when WEU's powers are transferred to the European Union, the WEU associate member and partner countries must be given a guarantee that they will continue to enjoy all the rights of participation they currently have in WEU.

In addition, the democratic scrutiny and public debate that are ensured by the parliamentary component have to continue and this dimension must not be left out of the new arrangements, it being understood that our Assembly, composed of the representatives of the national parliaments, will continue to exercise its responsibility. 

The outlook and time-frame

The WEU Assembly proposes a coherent, effective and feasible process that could be implemented as follows:

In the immediate future, the basis should be established for a procedure that would:

  • give the European Council a real military operational capability by transferring to it WEU's decision-making and command capability;
  • set in train the process for the legal and institutional adjustments necessary for the European Union to take action in the field of crisis management;
  • set a schedule for the gradual integration of WEU into the EU;
  • provide the new EU bodies with the possibility of using NATO resources.
In the medium term:
  • take integration forward as a consensus emerges to transfer the various WEU areas of competence and institutions to the EU and as the CFSP takes shape.
In the longer term:
  • achieve a common defence structure and a European defence within the European Union, with the corresponding links between the EU and NATO.
Building a Europe capable of playing the role expected of it in the international arena is a matter of political will. It is that political will which we, the members of the Assembly, are expressing. That is why we are sending this public message to our governments. There has been enough talking - now is the time to act. Our citizens no longer want to hear empty promises; they do not want a Europe with a CFSP and defence arrangements that are wholly removed from reality. There is a long way to go but we must make a start now. For the Assembly of WEU, this is no mere wish but a serious demand. 

For all these reasons, the Assembly is addressing this plan for action to all the governments and parliaments of the member countries of WEU, the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance and also to all the international bodies concerned. 

This Declaration is based on the report of the Political Committee on "WEU and European defence: beyond Amsterdam" (Document 1636 of 15 March 1999) and on that of the Defence Committee on "the NATO Summit and its implications for Europe" (Document 1637 of 15 March 1999).

Time for defence

A plan for action proposed by the WEU Assembly

Washington - Bremen - Cologne

For a Europe with more responsibility in a better balanced Alliance

At the NATO Summit the European allies must make clear their resolve to take on greater responsibility for their security. The Alliance as a whole must support strengthening the ESDI both inside and outside NATO.

For a Europe able to act with autonomy on the international stage

Europe must be able to take autonomous and effective action in the face of the crises and dangers that threaten peace. To that end, Europe needs to be able to take decisions and action and must also have its own defence instrument. This capability has to be built around the European Union. 

Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty on collective defence and the provisions of the Treaty on close cooperation with NATO must become an integral part of the Treaty on European Union.

This is why all the political and military achievements of WEU must be gradually integrated into the European Union on an intergovernmental basis. It is essential for our member states to demonstrate that we have the political will necessary to provide the European Union with the capabilities it needs to achieve these objectives and be fully complementary to NATO.

Do not divide Europe

It is vital that countries such as Iceland, Norway and Turkey, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, and also Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Sweden are guaranteed all the rights of participation they currently enjoy in WEU.

Strengthen democracy

Democratic scrutiny and public debate at European level are vital and must continue, this being the task of a parliamentary assembly composed of the representatives of the national parliaments of all the countries concerned including those countries which are not members of the European Union. Our Assembly perfectly fulfils this role. 

c 1999 by Assembly of WEU