Center for Strategic Decision Research



The EU and NATO: From Complementarity to a Real Partnership

Lieutenant General Jean-Paul Perruche
Director General, European Union Military Staff

I would like to make six observations. First of all, since 2005, despite a rather complex political context, the EU has continued developing its actions and capabilities in the ESDP field. We can see this through our commitments to Indonesia for the Aceh mission, which is a civilian mission but which requires military skills; the continuation of our mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina; the launch of two missions in Palestine, small tailored missions for monitoring the checkpoint between Gaza and Egypt and to train the police there; and a mission in Africa—we have been assisting the African Union in its first peacekeeping operation in Darfur for 18 months and are continuing on with the current transition phase. We are also going to launch a new operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo in support of the U.N. mission (MONUC) during their elections, with roughly 2,500 men, which will support our two current missions there—the EUSEC Congo to assist the Congolese in rebuilding their defense and security administration and a similar mission to assist the police administration.


The second area in which we are working is capabilities, and we are working to reach the 2010 Headline Goal. We are preparing our new force catalogue for the end of 2006 and have also engaged in meeting the long-term vision of the European Defense Agency, whose aim is to define more clearly the security environment for the EU and the capabilities that must be developed by 2025-2030.

With regard to structure, our newly created civ-mil planning cell and our Ops Center are either already operational or are close to being operational. With the Ops Center, the EU will have a third way to build an operational chain of command when operations are ready to be launched, particularly those that require civilian-military integration. We have also developed our relations with NATO and the EU and have sent a liaison officer to the U.N. to work with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and sent another liaison officer to the African Union in Addis-Abbeba. The EU has become an actor in global security, meeting an objective included in the European Security Strategy document that was agreed to by heads of state in December 2003. The development of ESDP has not hampered NATO’s actions nor has it been affected by our action and its ambitions have not been reduced.


My third observation is to say that EU-NATO complementarity is already a reality. Though the two organizations have different natures and formats, they complement each other by their different types of action—NATO is more militarily focused and the EU is more multidisciplinary focused; different areas of interest—there are some crises in which the United States might not wish to become involved with troops, even though they would hope for a resolution, and in which the EU could have some more specific interest, for example, in Africa; and different images.


My fourth remark is to say that this complementarity can be improved by avoiding certain things: failing to respect the autonomy of the two organizations; allowing the EU-NATO relationship to be taken hostage by some members; and competing excessively. We can also promote a realistic partnership, as already mentioned by Michel Maisonneuve, which will come from a more robust dialogue on security objectives and courses of action. Complementarity in military affairs can only be a consequence of agreed-upon complementarity in political affairs.


Fifth, we should get rid of the paradox of asking Europeans to become militarily more capable and simultaneously preventing them from developing their capabilities in a common way. Both NATO and the EU can benefit from a reinforcement of the European command capabilities, encouraging more standardization and more integration of capabilities in the EU through the creation of the European Defense Agency. Though there is not likely to be a significant increase in defense expenditures in the foreseeable future, by suppressing internal duplication in the development of national means and capabilities the EU can hope for a considerable increase in its capabilities. Duplication does not seriously exist between the EU and NATO structures but does between EU member-states themselves. More integration would also open the way to more interest in developing new systems and investing in new technologies, which is only possible at the European level.


Finally, complementarity between the EU and NATO would benefit and strengthen EU-U.S. dialogue regarding security. Such dialogue would foster mutual understanding as well as develop a partnership from which NATO could also benefit. Competition between the EU and NATO only leads to divisions within those two organizations and is something that should be avoided. Therefore, we must all make great efforts to develop partnership while respecting the nature and format of both organizations.


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