January 2000

Europe's Road towards Military Integration:
Understanding the political, institutional and technological developments towards a Common European Security and Defence Policy.

 Otfried Nassauer

1999 saw the European Union (EU) undertaking a number of major steps towards developing its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) into a Common European Security and Defence Policy (CESDP)[1]. This CESDP is intended to give the European Union an independent capability for crisis management operations, i.e. a military wing of its own. Legally based on the incorporation of the Petersberg Tasks into the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) by the Treaty of Amsterdam, this CESDP would therefore exclude collective defence. In part this is due to the four non-aligned members of the EU, who can not commit themselves to collective defence for political or even constitutional reasons. While this process had already gained political momentum by late 1998, most of the concrete decisions were taken during the Cologne and Helsinki European Council Summits in June and December 1999.

In sharp contrast to earlier attempts to harmonise European Security and Defence policies, developments since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam seem to be qualitatively different. Backed by the fresh authority provided by the Treaty of Amsterdam and a strong majority of Social Democratic-led governments all over Europe, the European integration process is gaining speed. There is no foreseeable factor which might stall or collapse this process. On the contrary, the governments involved, and especially those of the bigger member states, seem to be strongly committed to making rapid and substantial progress despite potential technical, financial and political problems.

I. Developing a CESDP - A Status Report

1.       Political Aims

The Helsinki Summit underlined the EU's determination “to develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises.” It had already been agreed at the Cologne Summit that EU-led operations should include options for crisis management operations conducted both with and without use of NATO resources. The EU is determined to acquire all necessary resources for autonomous decision-making and action, but also hopes to avoid unnecessary duplication with NATO. It has also promised to consult NATO and other European countries informally with regard to future developments.

2.       Towards Independent Decision-making

To prepare and support Council decisions on EU crisis management operations a number of new bodies will be developed:

·         A planning and analysis cell attached to the Council, which will also act as a situation centre;

·         A standing Political and Security Committee (PSC), composed of national representatives of senior/ambassadorial level, tasked with dealing with all aspects of CFSP, including CESDP;

·         A Military Committee composed of national Defence Chiefs, represented by their delegates tasked to present military advice and recommendations to the PSC;

·         A Military Staff within the Council to provide military expertise and support for CESDP, including early warning, situation assessment and strategic planning for EU crisis management operations.

This structure closely mirrors NATO's basic decision-making procedure and thus could act either closely with or independently of the Alliance. In the absence of a full assessment of the legal and other implications of institutionalising Europe’s military crisis management policies, it was decided to establish temporary structures by March 2000, which will act in these capacities pending creation of permanent new bodies. In addition, the November 1999 WEU Ministerial Council granted the EU direct access, as required, to WEU capabilities for use in support of EU crisis management planning and operations.

As a result of the Cologne Summit, former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana was appointed to the post of EU High Representative for CFSP, and subsequently in November to that of WEU Secretary General. Given the confluence of these two positions, the authority Solana gains from having responsibilities in both foreign policy and defence, and his consequent freedom to manoeuvre, it is to be expected that Solana will be able to shape his new role and exert considerable influence on the restructuring process.

3. Towards Independent Military Capabilities

Based on a UK proposal the Helsinki Summit decided on an "headline goal" to (re)organise European crisis reaction forces into a corps of 50-60,000 soldiers which, by 2003, could be deployed within 60 days (with spearhead rapid reaction forces to be available much earlier) and remain deployed for at least one year. This will require that a minimum of 100,000 — 150,000 troops be earmarked. Multinational forces such as the Eurocorps and the European Air Group could be used in implementing this decision. Already Eurocorps is undergoing a four-year restructuring which is intended to transform it into a force similar to NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). It was also agreed to enhance European strategic air- and sea-lift capabilities, in the first instance through the creation of a European Air Transport Command. Four EU member states, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, have proposed additional means to help build a credible deployable force in a so-called “Tool-box paper”, which remains classified. It was also suggested that the Eurocorps could assume command of the KFOR troops currently deployed in Kosovo during 2000.

A recent WEU audit of European assets and capabilities showed that, on paper, the Europeans have sufficient force levels and resources available to undertake the full range of Petersberg Tasks. However, the audit concluded, these capabilities need to be strengthened and augmented in critical areas such as communications, command and control, intelligence, and strategic transport, in order to attain a higher level of operational effectiveness and efficiency in larger and more intense conflict situations. Yet, in the absence of decisions regarding the financing of a European military crisis management capability, it is not clear how this could proceed.

