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Official report of debates: third sitting, 3 June 2004


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Official report of debates: third sitting, 3 June 2004

THIRD SITTING

Thursday, 3 June 2004

The sitting was opened at 10.00 with Mr De Decker, President of the Assembly, in the Chair.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The sitting is open.

1. Attendance register

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The names of those substitutes present at this sitting which have been notified to the President will be published with the list of representatives appended to the minutes of proceedings.

2. Adoption of the minutes

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - In accordance with Rule 23 of the Rules of Procedure, the minutes of proceedings of the last sitting have been distributed.

Are there any questions on these minutes? ...

The minutes are adopted.

3. Announcement by the President

The PRESIDENT (summary) informed members that the figure 50 in the logo of the Assembly corresponded to two years of celebrations. The Assembly would be celebrating not only its 50th session but also the anniversary of the signing of the Paris agreements on 23 October 1954, which modified the Treaty of Brussels of 1948 and created the Assembly, as well as the anniversary of the first plenary session held in Strasbourg on 5 July 1955.

On such occasions it was the tradition to look back at one's achievements. The Assembly was no different in that regard and in the coming months would present the outcome of that review.

The Assembly would be taking a new look towards the future of European security. It was pleased to launch the latest edition of the "Dossiers de l'ABECEDAIRE Parlementaire" which was dedicated to the security and the defence of Europe in the 21st century. He congratulated the editor of that publication, Mr Rudolf Hammerl, who was present, and thanked him heartily for the enthusiasm with which he had carried out that work.

In the publication, the Assembly allowed room for younger authors as well as those who were more experienced. He was particularly proud to count among the former two of the Assembly's former research trainees who now worked in renowned institutions.

He hoped that members appreciated, as he did, the openness with which they sometimes expressed their views and the richness of their thoughts, and that colleagues would discover with interest the new perspectives that they offered on the problems that Europe would confront on matters of security.

Furthermore, a draft resolution on behalf of the Political Committee regarding the transfer of power in Iraq had been tabled. Members were invited to table amendments throughout the day. The debate would take place that afternoon.

4. Draft revised budget of the Assembly for 2004 - opinion of the Council

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The next order of the day is the presentation of and debate on the report of the Committee on Budgetary Affairs and Administration on the draft revised budget of the Assembly for 2004 - opinion of the Council, Document 1862.

I call the Rapporteur and Chairman, Mrs Lucyga, to present the report.

Mrs LUCYGA (Germany) (summary) introduced the budget for 2004. It was an unusual procedure in that the Assembly was already working on the basis of that budget, which had yet to be formally voted by the Assembly. The proposed budget was the result of difficult and lengthy negotiations with the member states. Thanks were due to the President, the delegations and the Committee on Budgetary Affairs and Administration for achieving that result. Questions over the future of the WEU Assembly had naturally influenced the attitude taken by the member states regarding funding. Thanks were also due to the member states for reaching a compromise.

WEU needed to have a sound financial footing if it was to retain its role. The 2004 proposed budget fell short of expectations, and ran the risk of undermining WEU's work. The Committee on Budgetary Affairs and Administration had recommended 3.17% growth in real terms, but the Council had approved only a 1.8% increase in the budget. Despite falling short of the Committee's recommendations, a 1.8% increase represented an achievement when compared with the proposals of some member states during the early stages of negotiations, which were to limit the budget to zero nominal growth, representing a reduction in financial resources and the capacity to act. Nevertheless, the current budget for 2004 would leave the Assembly no leeway to deal with unexpected expenditure.

The budget had been adopted by the Assembly's budget committee on 10 May 2004. The tendency of member states to ask for zero real growth in the annual budget entailed serious implications for future funds likely to be available to the administration. While the Assembly was able to offset the shortfall with cost-cutting measures, that solution could not be continued ad infinitum. So long as the European Parliament did not have full rights of scrutiny over security and defence issues, the Assembly would continue to play a decisive role as the only parliamentary forum for debate of these matters.

(Mr Henry, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair)

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Thank you, Mrs Lucyga.

The debate is open.

I call Mr Gaburro.

Mr GABURRO (Italy) (summary) thanked Mrs Lucyga warmly for her excellent work as Chairman of the Committee on Budgetary Affairs and Administration. It was disappointing to hear that certain member states had considered a real reduction in budgetary resources for 2004. It was also disappointing that those member states were not prepared to cover statutory increases in salaries and pensions, and to take account of inflation. The Assembly had been obliged to fund a shortfall between the rate of inflation that member states were prepared to cover and the statutory increases in pensions and salaries. Comparing the 2004 budget to previous years the Assembly now found itself 1.4% short, in terms of its purchasing power. If the trend for member states to ask for zero real growth in the annual budget continued, it would lead to a serious erosion of resources which were essential to the work of the Assembly. Only yesterday the President, Mr De Decker, had reminded the Assembly that an interparliamentary forum was the only way to guard against a democratic deficit in European defence and security matters. Each of the delegations had a role to play in persuading their governments of the importance of the work of the WEU Assembly and the need for continued adequate funding.

(Mr De Decker, President of the Assembly, resumed the Chair)

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The debate is closed.

Mrs Lucyga, would you like to respond?

Mrs LUCYGA (Germany) (summary) said that Mr Gaburro had made an important point. Confirming the present budget would enable the work of the WEU Assembly to continue.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - We shall now vote on the draft revised budget contained in Document 1862.

Under Rule 35 of the Rules of Procedure, if ten or more representatives or substitutes present in the Chamber so desire, the Assembly shall vote by roll-call on the draft revised budget.

Does any member wish to propose a vote by a roll-call? ...

That is not the case. We will have a vote by show of hands.

(A vote was taken by show of hands)

The draft revised budget is adopted unanimously.

5. Address by Mr Peter Struck, Minister for Defence of Germany

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Welcome to the Assembly, Minister, and thank you for making the special effort to come to Paris to speak at our 50th session. Before I invite you to step up to the rostrum, allow me briefly to introduce you to the members of the Assembly.

On taking office, you immediately focused on a number of crucial issues. Under your skilful leadership, a huge reform effort was launched with the aim of making the German armed forces, which rank among the biggest in Europe, ever more ready to serve the purposes of international crisis management.

You made a number of highly innovative proposals on European defence cooperation, many of which are being implemented - strategic airlift is just one example of the areas in which that is happening. You also initiated a thorough debate in Germany on the role of the German armed forces - we know that you are a fervent defender of conscription - and the need for them to have state-of-the-art equipment. As an interparliamentary Assembly, we have followed with particular interest recent developments concerning the Bundestag's involvement in decisions on troop deployments and the use of national forces for internal security tasks.

