Ομιλία Ευρωβουλευτή Σοφοκλή Σοφοκλέους Αντιπροέδρου SEDE στο 107ο Presidium of EUROMIL

Ελληνικά

Honourable Minister of Defence,

Dear Generals and military officers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since it was first set up in 1999, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) has enabled the European Union to show that it can act effectively and usefully in the world. More than 25 civilian and military missions have been carried out by the EU, contributing to stability and maintaining peace in the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. But for a European policy to be fully legitimate, that is to say, understood, accepted and, indeed, called for by the citizens of the Member States, the European Parliament must be associated with its decisions.

In my view, the role of the Sub-Committee on Security and Defence is precisely to examine developments in the CSDP in terms of institutions, capabilities and operations and to ensure that security and defence issues do not remain the exclusive preserve of experts, but also respond to the concerns expressed by the citizens of Europe.

As it is well known, the Common Security and Defence Policy is part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) established by the Treaty on European Union. In the context of the CFSP, the European Union pursues 8 main objectives. I will only mention the three most important:

  1. to safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;
  2. to consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;
  3. to preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter;

In order to achieve these objectives, the Union is also developing a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), covering all questions relating to its security, including the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy which could lead to a common defence when the European Council so decides unanimously. CSDP allows the European Union to develop civilian and military capabilities for international crisis management, thus helping to maintain peace and international security.

The tasks to be carried out under CSDP are joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories. The EU launched its first CSDP crisis management operation in January 2003 and - as of April 2013 - has launched a total of 27 civilian missions and military operations, 15 of which are ongoing.

Moreover, the Treaty of Lisbon has introduced a series of new provisions concerning the CSDP. The provision related to the European Parliament is the role of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (as the principal coordinator of EU civilian and military instruments), coupled with the establishment of a European External Action Service (EEAS) incorporating, in a comprehensive manner, conflict prevention, civil/military crisis management and peace-building units. In this context, new policies concerning space have been also introduced.

The European Parliament has its own role on CFSP and CSDP matters. In particular, the powers and competences of the European Parliament on CFSP and CSDP matters derive from Article 36 of the EU Treaty. In spite of the limited powers of the European Parliament over CSDP and without prejudice to the competences of the National Parliaments of EU Member States, the Subcommittee has been trying since its creation to improve and consolidate the parliamentary scrutiny of CSDP, including the operations and missions conducted under this policy, the command structures and the capabilities.

In the execution of its mandate, the Subcommittee has successfully developed a closer working relationship with the European External Action Service, the Council, the Commission, as well as with NATO, other international and national organisations and actors such as NGOs.

More precisely, the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) was created in 2004 to assist the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and to provide scrutiny over ESDP/CSDP. The Committee on Foreign Affairs is responsible for "the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the Common security and defence policy (CSDP). In this context, it is assisted by a Subcommittee on security and defence". Our Subcommittee comprises 31 members of the European Parliament representing the political and geographic spectrum of the European Union.

In the related field of security and defence, there is an increasing number of pieces of EU legislation on which the European Parliament co-decides: the EU security research programme, the "defence package" relating to the establishment of a single market for defence products, the EU space policy and the space-based applications, such as Galileo and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).

 

There are three main methods of conducting parliamentary scrutiny over CSDP which are used by the Subcommittee:

  • Collecting information and exchanging views about the developments in CSDP, in view of preparing Reports, Questions and Recommendations in the policy field,
  • Monitoring the civilian missions conducted under CSDP -making use of the EP's budgetary powers (CFSP budget) - and being also informed on the military operations through direct contacts with the European External Action Service. Using the EP's budgetary powers, public forums are also organised,
  • Dispatching delegations to the military operations or civilian missions conducted under CSDP.

I will further analyze the three aforementioned methods. Collecting information and exchanging views are the main instruments by which SEDE monitors the developments in CSDP. This occurs mainly within SEDE meetings (public or "in camera") which are held once or twice per month, public hearings, workshops, conferences and other events (official or informal). Some of these activities are organised jointly with other official bodies of the European Parliament, such as the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on Budget, the EP Delegation for relations with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, other EP Delegations responsible for a specific country or a geographic region or the National Parliaments of the EU Member States. Once the Subcommittee has collected the necessary information, questions or recommendations can be prepared to be addressed to the Council, the High Representative or the Commission. Further to this, the European Parliament has the possibility of using the instruments foreseen in its own internal Rules of Procedure such as tabling Resolutions or own initiative Reports. Three of the ongoing reports for SEDE are Maritime Dimension of CSDP, EU's military structures and Arms exports whereas upcoming reports include: The European Defence technological and industrial base, the anti-missile shield for Europe and its political and strategic implications, the EU's support to UN and African Union peacekeeping and humanitarian operations and finally the annual report on CSDP.

            The EU budget dedicated to the Common Foreign and Security Policy falls under the scrutiny of SEDE through a procedure described in the Inter-Institutional Agreement of 2006, as regards to the financing of civilian missions. Five times per year, a small delegation composed of the respective Chairpersons of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, the Committee on Budget and other Members meets 'in camera' the Chair of the Political and Security Committee and experts from the Commission. These meetings give the European Parliament the opportunity of debating the way the money is spent in civilian missions conducted under CSDP and to discuss the difficulties faced by these missions, whether they are of political or financial nature.