4.       The Road Ahead

Although the controversial issues of collective defence and European nuclear capabilities have been pushed to one side for the moment, the process of integrating European military and defence policies has been substantially advanced.

The next step in the process of European integration will be the review of the TEU scheduled to begin in February 2000. This Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) is tasked with deciding on the unresolved issues of the Amsterdam IGC, including the questions of redistribution of voting rights and extension of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV). However, it is possible that additional topics relating to the integration of defence policies and developing a military crisis management capability will make it onto the agenda. Furthermore, the six EU member states with the largest defence industries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK) signed a letter of intent in July 1998, initiating negotiations on a legally binding framework for integrating European defence industries. They plan to sign an initial framework document by March 2000. The Portuguese Presidency will decide the agenda for the IGC early in 2000, but in view of the eagerness of the EU to conclude negotiations by the end of 2000, in order to pave the way for the accession of new members in 2003, there is a lot of pressure to keep the IGC agenda short and manageable.

In addition, the fate of the WEU will be decided by the end of 2000, under the French Presidency of the EU. Here, two options present themselves: full integration of the WEU into the EU; or keeping the WEU in existence, but integrating most of its structures, capabilities and resources into the EU (‘cannibalisation’ of the WEU).

II. Key Questions

Development of an autonomous military and non-military crisis management capability for the European Union implies a substantial change not just to the character of the Union itself, but also to the way it is perceived globally. Many questions will need to be answered in the course of these developments, of which the following section provides some brief examples, in the political, institutional and technical fields.

1. Political Questions

Military vs. non-military capabilities

A fundamental question which must be addressed is that of the balance between the military and non-military elements of any EU crisis management capability. Despite the arguments made by the Finnish Presidency that non-military capabilities should be developed in parallel with advances in the military field, the reports which resulted from Helsinki clearly show the continuing priority given to military crisis management capabilities. The final report on non-military capabilities was a substantially watered-down version of earlier drafts, and notable by their absence were several proposed commitments to strengthen the Union's capabilities in this field.

Thus the question remains unresolved for the time being. A crisis management capability which prioritises military capabilities would be an unfortunate development. In addition to wastefully duplicating those capabilities which already exist within NATO, it would ignore the EU’s expertise and good record to date in civilian conflict prevention and crisis management, thereby sacrificing the comparative structural advantage it has built up in recent years. However, concentration on non-military solutions alone is not the answer either, as this would effectively deprive the EU of a sufficiently wide range of options to enable to it to adequately address the full spectrum of crisis situations. Such a policy might also have the effect of subjecting the EU to NATO’s predominance prior to and during those situations which might require the threat or use of military force.

Rather, what is needed is a crisis management capability which gives equal priority and resources to both its military and non-military components, giving the EU a truly balanced mix of options for responding to crises. The issue of equality of resourcing is crucial, as sufficient resources are as central to the development of non-military capabilities as to military ones. The priority for the near future must be to re-emphasise the role of non-military crisis management.

International Organisations and International Law

What will the attitude of the EU be with regard to the role of international law and organisations such as the UN and OSCE? In terms of crisis management, this question largely relates to the issue of whether the EU would undertake a military crisis management mission in the absence of a mandate from an appropriate body such as the UN or OSCE. By restricting itself to only those missions approved by such a mandate, the EU would make an important gesture in reaffirming the importance of these international organisations. If it retained the option of acting without such a mandate, it would contribute to the process of weakening the role of the UN and OSCE in international affairs. Recent European statements to the effect that action will only take place “in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter”, while stricter than comparable NATO statements, nonetheless fall short of committing the Union to acting only “in accordance with the UN Charter”.

Related to this is the issue of the EU’s role in promoting and strengthening international legally binding regimes, as in the area of arms control. The process of European integration, which can itself be described as a regional attempt to develop a transnational legal system, requires a stable international environment based on the rule of international law. On the other hand, recent trends within the US seem to be heading in a different direction, as evidenced by the decision not to ratify the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), plans to renounce the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in June 2000, and voices within the Pentagon and Departments of State and Defence questioning the value to the US of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) and Non-Proliferation (NPT) treaties. These trends are encouraged by those who feel it is in the interests of the United States to weaken the rule of international law and organisations, thereby strengthening the position of the US as the world’s only superpower 

In the past, the US has exerted its influence in order to ensure the success of its preferred outcome in crucial debates on the shaping of the international security order. The most prominent recent example of this was during the discussions over the UN’s role in crisis management which took place in 1994, against the backdrop of the Congressional elections which brought a Republican majority to power. The US successfully pushed for a strong role for regional organisations and ‘coalitions of the willing’, thereby retaining a pre-eminent role in crisis management operations for NATO. This seriously undermined the international authority of the UN and the OSCE, and provoked a crisis in NATO–Russia relations. Recent developments within the US regarding international arms control regimes have given rise to European fears that the US might level a similarly damaging blow to these regimes in the near future, a situation which the Europeans are anxious to avoid.

