Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

A detailed reply to the letter from Weimar

« I share your vision that we need to find new momentum to "fully meet the needs of our Member States ". It is in these terms that the High Representative of the EU responded to the “letter from the 3” members of the Weimar triangle (France, Germany, Poland). But Cathy Ashton is not content with an acknowledgment of receipt, she gives a detailed response which deserves (very) careful reading. In my opinion, this is the first time that we have had a rather substantial answer to certain questions asked regarding European defense: the reform of crisis management structures, military HQ, battlegroups, capabilities, CSP …

The High Representative puts forward, in very careful words, real proposals, which could be “bad words” for certain member states. She thus (re)says yes to a European military HQ, “which no one disputes” provided that its effectiveness can be proven; yes to the humanitarian use of Battlegroups if Member States so wish; need to find an agreement on permanent structured cooperation which remains blocked today; urgency to develop capacities while taking into account strong budgetary constraints!

NATO tropism

What is striking at first glance is the structure of the letter. While the Weimar letter addresses a series of mainly European subjects, Cathy Ashton responds first with EU-NATO relations, then with EU-US relations and then only addresses questions relating to the PeSDC. Symbolic… But sticking to this presentation would be too simplistic.

The necessary support from States to unblock the EU-NATO relationship

On the EU-NATO relationship, we are entitled to a proper defence. " You know that I attach great importance to it. And I have spared no effort to improve this essential relationship “Writes Catherine Ashton who then details her efforts to arrive at solutions” concrete », the projects already started in particular on medical support and IEDs and the next on nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical (CBRN) risks. But to achieve this, I “ need support from EU member states and NATO » she recalls. We know, in fact, that the file is blocked for high-level political reasons (the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus). And all the efforts of the High Representative of the EU and the Secretary General of NATO come up against this issue which has been poisoning the south-eastern basin of Europe for years.

NB: it is also quite surprising that Europeans do not take up more fully this question which concerns a conflict between one of its member states and one of its candidate countries.

On relations with the United States, the High Representative wants to silence certain fears, affirming that a “ Stronger PeSDC cooperation with the United States does not weaken (relations with) NATO »

A letter to read in detail

Reform our crisis management structure

« We need to improve our functioning in the field of crisis management. That's why I don't want to make a hasty decision. » explains Cathy Ashton, who thus confirms the impression of latency that we had in the current structures, especially with the CMPD (crisis planning structure), which still has no leader, and the Civil Staff which will soon have a vacant position, and the new position of director of the “crisis response” department entrusted to the Italian Miozzo. “I asked the management of the EEAS to find solutions to the organization of our strategic level ».

Yes to a military HQ if…

As for having military driving ability ", basically the European military HQ, " no one disputes the need for such a structure she asserts. " The question is rather whether the current arrangements are satisfactory or need to be changed. ". She thus explains “that a cost-effectiveness analysis must be carried out to help us”. We are progressing, slowly, but we are progressing. We are thus from “no what use” to “why not” and today “yes if”. It will be necessary to check in the future whether this is a simple language posture or a real evolution.

Using battlegroups for humanitarian functions: why not?

Regarding the broader use of battlegroups, the High Representative is open to the possibility of using battlegroups for humanitarian assistance. The work is “in progress”. She also welcomes the desire of the three Member States to increase the preparation and responsiveness of the battlegroups on stand bye in 2013. But she points out that it is “ above all, it is up to the Member States to take a collective decision on this subject. »

Statement of disagreement on the COOpermanent structured operation

On permanent structured cooperation (PSC), provided for by the Lisbon Treaty, she confirms that the subject is not ripe. Member States needing to reach a common agreement on “ implementation criteria and methods for reconciling flexibility and efficiency ". Basically, it’s an amicable statement of disagreement.

Key role of the European Defense Agency on capabilities

But we must progress in terms of capacities, she insists. " We need to continue to exchange our views on how (…) to achieve concrete and pragmatic progress”. She also recalls how she attaches “particular importance” to this question in particular with “ current financial constraints " and “encourages the European Defense Agency (of which it is the head) to contribute to this work ».

download the letter

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).