            However, this procedure does not apply to military operations launched under CSDP, as the Treaty prohibits their financing through the EU budget (Article 41 of the Treaty of Lisbon). For this reason, the EU Member States created the so-called "ATHENA" mechanism, which is used for financing the common costs of military operations under CSDP. This mechanism covers about 15 % of the total costs of a CSDP operation. The difference is therefore financed by the Member States through national contributions based on the principle "costs lie where they fall". SEDE has been trying to collect more information about the ATHENA mechanism and has asked for more European solidarity in the financing of EU military operations.

SEDE is kept regularly informed on CSDP military operations through regular contacts with the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission and the European External Action Service. Additionally, the Subcommittee can dispatch delegations to monitor or get informed about the developments in the CSDP area. These delegations are made either by SEDE alone or in cooperation with other EP bodies. In some cases, the Conference of Presidents of the political groups decides to constitute an ad hoc delegation in which SEDE members participate. Most recent delegations were the ones in Israel and Palestine and the one in Niger and Mali. An upcoming one, to which I will be participating as well, will take place in Northwood and will be focusing on Maritime Security and Piracy in the region of the Horn of Africa.

Moreover, the European Parliament through SEDE has developed a strong consensus in support of CSDP, as an integral part of CFSP. This consensus can be seen in the adoption of several Resolutions on CFSP and CSDP.  The European Parliament has shown as well its determination to use its new Lisbon Treaty powers to assert its parliamentary prerogative over the development of both CFSP and CSDP. This is particularly evident in the role of the European Parliament in holding a hearing for the Vice President/High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) and in giving its approval of the VP/HR in a vote on the whole of the Commission. Furthermore, in the negotiations with the VP/HR and the Council on the establishment of the European External Action Service, the European Parliament placed considerable emphasis on the need to improve transparency and increase the democratic accountability of decisions in the area of CFSP/CSDP. As a result, the VP/HR adopted a declaration on political accountability which grants the European Parliament the opportunity to engage with the Council and the VP/HR on the launching of new missions or the adoption of new mandates and strategies.

An important innovation in the Lisbon Treaty can be found in the role of National Parliaments and in particular in protocol Number 1. The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament together with SEDE have already invited in the past representatives from the EU National Parliaments for an annual exchange on the CFSP (including CSDP). This is important in bridging what is referred to as the double democratic deficit whereby the European Parliament has weak decision-making powers in this area but very good insight (and increasingly a policy-shaping role) on CSDP,  whereas National Parliaments have stronger formal powers but struggle to cope with the complexities of EU decision making on CFSP (and CSDP). Working together the European Parliament and national Parliaments can play an important role in providing democratic legitimacy to CSDP.

Consequently, as a partner in the development of the Union's external relations, the Lisbon Treaty enables the European Parliament to play its role, together with its EU national counterparts, in helping to address the challenge clearly set out in the 2008 Council Report on the "Implementation of the European Security Strategy".

At this point, I would like to mention the impact of the financial crisis on CSDP and Member States' defence budgets. In particular, the work of the Subcommittee with the relevant report of 2010 on this important issue is timely as it comes at a moment when the Member States, forced by radical budgetary austerity measures, are looking into possible pooling and sharing initiatives to reduce costs. This process, which started at the Ghent informal meeting of Defence Ministers in September 2010, has led to the identification of concrete projects in November 2011.

 

The European Parliament's Report on the issue advocates a comprehensive approach to examine areas where progress is possible to "do more with less" through greater cooperation. It is based on the premise that - while radical and uncoordinated budget cuts call for urgent action - the some EUR 200 billion that EU countries spend yearly on defence could possibly, if spent smarter, still provide Europe with sufficient capabilities. To this end, actions are proposed in the following areas: better coordination of defence planning, pooling and sharing of capabilities, supporting defence research and technological development, building a European defence technological and industrial base, establishing a European defence equipment market, and finding new ways of EU-level funding.

Regarding the EU-NATO relations, EU access to NATO planning and capabilities for CSDP Operations is rooted in the so-called EU-NATO 'Berlin-Plus' agreement of 2003. The European Parliament is of the view that EU-NATO cooperation should be further enhanced. In its 7th legislative term, SEDE has visited the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the Allied Command Transformation HQ in Norfolk (VA, US) and the Allied Maritime Command HQ in Northwood (UK). It also held numerous exchanges of views with NATO senior officials, including NATO's Secretary General.

The European Parliament has also set up an interparliamentary delegation for relations with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, of 10 SEDE members. The aim of this delegation is to bring forward the position of the European Union, and of the European Parliament in particular, to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in view of further developing the relationship between EU and NATO, while respecting the independent nature of both organisations. This is of particular importance in the theatres of operations where both EU and NATO are engaged, such as Afghanistan, Kosovo and in the fight against piracy off the coasts of Somalia and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thank you for your attention.