In the face of these developments, the EU must decide whether it will work actively to strengthen the existing international system, even though this might increase transatlantic tensions.

Dealing with Russia

Whether in the context of strengthening its existing CFSP or developing a CESDP, one of the most important questions for the European Union is that of its relations with Russia, especially in view of its upcoming eastward expansion. When faced with the same question in recent years, under US leadership NATO’s policy has simply been to place the primacy of the Alliance in the European security architecture ahead of all other concerns. This is an option unavailable to the EU, partly because it would lead it into direct competition with NATO.

Thus, Russia was an obvious candidate for the development of a Common Strategy within the framework of CFSP. The strategy agreed at the Cologne Summit includes a number of constructive and co-operative approaches. Among the visionary aims of the Common Strategy on Russia is a pledge “to work with Russia to develop joint foreign policy initiatives with regard to specific third countries and regions, to conflict prevention and to crisis management especially in areas adjacent to Russia, on the Balkans and the Middle East”. The EU will also consider “facilitating the participation of Russia when the EU avails itself of the WEU for missions within the range of the Petersberg Tasks”. Giving this Common Strategy practical effect implies developing elaborate options and capabilities for non-military crisis management, an implication which the EU will have to take into consideration.

Trans-Atlantic Relations

The issue of relations with the United States is likely to become more complicated as the EU builds up its capacity for autonomous action. The introduction of the Petersberg Tasks into the TEU at Amsterdam brings the EU clearly into a sphere of competence for which NATO claims primary reponsibility. European determination to acquire an independent capacity for action is partly driven by uneasiness at the dominant international position of the US, but also by the recognition that Europe needs to take greater responsibility in international affairs.

Washington’s concerns stem from the reality that, in promoting the ESDI concept, the US envisages Europe becoming a stronger second pillar of NATO on the condition that it does not challenge the leadership role of the Americans within the Alliance and that the EU does not acquire a truly independent capacity for action. This American concept of ESDI, which results from both the debate about burden sharing within the Alliance and an awareness that greater European spending on military technology will probably mean greater European purchasing from US companies, would effectively render EU actions and use of NATO assets dependent on a prior decision of the North Atlantic Council, thus in effect giving the US a veto over EU decisions and crisis management operations.

The US position is summarised by the ‘three No-D’s’: ‘No De-coupling’, meaning that development of a CESDP should not weaken the Atlantic Alliance; ‘No Discrimination’, implying that EU-led crisis management operations should be open to equal participation by all NATO members; and ‘No Duplication’, meaning that EU capabilities should not replicate those already in existence within NATO.

It will be particularly difficult to satisfactorily resolve the tension between the European desire for autonomous capabilities and the American demand for avoidance of unnecessary duplication in military capabilities. Some ‘necessary’ duplication seems likely in a number of core military capabilities. US assumptions that the EU and the US should never become equal partners within NATO have led to partially well-founded concerns that development of a strong CESDP would weaken the Alliance. In the mid- to long-term, the European Union will reject any developments which might lead to either US predominance over European decision-making processes or an unbalanced need to procure defence equipment in the US.

Given that in the near future the European Union will lack the capability to conduct any larger scale operation without drawing on NATO assets, the US is anxious to engage the European Union in discussions on mutually binding formal agreements (e.g. on the availability of European military capabilities to NATO) at as early a stage as possible. In contrast, the EU position is to enter negotiations on formalising relations between the EU and NATO only after the respective EU structures and capabilities are in place. Until this has been achieved an informal exchange of information, possibly channelled through Javier Solana, should be used to communicate EU politics and intentions. While the US is interested in making sure that it at least has a voice, if not a veto, in EU decision-making, the EU’s members are likely to be interested in avoiding such a situation. In the mid- to long-term they should be interested in gaining access to NATO's capabilities under conditions and circumstances equal to those under which NATO might have access to EU capabilities.

