No. 2 - Apr. 1992
Vol. 40 - pp. 13-17
Dr. Willem Van Eekelen,
Secretary General of Western European Union
Late in 1991, the Buffalo News published
a cartoon in the form of a couple of maps. The first showed Europe before
the 1989-1991 revolutions, a much fragmented Western Europe facing a compact
Warsaw Pact. The second, depicting Europe after the revolutions,
showed the reverse picture, a united Western and Central Europe facing
the many republics and nations which had succeeded the defunct Soviet
Union and Yugoslav Federation. Such a degree of unity may well correspond
to the cartoon, provided Europe's move towards a Political Union with
a common foreign and security policy quickly gathers momentum in the wake
of the decisions taken by the European Summit in Maastricht in the Netherlands
The Maastricht Summit has indeed opened up new
prospects as well as new areas for the European construction process.
But real success will depend on how the Treaty is actually implemented.
The reactivation of Western European Union (WEU)
and the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986 have moved political
and security aspects higher up the European agenda. The Maastricht Summit
has taken the first steps to redress the balance between, on the one hand,
economic and monetary aspects of the Community's tasks and, on the other,
the emerging foreign and security policy. The principle of qualified majority
voting now applies in the fields of:
As far as security and defence are concerned, the compromise
reached at Maastricht is based on a working document, released by WEU Ministers
on 22 February 1991, on the role and place of Western European Union. Updated
several times, it became the basis for the Maastricht "Declaration of the
member states of Western European Union which are also members of the European
Union (1) on the role of WEU and its
relations with the European Union and with the Atlantic Alliance". The compromise
also resulted from the convergence ofconcerns and aspirations expressed
in two documents resulting from bilateral initiatives.
- pan-European security and cooperation;
- non-proliferation, and
- arms control and disarmament.
The Anglo-Italian Declaration
First, the Anglo-Italian Declaration on European Security
and Defence of 4 October 1991, stressed the special relationship between
Western Europe and North America, expressed through the Alliance, as "a
key element of the European identity". NATO's reform and the development
of a common foreign and security policy in the context of Political Union
were described as complementary. It viewed the transatlantic relationship
as an integral part of the broader concept of Europe, reflected in the CSCE
process, and the key component in the development of a security system encompassing
the whole of Europe.
From that perspective, WEU should be entrusted
with the task of developing the European dimension in the field of defence
i.e. embodying the defence component of the Political Union as well as
the European pillar of the Alliance. In so doing, it would have to take
into account both the decisions of the European Council and positions
adopted in the Alliance, "bearing in mind the different nature of its
relations with each body". WEU's activities would be guided by two fundamental
As a practical consequence, the Declaration proposed
the creation of a European reaction force to respond to threats out of Europe.
- openness in consultation;
- complementarity in decision- making.
The second bilateral text is the Mitterrand-Kohl letter
of 14 October 1991, on which paragraph 2 of Article J.4 relating to the
common foreign and security policy of the Maastricht Treaty on European
Union is largely based. It reads as follows:
"The Union requests the Western European Union
(WEU), which is an integral part of the development of the European Union,
to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have
defence implications. The Council shall, in agreement with the institutions
of the WEU, adopt the necessary practical arrangements."
The Franco-German letter listed the main topics
which could come within the competence of the Union and emphasized the
need to build up WEU as the Union's defence component. An organic link
was to be created between the Union and WEU through close cooperation
between the relevant staffs, the setting-up of a military planning and
coordination group and through closer military cooperation to complement
and further develop the cooperation already existing in the Alliance.
As far as cooperation between the Alliance and
WEU was concerned, it was to be developed according to NATO's Copenhagen
Communiqué of June 1991 and the principles of transparency and
complementarity. (2) Regular meetings
of Chiefs of Staff of WEU member countries were proposed in the letter,
as was the goal of creating a European armaments agency and transforming
the WEU Institute for Security Studies into a European Academy for security
Several of the suggestions made in the letter were
taken up in the Maastricht Declaration. The letter was more oriented towards
European Political Union and stressed the need for WEU to play a role
in the collective defence of its member states in continental Europe.
For instance, it mentioned reinforced Franco-German military cooperation,
which has led to the proposal for a corps based on the twinning of French
and German units, including the Franco-German brigade, but which would
be open to other member countries.
