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Presentation - About the Assembly | History (modified Brussels Treaty, Maastricht, Petersberg, Saint Malo, ESDP, European Constitutional Treaty) | Membership | Organisational structure and activities

History (modified Brussels Treaty, Maastricht, Petersberg, Saint Malo, ESDP, European Constitutional Treaty)

For more than two generations European security has been a topic of visionary political debate. Maintaining the stability of the European continent ´┐Ż the scene of two terrible wars in the first half of the 20th century ´┐Ż has been one of the major political objectives of Europe. Attaining that objective has certainly been one of the great achievements of international relations since 1945.

The debate on European security and stability goes right back to the start of European integration. The failure of the Pleven plan, which envisaged the creation of a real European Defence Community (EDC), the modified Brussels Treaty and the establishment of the North Atlantic Alliance as a core organisation for European security were key stages in the endeavour to give practical effect to a fundamental idea, that of giving Europe a solid security framework. Despite the emergence of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), these questions are still relevant today. Since the ´┐Żhistoric´┐Ż invocation of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, security policy has taken on a new dimension. Support from public opinion for the efforts being made to ensure that Europe plays a greater part in international security needs to be stronger now than ever before.

Against this background the Parliamentary Assembly of Western European Union (WEU), which has its premises in Paris, has made a dedicated contribution over the years to all issues of security and stability on the European continent and is continuing to do so.
The foundation of WEU as an organisation is closely linked with post-war history. The Korean war, which broke out in 1950, brought about a keen awareness of the need for a European defence that should also include a contribution from West Germany. The solution that finally emerged after difficult discussions at both national and international level was the ambitious project of a European army, built on the principle of integration and following the example of the European Coal and Steel Community.   
The European Defence Community Treaty of 1952 did not, however, receive the necessary ratification by all the parliaments. After the political and diplomatic crisis that followed the rejection of the Treaty by the French National Assembly in August 1954, the solution found was the enlargement and modification of the Brussels Treaty (1948). Germany and Italy became members of WEU, various provisions of the Treaty concerning arms control and defence were amended and WEU was established as an organisation. Although cooperation remained intergovernmental, the modified Brussels Treaty set as its objective to ´┐Żpromote the unity and encourage the progressive integration of Europe´┐Ż, enshrining a vision that was later to lead to WEU becoming ´┐Żan integral part of the development of the EU´┐Ż (Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union as amended in Amsterdam). 

The WEU Assembly was convened for the first time the following year. It drew up a Charter which was adopted in October 1955. The mandate of the Assembly was ´┐Żto proceed on any matter arising out of the Brussels Treaty and upon any matter submitted to the Assembly for an opinion by the Council´┐Ż. Increasingly, the Assembly and its committees emerged as a platform for informed debate on major events on the international stage and for producing background reports on specific questions. The Assembly monitored changing East-West relations, the role of nuclear weapons and the relationship between deterrence and détente.

During the mid-1980s WEU underwent a dynamic revival as a European security organisation. With the emergence of new possibilities for nuclear and conventional disarmament and the risk of a weakening commitment by the United States to the defence of Europe, the nations of western Europe took the initiative to strengthen their role in matters of European security and defence. The WEU Council stepped up its activities and the new spirit among governments found a vigorous expression in The Hague Platform of 1987, where WEU defined a firm European position on security matters in a rapidly changing international environment. In 1988, Portugal and Spain, both now members of the European Community and NATO, acceded to WEU. That same year, WEU undertook its first military operation coordinating a naval mission to escort shipping and clear the Strait of Hormuz of mines during the Iran-Iraq war.
The transformation of WEU into Europe´┐Żs first security and defence body was further advanced in 1991 in the new provisions on security policy contained in the Treaty of Maastricht. The EU, as an emerging player in international affairs, added the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) to its political agenda, which up until then had focused on the common market and external trade. WEU became the defence arm of the European Union and was to act as a bridge between NATO and the EU. It became the key vehicle for the new concept of a European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI). The same concept was mirrored in the policy documents adopted by the Atlantic Alliance at its Brussels Summit (1994) and Berlin Ministerial Meeting (1996). In an effort to make WEU an inclusive organisation that could fully assume its pivotal role, a large number of new countries were admitted. Greece became a full member. The non-EU European NATO member countries Iceland, Norway and Turkey became associate members and were later joined by Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic when they joined NATO. Denmark and Ireland became observers, as did Austria, Finland and Sweden when they later joined the EU. Furthermore, WEU was given an operational role with an added military component. 

