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Strengthening the European pillar of NATO

Strengthening the European pillar of NATO

At the invitation of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt the heads of state and government of Germany, France, and Luxembourg, i.e. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, President Jacques Chirac, and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker met in Brussels on the morning of April 29 for a two-hour working session followed by a luncheon.

The matters discussed at the meeting included an exchange of views on closer coordination of national arms policies and strengthened cooperation in the area of European security and defense policy (ESDP).

Europe's role on the international political stage

In a joint statement the four heads of state and government underscored their conviction that Europe needs to be capable of speaking with one voice and playing a full role in international affairs. "We take the view that new impetus needs to be generated towards creating a European security and defense community. The European Union needs to have a credible security and defense policy," the statement says.

The statement also underscores the common values shared with the United States: "Transatlantic partnership will continue to be a fundamental strategic priority for Europe." The statement went on to say that this partnership is a precondition for global peace and security and that the decisions of the Prague summit should be implemented.

Not directed against NATO

Speaking after the meeting Chancellor Schröder said "an enlarged Europe will need greater internal cohesion," indicating that the purpose of the meeting had been precisely that of generating new impetus for a common foreign and security policy. "We are on the way towards achieving a larger measure of integration in the foreign and security policy area," Schröder noted, adding that the exchange of views and joint statement had served to strengthen the European pillar in NATO and was not at all directed against the transatlantic alliance. "The problem is not that we have too much America in NATO, it's that we don't have enough Europe," Schröder underscored.

The joint statement contains proposals for the Convention on the Future of Europe and the Intergovernmental Conference. The heads of state and government attending the meeting appealed to the Convention to examine the Brussels proposals very carefully. First and foremost they propose the possibility of including "strengthened cooperation in the area of defense" in the constitutional treaty.

The following proposals were also made:

a common security and solidarity clause for all EU member countries,

the creation of a European agency for the development and procurement of military capabilities, and

the establishment of a European security and defense academy.

The statement also contains a proposed concept for a European security and defense union (ESDU). This purpose of this institution will be to strengthen cooperation in the defense policy area. This will include improved coordination of arms investments. The new ESDU is to be open to all current and future EU members.

Concrete initiatives

The heads of state and government agreed on concrete initiatives to promote closer coordination of their national defense instruments. These include:

the establishment of a European strategic air transport command by June 2004,

the creation of a joint European NBC defense capability for the protection of the civilian population, and

European training centers.

The proposals contained in the statement are to be discussed at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers at the beginning of May and by the EU heads of state and government at the meeting of the European Council in Thessaloniki in June.

In agreement with EU partner countries

The four leaders underscored that the initiative is obviously open to any EU country interested in joining. Their meeting in Brussels followed a wide range of meetings that have been held on this subject with a variety of different participants in the past. Parallel to these meetings and initiatives there has been close coordination with other partners both at the working level and the top political level.

Moving forward with CFSP and ESDP

At their spring summit in March the EU heads of state and government reaffirmed their determination to strengthen their ability to act in the framework of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the European security and defense policy. The war in Iraq has made it more than clear how important it is to be able to speak with a common voice in times of crisis. It is only then that Europe will be able to exert an influence on global developments. The EU continues to be convinced that transatlantic partnership must be strengthened.

Under the EU Treaty the gradual agreement of a common defense policy is part of the common foreign and security policy. There is a need here for a decision on the part of all 15 EU countries. The EU has already laid the foundation for a common defense policy. Since the beginning of March it has been carrying out its first independent military mission in Macedonia. There are European plans to create a 60,000-man rapid reaction force.

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