As a result of your initiatives, there is now greater understanding in Germany of the need to provide military capabilities for peacekeeping operations. German men and women are currently making a valuable contribution to a wide range of peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan, to name only some of the operations in which German troops are engaged. German forces will also play a significant role when the EU embarks on its follow-up mission to SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We can but encourage you to pursue all those efforts because better equipped German forces will also place an improved capability potential at the disposal of the EU. Indeed, the Union's crisis-management ambitions mean that it must have access to well-trained, well-equipped and rapidly deployable forces.

Minister, we are eager to hear your views. You have the floor.

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (Translation) - Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for this opportunity to address the Parliamentary Assembly of WEU. As a parliamentarian myself, this is of particular importance to me.

When the modified Brussels Treaty on economic, social and cultural collaboration and collective defence entered into force on 6 May 1955, the seven signatory states agreed on a minimum term of 50 years.

Today, one year before this term is due to expire, WEU as an organisation has fulfilled its purpose. It contributed to preserving peace on the continent of Europe during the period of division and confrontation.

Indeed, even after the end of the cold war, Europe was forced to recognise that conflicts in and around Europe or with repercussions for Europe remain a possibility and that Europe's security can be endangered in many different ways. The European states have had to adapt to the changed security situation.

As Europe has forged ahead with the process of integration, it has also had to assume greater responsibilities for its own security. Given that there are other trouble spots in the world and not only in Europe, the United States has global responsibilities and quite rightly expects Europe to bear a share of the burden.

Given its political and economic weight, its close-knit ties with other regions of the world and its global interests, united Europe is more than ever able and required to assume its role as an independent player in the field of foreign and security policy, both within and outside Europe.

The EU operations in Macedonia and the Congo as well as the forthcoming mission in Bosnia reflect Europe's new self-confidence and awareness of its obligation to contribute to the resolution of conflicts. With its range of civil and military instruments, Europe is particularly well-equipped for the management of complex conflicts.

However, the EU's military capabilities need to be further developed. It must avoid unnecessary duplication with NATO while pursuing the aim of being able to make an independent contribution when necessary. Indeed, Europe's weight, resources and interests, as well as the expectations of its partners are such that its role can no longer be confined to that of an economic area or of a civil power alone.

For the moment, the EU is still not a global security player. However, it is in the process of developing into a genuine strategic partner for the United States and NATO with a view to strengthening global security. This indeed is the aim of the EU headline goal for 2010, which entails further developing the European forces objectives on the basis of actual crisis-management requirements, developing the battle group concept to strengthen Europe's rapid reaction capabilities and establishing the European armaments and capabilities agency.

The aim of all this is most definitely not to form a counterweight to the United States. Rather, the objective is to share the burden and responsibilities among partners who have the same basic values and fundamental interests. This lies at the core of the transatlantic relationship. It does not rule out discussion of where there are threats to our vital interests in this globalised world, how these should be tackled and what role should be attributed to military forces − in other words, of the way in which we can start setting the "global disorder" to rights.

The European Security Strategy adopted by the EU at the end of last year provides an excellent basis for this necessary strategic dialogue with the United States. Given the global challenges we face, America and Europe continue to be each other's first choice, for there is no reasonable alternative. That awareness is important for shaping the will and capacity on the part of the European states to bear a substantial share of the burden.

In order to prepare NATO and the EU for their future tasks and to strengthen Europe's future role in guaranteeing peace and stability, Germany too must be able to provide high quality military capabilities. Indeed, this is also the aim of the process of transformation of the Bundeswehr that I launched on 1 October 2003. The first step was to issue defence policy guidelines in 2003 reassessing the range of tasks to be fulfilled by the Bundeswehr and defining the new capability profile of our armed forces accordingly. The Bundeswehr is now consistently geared to the most likely types of mission: global conflict prevention and crisis management, including the fight against international terrorism. In addition to operational readiness and capabilities we need specialised forces that can be deployed rapidly and effectively in conjunction with the forces of other nations.

In order to achieve that aim, the next step was to test the relevant parameters: operational requirements, structures, organisation, forces, equipment and troop locations. Taking into account our international obligations and the new operational requirements, the Bundeswehr has now been divided into three completely new categories of forces: intervention forces, stabilisation forces and support forces. The intervention forces are adapted to high-intensity and short-duration combined joint operations, particularly in the field of peace enforcement. These forces will be deployed essentially in the framework of the NATO Response Force or the EU rapid reaction force and are 35 000 strong.

The stabilisation forces are geared to middle- or low-intensity operations of a longer duration from the broad range of peacekeeping operations. They consist of 70 000 soldiers. This makes it possible to deploy up to 14 000 soldiers for consecutive periods of time in up to five different theatres.

The support forces, finally, are designed to provide comprehensive and sustainable joint support to the intervention and stabilisation forces and are responsible for basic armed forces operations, including the organisation of command and training. These represent 145 000 posts.

With the introduction of these new structures, Germany will in the future be able to meet its international commitments with respect to the UN, NATO and the EU even more effectively. Overall equipment and procurement planning is also now strictly geared to the new capability profile. We are as of now investing first and foremost in the priority capabilities defined in compliance with the NATO and EU capability goals. This means that we are investing in: command, information and communications systems; global intelligence capabilities; strategic airlift and operational mobility capabilities; protected transport capabilities; soldiers' equipment and weaponry and a whole host of projects designed to enhance operational effectiveness.

Precisely in this area, it is important that we should make more systematic use of European cooperation for the development, procurement and maintenance of systems as well as for training, in order to make optimum use of available resources.

Allow me to make a few remarks about conscription. The introduction of military service led to the development of a defence and forces structure in Germany which for almost five decades now has guaranteed a high level of professionalism and social integration thanks to an appropriate combination of conscripts, reservists and short- and long-term professional soldiers.

Compulsory military service reflects our conception of democracy. It is an expression of the common responsibility shared by all citizens for the community as a whole. It promotes an understanding for German security and defence policy, increases our citizens' interest in the armed forces and enables them to identify with their tasks. Soldiers see themselves as citizens in uniform. Young conscripts in particular reflect that model. They are the leading guarantors of an ongoing exchange between the military forces and German society.

Even though a professional army would, as is currently the case, also remain under parliamentary control, be bound by democratic principles and would continue to apply the notion of "innere Führung"1 a change to the conscription system would nevertheless entail a risk of breaking the close link that currently exists between the Bundeswehr and society. That is not a risk that I am prepared to take.

Moreover, conscription is a pillar for the ongoing process of transformation of the Bundeswehr. It is essential for the forces to be able to function effectively in their new form. Conscripts make a vital contribution to the regeneration, operational readiness and professionalism of the armed forces as a whole.