Thus the core task for both the EU and the US will be to re-shape transatlantic relations according to realistic terms and the post-cold war environment. This will require an acceptance that neither interests nor policies can always be identical. While the EU will have to ensure that it excludes neither the US nor NATO from decisions on European security, the US will have to accept that NATO cannot become the sole organisation in European security, in which the EU is prevented from making its own decisions.

1.       Institutional Questions

The major institutional question which needs to be considered in shaping a European military crisis management capability regards the future of the WEU. This has implications for discussions on the possibility of an EU collective defence commitment, for transatlantic relations, and for the EU’s relations with NATO. Although there have been some indications that the WEU might be fully integrated into the EU, there are several reasons why this should not take place in the near future.

Article V of the WEU’s constitutive document, the Brussels Treaty, contains a collective defence commitment which is stronger than that of NATO’s Washington Treaty. The WEU’s full members are unlikely to renounce this commitment, yet it is inconceivable that it be incorporated into the TEU at this time for several reasons. Firstly, neither the EU’s member states nor the US is prepared for the discussion on European collective defence arrangements, including the role of British and French nuclear forces, which this move would entail. Secondly, a debate about establishing a collective defence guarantee within the European Union would be extremely divisive among its member states, given that four are non-aligned countries which for political and or constitutional reasons could not accept such a guarantee at this time. Finally, such a discussion would negatively prejudice the possibility of Switzerland, also non-aligned, acceding to the EU in the near future.

The legal implications of abolishing the WEU also remain unclear, particularly with regard to the legally binding arrangements which have been negotiated between the WEU and NATO. These include agreements on intelligence sharing, CJTFs, the Eurocorps, and non-duplication of assets. It is doubtful whether the EU will become the legal successor to the WEU in the short- to medium-term. At the same time, it is unlikely that the EU will feel itself to be in a position to renegotiate these agreements with NATO, nor would it wish to see them abandoned.

Full integration of the WEU would leave the EU facing the unresolved issue of how to deal with third countries, such as the candidates for EU accession, WEU associate members, the Ukraine and Russia. Maintaining the WEU gives the EU a convenient structure for involving these countries in discussions on European involvement in military crisis management. Here the WEU could play a role similar to that which the Partnership for Peace programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council fulfil with regard to NATO.

Thus, should the WEU continue to exist, stripped of many of its operational functions, it could continue to exercise a number of important functions, including:

·         Safeguarding a strong collective defence commitment for its full members;

·         Clearly distinguishing between EU commitments to military crisis management and collective defence, thus protecting the interests of the EU’s non-aligned members;

·         Retaining EU / WEU access to NATO resources under existing WEU / NATO arrangements;

·         Providing the institutional and organisational framework for opening EU crisis management operations to the participation of non-EU member states;

·         Providing a ‘firewall’ against pressure to make EU decision-making processes dependent on the involvement of NATO, the US and other third parties;

·         Giving the EU time to develop its own capabilities and mechanisms before negotiating its relationship with NATO into formal agreements.

A WEU representative at the conference hinted that the WEU might develop in this direction. He assumed the organisation would continue to exist, albeit in a “somewhat more dormant” manner.

3. Technical Questions

Developing European assets

The issue of developing a sufficient level of interoperability to make EU military crisis management operations a reality appears initially to be a rather technical question. However, beyond the technical issues of standardisation, deciding whether capabilities are national ones held ‘on call’, part of multinational capabilities, or are developed as common European assets is a deeply political task, related to the degree of control national governments retain over assets.

While the initial steps agreed by the EU seem to be rather pragmatic by character, combining a mix of all available assets, the question remains pertinent. Will the EU attempt to develop joint capabilities, such as a joint Global Positioning System or joint space based intelligence assets? If this is to be so, the EU will also need to develop policies governing the use of these capabilities. The experience of developing jointly funded capabilities within NATO has been far from positive, and it remains to be seen whether the degree of political will required to fund common assets exists within the EU. In addition, it will be necessary to create entirely new structures allowing for a smooth and quick transfer of national and multilateral assets to EU control.


Information and intelligence sharing is likely to be one of the major problems of developing a European crisis management capability. Reliable intelligence is crucial to any autonomous decision-making process as well as to the efficient and successful conduct of military operations. Sharing intelligence in a multinational context has always been one of the most critical tasks to be addressed in crisis management operations, as shown by recent disputes between the UN and some of its members during peace operations, and among NATO members during the Kosovo operation.

