Updated: 26-Feb-2004 NATO Speeches


12 Feb. 2004

NATO-EU Relations

Video lecture by Jamie Shea,
Deputy Assistant Secretary General for External Relations

Video interview
Audio file .MP3/14243Kb

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, good day and greetings from NATO Headquarters, here, in Brussels. This is Jamie Shea once again, having the pleasure of delivering this lecture number four in my series of five lectures on where NATO is heading and what the future holds in store for NATO.

I hope that you've enjoyed the three previous lectures that it's been my pleasure to give and now today, for this fourth session, I'd like to talk to you about the relationship between NATO and the European Union.

A couple of years ago here, in Brussels, an American ambassador said that NATO and the EU were two institutions in the same city but living on entirely separate planets. There may only be about three and a half kilometres between NATO and the EU, but for years, those three and a half kilometres seemed more like three million kilometres. We had almost no contact, apart from occasionally secret lunches between EU ambassadors and some of their NATO counterparts or extremely informal talks between we members of the respective staffs.

In fact, it was rather strange that here was NATO after the Cold War having Soviet military officers walking up and down its corridors, opening its doors to membership of former adversaries intervening beyond its traditional borders in places like Kosovo and Bosnia and having partnerships with countries as far away as the caucuses of Kazakhstan.

And yet, here was NATO having no dialogue with an organization which in many respects has largely the same membership, we have of course some important differences, but largely the same membership, is based on the same values, and has really the same objectives, to construct a liberal democratic international order based on security, prosperity and the rule of law.

But finally, as almost like the last piece of the post Cold War jigsaw puzzle being put in place, over the last years, NATO and the EU have begun to talk to each other and more than that, they've begun to actively co-operate together as partner organizations in attempting to make the world a more orderly place.

So first question, why come together? Well, clearly first and foremost, the European Union's common foreign and security policy with a defence component is now a reality, a reality that's been decided by all 15 EU states. And NATO has no choice but to recognize that reality and adjust to it.

Some sceptics have spoken of this as a threat to the future of the Alliance. Well, I prefer to quote Winston Churchill, who once said that the pessimist sees a threat in every opportunity and an optimist sees an opportunity in every threat. Clearly, from the moment that the reality of the common foreign and security policy in the European Union exists, NATO's quest is to see how we can use that to bring added value to the Trans-Atlantic relationship and more, not less assets in dealing with the very unstable world that we face all around us.

Indeed, the advantages of working together I think became clear in 2000 and 2001 when after NATO's Kosovo intervention, a crisis broke out in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There were fears that a civil war could break out between the ethnic Albanians and the Slav Macedonian majority and George Robertson, then the Secretary General of NATO, and Javier Solana, former NATO Secretary General, who as you know, has since become the High Representative of the EU for the common and foreign security policy, these two were able repeatedly to go to Skopje to conduct negotiations with both sides, NATO using the stick of military enforcement and the EU using the carrot of economic integration and a stabilization and association agreement.

We discovered that you can walk far more sturdily on two legs than you can on one and this combined effort produced a mix of pressure and positive incentive that was required to make the ethnic Albanians give up their weapons and to induce the Slav Macedonians in the Ohrid agreement to change the constitution so the Albanian minority would have greater social, ethnic and civil rights.

So that single instance is now something that we don't want to have as a one-off but we want to translate that into a regular practice combining our assets and working together.

At the same time, we recognize today that there are more challenges, more failed states, more crises than we have organizations to deal with them and therefore, there's plenty of work to go around to keep both NATO and the EU gainfully employed. The key is to have rules of the road that prevent bureaucratic clashes or the dilapidation of their common resources.

So we have agreed that the EU will act when NATO is not engaged; for instance, when the United States does not wish to become engaged in an operation involving European allies. Now, we've already had a first instance of this so with the EU taking over NATO's mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1), which then became Operation Concordia. The EU has also since run an independent operation of its own, a short one but a very successful one, at UNIA, in the Congo, and the European Union is now planning to take over NATO's mission, the SFOR Stabilization Mission, in Bosnia later on this year.