The social skills demonstrated by our soldiers of all ranks, as well as their professionalism, are a direct result of our system of military service. These are qualities that our soldiers constantly need for the sorts of operations being conducted by our armed forces today.

Since 1998, some 120 000 German soldiers have been involved in international operations. At the present time 7 900 Bundeswehr troops are taking part in seven operations on three continents. With its 2 000-strong contingent, Germany is by far the biggest contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF). Given the precarious stability of that country, it is essential that our operation there should be continued. Indeed, visible achievements in terms of reconstruction and nation building offer the local population prospects for peace and at the same time weaken radical forces. A failure of our efforts there − or even an end to the international operation − would plunge the country back into civil war and constitute a defeat in the international fight against terrorism.

In order to establish secure and orderly conditions for the forthcoming elections, the power of the central government needs to be extended to the provinces and security must be maintained beyond the city borders of Kabul, in order to create a secure environment for the process of reconstruction. This is why it was the right decision to gradually extend the ISAF operation to the whole of Afghanistan and to place existing Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) or set up new ones under ISAF leadership. Those efforts must be energetically pursued.

I note that the civil-military approach of the German PRT in Kunduz has shown itself to be particularly effective. This is why we intend, in connection with the process of extending ISAF to the whole of the country, to set up permanently staffed posts in Taloquan (in the Takhar province) and Pol-e-Khomri (Baghlan province) and, in cooperation with our partners, to set up a new PRT in Feyzbas (Badakshan province). In parallel, preparations are under way for deploying the Eurocorps as the core of an ISAF headquarters, and possibly the Franco-German Brigade, as of August 2004.

Thus European forces are decisive elements of the NATO operation. This is an excellent example of the way in which the European countries can strengthen NATO.

In the Balkans, as in Afghanistan, the international community will for many years to come have to continue helping to create the conditions that will allow a normalisation of the political and social situation. The need to continue guaranteeing that process for the foreseeable future by means of a military presence was clearly brought home in recent weeks by the violent clashes in Mitrovica and elsewhere. The Bundeswehr, with its 3 900 soldiers is the biggest contributor of troops, is playing a crucial role as a factor of stability in this region. This task will continue to be a focal point of our international commitments in the future.

By contrast, a Bundeswehr deployment in Iraq has to be ruled out in the present circumstances, not least of all because of the enormous strain on our troops as a result of the operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Neither can I at the present time imagine a stronger role for NATO in Iraq. Indeed, militarily speaking, NATO could not achieve anything in Iraq that the coalition forces cannot already do.

Nevertheless, it is in our basic interests for the post-war process to be a success. The problems of reconstruction remain enormous. The security situation, at least in certain parts of the country, sometimes appears to be completely out of control. Apparently it is not possible for the United States and its allies from their position as occupiers to restore security and law and order, meet the basic needs of the population and put in place a viable administration and legitimate government apparatus. This is why it is essential to internationalise the process of nation building in Iraq and to divide the tasks involved in the complex process of reconstruction in a sensible fashion under UN leadership.

Given the progress achieved over recent months towards developing the European Security and Defence Policy, there are grounds for optimism. The future Constitutional Treaty will provide an important political basis for the further development of the EU's capacity to take decisions.

Enhanced military capabilities, further developments towards the EU headline goal for 2010 and the creation of a European rapid reaction capability, including the setting-up of battle groups, will further strengthen the EU's capacity for action, hence also that of NATO.

The new path I have set out upon in order to transform the Bundeswehr will create the conditions that will enable the German armed forces to make a substantial contribution to that process.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Thank you, Minister, for your clear-cut message. I thank you for your commitment to Europe, which was apparent from your address. I congratulate you on your considerable efforts to transform the structures of the Bundeswehr and to reinforce its equipment. I thank you for Germany's commitment and contribution to peacekeeping missions, and I am sure that your thoughts on Iraq will inform our debate.

Mr Struck has kindly agreed to answer questions, the first of which is from Mr Wilkinson.

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) - May I echo your warm words of appreciation, Mr President, for the Minister's speech? I should like to ask him about something pursuant to his remarks on ESDP, on the possible constitutional treaty, which is under discussion, and on the headline goal for 2010 and the evolution of a European rapid reaction force with battlegroups. What role does the Minister envisage for this Parliamentary Assembly? He referred to his 25 years as a deputy in the Bundestag, and he will be aware that defence ministers are drawn from national parliaments and are accountable to national parliaments. National parliaments provide defence budgets and national parliaments will make ESDP possible in practical terms.

Does the Minister recognise that our working together here in a forum that brings together representatives from western, central and eastern Europe in a constructive and cooperative environment is invaluable in strengthening European security? What role does the Federal Government foresee for this Assembly, which over the past 50 years has worked so well and which I am sure could do its work equally well, if not better, for the next 50 years?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Would you like to answer that question, Minister?

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) thanked Mr Wilkinson for his question. Under the German Constitution, German forces could not be deployed without the approval of the Bundestag. The Bundestag insisted on its rights and prerogatives. As regards the future role of WEU, that question would need to be answered by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Braga, the Assembly's Rapporteur on the European Defence Agency.

Mr BRAGA (Portugal) (summary) asked what the German view was on the scope of the European Defence Agency, its financial autonomy and relations with other countries.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Would you like to answer that question, Minister?

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) said that the agency would have a coordinating role in the procurement of arms. Financial constraints meant that individual countries needed to reduce the unit cost of the equipment acquired by pooling efforts and resources. The Eurofighter was a good example of such a cooperative programme. The staffing costs for the agency were likely to be higher than originally planned. Relations with third countries needed to be clarified. In practical terms there was little prospect of closer cooperation with the United States on procurement, because the United States was not prepared to give contracts to European companies.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr van Winsen.

Mr van WINSEN (Netherlands) (summary) asked about the new headquarters for the NATO Response Force and about efforts to improve civil-military cooperation. He also stressed the importance of an interparliamentary forum.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call the Minister.

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) said that the German-Dutch corps had taken on responsibilities in Kabul without difficulties. There were over 30 countries with forces in Afghanistan, with Germany making the largest contribution. As regards civil-military cooperation, there was a problem finding a sufficient number of reservists, and getting them released by their employers for longer periods. Civil-military cooperation was the future as far as stabilising the Balkans was concerned, but it had to be run in parallel with military action.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Thank you, Minister.

I call Mrs Brestenska.

Mrs BRESTENSKA

(Slovak Republic, associate partner) - Minister, thank you for your interesting presentation. Like many speakers before me, I would like to ask about the future of WEU. Slovakia is now a member of the EU and NATO. This year, the WEU Assembly celebrates its 50th anniversary. Germany was one of the founding countries of WEU and has played an important role in the stability and security of Europe.

