Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Third Report

7  European Security and Defence Policy

204. The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) grew from a UK-French initiative agreed at St Malo in 1998, with the aim of developing an EU military capacity that would be in some sense autonomous of the US. The ESDP remains in its infancy, but has developed extremely rapidly. At the end of 2007, there were eight concluded, ten active and two planned ESDP missions, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Western Balkans and the former Soviet Union.[462]

205. President Sarkozy of France has already made clear that, ten years after St Malo, the development of EU defence will be a priority of France's EU Presidency in the second half of 2008.[463]

206. We are aware that the Defence Select Committee is conducting a major Inquiry into NATO and European Defence, which is likely to report before NATO's Bucharest summit in April 2008, and which is likely to consider the ESDP and the impact on it of the Lisbon Treaty in some detail. The Ministry of Defence, not the FCO, is also the lead UK department for ESDP matters. In this chapter, therefore, we confine ourselves to noting the main relevant provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and reporting the comments of our witnesses.

General ESDP provisions

207. Lord Owen drew our attention to an apparent inconsistency in the language about the ESDP in the Lisbon Treaty. At the opening of the CFSP chapter, the Lisbon Treaty text makes reference to "the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence" (emphasis added).[464] However, in the subsection dealing specifically with the ESDP, the Treaty text states that "The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides" (emphasis added).[465] Both versions were already contained in the Constitutional Treaty, which added the stronger language to the existing Treaty provision referring to "might".[466] Lord Owen told us that "we cannot put into law two phrases which are mutually exclusive."[467] However, the Foreign Secretary said that he was "not sure that there is the distinction" and referred only to the "will" version of the wording.[468] We understand the argument that the apparent contradiction between the two propositions is not a real contradiction, i.e. it is not incompatible to assert (a) that something might happen and (b) that it will happen if certain circumstances obtain (in this case, that the European Council gives its unanimous approval). We conclude that the Lisbon Treaty retains from the Constitutional Treaty a wording that on the surface at least is clumsy and ambiguous in its references to the prospect that the European Security and Defence Policy both "might" and "will" lead to a common defence. We therefore recommend that in its response to this Report the Government states whether or not it agrees that this is the case, providing such clarification as is necessary.

208. The Lisbon Treaty includes a form of mutual defence clause. This is as follows:

If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.

Commitments and co-operation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those states which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.[469]

209. The Lisbon Treaty provides for the establishment of new procedures to provide "rapid access" to the EU budget and to create a "start-up fund" of Member State contributions, outside the EU budget. Both initiatives would be to finance "urgent initiatives" under the CFSP, and in particular preparatory activities for ESDP missions.[470] Decisions on both proposals would be made by qualified majority vote, with the High Representative drawing up the proposal on the "start-up fund". The High Representative would also be authorised to use the fund. According to Open Europe, the new "start-up fund" "is seen by many as the first step towards a common defence budget for the EU."[471]

210. Under the Lisbon Treaty, ESDP decisions—including those initiating an ESDP mission—would be taken by the Council of Ministers, acting unanimously on a proposal from the High Representative or a Member State.[472] We have noted elsewhere the way in which CFSP decisions with military or defence implications would be excluded from current or possible future qualified majority voting under the Treaty.[473] Professor Whitman included the ESDP in his general view that the Treaty would preserve the intergovernmental nature of the CFSP.[474]

Lisbon Treaty changes

211. Under the Lisbon Treaty the ESDP would gain an expanded and more distinctive Treaty base. In the existing TEU, the ESDP is dealt with in a single Article, which is subsumed within the CFSP provisions and which Professor Whitman told us was "feeling increasingly threadbare".[475] Under the Lisbon Treaty, the ESDP would have five Articles, gathered in a dedicated named subsection of the TEU's CFSP chapter.[476]

212. Professor Whitman identified five substantive changes which the Lisbon Treaty would make to the existing Treaty provisions on the ESDP.[477] The five changes are:

  • expanded "aims and ambitions" for the policy, in particular as regards Member State military capabilities;[478]
  • an expansion in the list of "Petersberg tasks", i.e. the humanitarian, crisis management and peace-building tasks which the EU may undertake;[479]
  • the introduction into an EU Treaty for the first time of reference to the European Defence Agency, a body aimed at encouraging greater and more co-ordinated defence capabilities development among Member States, which Member States may join voluntarily and which was already established in 2004 by a decision of the Member States;[480]
  • the introduction of the possibility of what Professor Whitman called "sub-contracting" of ESDP tasks to "coalitions of the able and willing" among the Member States;[481] and
  • the introduction of the possibility of "permanent structured co-operation",[482] an arrangement among a group of Member States possessing greater military capabilities which could be established by a qualified majority decision of the full Council. The Foreign Secretary told us in December that the creation of "permanent structured cooperation" is about "enhancing capability for European defence; EU-led operations in respect of security in the European neighbourhood".[483]

213. Of the ESDP changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, that concerning "permanent structured co-operation" has aroused most attention. Mr Donnelly noted that the provision allowing "permanent structured co-operation" to be established by qualified majority vote had "aroused some critical comment" in the UK.[484] However, Mr Donnelly told us that

given the universal recognition throughout the European Union that 'structured cooperation', however it evolves, will have no credibility or even reality without the full engagement in it of the United Kingdom, it strains the bounds of credibility to imagine that the membership of this intergovernmental sub-set would ever be one unacceptable to the United Kingdom […] If 'structured co-operation' in fact proceeds beyond its present largely aspirational nature, the United Kingdom will be more fully associated with its genesis and evolution than has been the case in any other area of the European Union's activities. The likelihood that this sub-set of 'structured co-operation' might over time develop in a way inimical to the United Kingdom's interests is remote in the extreme.[485]

