HC Deb 25 March 2003 vol 402 cc137-8W
Mr. Rosindell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the European Common Defence and Security Policy. [104352]

Mr. Hoon

In co-operation with all other member states, we continue to make progress in developing the European Defence and Security Policy (ESDP).

The detailed arrangements to implement the "Berlin Plus" agreement, giving the European Union assured access to NATO's planning capabilities and a presumption of availability of NATO common assets and capabilities, have recently been agreed by the EU and NATO. This is a major milestone in establishing the strategic partnership between the two organisations in crisis management that the UK has always envisaged. Agreement has enabled the EU to launch its first military mission in Macedonia at the end of this month, following on from NATO's Allied Harmony. The operation will be conducted with recourse to NATO assets and NATO Deputy SACEUR will be the Operation Commander.

The EU has also indicated its willingness to lead a military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina following SFOR. ESDP also includes civilian aspects of crisis management. The first civilian operation, the EU police mission to Bosnia, was launched on 1 January 2003.

Progress has also been made on improving military capabilities. The European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) is addressing capability shortfalls against the targets in the Helsinki Headline Goal and the multinational panels proposing solutions to meet each shortfall are in the process of issuing their final reports. Member states will take these suggestions forward on a voluntary basis and steps are being taken to establish project groups to assist with this. The recently concluded Berlin Plus arrangements also include a mechanism for ensuring that capability development within the EU and NATO is coherent and mutually reinforcing.

We are also actively engaged in the debate on the future of ESDP in the Convention on the Future of Europe. The United Kingdom has put forward proposals intended to strengthen ESDP's capacity to play a full role in support of the EU's CFSP objectives including by: modernising and extending the categories of ESDP operations, known as the "Petersberg tasks"; establishing a European defence capabilities development and acquisition agency to drive forward European military capability improvements; and indicating support for a "solidarity" clause through which member states would undertake to use all the resources at their disposal, both civil and military, to help another member state deal with the consequences of a terrorist attack or other major disaster.

We await publication of the draft Treaty clauses on defence issues. Final decisions on the new EU treaty are a matter for the Intergovernmental Conference in 2004.