The Minister talked about possible changes in WEU. We are discussing its future role in my country: the Slovakian Minister for Foreign Affairs is discussing the matter in government and we are also discussing it in parliament. Slovakia supports the WEU Assembly's activities to increase the role of national parliaments in future security and defence policy in Europe. Interparliamentary discussions are important. The Minister talked about the importance of educating people to open political dialogue between countries.

We think that the WEU Assembly is important for all countries in Europe. It is important for the future. The political atmosphere in the European Union has changed and our countries have played an interesting role in that. Slovakia would like to change its status as an associate country to be a permanent member of WEU.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Would you like to answer, Minister?

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) said that it would be necessary to wait and see what happened with the European Union Constitutional Treaty. The WEU Treaty should not be denounced before the European treaty came into force, but once that was the case, there would be a different legal position. The work of the WEU Assembly would continue to be important between now and 2007-08.

The PRESIDENT (summary) thanked the Minister for his clear answers. It was gratifying to note that the Minister did not intend to take any action before the EU Constitution had been adopted. But what would happen after 2006-07? There would still be a need for an interparliamentary forum for defence and security matters to be discussed at a European level. That is what the Minister should be persuaded of.

He called Mr Gubert.

Mr GUBERT (Italy) (summary) said that NATO was an important alliance which included EU and non-EU members, yet NATO was one of the United States' political instruments. Under the draft Constitutional Treaty, EU member states were permitted to meet their NATO commitments first and foremost. Did that provision explain the difficulty of EU states in formulating joint positions on foreign and defence policy? Or was that simply a reflection of the importance of the relationship with the United States?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call the Minister.

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) said that the EU had made a grave error before the war in Iraq, which was the letter of the eight heads of state and government supporting the US President's Iraq policy. Europe had weakened itself by being divided. It had taken some time to overcome that rift; however, it was hoped that this would not happen again. As regards European cooperation within NATO, Europe could expect to play its rightful role only if it made an appropriate effort.

Indeed, the EU had a capability gap with the United States, and an obligation to improve its capabilities. Failure to do so would allow the United States to continue to believe that the European Union could not cope without it. However, Iraq was an example of the United States not being able to cope without Europe. The United States could win wars, but was not good at nation-building. It needed the European Union, and others, for that. The present United States Administration was now willing to negotiate with the European Union as equals, which had not been the case before the Iraq war. The US now recognised that it needs Europe's political capabilities.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Medeiros Ferreira.

Mr MEDEIROS FERREIRA

(summary) (Portugal) thanked the Minister for his speech. The Minister proposed three different forces: one for rapid intervention, one for peacekeeping and an additional one for support. The philosophy of conscription was interesting and raised questions about the type of training that might be offered as part of military service. Could that be reconciled with three different types of forces? The Minister had referred to the peacekeeping corps being made up of conscripts, but it was also clear that those missions would last much longer. For how long would conscripts be required?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call the Minister.

Mr STRUCK (Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) thanked Mr Medeiros Ferreira for his practical question. There was currently a debate within the Social Democratic Party, among the coalition partners and within wider society in Germany about the desirability of maintaining conscription. Opinion polls showed that those aged 40 years or over were mostly in favour of maintaining conscription. Those under 40 were mostly in favour of abolishing it.

Currently, military service was nine months, the first three of which were spent on basic training, including general fitness training and weapons' handing. Traditionally, the training corresponded to Germany's former defence policy which was designed to deal with possible aggressive action from the Warsaw Pact countries, such as tank and air attacks from the East. That was no longer the priority for German defence strategy, and tanks and aircraft were being decommissioned. Military service ought to use the skills that young people brought to the army. Those trained as electricians or mechanics or cooks, for example, ought to be able to continue to use those skills within the army. Peace enforcement and intervention operations were not suitable for conscripts, who were not sufficiently trained to undertake those actions. However, there was undoubtedly a role for conscripts in stabilisation operations.

It was necessary to bring down personnel costs in order to increase investment. A professional army would be more expensive to maintain than one based on conscription. Other countries advocated cutting troop numbers in order to reduce costs, as had occurred in Spain, Portugal and Italy. However, a reduction in troop numbers would mean having to reduce the number of tasks for which troops were required.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The final question is from Mr van der Linden.

Mr van der LINDEN (Netherlands) (summary) said that the EU faced a number of problems in defence, in particular a lack of coordination which had led to inefficiency. A second issue of concern was political division over Iraq. The absence of German troops in Iraq made it difficult to speak of EU unity. In Iraq the United States had shown itself capable of winning a war but not of nation building. The United Kingdom's minor role in the conflict suggested closer future cooperation between the United Kingdom and the EU would be valuable. More responsibility also ought to be shouldered in the Middle East if the EU was not to show the rest of the world that it was incapable of action.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call the Minister to reply.

Mr STRUCK

(Minister for Defence of Germany) (summary) agreed that unity was important but Germany's decision not to participate in Iraq remained the right decision. From the beginning, Germany had taken the stance that the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida had not been proved and that further time for weapons inspections was required. While cooperation with the United States remained important, every country must decide on a sovereign basis about sending its troops into action. With regard to the Middle East, Germany, through the EU, was ready to assume political responsibility but not military responsibility.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I thank you most warmly, Mr Struck, for your clear and frank comments and for being prepared to answer the many questions that were put to you.

We have had a high-quality debate, and I hope it has persuaded you of the utility of dialogue between defence ministers of member states and members of national parliaments, who adopt the budgets and assume responsibility for sending troops into the field and for comforting victims' families. Such dialogue is essential for developing a European Security and Defence Policy. This is true today and will be so after 2006 or 2007 when the Brussels Treaty comes to an end.

I know that you are now on your way to meet your colleague from Luxembourg, Charles Goerens, one of my predecessors as President of this Assembly. Have a safe trip to Luxembourg and please convey our warmest regards to Mr Goerens.

(Mrs Aguiar, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair)

6. Chemical, biological and radiological terrorism

The PRESIDENT - The next order of the day is the presentation of, and debate on, the report of the Defence Committee on chemical, biological and radiological terrorism, Document 1858.

I call the Rapporteur, Mr Le Guen, to present the report.

Mr LE GUEN (France) (summary) said that the title of the report reflected a long-standing fear in European societies and an awareness of the reality of a threat. The events of 11 September 2001 changed the context of how the problem of terrorism was viewed within Europe. European countries had become aware of the fact that certain states and organisations were inclined to acquire chemical, biological or radiological weapons in order to strike terror or endanger populations.

