on the Future
Role of WEU


May 2-3, 1997


by Daniel George
Director of Economics, Political Affairs Division

I am privileged to be here representing the NATO Secretary General and to speak on his behalf. The future role of the WEU in the new security environment is a subject in which Dr. Solana is very interested in. He sends his warm greetings to you all. He has asked me to emphasise the importance he personally attaches to the development of a strong, viable and practical European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance. Even closer working relationships between NATO and the WEU are a natural consequence.

As a starting point for your discussions, let me briefly set out what is happening within the Alliance. As is by now well known, there will be an Alliance Summit in July in Madrid. The meeting will be a notable one. Decisions will be taken there which will have an impact on European security as a whole. It is not an exaggeration to say that Madrid will define the nature of European security for decades to come. It will herald a period of unprecedented and purposeful security cooperation across the whole of the Euro-Atlantic space.

The agenda for the meeting is also well known by now. At Madrid, one or more countries will be invited to prepare for membership. They will join after Parliamentary ratification in 1999. An enhanced Partnership for Peace will create new opportunities to work with NATO. We will make a start on a new relationship with Russia through a permanent joint NATO-Russia Council. And Ukraine's special position will also be recognised. We expect also to make progress with our Mediterranean initiative which started in 1996, and has progressed. All this will mean that NATO will be a motivating force, creating a new network of cooperative ties across the continent, and even to the South.

The Alliance has therefore set itself some ambitious goals at a time which Dr. Solana has called a "formative period." We have the opportunity in Europe to create a new security framework for the next century. If the right decisions are taken now, we can expect to reap the benefit in peace and stability for decades to come. The task is not NATO's alone. Other institutions - EU, WEU, OSCE, Council of Europe - all have their parts to play.

So, at Madrid, NATO will be giving a major impetus towards the common goal of a new cooperative security order. But in order to play its part to the full, NATO itself has to complete a long process of internal reform and adaptation.

There are two parts to this internal transformation, both of key interest to this seminar.

First, NATO will complete the restructuring of our military organisation. The new command structure will be streamlined and optimised for crisis management and peacekeeping operations. It will see the full implementaiton of the CJTF concept.

Secondly, we will make progress on developing a European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance. This process has been steadily progressing in recent years. Madrid will see another major evolution. As this of utmost importance to the subject of this seminar, let me expand on this point.

NATO has developed a very close relationship with the WEU since 1991 when, at Maastricht, WEU Heads of State gave it additional responsibilities. Since then, NATO and the WEU have put in place the agreements and procedures for a productive relationship:

  • the joint NATO WEU Council meets regularly.

  • NATO is willing to make assets available to the WEU for European-led operations. The CJTF concept, right from the start, was conceived with the idea of supporting the WEU.

  • agreements and procedures are in place for NATO and the WEU to share information, use a common communication system, work closely together.

Furthermore, in Berlin, in June last year, NATO Foreign Ministers went a major step forward. They agreed that a European arrangement should be developed within the new military structure so that WEU-led operations would be facilitated. In other words, supporting the WEU can be considered as one of NATO's possible missions. What we are doing now is working on the practicalities. If necessary, and the Allies agree, NATO should have everything in place to support the WEU in an operation under WEU auspices.

I mention these developments to underline how closely the WEU's development as an operational organisation has become intertwined with NATO's own evolution.

This is not, nor should it be, a one-way process. The Alliance also benefits from the development of the ESDI. The ESDI strengthens NATO because it makes it possible for all Allies to particiapte fully in all its missions. The development of ESDI within NATO has a direct relation to Spain and France wanting to fully participate in the new structure. As a result, Europe's voice will be clearer, and the Alliance stronger. The burdens and responsibilities of security will be shared more equally among Allies.

The decision to build the European Security and Defence Identity inside, and not outside NATO, means that the ESDI will be developed with our American Allies and not without them. This makes good sense. By doing so, we avoid costly duplication of effort and move the transatlantic relationship onto a better foundation.

So, Madrid will have concrete results: invitation of new members, stronger Partnerships, new command structure, and effective ESDI.

NATO today is at the heart of building a better and safer Europe across the board. The Madrid Summit in July represents not just one in a series of high-level meetings, it will be a turning point. Within the next few years, we shall have new members extending and deepening stability to the eastern part of the continent. We shall have new, very flexible, military structures able to undertake the whole range of operations from humanitarian relief to crisis intervention. And, of course, we will pursue our new mission - achieving a qualitative change in European security. Through Partnership for Peace, our relationship with Russia and other initiatives, we will be able to bind the continent together in a common resolve to prevent future wars and deal with local conflicts. In short, the Madrid Summit will see a new NATO emerge, fit for the future and guiding us towards a more stable, more cooperative and more peaceful Euro-Atlantic area.

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