In 1992 the WEU Council took a historic decision in Petersberg where it defined the scope of the crisis-management operations to which the governments wished to respond. These include humanitarian and rescue missions, peacekeeping and missions of combat forces in crisis management (now known as the ´┐ŻPetersberg tasks´┐Ż). The Petersberg concept still provides the guidelines for today´┐Żs ESDP crisis-management missions. The revision of the Treaty on European Union in Amsterdam in 1997 brought the ´┐ŻPetersberg missions´┐Ż into the Treaty. After 1992 WEU set about acquiring the necessary operating structures and in the years that followed, its new structures were put to the test when it undertook a number of missions in connection with the conflict in former Yugoslavia. Under the auspices of the UN, WEU monitored the arms embargo in the Adriatic (Operation Sharp Guard together with NATO) and on the Danube. Other WEU operational missions include, in coordination with the EU, a multinational police force in the city of Mostar as well as the Multinational Advisory Police Element (MAPE) training mission in Albania and, at the request of the EU, demining assistance to Croatia (WEUDAM). In 2001, WEU´┐Żs police training mission in Albania was converted into a programme for the further development of the judicial system under the auspices of the EU, while the successful demining operation in Croatia was simply terminated. One of the features of MAPE was that almost all the WEU nations were involved in providing the human and financial resources, making it a good example of successful European cooperation and solidarity.

The Franco-British Summit in Saint Malo in December 1998 opened a new chapter in European security policy. For the first time in its history, the European Union directly assumed the role of a military power. With the decisions taken in 1999 by the European Council in Cologne and Helsinki, the EU embarked on the creation of EU crisis-management capabilities. The decisions taken by the heads of state and government at the European Council in Nice in December 2000 formally established the necessary decision-making bodies (a Political and Security Committee and a Military Committee reinforced by a Military Staff) within the second pillar of the EU. They also endorsed a military ´┐Żheadline goal´┐Ż for a 50 000 to 60 000-strong European crisis reaction force and ambitious capability targets. In December 2001, the European Union issued its Laeken Declaration confirming a limited operational capability for crisis-management missions. Since then, the EU has launched different types of civil and military crisis-management missions, including Artemis, an autonomous EU-led peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2004). The biggest EU operation so far is EUFOR-Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, on 2 December 2004, took over from NATO´┐Żs SFOR mission, and operates under the so-called ´┐ŻBerlin plus´┐Ż cooperation arrangements making use of NATO assets and capabilities. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU has also launched its first ESDP operation ever, a police training mission which started on 1 January 2003. It followed on from the UN´┐Żs International Police Task Force.

These profound changes in the European security architecture have made WEU´┐Żs pivotal role in operational matters by and large obsolete. Its place in the European security architecture will need to be redefined once the European Constitutional Treaty has been ratified.

The Constitutional Treaty includes a solidarity clause giving member states the possibility to request aid and assistance from the other EU countries in the event of a terrorist attack.

It also contains a mutual defence clause for the EU, which a number of member states consider is not equivalent to Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty because it is non-binding. This would suggest that the ESDP is not yet complete in terms of the provisions of the EU Treaty envisaging the creation of a genuine defence policy. Thus, WEU´┐Żs collective defence commitment has the potential to promote further European integration. Membership remains open to countries that are members of both the EU and NATO.

The WEU Assembly has made a particularly positive contribution to the shaping of the European Security and Defence Policy with a considerable number of its own proposals concerning for example military staff, military capabilities (such as long-range air transport and command and communications) and especially intelligence. 

As far as the new EU-based institutional architecture is concerned, the Assembly has formally proposed the creation of a European Security and Defence Assembly (ESDA) which would monitor the activities of the EU security bodies from the perspective of national parliamentarians. The proposal was launched at a special plenary session in Lisbon in March 2000 (´┐ŻLisbon Initiative´┐Ż) and has led to an intensive international discussion on the role of parliaments in the European Security and Defence Policy. Several parliamentary conferences have taken place to tackle the issue of how best to preserve the existing rights of parliamentary scrutiny by national parliaments and pool them with the complementary competences of the European Parliament in the field of civil crisis management.

The Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments in the EU, which is appended to the Constitutional Treaty, could open up additional possibilities for interparliamentary dialogue on ESDP.

For the time being, the Assembly is acting as the interparliamentary platform for the ESDP on the basis of the parliamentary instruments for which the WEU legal framework makes provision.

´┐Ż 2005 Assembly of WEU, 43, avenue du Président Wilson, 75775 Paris Cedex 16 - France,
Tel: (+33) ´┐Ż Fax: (+33); [email protected] ´┐Ż http://assembly.weu.int

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Presentation - About the Assembly | (modified Brussels Treaty, Maastricht, Petersberg, Saint Malo, ESDP, European Constitutional Treaty) | Membership | organisational structure and activities
´┐Ż 2002 - 2017, Assembly of WEU