The hearing took place as part of the preparation for an own-initiative report on the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), which is being drawn up by the subcommittee's chairman, Karl von Wogau (EPP-ED, DE).
Strengthening the ESDP -- an uphill battle against Member States?
Claude-France Arnauld, Director for Defence at the Council, pointed out that "the EU can help out when an earthquake strikes in Rabat, but not when it strikes Nice." She argued that existing capabilities were not used as effectively as they could be, especially inside the Union. The reason, said Bogdan Klich (EPP-ED, PL) is "the lack of political will by the Member States, which then leads to capability and budget shortages, as well." Ms Arnauld agreed, saying that although there was general support for ESDP, "there is political resistance whenever it comes to risking soldiers' lives."
In order to sell EU operations to the public, said Professor Michael Cox of the London School of Economics, the benefit to citizens needed to be explained. The question "What is the European interest?" in any given intervention needs to be answered, he said: "Policy cannot be led by a series of symbolic, tokenistic actions that are undertaken for the sole purpose of showing that the Union is doing something. The desire to do something is not a strategy." One answer would be for the EU would bear the responsibility of providing for Europe's common defence, but most participants agreed was currently politically unfeasible.
Solution: constitution and institutions
How to solve the problem of achieving a unified European strategy and the requisite political will to follow it? Nicole Gnesotto, the Director of the EU Institute for Security Studies, suggested "the Monnet method." "Let's create institutions, so that they can slowly create communal policies. We just have to be careful that these institutions do not dissuade Member States from action." The financing of operations should be rethought, she said, so as not to penalise those states that contribute troops by also making them pay for their costs.
Similarly, all participants agreed that a more visible face was needed to lead, and take responsibility for, the EU's actions abroad. "We need a constitution, a foreign minister with a foreign service, and a telephone number for Europe," said Elmar Brok (EPP-ED, DE), Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The issue of NATO-ESDP relations was also discussed. Janusz Onyszkiewicz (ALDE, PL) said that neither the European Security Strategy, nor the US's National Security Strategy makes much mention of NATO, which shows the declining importance of the alliance to both sides. Simon Lunn, Secretary General of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, on the other hand, said that "lots of good cooperation was taking place," and that both the EU and NATO possessed comparative advantages that were vital to support.
ESDP a success story
Despite various concerns about for the ESDP's future, participants urged Members to keep things in perspective. "Let's not forget that the ESDP is a success story of the Union," said Ms Gnesotto. As a whole, "it is one of the most popular policies" of the EU. Even in the case of specific action taken under ESDP auspices, "judging by its own objectives, the previous EU missions have been quite successful," said General Jean-Paul Perruche, the Director of the EU Military Staff in the Council.