And of course, to the extent that the EU is able to take on that share of the burden, for instance the Balkans, this frees up NATO's assets for missions beyond Europe such as in Afghanistan where NATO has conducted the ISAF Mission since last August, or perhaps tomorrow a greater role for the Alliance in Iraq, beyond the support that NATO is currently giving in Iraq through the Polish-led multinational division.

So the EU can develop capabilities which can help NATO and a stronger Europe which is the goal of the common foreign and security policy is not a threat to the United States. It was President Kennedy who in his speech at the American University in 1962 already spoke of a twin pillar alliance based on a sturdy European pillar able to be a partner to the United States.

And although a stronger Europe may require some adjustment in the Alliance, ultimately it's far more in the U.S. interest than a weak and divided Europe which is unable to shoulder its fair share of the burden.

Now, how is the EU doing as a security and defence actor? Well, the first thing is that the EU has put in place its own structures. It now has a political security committee with diplomats giving advice, taking decisions. It also has a military committee which is modelled largely on NATO's military committee and it has a military planning staff.

It also has a strategy paper that was agreed at the most recent EU summit and was worked up by Javier Solana as the High Representative. Now, this is significant because this strategy paper for the first time commits the European Union to security tasks beyond its borders, notably in fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and also where necessary to preventive engagements.

And this strategy paper has done a great deal to reconcile European thinking. We have American thinking by showing that of course, although there may be differences of nuance or differences of emphasis in respective strategies, the EU recognizes that military force has to be used as a last resort in certain circumstances and military force is the essential adjunct of diplomacy, as Frederick the Great of Prussia used to say, "Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments."

Thirdly, as I said, the EU has shown a willingness how to take on its own operations and the EU is not only able to take on military operations but also police operations such as the one at the moment in Bosnia where the European Union is training the Bosnian police so that they are able to take on the basic tasks of law and order in that country.

Finally, the EU has shown signs of developing its own military capabilities. The first initiative was that of a headline goal, that's the jargon. That means the construction of an EU rapid reaction force which would be able to deploy 60,000 troops within 60 days and for up to one year with dedicated naval and air assets. And NATO has been using its planning expertise to help the European Union with military advice so that it can bring that rapid reaction force into existence between now and the end of the year.

The second initiative is the Eurocorps which is a headquarters which is staffed by four EU countries which is already seeing action in the Balkans when the Euro corps led NATO's KFOR mission in Kosovo two years ago and which is now being talked about as constituting the next headquarters for NATO's ISAF mission in Afghanistan. And also a European armaments agency which the EU Summit agreed to set up and which should be established by the end of the year and which will gradually help to integrate European budgets in research and development to define common European armaments requirements and therefore help to get more bang for the Euro in reducing some of the duplication of effort in research and development and common procurement of weapon systems which unfortunately has bedevilled the European security scene for many years already.

So the EU has certainly come a long way in setting out its own autonomous structures.
So next, so the 64,000 euro question, which is how does NATO see its developing relationship with the European Union? Well, NATO wants a non-bureaucratic, close and structured relationship with the European Union, a relationship which as the French say would be conducted "en bonne intelligence", whereby working together, holding frequent meetings, having regular staff contacts, we can rapidly in any crisis situation identify which organization is most ready, most able to take the lead in dealing with that crisis and which organization is best able then to play a supporting role given that both organizations have unique assets which overlap in the middle but which are at the same time rather special.

For example, the European Union has things that NATO doesn't have. It has the economic aspects, the very large foreign aid budget administered by the Commission. It has a civil component in terms of assistance to reconstruction, to economic development, to the organization of elections.

On the other hand, NATO of course has the important North American contribution, the contribution of non-EU allies such as Turkey or Norway, and of course at the same time the rapidly deployable mobile headquarters, the integrated military command structure which of course makes NATO uniquely suited for heavy-duty demanding peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations.

So according to the demands of the crisis, one organization or the other organization may be the most suitable to lead.

The second aspect of course is that we want to avoid duplication. We are not going to spend the budgets to have a NATO army and a completely separate European Union army, nor do we have any interest in duplicating in the EU things that already exist in NATO and which NATO is perfectly willing to make available to the European Union.
That is why one year ago, we agreed on a set of arrangements which are called Berlin Plus because - of course, no prizes for guessing this - they were first devised to the NATO foreign ministers meeting in 1996 in Berlin.

