WEU Colloquy
and Security

4 May 1998

"A European Security and Defence Identity within NATO"

Remarks by NATO Secretary General, Dr. Javier Solana

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The story of the development of a more coherent European security policy is now half a century old.

It is a story that is perhaps more characterised by ups and downs, rather than grand successes; and by doubt rather than confidence.

This period of uncertainty is now behind us for good. The stage is set for a European Security and Defence Identity to take shape. 50 years after the signing of the Brussels Treaty, and almost 50 years after the creation of NATO, the end of the Cold War and the dynamics of European integration have opened new opportunities which we are ready to exploit.

We have already achieved much in the past couple of years in adapting to these new realities. The Brussels Summit of 1994 gave us the go-ahead to make support of ESDI and revitalised relations with the WEU an essential part of the Alliance's political agenda - an essential part of the new NATO.

But it was the Berlin Ministerial of 1996 that put the concrete building blocks in place for building ESDI within NATO and with the WEU, as fundamental elements of a transformed Alliance.

Since then, we have made solid, substantial progress: we have created most of the mechanisms and procedures needed to allow for European-led coalitions using NATO assets and capabilities:

  • At the political level, regular NATO-WEU Joint Council meetings have already become a permanent feature of our institutional relationship.

  • In practical terms, the WEU itself has increased its ability to conduct peacekeeping and crisis management operations.

  • In NATO, we have enhanced our ability to support ESDI by:

    • taking account of WEU requirements in NATO force-planning arrangements;

    • offering NATO assets and capabilities on a case by case basis in support of WEU-led operations;

    • developing arrangements to support the planning and conduct of such operations.

Work is also well in hand to prepare for joint exercises to test and develop further the concept of WEU-led operations with NATO support.

It is now possible to envisage missions such as the Petersberg tasks to be led by the WEU with NATO support. Our support for ESDI and for WEU-led operation is coming to fruition in political and practical terms.

All these operational issues will certainly be discussed exhaustively over the course of this Colloquium. No doubt that the decision to build an ESDI within NATO will offer us the broadest possible menu of military options for managing future crises. But there is more to this European Identity, this "European personality", than operational issues. Therefore I would like to focus now on the political aspects of this "personality".

To me, identity suggests first and foremost a common view. Common military structures are no guarantee for common views. As my friend Lluis Maria de Puig has repeatedly said, identity cannot be decreed.

To achieve a true identity requires a commonality of views among European nations which we have not yet fully achieved. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia has taught us some sobering lessons in this regard. At the outset there was no common European view - neither on the nature of the crisis nor on an appropriate response.

Europe can do better. During the conflict in Bosnia, we have seen that there is a learning curve, that we can generate political will, a coherent strategy, and sufficient military power to make a difference. In Albania, European nations were able to create a response although an ad-hoc one, at short notice. Now the crisis in Kosovo is presenting Europeans with a new challenge.

Europe may still have a long way to go, however there are encouraging signs which suggest to me that Europe faces a favourable situation to move forward in the right direction as far as its identity is concerned.

If we succeed in mastering the challenge of creating this European personality, we will have achieved far more than a more coherent contribution to European security. We will also have made a major contribution to a more mature and balanced transatlantic relationship. Indeed, only a stronger Europe will help ensure the continued US commitment to European security. Only a stronger Europe can become the strategic partner North America seeks for managing global security challenges.

To rebalance this relationship between North America and Europe, Europe has to deliver. I know that this is not easy in a time of budgetary constraints. But it will be the price to pay to see the European personality emerge. Political will is undoubtedly the engine of this change, but financial means and the appropriate restructuring of our military needs will be its fuel. Everybody will benefit from such a renewed relationship.

As far as NATO is concerned, we will have a unique opportunity to contribute to the creation of the ESDI. It will gain added strength through the review and updating of the Alliance's Strategic Concept, decided by the Madrid Summit and which is currently underway.

This work will reflect the changes in the European security landscape since 1991. It therefore cannot help but take into account the profound and lasting changes which I have described - changes in European security relations, changes in the Alliance, changes in our institutions. And ESDI is very much part of this new landscape.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance is a prerequisite for the future of a vibrant NATO, a NATO for the 21st century.

Europe and North America, together, are a formidable combination. NATO reflects their combined operational and political potential. This potential can only be enhanced by a Europe able to play a greater political and operational part in facing challenges of ensuring peace and stability in the new security environment.

I wish you a very stimulating conference.

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