Dr Solana similarly affirmed that "structured cooperation"

would be inconceivable without the United Kingdom, which is at the core of our security and defence capability. Structured cooperation will increase the defence capabilities and efficiency of the European Union, so [the UK's] presence or absence will be a yes or no—it will not happen without [the UK]. That is very clear to me.[486]

214. In written follow-up evidence after his appearance before the Committee in December, the Foreign Secretary told us that:

Permanent Structured Cooperation […] is a new provision that specifically addresses capability development. It provides a mechanism designed to help develop more effective military capabilities amongst EU Member States and is line with UK objective [sic] for improving the capabilities available for EU-led operations. It should be noted that PSC and Enhanced Cooperation are completely different and distinct provisions with different criteria for establishment […] A Council decision is required to launch PSC, to accept new Members into it and to suspend membership of a Member State that no longer fulfils the membership criteria. These decisions are taken by QMV. The use of QMV for these aspects is in UK interests since it prevents an individual Member State from blocking PSC establishment, from blocking another Member State from subsequently joining or from blocking suspension of a non-performing Member State […] Since improved capability development amongst Member States is a key UK objective, it is likely that we would look to launch PSC as soon as practicable, in cooperation with other like minded Member States.[487]

We advise that the suggestion for UK involvement should not overlook the requirements laid down in the Protocol on Permanent Structured Co-operation, whereby participants undertake to "bring their defence apparatus into line with each other as far as possible, particularly by harmonising the identification of their military needs", as well as "possibly reviewing their national decision-making procedures".[488]

215. Mr Donnelly felt that the "possibility that 'structured co-operation' will remain a name without substance" was "much more pertinent" than the possibility of the arrangement developing in a way opposed by the UK.[489] Professor Whitman similarly suggested that, given the somewhat cumbersome procedures involved in establishing and operating "permanent structured co-operation", it might prove to be a little-used device.[490] Indeed, Professor Whitman suggested that "permanent structured co-operation" was "likely to go absolutely nowhere".[491] Professor Whitman felt that the possibility of "coalitions of the able and willing" in the military field might be of greater interest because their organisation under the Lisbon Treaty was relatively "light-touch".[492]

216. The Foreign Secretary rejected the view that the EU should develop a common military leadership for its ESDP missions, arguing that having a particular Member State in the lead for a particular ESDP mission was not the problem. According to the Foreign Secretary, "the European problem is not an institutional one, it is to do with capabilities and coordination".[493]

217. The FCO's overall assessment of the ESDP element in the Lisbon Treaty is as follows:

The provisions for European defence in the Reform Treaty meet UK objectives to ensure the development of a flexible, militarily robust and NATO-friendly ESDP. The Reform Treaty preserves the principle of unanimity for ESDP policy decisions and on initiating missions as well as confirming the prerogatives of Member States for defence and security issues. 'Enhanced cooperation' will be extended to ESDP, allowing smaller groups of Member States to pursue particular ESDP projects. The requirement for a unanimous Council decision will ensure that the mechanism cannot be used against UK interests.[494]

462   ESDP Newsletter, No 5, December 2007, via Back

463   Speech at the Fifteenth Ambassador's Conference, Paris, 27 August 2007, text via; "Sarkozy fears defensive Brown will resist push for EU military", Financial Times, 12 November 2007 Back

464   Article 1 27) of the Lisbon Treaty, amending Article 11 TEU Back

465   Article 1 49) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28A TEU Back

466   Articles I-16 and I-41; compare Article 17 of the current TEU Back

467   Q 466; see also Ev 152 [Open Europe] Back

468   Q 597 Back

469   Article 1 49) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28A TEU Back

470   Article 1 47) of the Lisbon Treaty, amending Article 28 TEU Back

471   Ev 150 Back

472   Article 1 49) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28A TEU Back

473   See Chapter 4, paragraphs 100, 120. Back

474   Ev 83 Back

475   Ev 85 Back

476   Article 1 48-50) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Articles 28A-28E TEU; see Ev 85 [Professor Whitman] Back

477   Q 456; Ev 85 Back

478   Ev 85 [Professor Whitman]; see especially Article 1 49) of the Lisbon Treaty inserting a new first paragraph to Article 28A Back

479   Article 1 49) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28B TEU Back

480   Article 1 50) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28D TEU Back

481   Article 1 50) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28C TEU; see Q 456, Ev 85 [Professor Whitman] Back

482   Article 1 50) of the Lisbon Treaty, inserting Article 28E TEU; see also the Protocol on Permanent Structured Cooperation established by Article 28A of the Treaty on European Union Back

483   Q 539 Back

484   See, for example, evidence from Open Europe at Ev 149, 151-2 Back

485   Ev 145-6 Back

486   Q 616 Back

487   Letter to the Chairman of 11 January 2008, at the end of this volume Back

488   Protocol on Permanent Structured Cooperation established by Article 28A of the Treaty on European Union, Article 2 (b) and (c) Back

489   Ev 146 Back

490   Ev 85 Back

491   Q 456 Back

492   Ev 85 Back

493   Q 602 Back

494   Ev 121; "enhanced cooperation" was discussed in paragraphs 119-121 in Chapter 4 above.  Back

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