What do we mean by Berlin Plus? We mean essentially four things. That is that the EU should have assured access to NATO's planning.

Secondly, that if the EU wants to conduct its own operation, there will be - and I use the language here of the text - a presumption of availability that NATO's assets, things like AWACS, aircraft, headquarters, multinational formations such as the NATO response force, could be, would be available to be used by the EU. So no need to reinvent the wheel.

Thirdly, that the deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who is always a European, would be available to the European Union to serve as the operational commander with his link to the NATO structures and all of his vast operational experience.

And finally, that NATO's defence planning system, a very sophisticated system of planning future military needs and delivering the capabilities. That will be made available to the European Union so that the EU's own military requirements could be fed into that system and that therefore, we have a single set of forces, a set of forces which are trained and ready both in NATO operations or for EU operations but which are therefore trained to the same demanding levels of modern military operations. They're survivable, they're deployable, they're professional and they're well equipped.

So it obviously makes sense wherever possible in a majority of cases for the European Union to use Berlin Plus which ensures therefore NATO support and NATO backing for EU operations and the EU used Berlin Plus with regard to its Concordia Operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and is going to use Berlin Plus again for when it takes over from NATO's operation in Bosnia later this year.

The next thing of course is that we need to have adequate structures to be able to work together. And here, there was an important breakthrough last December when the initiative of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the EU leaders agreed that they would not set up an independent operational headquarters which would have duplicated what already existed in NATO and would have been a waste of valuable resources but that instead, they would assign permanent liaison officers to NATO's planning headquarters which is SHAPE at Mons, and in return, NATO would have liaison officers with the EU's civil military planning cell in the Kortenberg in Brussels, which is where the European military activities are organized.

That means that we can have full transparency in our respective activities and we therefore have the working level interaction which is necessary to prepare adequately political decision-making.

Transparency is essential. Why is it essential? Well, because you have to remember, ladies and gentlemen, that the EU has countries that are not in NATO and NATO has countries which are not in the European Union, although the European Union and NATO are going to enlarge in the next few months, ten countries for the EU, seven for the Alliance, and although as a result there will be an increasing degree of overlap in our membership, still there will be countries which for the foreseeable future will not be in both organizations at once and therefore, transparency is extremely important so that there are no misunderstandings, so that we can brief each other on the very rapid process of transformation that both organizations are undergoing at the moment.

The clear thing also in our relationship is that we focus on capabilities. Frankly, it makes no sense in either of us having vast political ambitions to play a security role around the world if the capabilities, the armed forces, to make those dreams come true and to produce the stability aren't there.

I've said already that we need a single set of forces and therefore, NATO's Prague Capabilities Commitment has to be very tightly dove-tailed with the European Union's ECAP, or its own capabilities program to ensure that we are not putting different requirements. We want to avoid a situation where for example NATO is saying produce more helicopters and the EU would be saying no, produce more tanks for the sake of argument, and then nations would be getting sort of conflicting requirements and not really know which they should follow.

So harmony in planning is essential. That way, whatever the EU comes up with can be made available to NATO. Whatever NATO develops can be available to the EU.
I would also say - and this would be my final point on what NATO would like to see from the European Union - the final point would be that there should be no artificial division of labour. Some people sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, particularly in this town of Brussels, when you go around on the conference, will say the best way to avoid any clashes or competition between NATO and the EU would be sort of to divide up the world into zones. EU would do Africa, NATO would be more in the greater Middle East or in Afghanistan or possibly Iraq.

I disagree. There is nothing to stop either organization being involved anywhere in the world, so we should not have artificial geographic divisions.

Secondly, some people say there should be a functional division of labour, that NATO would do the hard security missions and the EU the soft security missions. No to the extent that the common foreign and security policy gives the EU hard-core capabilities in the future, there is no reason why the EU should not do demanding military tasks supported by NATO.

