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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the opening of the ESDP Conference in Berlin

29.01.2007 - Speech

"ESDP: From Cologne to Berlin and Beyond. Operations, Institutions, Capabilities"

-- Translation of advance text --

Ms Gnesotto,
Javier Solana,
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
Members of Parliament,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It was during Germany's EU Presidency, at the Cologne European Council in 1999, that the European Security and Defence Policy was first launched.

Looking back just seven years – but already 16 ESDP missions later – we can appreciate how much this relatively new area of EU policy has developed in such a short time.

Javier, you yourself spoke of "light speed" in reference to the rapid development of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy as a whole. I think it is fair to say the same about the appearance of one aspect of the CFSP – the European Security and Defence Policy.

If only because of this rapid development, it seems worthwhile to take stock of and assess what we have achieved so far. It seems equally worthwhile to consider how the ESDP should look in future. Where do we need to go in order to tackle the complex security-related challenges in the world today?

This is an important topic for us, and it is for this reason that we decided to hold this conference here in Berlin right at the beginning of the German Council Presidency. I am delighted that the EU High Representative, Javier Solana, and the Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer have taken up our invitation to set the course for our discussions.

With the creation of the post of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the European Security and Defence Policy has also gained a face and voice. Javier, you have played an essential role in shaping the ESDP and can take a great deal of credit for its success!

I also felt it very important that the Secretary General of NATO should be here on the podium today. Germany has always attached great value to a good relationship between the EU and NATO. The ESDP and NATO both have a contribution to make to security in Europe, and should work together and complement each other to this end. This is another reason for extending their strategic partnership.

I would also like to thank the EU Institute for Security Studies and its Director for organizing this event in collaboration with the Federal Foreign Office. Ms Gnesotto, your ideas and support during the preparation stage are greatly valued.

Looking back today, I have absolutely no doubt: the decision to give the European Union a security and defence component was the right one.

I can still remember the scepticism which accompanied the advent of the ESDP, both on this side of the Atlantic and the other. People were concerned that the new policy would be in competition with NATO or duplicate its activities.

But it seems to me that even the sceptics of the time today view the European Security and Defence Policy much more positively. The EU has developed into a recognized player in international crisis management while the ESDP has – just a few years after its creation – become a factor to be reckoned with in European and international politics.

Since 2003 – and that is just four years ago! – the EU has given the green light to 16 civilian and military operations. All of these play a role in managing crises, securing peace and preventing conflicts.

To give just a few examples from a long list, we are securing the Rafah crossing point in the Gaza Strip, training the judiciary in Iraq, aiding Bosnian and Congolese police forces and conducting the EU ALTHEA mission to support political reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By the end of last year, we were able to complete a successful mission to oversee the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This was a ground-breaking step – it was the first ESDP mission which had included troops from multiple Member States and at the same time been operated independently from the headquarters in Potsdam. We will analyze the experiences gained from this mission together in the next few weeks, and you will have the opportunity to engage with this subject in the next couple of days.

It is clear from these examples that the EU today enjoys an identity of its own in security issues and plays an individual role in the international security mechanism.

In cases such as the observation mission in Aceh, Indonesia, where European advisors provided support for the implementation of the peace agreement, or the border mission in Rafah I mentioned earlier, the EU was the only international player which the conflicting parties accepted as a neutral "third party". In other words: no one but the European Union could have taken on the responsibility in those particular situations.

Finally, it seems that the EU's approach to crisis management is influencing others. This could be seen, for example, in the discussions at the NATO foreign ministers' meeting last Friday, where it emerged that many are now thinking along the same lines. What I am talking about is the combination of military and civilian instruments, a strategy that incorporates conflict resolution and peace-keeping on the one hand, and support in reconstruction on the other. Like in Bosnia, where the EU provides security while also training police forces. Or in the DRC, where in addition to monitoring the elections, we are carrying out two missions concerned with advising the police force and reforming the security sector.

Looking back today, therefore, we can be proud of what we have achieved. At the same time we are aware that the journey has not always been smooth and will remain difficult in future. There are intense discussions within the EU about each initiative to extend the ESDP and each new mission – and rightly so.

The same is true in the Member States which provide the troops. We remember the heated discussions which took place here in Germany about the operation in the DRC before the Federal Government and the Bundestag agreed on the deployment of troops. But at the end of these discussions, our soldiers went to Africa with the support of a broad majority of the Bundestag.

At this point – and this is directed at our foreign guests too – I would like to express my support for the requirement of parliamentary approval regarding the deployment of the Federal Armed Forces abroad. This is not a burdensome, time-consuming formality, but an issue which strikes at the very heart of our understanding of the constitution. The approval of the Bundestag is the legitimation and moreover the personal reinsurance of every soldier sent on a mission.

And our partners and allies know that the Bundestag can take its decisions quickly when necessary.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For all of our remarkable achievements, we cannot afford to be complacent. We are living in dynamic times, and the security situation around us is changing constantly. We have no reason to rest on the laurels of our successful missions so far. Instead, we must ensure that our range of instruments, our capacities and our concepts keep pace with the ever changing challenges.