The preventive work which had been conducted by Europe illustrated the need for more intelligence-gathering activities on the threats posed by chemical, biological and radiological terrorism. Extensive action had to be taken in specific countries with particular problems. For example, Russia's history and stockpile of weapons meant that special vigilance was required there and solidarity with the Russian Government should be maintained. Intellectual property and technological developments also ought to be watched closely. More attention should to be paid to the protection of civil defence and security. The threats had changed. European countries had a military defence strategy as described by Mr Struck, but the main threats were aimed at civil defence. Nuclear installations and water sites needed to be protected. The required action was set out in the report's two specific recommendations.

The PRESIDENT- Thank you, Mr Le Guen.

The debate is open.

I call Mr Gubert.

Mr GUBERT (Italy) (summary) said that the report described horrific threats organised through a worldwide network. The solidarity clause would need to be instigated in the event of an attack on a member state. Chemical, biological, radiological weapons were likely to be used by individuals, and not states. Such people generally acted outside the protection of states, and tracking of financial operations, terrorist movements, dual-use technology and extremist preachers was required. A balance also had to be struck between security and freedom. States could not imprison whole populations. It was wrong to think of people simply as being possessed by evil. Democracy took a long time to take hold in countries. A different approach would be more effective.

The PRESIDENT - I call Sir Sydney Chapman.

Sir SYDNEY CHAPMAN (United Kingdom) - I congratulate Mr Le Guen on a comprehensive and timely report. It is a truism that 11 September 2001 was a defining day not only for the citizens of the United States but for every person in the world. It put beyond doubt that no one anywhere is safe from terrorism. It is against that overriding context that the report must be measured, and it comes out well. I particularly like the key stance, if I may call it that, of the report in spelling out the risks of chemical, biological and radiological terrorism, the importance of prevention and control measures to deal with any such outbreak and the close cooperation necessary between all countries. I share Mr Le Guen's view that at present cooperation is insufficient - there must be much more of it.

There is a need for all democratic countries not only to hold fast to their traditional liberties - the free movement of people is an example of that - but to have a tighter security system that will reduce the risk of terrorist outbreaks. A terrorist attack on any one of our countries is a terrorist attack on all of us. We need solidarity. That is the key recommendation in this important report.

I wish to draw attention to the incidents described on page 21 of the report. In London in January last year, a group of Algerian nationals were arrested in a UK anti-terrorist operation. Traces of ricin and equipment used in its manufacture were found in their flat. In France in December 2002, police discovered a list of chemicals for making a "dirty" bomb which would have released hydrogen cyanide, which is fatal if inhaled. Investigations revealed links with those involved in the London bomb factory. In January this year, members of a family were arrested and instructions and equipment for the home manufacture of ricin and botulin toxin were discovered at their address. One of those arrested seems to have had "training" in the use of such weapons in Afghanistan. Those are serious incidents. They bring home to us the need to take special measures.

The report says at the beginning of paragraph 73: "The publicity that surrounds such `coups' on the part of the intelligence services is intended to calm public opinion." I am not sure that that view is correct. I think that the more these incidents come to light, the more they make the public uneasy, but they help those asking the government to take the necessary action.

The challenge is simple: the protection of our peoples, the need for coordinated action, the pooling of resources and international cooperation. It is not just a question of the countries of Europe working together to tackle the problem - there is a need for that worldwide. In the end, our way of life, the values and democracy for which we have stood are under threat.

There is no halfway house on the issue. There is no room for negotiation. There is no question of giving the terrorists another chance. There is no pretending that a particular outrage was a one-off. The opposite is the case. We are at war with terrorism and we have no option but to fight it and to defeat it.

(Mr De Decker, President of the Assembly, resumed the Chair)

The PRESIDENT - I call Mr Cosido.

Mr COSIDO (Spain) (summary) said that it was an honour to speak for the first time at the Assembly and that he agreed with the recommendation and analysis within the report. There was broad consensus that terrorist groups could not obtain nuclear weapons, but he sensed that that view was changing. Terrorist groups were seeking to develop the capability of building and exploding devices in capital cities. There was not a clear counter-proliferation strategy and it was necessary to highlight the shortcomings of the European strategy.

The PRESIDENT - Thank you, Mr Cosido, for making your maiden speech.

I call Mr Vrettos.

Mr VRETTOS (Greece) (summary) thanked the committee for its excellent report which clearly demonstrated the danger that existed from the types of terrorism described. The report highlighted some important questions - for example where could al-Qa'ida buy nuclear weapons? In North Korea or Pakistan. In some cases, those weapons would not even have to be purchased.

In Russia, such stocks numbered in the thousands and raw materials such as uranium had accumulated. Nuclear fuels could be found not far from nuclear power plants. Those materials could be used to build a bomb and provoke a horrible disaster.

Nation states had a responsibility, both nationally and within the European Union. If they were to meet the threat of terrorism it ought to be done within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy, and Article V ought to be invoked. Collective defence measures should be part of the policy to deal with international terrorism. Europe did not speak with a single voice on that subject.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Cherginets.

Mr CHERGINETS (Belarus, special guest) (summary) thanked the President for the invitation to attend. The matter before the Assembly was of the utmost importance, and also very significant for Belarus, given past experiences. Chernobyl had damaged Belarus considerably. It had led to the displacement of people and had necessitated building new houses and creating a new infrastructure for the region. Belarus was familiar with the potential threat of terrorism, and especially with the threat posed by chemical and biological terrorism.

A particular issue threatening the lives of citizens of the EU and the world as a whole was the persistence of chemical weapons from earlier fascist regimes. Chemical weapons had been found on ships at the bottom of the sea, going back to the Nazi period. Those were recognised threats. The mines on board ships could be activated by erosion from seawater, and the consequences would be comparable to those from the worst disasters which had taken place to date. The air of the entire world would be polluted, and the extent of the damage could barely be imagined. Belarus called on the EU to guarantee monitoring of weapons in the North Sea and in the Baltic. Technology to do so existed in Russia, but could be implemented only with the cooperation of the EU as a whole. WEU could play a valuable role in bringing that about.

Belarus also called on the parliaments of European Union member states to draft legislation to combat terrorism. If the same penalties were attached to hijacking planes in all states around the world, hijacking would not happen at all. Belarus was committed to reducing the threat of terrorism in the world in cooperation with the European Union.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The debate is closed.

Does the Rapporteur wish to speak?

Mr LE GUEN (France) (summary) thanked the speakers for their contributions and their support for the conclusions reached by the committee. The speakers had all stressed the importance of risk assessment and the need for international cooperation. The aim of the report had been to show that nations could not go it alone.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Thank you, Mr Le Guen.

Does the Chairman of the Defence Committee wish to speak?