Equally, NATO has shown and I hope I've proven this to you in my previous lectures through our partnership for peace, through our defence institution building activities that we also contribute to soft security tasks like de-mining, like disposing of redundant ammunition, like retraining retired military officers.

So we shouldn't try to sort of put organizations into compartments. Let's see on the basis of each particular case who is best suited. Also, there is nothing to stop NATO and the EU sharing missions. It's not an either-or situation that it's either the EU and no NATO or it's either NATO and the EU. We see today in Bosnia where the EU does the police training, NATO is doing the military implementation of the Dayton Agreement. Or in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia where the EU has been doing until recently the military peacekeeping and NATO has been doing defence institution building, that both organizations can co-operate together and divide up the work productively in the same country.

So how does the future look? Four points, to conclude. The first point is that clearly, we have to move beyond institutional debates. As the EU has developed its common foreign security and defence policy, inevitably there has had to have been an institutional discussion as to how NATO and the EU interact - which committee meets which committee, how often, which working group meets which working group.

But clearly, the function of the NATO-EU relationship is not simply to work out how to talk to each other. The key test which the public is going to ask of us is how is your corporation producing more security for the international order? How are you combining your resources, working together pragmatically? So now is the time to go beyond these institutional questions and to concentrate on deliverables, on added value substance.

Secondly, there are big areas where NATO and the EU can still develop a substantive relationship. We've started in the Balkans, as I mentioned, where we have a common political strategy, but if you look at terrorism, if you look at the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, if you look at dealing with failed states, then there are many areas where both organizations are active, where we need clearly not just to exchange information on what we're doing but set common goals and work together. And I think this will be one of the key features in the run-up to NATO's Istanbul Summit in June.

Thirdly, the Mediterranean and the greater Middle East. I've just been looking at the results of this weekend's Wehrkunde Munich International Security Conference where one of the big things of this gathering of NATO ministers, diplomats and experts was how NATO and the EU can work together to deal with stability in the wider Middle East and across the Mediterranean. The EU has its Barcelona Process and NATO has its Mediterranean Dialogue and everybody at this stage is interested in building bridges with the Islamic world and co-operating more closely in trying to produce more stability, which is the only ultimate solution to the root causes of terrorism.

The German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in a very interesting speech in Munich suggested that NATO and the EU work together to produce an overarching vision for our Mediterranean and greater Middle East policies in the future. It's a very enticing prospect and it is certainly an area where the two institutions need to talk.

Finally, we need out of the practice of close institutional links to produce a situation where increasingly, we are working together on all of the major issues of the day so that ultimately - at least in my personal perspective - NATO and the EU would gradually merge almost into twin sister institutions, in much the same way that we consider the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as twin institutions, having nonetheless each a specialized role but with a large degree of overlap in a common policy.

As our membership becomes more common, as we work together pragmatically in the Balkans and beyond, as we forge an ever more substantive relationship, I see no reason why NATO and the EU should not become sister partner institutions. But the sooner we achieve this result, then obviously the faster we are going to stabilize the world around us.

Thank you very much.

Q: How likely is the scenario that EU requests assets and capabilities from NATO and NATO refuses to provide them? And what exactly would happen in such a case?

Shea: Well, this is a good theoretical question. In reality, clearly you have consultation between NATO and the European Union and those consultations will make it clear what the prospect is for the EU to get access to NATO's capabilities.

But let's be honest. Overstretch of military forces is becoming a problem for all allies, even the United States, as we see in Iraq at the present time, where the U.S. is deploying over 100,000 troops in Iraq and so the answer to this ultimately is to increase the number of forces that we have which are actually useable and deployable, and of course, one of the challenges that NATO and the EU both face is to have a far higher percentage of their forces which are actually useable and so the more capabilities there are, the easier it will be for both NATO and the EU to conduct a large number of missions simultaneously.

In some cases, the problem is also eased by the fact that what the EU is planning to take on is a different mission. For example, if we look at Bosnia, which I mentioned, where the EU is planning to take over NATO's SFOR Mission later this year, it's quite clear at the moment that that EU mission will be different from SFOR. It will have a much larger police component and a smaller military component. And so to that extent, the EU will be looking for policemen as much as for military troops. So that will ease the strain on NATO.