Heretofore, the EU had no real need to address this issue, and so has no real capabilities for distributing and keeping secure intelligence material. Apart from these basic problems, decisions must also be made regarding the form of intelligence to be shared: countries might more readily share aggregated data and intelligence analyses, but raw intelligence material, although potentially much more sensitive, would permit greater independence of judgement for those not directly involved in the intelligence gathering-process.


As ever, discussions over financing are likely to prove difficult to resolve, especially in connection with costly capabilities such as command and control structures, satellite communications, strategic transport and intelligence gathering. As the TEU does not yet foresee joint defence spending, European defence procurement is currently undertaken on a national basis, from national defence budgets. However, beyond co-ordinating national procurement plans, some defence ministries have obviously targeted the EU for some future R&D projects and procurement programmes, which can be labelled “dual use”, such as the European global positioning system, Galileo. Thus, a mixed approach is likely to prevail. Some future EU military capabilities will be created by combining national contributions, others by multinational efforts and, where so entitled, the EU may set up elements for developing military capabilities of its own.

An important point in this regard is the need to prevent the European Commission’s research funding Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) becoming a major source of funding for research into military and dual-use technology. Funds from the specific programmes within FP5 are administered by the Commission, and are subject to a much weaker degree of control by the European Parliament than other sources of EU funding. Large-scale funding of defence industry research projects via FP5 would therefore effectively remove any element of democratic control from both the development of European military technology and the ongoing restructuring of the European defence industry.

III. Discussion Points for Third Parties

Regardless of whether they reject or support a military crisis management role for the European Union, NGOs, civil society groups, academics and third countries will have to discuss their position on these developments. It is unlikely that the process will derail anytime soon. On the contrary, it is more likely that it is already irreversible. Many of the issues which these groups will want to see addressed are similar to those which European governments themselves must address, including:

·         the ratio and relationship between non-military and military crisis management capabilities;

·         the relationship between conflict prevention and crisis management capabilities and resources;

·         the degree of accountability of decision-making structures in EU crisis management operations;

·         strengthening the role of international organisations and international law;

·         guaranteeing that the EU looks co-operatively both to the East and to the South when further shaping its future identity.

It is already clear that NGOs and civil society are likely to play a crucial role in reminding the EU of its historical strengths as a civilian actor and thus in reinforcing the balance between developing existing non-military crisis management capabilities and building new military ones. It is also likely that these interested parties will have a decisive part to play in preventing an unrestricted military build-up. As the EU develops its military capabilities, national defence communities might see this as an ideal opportunity to call for increased defence spending. This could easily develop into an argument for duplication of resources already extant within NATO. Therefore, one role for civil society in the debate will be to ask ‘How much is enough?’ at an early stage.

Conflict prevention NGOs will also play a decisive role in reminding the EU about the importance of further development of the EU’s early warning, conflict prevention and civilian capabilities in order to positively influence potential crisis situations. The EU will have to be reminded that copying the military model in the civilian area is the wrong way to go. While it might be prudent for the EU to invest in developing a civilian police pool and stronger civil-military capabilities for crisis management operations, this is not where resources should be concentrated. Instead, they should be invested in a strong European capability to take civilian action along the lines of that envisaged by the OSCE in the context of the REACT concept, and to enhancing European contributions to similar initiatives.

Civil society and NGOs will also have to influence the debate about Europe’s decision to strengthen the international community and international law. This implies not just arguing the importance of an appropriate mandate for military crisis management operations, but also playing a role in elaborating clear criteria governing situations of humanitarian intervention and other military crisis management scenarios. In addition, there is also a significant need for NGOs and others to work for the preservation of existing international arms control regimes currently under threat.

Another area in which civil society has a crucial role to play is transparency and democratic accountability. More transparency, especially with regard to the opaque decision-making procedures of the European Council and Commission, has long been a demand of NGOs. With the EU playing a larger role in shaping Europe’s foreign and defence policies this demand becomes ever more important, and translates into two urgent necessities. Firstly, a more significant role needs to be shaped for the European Parliament within the framework of both CFSP and CESDP. Secondly, an “openness initiative” to make foreign and defence policy decisions and discussion processes in the European institutions more transparent is required. The EU would be well advised to give its role in conflict prevention and crisis management a higher profile. This is essential not only to ensure their legitimacy, but also because such transparency might also strengthen the popularity of the entire European project, as ‘foreign affairs’ and ‘the environment’ are the areas which gain the most popular approval for legitimate EU involvement in successive opinion polls.

[1] Cf. Helsinki Declaration