Points of convergence and divergence
It is useful to bear these bilateral texts of last
October in mind when addressing the issue of the implementation of the WEU-related
texts adopted at the European Summit. Their points of convergence and divergence
provide a framework for the debate on the European security architecture
and represent the two poles of the current negotiations concerning the precise
arrangements for WEU's relations with the European institutions and the
To that first set of questions another is closely
linked, namely the accession of all the remaining members of the European
Community to the WEU's modified Brussels Treaty of 1954 (Denmark, Greece
and Ireland). This calls for reflection on how to update WEU's acquis
since the adoption of the Hague Platform in 1987, taking into account
WEU's enlargement by the inclusion of Spain and Portugal in 1990, and
its involvement in the Gulf crises of 1987-88 and 1990-91. Then there
is the definition of the status of observers and, above all, of associate
members, relationships which are being offered simultaneously to European
NATO states not currently in WEU (Iceland, Norway and Turkey).
Finally, a third set of questions concerns the
scope and instruments of WEU's future operational role. The central question
here is whether a European command structure should be created, and how
it would relate to the Alliance's own military structures.
I shall briefly describe WEU's role in the wake
of the Maastricht Summit before considering the agenda for WEU intergovernmental
consultation and cooperation in 1992.
At Maastricht, WEU's place between the Atlantic
Alliance and the European institutions was clearly defined. It can best
be summed up as follows:
WEU is both a part of the process leading to a
European Union and firmly anchored in the Atlantic Alliance. Its institutional
relationships will therefore be tailored to the specific characteristics
and needs of these two fundamental elements of European security. Finding
itself at the heart of a dynamic two-fold process, WEU will assert itself
both as a partner and as an active player as soonas it moves from London
and begins to operate in Brussels.
WEU's role will therefore be regularly reviewed
in the light of changing requirements arising from a revision of existing
and future treaties. And it will in no way prejudice decisions which have
yet to be taken.
Relations with the Alliance
WEU's relations with the Alliance have taken a new
and decisive turn. In Copenhagen in June 1991, the North Atlantic Council
had already recognized that there was no contradiction between European
integration in the field of security and the strengthening of solidarity
between NATO partners. The Alliance's Rome Summit of last November further
acknowledged the security identity and defence role of the Europeans, emphasizing
three major points in its Declaration:
The Alliance's Strategic Concept which was also agreed
in Rome (4) recognized the future role
of European integrated and multinational structures. This new concept provides
a common framework for the Alliance and the Union member states in their
future national and cooperative defence programmes. Without an adequate
operational structure, WEU could not become an asset for the Alliance nor
develop into the defence arm of the European Political Union. The WEU Council
mandated its Defence Representatives Group to spell out and assess proposals
in the military field, taking into account the new strategic environment.
A military planning cell responsible for matching the forces answerable
to WEU to the mission of WEU will be established in the course of this year.
These missions will be in the fields of humanitarian action, peace-keeping
and crisis management, and concentrate on contingencies where NATO is unable
orunwilling to act, either inside or outside Europe.
- enhanced defence responsibilities for the Europeans within the Alliance;
- compatibility of specific European defence arrangements with the Alliance's
strategic unity and indivisibility of security for all its members;
- conformity of concrete decisions with the principles of transparency
and complementarity between NATO, WEU and other European institutions
in the field of security and defence. (3)
WEU is only now beginning to develop structures
which will be both complementary to, and compatible with, the Alliance
structures and the Political Union mechanisms for political planning and
decision-making. Commenting on the results of the Maastricht Summit, NATO
Secretary General Manfred Woerner rightly stated that the development
of a European security and defence identity will indeed lead to a consolidation
of the European pillar within the Alliance and represent a major contribution
to the basic transformation of NATO. The necessary practical arrangements
will now have to be worked out between the Alliance and WEU in line with
the setting up of its operational structures.
The main questions to be answered before a viable
working relationship can be created are:
Because WEU and NATO share the common purpose of ensuring
collective defence and they will have to cooperate in a very practical way,
the answers will probably be among the easiest to work out once the WEU
intergovernmental institutions have settled into Brussels.
- how can WEU member states intensify coordination on Alliance issues?
- how can WEU joint positions best be introduced into the Alliance consultation
process for further discussion?
- how can meetings be synchronized?
- how can working methods and procedures be harmonized ?
- what arrangements should be put in place for close cooperation between
the Secretariats General of WEU and NATO, including on common training
and headquarters exercises where appropriate?
Relationship with European Union
As regards WEU's relations with the European Union,
paragraph three of the Maastricht Declaration states:
"The objective is to build up WEU in stages as the defence component
of the European Union. To this end, WEU is prepared, at the request of
the European Union, to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of
the Union which have defence implications."
WEU is therefore tasked to create the conditions
for the development of a close working relationship with the Union in
Again, the key words in the Maastricht balancing act
are close cooperation, synchronization and harmonization, consultation and
- synchronization of meetings and harmonization of working methods;
- establishment of close cooperation between the Council and Secretariat
General of WEU and the Council of the Union and the Council Secretariat
- harmonization of the sequence and duration of Presidencies;
- regular information and consultation with the Commission of the European
Community on WEU activities in accordance with the Commission's role
regarding common foreign and security policy as defined in the European
- and, finally, encouragement of closer cooperation between the Parliamentary
Assembly of WEU and the European Parliament.