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) - We are all immensely grateful for the outstanding work that Mr Le Guen has done on a topic of great importance to all of us on the continent. As the speakers from the floor have pointed out, we are addressing a worldwide problem, and our debate will be noted for some time to come as one of the most important of recent years. I have nothing to add except, on behalf of the Committee, our thanks to, and appreciation of, Mr Le Guen.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Thank you, Mr Wilkinson.

We shall now vote on the draft recommendation contained in Document 1858.

No amendments have been tabled.

Under Rule 35 of the Rules of Procedure, if five or more representatives or substitutes present in the Chamber so desire, the Assembly shall vote by roll-call on the draft recommendation.

Does any member wish to propose a vote by roll-call? ...

That is not the case. We shall vote by show of hands.

(A vote was taken by show of hands)

The draft recommendation is adopted unanimously.

7. Address by Mr Leon-Gross, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - The next order of the day is the address by Mr Leon-Gross, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency.

State Secretary, it is a pleasure for me to welcome you here today and to thank you for coming to address our Assembly.

Allow me to begin by once again expressing our shock and sadness - both individually and collectively as the Assembly of WEU - at the terrorist attacks in Madrid in March, which claimed the lives of 200 people. We utterly condemn such actions, which threaten our peace and stability and are opposed to all the values that Europe represents.

As we know, Spain has held the presidency of WEU for the past six months, and there is absolutely no doubt that it has been an immensely fruitful period. Earlier this year, the Spanish Cortes Generales co-hosted with the Assembly of WEU a very successful seminar in Valencia on the European Security and Defence Policy, focusing in particular on how to deal with new threats to our security. We discussed a number of crucial issues including EU-Mediterranean cooperation and how to tackle the root causes of terrorism, and we had the opportunity to hear the views of the Spanish Government in meetings with the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Ana Palacio, and Mr Diaz de Mera, the Director-General of the Police and a former member of our Assembly.

In February the Assembly's Technological Aerospace Committee visited the Spanish naval base and dockyards in Cartagena where they were briefed on more technical matters such as mine countermeasures. The Presidential Committee and the Assembly's other committees held meetings in Madrid last month. I met the Presidents of the Chamber and Senate, Mr Marin and Mr Rojo, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Moratinos.

Spain has always had a very lively and active delegation in this Assembly, and yesterday I was pleased to welcome your new delegation following the recent elections. I am delighted to say that one of the founder members of the first Spanish Delegation, our friend and colleague, Mr Lluis Maria de Puig, a former President of the Assembly, is still with us today and as active as ever.

State Secretary, we look forward to hearing your views on European security and defence. You have the floor.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (Translation) - Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should first like to thank you for inviting our Foreign Minister to speak at this important Assembly session. Unfortunately, due to his very tight international schedule at the start of the new government's period in office, he was unable to come to Paris on this occasion and has therefore asked me to act as his representative. It is a great honour for me to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished and widely representative audience as the parliamentarians of our 28 WEU member nations.

For many years this Assembly has done sterling work as a forum of debate and a valuable means of channelling information to our national parliaments and the general public in our various countries about what is being done in the intergovernmental sphere to ensure the steady integration of a vital defence dimension into Europe.

As you are no doubt aware, Spain has traditionally made a highly active contribution to those efforts, initially in the WEU framework and now, in the EU, to the European Security and Defence Policy.

The new Spanish Government is firm in its intention to push forward ESDP development. Spain wants to be actively involved from the outset in securing progress on the EU's defence dimension. We want to be at the forefront of those efforts, with all our partners who share our aspirations for a more capable Europe, and one more firmly united in the contribution it makes to international security within a multilateral framework.

We know this Assembly shares our conviction that a true, robust common defence policy is necessary for Union external action to be effective. Military instruments are often required to underpin the other crisis-management techniques: whether political, diplomatic, economic, humanitarian or civil, that the Union already deploys, or is in the process of developing.

In order to respond to the new security challenges a global perspective is now more than ever necessary, directed as a priority towards conflict prevention, and a willingness to make whatever input is necessary to deal with crises that may arise.

The development of Europe's defence dimension presupposes the effort to pull together in a practical way to meet today's threats to the security of all our nations. We need to identify those threats clearly in order to set the ESDP's future development on the right course.

As stated in the European Security Strategy, adopted by the European Council on 12 December last, large-scale aggression against a member state is now unlikely. But Europe needs to face up to new and more diverse threats - threats which are less visible and more unpredictable.

These are principally terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the destabilising effects caused by regional conflict, failing states and organised crime.

One of the Strategy's strong points is the emphasis it places on the growing threat of terrorism everywhere in Europe, and of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and more especially on the truly appalling prospect of both of them together - the hypothetical scenario of a terrorist group getting hold of weapons of mass destruction.

Spain suffered greatly from the scourge of its terrorist past, even well before the 11 March attacks in Madrid. That is why we were very quick to understand the need for greater international solidarity and cooperation - to mount a challenge to the terrorist threat both on the ground and in all possible international fora.

As proof of this, we need only look at what Spain has been doing in the UN Security Council and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee of which it held the Chair until a few weeks ago - a role in which it worked to strengthen the Committee so the latter could carry out its important task more effectively.

Spain is also helping move forward the process of transforming NATO, so that the Alliance is better equipped to deal with the growing threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

It has been very active in the European Union on the basis of the Action Plan adopted by the extraordinary meeting of the European Council on 21 September 2001. The Spanish Presidency was the driving force behind the Seville European Council Declaration in June 2002 on the contribution the CFSP and ESDP can make to the fight against terrorism.

Nevertheless, a good deal of work lies ahead to ensure that the ESDP can make that contribution effectively, for example: developing and making available to the EU the inventories of national military and civilian capabilities needed to deal with attacks involving the use of weapons or agents of mass destruction.

It is necessary at the same time to step up the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The international community must use all the weapons available to it to parry that threat. The Union is well aware of that need. On the basis of the Thessaloniki Declaration of June 2003, the December European Council adopted a Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, thus making a start on the development of one of the intrinsic aspects of the European Security Strategy.

Important decisions in this connection were also taken in the United Nations framework with the recent adoption of a Security Council Resolution establishing a Counter Proliferation Committee along similar lines to the existing Counter Terrorism Committee.

In order to combat the threats of our times effectively, we therefore need close international cooperation and a determined effort to ensure we have the capacity to act when necessary. The new European Security Strategy coined a felicitous phrase, "effective multilateralism", to describe this twofold effort:

The term can be equally aptly applied to the transatlantic dialogue and gives expression to the fact that Europeans' emphasis on multilateralism can and must go hand in hand with effective action on the part of the international community in the face of security threats. When international rules are broken, we have to be prepared to do something about it.

