HL Deb 19 December 2000 vol 620 cc48-9WA
Lord Pearson of Rannoch

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Following the quotation from United States Defense Secretary, Mr Bill Cohen, in the statement on the European Defence Co-operation by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 22 November (H.L. Deb., col. 854), "Let me be clear on the American position. We agree with this goal, not grudgingly, not with resignation, but with wholehearted conviction", whether Mr Cohen also said that if the European Union set up a force which could go its own way it would be "highly ineffective, seriously wasteful of resources and contradictory to the basic principles of close NATO-European Union co-operation"; if so, whether the statement accurately reflected the Defense Secretary's views; and, if not, whether they will correct the statement in Parliament. [HL41]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The US Secretary of Defence made a number of comments in a closed session of the NATO Defence Ministerial meeting on 5 December 2000. Speaking at his subsequent press conference, Mr Cohen said:

"The United States strongly supports the EU's efforts to create a rapid reaction capability that can deal swiftly and effectively with local challenges to Europe's security, where NATO as a whole is not engaged.";

before going on to say,

"If NATO and the EU with its ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) are seen as autonomous and competing institutions, rather than integrated, transparent and complementary ones, then NATO and collective security are likely to suffer, leaving North America and Europe alike to rely on uncoordinated, inefficient and ad hoc responses to destabilising threats".

The Government fully support this view and will ensure that the initiative continues to be developed in full co-operation with NATO.

My statement of 22 November does not need correction.