In other cases, for example, as we saw in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, NATO took... the EU, excuse me, took over from an existing NATO operation. So it wasn't a question of looking for more troops but simply putting an EU hat on the NATO troops that were already there without overall increasing the numbers.

But ultimately, as we look around all of the potential missions that we see today in Sierra Leone, in Ivory Coast, in Congo, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in East Timor, in Solomon Islands or wherever, NATO and the EU are going to have to have a high degree of mutual under understanding to decide where the priorities lie and therefore where together we make the greatest commitment of our military forces.

But clearly, the lesson is that we need more rather than less.

Q: Are there any concepts beyond transparency, as you said, how to deal with a shared consensus making in an enlarged NATO or in an enlarged EU?

Shea: Well, that's correct. That is of course an issue and NATO and the EU are both enlarging. So far, however, there is no evidence that more means less consensus. NATO, for instance, has taken its most difficult decisions ever, the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 or the mission in Afghanistan in 2003 with the largest number of allies, and if I look back on the old Alliance of 11 members of the 1950s, I fail to believe that that alliance would have ever been able to take those kind of decisions. So more doesn't necessarily mean weaker provided that, of course, the new members that come in in share the values, have the same sense of responsibility and the EU, of course, has taken on its foreign... current foreign and security policy with the largest ever membership as well.

But clearly it would depend upon, as always, the quality of political leadership in both organizations in rallying the others behind action that would depend upon the notion of legitimacy, the notion of the urgency of a mission, the notion of a humanitarian crisis such as what NATO faced in Kosovo. The quality of the consultations and of course, above all, the ability of Europe and the United States to work together behind a common concept, a common strategy even if, in certain cases, it's the EU that actually does the mission rather than NATO.

We discovered, for example, in the Balkans, in Bosnia in the early 1990s that where the United States and the Europeans were following very different policies with the EU committed to peacekeeping on the ground and the United States wanting to use air strikes to put pressure on the Bosnian Serbs that where they're following different policies across the transatlantic community, nothing much happens. It's only when we work together in the wider body that we really make strides forward. But so far, although your question is a good one, there is nothing from the historical record that suggests that big membership means less efficiency.

Q: You talk about a combination of assets between the EU and NATO; but wouldn't that be confusing for a soldier, to be under, for example, NATO command one week and then European control the next?

Shea: Well, could I give you a football analogy to answer this because everybody knows my passion for football, even greater than my passion for NATO, I should add.

If you take a player from an English premiership team and transfer him to another English premiership team, normally he'd score goals in the first or the second match. Why? Because basically it's the same kind of game, whereas if you transfer a player from an English league to Italy or Spain, there's often a very difficult process of adaptation before that player finds his feet.

And it's the same, really, with military forces to the extent that we have a single set of forces trained according to the same doctrine, to the same standards, the same equipment levels, the transfer from NATO to the EU shouldn't make much difference because it's the same kind of mission based on the same kind of rules of engagement. That was certainly the case, for example, when the EU took over from NATO in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It was the same mission, the mission continued.

So, although, yes the soldiers were wearing the EU beret rather than NATO beret, what they were doing every day, their commanders, their rules of engagement, the daily tasks were exactly the same and, therefore, they noticed no difference.

So I think the key thing is to have, as I said earlier, this single set of forces which means that whether or not a soldier is operating under the one or the other, essentially it's the same concept of operations that's being followed.

Q: How do NATO/EU relations differ from NATO/UN - NATO/OSCE relations?

Shea: Good question. I mean, obviously NATO has to have relations with all of these important international organizations, but what is different about the EU is, first of all of course, the largely overlapping membership. Although, of course the United States is in NATO and not in the European Union, but there is a prospect that as time goes by, particularly as the EU has now acknowledged the application of Turkey, that the overlap will grow rather than diminish.

And so clearly it's organizations which carry so much the same membership, so much the same values, so much the same finality of actively contributing to a more orderly world and the extent that both organizations include the world's largest industrial and military powers, the largest number of security council members, with a greater set of responsibilities, clearly their relationship is going to be the fundamental one even beyond that between other institutions, that's clear.