Effective multilateralism in the European Union context means that the Union must undertake a more proactive and coherent policy and have the necessary capabilities for external action in any environment. Developing the European Security and Defence Policy in particular is one essential way in which the Union can contribute effectively to conflict prevention and face up to current security threats. The ESDP has made great strides in the last five years, but there is admittedly still a long way to go in this connection.

Establishing a framework of cooperation between the EU and NATO, with appropriate involvement from European allies that are not EU members, has been one of the hardest challenges in ESDP development in recent years, but also one of its greatest triumphs.

While European integration would not be complete without the ESDP, the same holds true for NATO, which needs a firmer European pillar to deal effectively with its new tasks. The ESDP does not set out to be an alternative to NATO but a means of securing greater involvement in, and responsibility for, common security on the part of Europeans, in a more robust and balanced transatlantic relationship.

Spain is a firm advocate of a true strategic partnership between the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance - one based on transparency, which avoids unnecessary duplication of effort and expense and strengthens the military capabilities of both.

Fortunately, after the debates over the past year on Iraq and on European defence, the December 2003 European Council succeeded in ironing out most of the difficulties over EU/NATO relations and took major decisions under the ESDP.

Among those of note was that on the European Security Strategy - an important indicator of the future direction ESDP development is likely to take. In the same vein, there has been the EU's readiness to take over from NATO in the military operation in Bosnia on a "Berlin plus" basis and the agreement to strengthen the EU's capability to plan and conduct operations by setting up a civil-military planning cell in the coming months - all of which constitutes practical progress on strengthening EU planning capabilities and the mechanisms for cooperating with NATO over operations. Finally, there is the understanding already reached on the defence aspects of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty and, in particular, on questions like permanent structured cooperation and the mutual defence clause, whose wording is flexible and fully compatible with NATO security commitments.

Looking towards the upcoming Istanbul NATO Summit, on 28 June 2004, we must continue to inject impetus into EU/Alliance relations. We must demonstrate our ability to act together, not just in crisis management but also in the face of common security challenges, especially terrorism.

The new Constitutional Treaty currently being negotiated in the European Union will make it possible to increase the effectiveness of the Union's external action for dealing with the threats we face to our security. Although Spain would have liked something more far-reaching, it considers that the agreement reached at the December European Council on the European Security and Defence Policy aspects of the draft Constitutional Treaty is both constructive and acceptable.

The new Treaty will promote greater solidarity between Europeans and a clear agreement on mutual defence, and the setting up of structured cooperation machinery between those of our countries that want and can move forward more rapidly under the ESDP. The text is a balanced one. It irons out the misunderstandings and suspicions that the idea of structured cooperation between countries had initially raised on both sides of the Atlantic over the last year. It preserves the open-ended and inclusive character of the ESDP and takes proper account of NATO's fundamental role in European defence, while respecting the specific defence policies of member states of a neutral tradition without prejudice to the principles of solidarity to which we all subscribe.

The solidarity clause is particularly important for Spain as it places an obligation on the Union and its member states to act together, militarily even, in assisting a member state that falls victim to terrorist attacks or natural or man-made disasters.

In that connection, we attach great importance to the fact that, in response to the 11 March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, the European Council agreed, on 25 March, to bring forward implementation of the solidarity clause, through a political decision, taken by all the member states, to act in the spirit of the clause from that time onwards.

The draft Constitutional Treaty updates the list of Petersberg tasks in the light of the experience gained from the European Union's first civilian and military crisis-management operations which got off the ground successfully in 2003. It also makes it possible to press ahead with developing the military capabilities the Union needs to carry out such operations effectively.

That is the reasoning behind the intention to establish a European armaments, research and military capabilities agency. The foundations of this Agency, which will be referred to as the European Defence Agency, are even now in the process of being laid, in accordance with the Council Decision taken last November. In June, foreseeably, the Council will adopt the relevant joint action making the Agency operational.

The structured cooperation provided for in the draft Constitutional Treaty will allow certain Member States to forge ahead of others under the ESDP, by meeting higher military capability criteria and commitments. Spain is greatly in favour of this idea, on the understanding that such structured cooperation must be open to all member states that wish and are able to participate in it on the basis of conditions agreed jointly.

Spain wishes, and has the capability, to participate in any structured cooperation for which it meets the necessary criteria. We make a substantial contribution to ESDP capabilities, we are involved in multinational forces such as the Eurocorps, the Euroforces and the European Air Group; we belong to various European armaments cooperation fora and are set to play a highly active part in the future European Defence Agency.

Spain has also been in favour of a mutual defence clause from the outset. This is primarily a political agreement which would, in practice, transfer the current commitment made through Western European Union to the European Union (notwithstanding some differences in the wording, in view of the EU's different membership). Collective defence, for member states wanting to maintain their commitments as Allies would logically continue through NATO's military structures, as was always the case in WEU.

Spain feels it is important that cooperation over mutual defence is doubly coherent: in the first place with Atlantic Alliance commitments. NATO must continue to be the basis of a collective defence for those Europeans that are also Alliance members. Secondly, it must also be consistent with the principle of solidarity to which all of us as Europeans should subscribe if we hope to make an effective response to the security threats and challenges of our times.

I know that the Assembly is well aware of the important progress made in European defence as well as of the many challenges and shortcomings the ESDP still has to surmount. The Presidency report to the Assembly on the activities of the WEU Council in the second half of 2003 makes extensive reference to these matters, despite the fact that they are now the exclusive province of the EU and thus not within the purview of this Organisation. The various committees of the Assembly are also doing sterling work in examining them closely and making valuable recommendations.

As you are aware, ladies and gentlemen, since WEU assigned its former functions in the field of crisis management to the European Union, the Chairmanship-in-Office no longer has responsibility for taking political initiatives in European security and defence matters.

However, as Spain's representative, and therefore the representative of a country that is more than ever deeply involved in developing this vital dimension of European integration, I should like to ask for your help in conveying to your respective national parliaments, and the general public in your countries, the urgent need to redouble our efforts to forge a European Security and Defence Policy that grows stronger and binds us ever more closely with each day that passes.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - Thank you very much, State Secretary. You have kindly agreed to answer questions.

I call Lord Judd.

Lord JUDD (United Kingdom) - First, I know that I will not be alone in thanking the State Secretary for an interesting address, congratulating him and his colleagues in government on their election victory, and wishing them well in their principled approach to international affairs.

An issue that concerns some of us is the relationship between international action and the authority of the United Nations Security Council. I believe that this relationship is, in effect, being fudged. If we accept that the United Nations Security Council is the ultimate authority for endorsing international, external action, what is the relationship between the operation of that action and accountability to the Security Council? How does WEU see that in the context of the continuing security operation in Iraq and in relation to future activities by an integrated European defence organisation?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call the State Secretary to reply.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) thanked Lord Judd for his warm wishes towards the new Spanish Government. International coordination was necessary for members to work together effectively and to provide an adequate response.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr de Puig.

