The Secretary General made the appeal at a meeting of the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. The meeting was also attended by members of national parliaments from EU member states. The speech was part of a debate on preparations for next month’s NATO Summit in Chicago.
He said that European nations should not shy away from a more robust role on the world stage. The Secretary General said European nations should have the necessary military capabilities to take action where it is needed, as well as shouldering a fair share of Allied operations outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
“European nations must look outwards and stay ready and able to act for their own sake,” the Secretary General told the committee.
He urged EU member states not to turn inward amid the economic crisis which has led to deep budget cutbacks at home.
“The need for a confident, assertive, outward-looking Europe has never been greater,” the Secretary General said. “That is why European nations must continue to invest in critical military capabilities – smartly and sufficiently. And they must continue to show willingness to use them when needed.”
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said the difficult budgetary times necessitated the need for member states of both NATO and the EU to invest in efforts to pool and share military resources and to avoid duplication.
“If we help each other, and if we go for multinational solutions, then we can afford the capabilities we need in the 21st Century,” said the Secretary General. “This is Smart Defence. And a crucial part of Smart Defence involves closer coordination and closer cooperation between NATO and the European Union.”
He said the two organisations had to reinforce each other rather than competing with each other.
“We all have much to gain from a more capable European defence. NATO and the European Union can and should play complementary and mutually reinforcing roles in supporting international peace and security,” he said.
The Secretary General, in calling for closer NATO-EU ties, said Europe could not afford to be inward-looking especially at a time of great international uncertainty. “This is a time when, more than ever, we depend on each other to ensure our shared security and preserve our shared values. So we need to keep investing in the security relationships that matter,” Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said.
He said progress had already been made, pointing to a recently agreed EU project to create an air-to-air refuelling capability for EU member states. The Secretary General pointed to NATO’s recent Libya mission where European nations took the lead in the operation, but he warned that the mission would have been less effective without the needed contributions made by the United States. These contributions included air-to-air refuelling, surveillance and intelligence assets; areas where European nations have been asked to pool and share resources to bolster their capabilities.