The other thing that makes the relationship different is the EU has the vocation now to develop a truly common, foreign and security policy with defence assets with a global reach.

In other words, its level of ambition in being able to solve these issues is on a par with NATO's ambition to be able to do so. The demands of membership are much more stringent in NATO and the EU than they are in the United Nations or the OSCE. So I think it's that level of ambition that both organizations have as well as their common values, which obviously means that their relationship is going to be probably the most fundamental aspects of the international system in the 21st Century.

Q: Why there is so little co-operation between NATO and the EU on civil emergency planning?

Shea: Well, it has started - although your question's a very good one - in a sense that we are exchanging inventories of protective measures. In other words, what exists in the EU and what exists in NATO in dealing with consequence management, in other words, in dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic terrorist attack using nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological weapons where you need, of course, to help with evacuation, site security, clean up, health and the rest. But we need to go much further in this direction.

One issue is an institutional one. These matters are handled in the first pillar in the Environmental Directorate which is run by the Swedish Commissioner, Margaret Volstrum and NATO, at the moment, is having its relationship with the European Union largely focused on the Council of Ministers, the inter-governmental aspect, which is led by, of course, the Council of Ministers and is in the hands of the High Representative Javier Solana.

This, to my mind, speaking personally, suggests that this relationship develops, we should also dialogue too with the commission structures; for example, with the directorate of Chris Patten dealing with external relations which is very active in the Balkans with civil reconstruction or the DG, which is devoted to justice and home affairs under the Portuguese Commissioner Vitorino, which has done so much work in the field of co-operation on terrorism with Eurojust and Europoll. Also, as I mentioned, with the environmental aspects of civil emergency planning.

So I think your question is a good one and I think it shows that although we've come a long way, there is still a great deal of scope for developing the relationship across the board of both the EU and NATO.

Q: And to finish off, one of the questions we received by e-mail, and I quote here a question from Spain. " I consider NATO as an instrument of U.S. policy to prevent European countries from developing autonomous defence capabilities. For example, the fact that European countries have to spend money on NATO programs, like the Prague Capabilities Commitment, preventing them from spending money on European programs such as the European headline goal."
How would you respond to this question?

Shea: Well, I think it's wrong. First of all, NATO has often served to persuade the Americans to do things which they didn't want to do. The Europeans have been as successful in getting the Americans involved in their security problems, I would argue, perhaps, more successful than the Americans have historically at getting the Europeans involved in American security problems.

If I could put it in a nutshell, there were far more Americans in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 90s than there were Europeans in Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s.

But to focus directly on the question, if the United States was trying to prevent the European Union developing its own defence structures and its own capabilities and planning, then the United States would be very unsuccessful in that effort because we see that this is driving ahead.

In reality, it is, of course, going ahead with the full support and benediction of the United States. The United States recognizes very well that the problem of the Alliance is not too much America, it's too little Europe. America knows that it is not Atlas that can shoulder all of the burdens of the world on its large, but still limited, shoulders alone. There are many situations, in Africa recently where there's been demanding security tasks in which the United States does not wish to become directly involved; and therefore the U.S. now supports these European efforts.

Of course, it wants these efforts to be carried out in a certain way. As I mentioned in my lecture, transparency, of course, so that there are no surprises; avoiding duplication so that we make the best use of our scarce defence assets using these Berlin Plus arrangements which NATO has offered; allowing non-EU allies like Turkey to be involved because they too have a major contribution to make.

But subject to these parameters, the United States is supporting now European defence efforts because if the European voters are prepared to agree to larger defence budgets in the name of European integration rather than NATO, but that it still to the good to the extent that whatever the EU is able to develop can be used by the alliance. Similarly, it's clear that for the time being, NATO has far more powerful military structures in the European Union and therefore it is allowing the EU to jumpstart, to kick start its defence identity into action, if instead of having to develop from scratch everything that NATO has at the moment, it could have access to those vital NATO assets.

And, in this respect, the American strategic airlift capability, the American extraction capability, the American intelligence capability are fundamental to the success of many operations. So I see this as not driving us apart, but allowing us to work far more closely together.

Moderator: Thank you very much. That's it for today.

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