Once the WEU's ministerial organs have settled
down in Brussels, a triangular relationship will evolve which will generate
a European strategic environment and gradually lead to the setting up
of the institutional mechanisms needed for the development of the defence
component of the European Union. Whether directly in a WEU framework or,
under a different name, within the European Union institutions, the elements
of European defence will always simultaneously constitute the European
pillar of the Alliance.
This will be made easier once WEU has the same
member countries as European Union and once the European members of the
Alliance, which are not members of WEU, are associated with WEU's work.
Two key issues are therefore now on the WEU Permanent Council's agenda:
Answers to the questions concerning the Council's role
in Brussels and who will be appointed as Permanent Representatives, have
a bearing on other issues, such as the division of labour with the European
institutions, the introduction of policy positions into the Alliance framework,
and the synchronization of meetings. Most member states see the Permanent
Council in Brussels as the central, high-level policy-making body of WEU
able to deal on a continuous basis with the politico-military issues of
the day. Responsible to the Council of Ministers, it would direct the work
of WEU as a whole. While specifically representing WEU, the Council would
foster closer relationships with the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance
and its structure would allow for a smooth, effective introduction of the
results of WEU discussions into the European and Atlantic consultation processes.
As to the question of representation, several options have been proposed.
In the final analysis, it is the sovereign right of each member state to
choose its representative although the need for homogeneity is largely recognized.
The priority is to search for a compromise formula.
- a reappraisal of the composition and role of the WEU Permanent Council
- WEU's enlargement to embrace new full members, associate members and
observers, with a definition of their relevant rights and obligations.
Associate members and observers
The problems concerning WEU's future enlargement are
by far the most sensitive which WEU has to solve in applying the Maastricht
decisions. The proposal to create a new status through associate members
and observers in order to allow for the existence of a European pillar associating
all NATO member countries is something of a novelty for a security organization.
Since WEU member states assume that: "Treaties and agreements ... will be
concluded before 31 December 1992" they have given themselves a challenging
deadline, and the issue is the most urgent on the Permanent Council's agenda.
The first point on which the Council will have
to reach agreement concerns Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty.
The security guarantees given by the respective Articles V of the Brussels
and Washington (NATO) Treaties are complementary and should not be invoked
separately. This has to be specified using a credible formula and without
singularizing any state. Moreover, a reappraisal of WEU's role since the
beginning of its reactivation, and an assessment of its impact on the
Brussels Treaty by the current nine WEU member states, are unavoidable
in this context. It is generally recognized that an associate member,
while attending meetings, would not vote, and although able to support
a decision could not block a consensus. The detailed provisions of the
status of associate members and observers are under discussion. Agreement
among the Nine is a prerequisite for the beginning of negotiations on
accession. Discussions will begin and conclude at the same time with all
categories of applicant states.
It is worth recalling that the Anglo-French Treaty
of Dunkirk of 1947 paved the way for Western Union's Brussels Treaty of
March 1948, which in turn preceded NATO's Washington Treaty of 1949. By
deciding to be bound together by collective security arrangements, the
five Western Union states made the Atlantic Alliance possible, as well
as a continued American presence in Europe. In so doing, they devolved
part of their sovereignty to intergovernmental structures. Forty-three
years after European initiatives paved the way for an American underpinning
of Europe_s security, the Alliance's new strategy, agreed in Rome last
November, created an opportunity for Europeans to regain the ground which
had been lost when the European Defence Community failed in 1954. The
Maastricht Summit succeeded in seizing this opportunity. On that basis,
Europeans could very quickly move ahead in the defence field without relinquishing
any more sovereignty than had been done at the time the Brussels Treaty
The linking of the European Union and Western European
Union, as well as the consolidation of the European pillar of the Atlantic
Alliance, open new constructive avenues for defence cooperation. At a
time of shrinking defence budgets, Europe should now be in a position
to better pool its resources and to use them more efficiently. Europeans
can move ahead and create the political and military apparatus commensurate
with a forward-looking foreign and security policy which is compatible
with that of the Alliance and responsive to risks from all quarters, in
Europe as well as beyond it.
(1) European Community leaders adopted
at Maastricht a Treaty on Political Union and a Treaty on Economic and
Monetary Union which, together, comprise the Treaty on European Union.
(2) Text of Communique published
in NATO Review, No. 3, June 1991, p. 31.
(3) For text of Declaration see NATO
Review, No. 6, December 1991, p. 19.
(4) Op cit p. 25.
© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation