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Working Document
Informal meeting of Ministers for Defence of the EU in Luxembourg, 18 March 2005 – Summary of work

Date of release : 21-03-2005

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : Informal Meeting of Defence Ministers

The Ministers for Defence of the European Union met in Luxembourg on 18 March 2005 under the Chairmanship of Luc Frieden, Luxembourg Minister for Defence, for a working meeting dedicated to the priorities of Europe in the area of security and defence.

1. Situation in the Western Balkans and operation ALTHEA in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Ministers emphasised that the Western Balkans are and will remain an important area for the ESDP for several years. In the months to come, the modes of the European presence - especially the balance between military and civil elements - must be re-examined in the light of the changing political situation in the area.

The Ministers noted that the stability and the well-being of this region are vital to Europe and its citizens. Progress has been made in the past few months, but the situation in the Western Balkans remains fragile and requires all the attention and the vigilance of the EU. Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and High Representative for the CFSP, highlighted the importance of the regional dimension, and that the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot be considered in isolation, especially as regards what is happening in Kosovo.

The Ministers were briefed by General Sir John Reith, Operation Commander for ALTHEA, who stated that the operation is being carried out effectively. The Ministers congratulated the General on the work accomplished, which is also thanks to the excellent cooperation with NATO. The Operation Commander expressed his satisfaction with the capabilities placed at his disposition by the contributing States.

Among the points that require special attention are the use of tactical reserves, which is an element currently being deployed in support of KFOR in Kosovo, as well as the ALTOR 2005 exercise, which will allow the activation and deployment of the strategic reserve for ALTHEA to be undertaken in April.

The Ministers noted that the European military presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina will not produce the desired effects unless it is incorporated into a long-term strategy and concept that includes the prospect of accession and is supported by the entire range of instruments available to the Union.

Minister Luc Frieden emphasised that it is necessary to prepare a progressive transformation that should allow a gradual decrease in the military effort and increasing the civil effort in the areas of internal security and the rule of law. The first six-month review of the operation in May-June 2005 will be an important step in this regard. This review will allow any possible changes to be identified to support the structure of the European force and the deployment of units, with the understanding that it will be necessary to preserve a critical mass of operations.

2. Development of military capabilities, including rapid response and battlegroups

The Ministers stated the importance of developing military capabilities in the framework of the ESDP and the necessity of putting forth continuous effort to adapt the Armed Forces to new needs, taking into account the new level of ambition established by global objective 2010.

The Ministers took the lead in preparing the list of requirements in 2005 and insisted that the new schedule be respected, which will permit the EU to preserve its credibility.

As regards the battlegroups, the Ministers welcomed the progress made since the Military Capabilities Commitment Conference of November 2004. Compatible standards and criteria developed by the NATO Response Force have been defined. In the perspective of the first Battle Group Coordination Conference which will take place in Brussels at the beginning of May 2005, Minister Luc Frieden called on the partners to confirm the commitments they have made, also with a view to filling in the availability gaps of the battlegroups for the 2007-2008 period.

If the battlegroups are available, it must be ensured that they can be deployed with the necessary speed. The Ministers therefore insisted that crisis management procedures and the decision-making process at the level of the EU and at the national level be adapted to the needs of rapid response. Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and High Representative for the CFSP, presented a report that indicates the paths to be explored to accelerate the decision-making process of the authority of the Council in Brussels by improving, among other things, advance planning. Javier Solana's proposals were well received. Ministers noted that rapid decision-making should be coupled with a solid evaluation of the risks and respect for the role of the different actors involved in the decision-making process. The proposals will be studied by the competent authorities of the Council in view of the GAERC in May 2005.

Concerning decision-making at the national level, the Ministers had a preliminary exchange of views and noted that all of the Member States concerned are in the process of making efforts to implement national decision-making processes for participation in a military operation of the EU within the necessary timeframe. The Ministers agreed that it would be useful to have further exchanges of views on this subject.

3. Contribution of ESDP towards combating terrorism

The Ministers addressed this subject at breakfast with EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Gijs de Vries. The Ministers noted that the conceptual framework on the ESDP dimension in the fight against terrorism remains just as important and that it is important for the moment to ensure a well planned implementation of the measures and actions envisaged.

The role of the ESDP is part of a larger strategy that has a much greater effect on other policy areas of the European Union, especially Justice and Home Affairs. The Ministers emphasised that the global strategy of the EU should be coherent, and that it is necessary to continue to strengthen the coordination between the different actors and the cooperation between the EU and other partners, especially the United States and the UN. The results of the seminar organised on this subject in Brussels on 7 March 2005 by the Institute for Security Studies of the EU indicates some interesting paths for reflection in this regard.

Also at the breakfast, the Belgian Minister for Defence, André Flahaut, presented some suggestions for increasing the synergy among the Member States at EU level in the area of medical support for military operations.

4. Developments in Sudan

The Ministers for Defence received the report by Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the Secretary-General United Nations for Sudan, who highlighted the efforts of the UN to implement an operation in support of peace which would monitor the implementation of the global peace accord, concluded between the Sudanese Government and the Liberation Movement (the so-called "North-South Peace Agreement"). Mr Pronk drew the attention of the Ministers to the specific situation in Darfour, where the African Union has put into place a mission that is being evaluated by the AU in partnership with the United Nations, the EU and the United States.

After the exchange of views, during the course of which Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and High Representative of the CFSP, emphasised the importance of coordination among the Member States and of a frank and direct dialogue between the EU and the African Union, the Ministers thanked Jan Pronk for the very pertinent information that he reported on this area and which will help the EU to define the nature of the possible supplementary contribution for supporting peace and security in Sudan, in support of the United Nations and the African Union.

5. Follow-up on the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the integrated approach to crisis management

On the basis of the report by Javier Solana on the implementation of the post-tsunami action plan, the Ministers noted that the works within the Council are progressing well and that the first lessons have already been drawn from the military presence in the affected region.

The Ministers confirmed that military capabilities can offer true added value in a crisis situation caused by a natural disaster and that it is appropriate to begin reflecting on how and in what circumstances these capabilities can be utilised and placed at the disposition of organisations that are specialised in the area of emergency aid. In this context, the coordination of all the interventions must be perfected, and there is a place for ensuring the coherence of the different actions and initiatives.

In this context, Luc Frieden stated that the specificity and the principles of humanitarian aid will be respected.

Along similar lines, on the subject of complementarity and the coordination of the tools available to the EU, the Ministers for Defence discussed for the first time the relationship between security, in the broader sense, and developmental cooperation. Henk Kamp, the Dutch Minister for Defence, presented proposals on a coordinated approach to crisis management that combines security and developmental cooperation. These proposals were received favourably and will be examined in more detail in order to ensure that the responsible parties for Defence and Development Cooperation work hand in hand in the interest of sustainable development and security of development, in particular in African countries.

The Ministers addressed the strengthening of African capabilities in crisis management as well as actions in support of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of combatants (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR). These actions, in the example of the advising and assistance mission envisaged by the EU in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are important for the stabilisation of peace in the countries concerned.

 6. Information policy on the ESDP

The subjects touched on by the Minister for Defence during this meeting demonstrated the extent to which the missions of the ESDP are important and varied. Minister Luc Frieden insisted on the necessity of strengthening communication with European citizens and with the media in order to promote the ESDP and to inform public opinion about the necessity of granting the ESDP the necessary capabilities for the EU to fully assume its role in the world. The Ministers responded favourably to the encouragement of the Presidency and suggested concrete initiatives for promoting the ESDP.

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This page was last modified on : 21-03-2005

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