In this respect I would like to say a word about the relations between the EU and NATO. I said at the beginning that the Federal Government attaches great value to a productive and mutually beneficial strategic partnership. I nevertheless think we are a long way from exhausting the potential for cooperation of this kind.

Practical cooperation in individual operations is meanwhile bringing forth good results – whether in Bosnia and Herzegovina or in supporting the African Union in Sudan/Darfur. The EU and NATO are also to work closely in Kosovo as part of the planned ESDP mission. The same will apply to Afghanistan – and all the more if, as is currently being discussed, the EU takes an even more active role in training Afghan security personnel.

I also hope that practical cooperation of this kind will lend a new political quality to relations between the two organizations. What we are hoping for is a wide-ranging strategic dialogue between NATO and the EU on our common security-related duties, a genuine strategic partnership where the EU and NATO complement each other through their respective strengths.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to say a few words about the tasks of the European Security and Defence Policy in the near future, during Germany's Council Presidency.

At the beginning of February, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari will present his recommendations for the future status of Kosovo. A large international presence will be required to ensure the political implementation of the solution.

The EU has declared itself ready to participate – and now stands on the brink of the largest and most challenging civilian mission that the ESDP has seen so far. By taking over responsibilities in the area of justice and policing from the UN's UNMIK mission, the EU would be launching the first police mission under the EDSP to be accompanied with executive and sovereign as well as advisory powers.

The security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has – 10 years since the signing of the Dayton Agreement – developed in such a way as to allow the largest military EU mission to be relaxed to some extent. At the same time, we will continue our civilian activities by training police forces.

Having completed our mission to oversee the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our focus is now on civilian action. Alongside financial support and development cooperation, the EU is continuing its two civilian missions to advise the Congolese police and to reform the security sector in the country, both of which play a key role in establishing good governance.

Civilian EU missions in the Middle East – at the Rafah crossing point and with the Palestinian police – complement our political efforts to revive the Quartet and support President Abbas.

While the election victory of Hamas and the Middle East crisis in summer 2006 has made conditions for both missions more difficult, and while the Rafah border crossing has often had to stay closed since that time, one record remains: since November 2005, almost 350 000 travellers have passed through the crossing point in both directions – no negligible contribution to improving the dramatic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

In the next few weeks we will assess the possibility of an EU police mission in Afghanistan. We are all aware of the critical situation in the country, but also the importance of international engagement. Our discussions at the troika meeting with the Afghan Foreign Minister earlier today were concerned with exactly this: there can be security without development, just as there can be no development without security. Only by winning the hearts of the Afghan population, only by making credible progress in the civilian reconstruction process will we be able to stabilize the country in the long term.

Alongside the planning and execution of these operations, we will also be making renewed efforts in the next few months to make the ESDP more effective as a whole. The first rapidly deployable battle groups have been ready for action since 1 January 2007, and Germany will, together with the Netherlands and Finland, provide another such group within the first half of the year.

At the same time, we will continue to extend systematically the EU's civilian capacities for crisis management. Precisely this civilian aspect is the "trademark" of the ESDP. Germany has been committed to this orientation since the start, and will continue to insist that civilian and military capacities be developed equally.

The same goes for intensifying strategic partnerships. Alongside NATO, cooperation with the United Nations is at the top of the agenda. With the European Security Strategy, the EU has committed itself to "an international order based on effective multilateralism with the United Nations at its centre". This is reflected in practical cooperation – with the UN MONUC mission in the DRC, with the EU's assumption of the UNMIK mission in Kosovo, or with the close coordination of activities between the EU and the UN in Bosnia. We wish to intensify this cooperation yet further during Germany's EU Presidency.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Whither goest thou – ESDP? In matters of security policy too, European states can only find their way in today's complex world by acting together. The Constitutional Treaty also envisages ways forward for the ESDP – another reason why we need it.

And we may well think about longer-term projects: the step-by-step adoption of a common defence policy right up to the possibility of a common European defence force.

There remains much talk today of crisis in the EU. And of a lack of vision. Common European defence – would that not be a good counter-example?

In the field of security and defence policy, we Europeans need more common development and acquisition, as well as greater coordination of priority tasks. This would not only make sense politically, but would offer financial benefits to Member State budgets. It was ultimately not least for this reason that we created the European Defence Agency three years ago.

Our duty in the medium and short term is to prepare as well as possible for the operational activities ahead of us. In the light of the recent Congo mission and the upcoming mission in Kosovo, we must ask ourselves the question: do we have sufficient planning and leadership capabilities in Europe for independent military missions and complex civilian operations? Do we need to update planning procedures? Are we using new instruments – such as the Civilian-Military Cell in the Council Secretariat – as effectively as possible?

This conference today and tomorrow is an opportunity to discuss – outside the standard committees in Brussels – fundamental issues of the European Security and Defence Policy.

I thus look forward to an open and productive debate. The ESDP is clearly a success story, but fresh impetus and constructive criticism are always needed!

Thank you.

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