Mr de PUIG (Spain) (summary) asked what the new Spanish Government's response was to the new threats of terrorism.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call the State Secretary to reply.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) said that the Spanish Government's priority would be measures to counter the threats of terrorism. He regretted any doubts that had been cast over Spain's response to terrorism, but emphasised that counter-terrorism would be at the heart of the government's activity. Discussions had been held with officials from the Palestinian Authority. He had also visited Morocco and Algeria. Fighting terrorism was also one of the core principles of international coordination.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) -I call Mr Medeiros Ferreira.

Mr MEDEIROS FERREIRA (Portugal) (summary) offered a warm welcome to Mr Leon-Gross and endorsed his commitment to stand against terrorism. He saluted Spain's stand in holding to its principles. Democracies needed to pursue real objectives in order to allow their institutions to function normally. He asked what role national parliaments, especially the Spanish Parliament and the WEU Assembly, could play. Specifically, should they have something to say before, during or after deployment of European forces? Also, what role should parliaments have in determining whether countries sent missions to Iraq in the event of the UN Security Council adopting a new resolution on Iraq?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Leon-Gross.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) thanked Mr Medeiros Ferreira for his interesting question and kind words of support in connection with the attack of 11 March. There had been a democratic deficit when the original decision had been taken in Spain to participate in the invasion of Iraq. The Spanish Parliament had not played a major role in that decision. The new government had made it clear that the Spanish Parliament would be consulted in any new action. The decision to replace Spanish forces in Haiti would not be made until the Spanish Parliament had been consulted. That framework was compatible with increased international coordination, and he welcomed progress in increasing parliamentary scrutiny, especially at the international level.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mrs Brestenska.

Mrs BRESTENSKA (Slovak Republic, associate partner) - Thank you very much for your presentation, State Secretary. You underlined the fact that the role of WEU is very important in creating security for Europe. After the terrorist attack in Spain, the Slovak people felt solidarity with your people and began to understand the role of security in Europe.

I want to ask you very clearly what role Spain sees for WEU. What role will there be for increased national parliamentary discussion, as well as interparliamentary discussion, on ESDP? After the enlargement of the EU and of NATO - Slovakia is now a member of both - it is very important that we join many countries in many different experiences. That multi-parliamentary dialogue is very important. This forum is very important to the future security of Europe. What is Spain's position on the future of WEU?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Leon-Gross.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) said that WEU provided an important forum for national parliamentarians to coordinate their actions in pursuit of a common defence. The Spanish Government had not questioned the future role of WEU, but was aware that the issue had been raised.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Atkinson.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom) - State Secretary, in the light of the reply that you have just given, I seek your advice on behalf of the Assembly.

We have had no sight of, nor have we heard from, the Secretary-General of our organisation since the part-session in December 2001 - two and a half years ago. That must surely be a record in the 50-year history of this Assembly - one that we must all be ashamed of and embarrassed about.

Why does Mr Solana ignore our Assembly in this way? Will you use the remainder of your presidency of WEU to persuade him to address the Assembly at the next part-session in December and to answer our questions in the way that you are doing now?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Leon-Gross.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) responded to Mr Atkinson's question with a biblical quote: "Am I my brother's keeper?" The Secretary-General was believed to be very much interested in the work of WEU. Mr Atkinson's concerns would be passed on to him.

The PRESIDENT (summary) commented, in defence of Mr Solana, who had promised to attend the WEU Assembly, that Mr Solana was at present with Mr Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, meeting the British Government in London.

He called Mrs Lucyga.

Mrs LUCYGA (Germany) (summary) thanked the State Secretary for his speech. When discussing defence and security issues, a lot was said about Iraq and Afghanistan, but far less about Sudan and Sierra Leone, and even crises which were on Europe's own doorstep, such as Kosovo. Did the Spanish Government believe that the European Union's policy with regard to Kosovo needed to be revised, and in particular, the final status of Kosovo?

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) said that the Spanish Government believed that Europe needed to face up to the challenges presented by humanitarian crises. Sierra Leone and Rwanda were examples of crises where the EU should have had greater decision-making capabilities. The Spanish Government supported any initiative to increase the capacity of the EU to respond to such crises. The Spanish Government was concerned by recent events in Kosovo. The new government felt that the EU had failed to face up to the crisis in Kosovo. A rethink was necessary.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr van Winsen.

Mr van WINSEN (Netherlands) - I thank the Minister for his clear address and for underlining the important work of the Assembly. The ten countries that recently acceded to the European Union fulfil the criteria set out in the Declaration of WEU made in 1991, so they can be invited to accede to WEU in accordance with the articles of the modified Brussels Treaty, under which they can become observers if they so wish. Similarly, two other countries that acceded to NATO, Bulgaria and Romania, also fulfil the criteria in the Declaration, and may therefore become associate members of WEU. What has so far prevented the Council from issuing such invitations, and when is it likely to do so?

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I call Mr Leon-Gross.

Mr LEON-GROSS (State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Spain, representing the Spanish WEU Presidency) (summary) noted that in 1991 a formula had been agreed to enable new members to join WEU. The Council believed that the present time, given current security considerations and the international situation, was not the right time to invite new members. That was also the opinion of the Spanish Government.

The PRESIDENT (summary) warmly thanked Mr Leon-Gross. He hoped that the EU Constitutional Treaty would be ratified on 17 and 18 June. Without ratification of the treaty, the European Union would revert to the terms of the Nice Treaty, under which enhanced cooperation in military defence was prohibited. It would be advisable for the Council to review its position if the Constitutional Treaty was not ratified and nation states that were members of the European Union, and in some cases also of NATO, were not invited to join WEU.

8. Date, time and orders of the day of the next sitting

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - That concludes our business for this morning.

I propose that the Assembly hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 15.00 with the following orders of the day:

  1. The European Defence Agency - reply to the annual report of the Council (Presentation of and debate on the report from the Technological and Aerospace Committee and vote on the draft recommendation, Doc. 1856).
  2. Aerospace cooperation between Europe and China (Presentation of and debate on the report of the Technological and Aerospace Committee and vote on the draft resolution and amendment. Doc. 1853 and amendment).
  3. The transfer of power in Iraq (Presentation of and debate on the oral report of the Political Committee and vote on the draft resolution, Doc. 1866).

Are there any objections? ...

The orders of the day for the next sitting are approved.

The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 13.10)


1 A concept of internal leadership which seeks to combine the demands of the military mission of the armed forces with the dignity and rights of service personnel as citizens of a democratic state.

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