Norway Defense Minister Softens Opposition
To European Defense Identity
(Source : Government of Norway ; Web-posted Sept. 28, 2000)
Speech by Norwegian Defence Minister Bjørn Tore Godal
at seminar on
European Integration and Transatlantic Relations
The Norwegian Atlantic Committee,
Oslo, 25 September 2000

(Note : emphasis is author's own--Editor)

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed a pleasure for me to attend this seminar on European integration and transatlantic relations, hosted by the Norwegian Atlantic Committee.

I am also very pleased to see Ambassador Vershbow here in Oslo. The relationship between the US and Norway in the area of security and defence has traditionally been, and still is, excellent. The ties that link our countries together are strong. US forces constitute a major part of the allied reinforcements to Norway. The pre-stocked US military equipment in Norway is of both military and political value to us, and we are working together to maintain these arrangements in the years to come.

As we all know, the security and defence environment in Europe has undergone tremendous changes during the last ten years. The past decade has clearly shown the will and ability of NATO’s member nations to transform the Alliance by adapting to new realities and at the same time conserving the essence of this close transatlantic relationship.

The Alliance has so far succeeded in its effort to adapt to the challenges of the new century. We have established co-operative structures with former adversaries. We have opened up the Alliance for new members. To be able to engage in crisis management operations of a smaller scale and of a different kind than those war-scenarios we generally planned and trained for during the Cold War period, we have adjusted our military concepts and forces. The main reason for these successes, I believe, is that all Allies strongly wanted to maintain NATO, and saw a vital role for the alliance also after the end of the Cold War, as an instrument for securing continued stability and co-operation on the European continent, as well as preserving the close transatlantic relations.

One of the most important processes now taking place in this new security environment is the strengthening of the European security and defence dimension. For many years it was an aim within the Alliance to strengthen the European co-operation, and thereby Europe’s total contribution to the Alliance. Over the decades, more or less successful attempts were made. Not even the end of the Cold War resulted in any immediate and substantial changes in this field. Therefore, the development we are now facing represents, in fact, a significant departure from the past.

The Summits in Washington, Cologne and Helsinki laid the foundation for a new departure in European security and defence. The decisions made at these meetings will have profound implications for endeavours within the Euro-Atlantic community to strengthen Europe’s responsibilities in the security - and defence sphere. At the Washington Summit, the Alliance acknowledged the intention of the European Union to develop the necessary capacity for autonomous action where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged. At the Cologne Summit, the European Council stated that the Union must have capacity for autonomous action in order to respond to international crises, without prejudice to actions taken by NATO. The decisions that were made at the EU Summit in Helsinki last December represented a significant step forward in the development of a more coherent European security and defence structure. Not the least, the Summit decided to establish the security- and defence institutional framework.

The Feira Summit in June this year provided a framework for the military and defence structures in relation to ESDP, as it formally decided on the establishment of a European force counting up to 60 000 personnel by 2003. Further, the will to co-operate with NATO in finding common solutions that would serve both organisations and European security as a whole, was expressed more clearly than ever before. Also the premises for co-operation with third countries were discussed, but no final decision was made.

In my opinion, a close relationship between the European Union and NATO is a prerequisite for a more effective European crisis management capability in the future, commensurate with NATO’s new strategic concept and the Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI). Therefore, the conclusions from the Feira Summit, and NATO’s decision in July this year to establish institutional co-operation with the EU, were most welcomed by Norway. There clearly is a need to develop formal and substantial contacts between the EU and NATO. If we fail, unnecessary duplication of capabilities and institutions may be the consequence. Such a development should be avoided, for both political, economical and military reasons. Clear and flexible procedures between the two organisations would be the best way to enhance the European role in international security and defence. I am confident that the ongoing processes in this regard, taking place in the four working groups recently established, will serve this purpose. A temporary security agreement between the two organisations has already been signed, which is, in fact, a very important step to facilitate further co-operation.

In the development of the new EU-NATO arrangements, the WEU heritage and experience should be taken into consideration. This means taking account of all European allies. Further, when implementing the decisions on Headline Goal and defence capabilities, the capabilities arrangements already developed in the WEU should be an important input to the process.

There are clearly certain challenges linked to the fact that not all European members of NATO are members of the EU, and not all members of the EU are NATO-members. These challenges require innovative political responses, both in NATO and in the EU. Increased involvement of the four non-NATO EU members in the Alliance’s defence planning process, and increased rights on the part of the six non-EU allies into the ESDP should be seen as mutually reinforcing elements of the future security architecture in Europe.

The 15+6 framework will be very important in this regard. I have noted with interest what has been agreed in the EU so far. The proposed permanent structures may prove satisfactory, provided that they are filled with the proper substance and the required frequency of meetings.

Continued strong transatlantic links is a second prerequisite for developing a European crisis management capability. US participation in peace operations in the Euro-Atlantic area will remain important, probably critical, also in the future. In the efforts to develop a more reasonable burden- and risk sharing between Europe and the US, the general message - and the main substance - of a European security and defence policy must be inclusiveness and enhanced European capabilities. Therefore, a stronger European security- and defence co-operation must by no means be perceived as an alternative to the close Euro-Atlantic co-operation. We must preserve transatlantic solidarity and NATO as the overall military guarantor for European security. As an Atlantic oriented country, Norway is particularly focused on maintaining these links. Our clear impression is that most European allies share this goal.

A third prerequisite for the future development of a European security and defence policy, and in my opinion the most decisive, is the necessity for the Europeans to develop sufficient military capabilities. This is more important than institution building. Kosovo demonstrated fully the insufficiencies of Europe in several key capabilities, which are extremely important when operating in a modern military environment. We have to spend our money smarter, and develop more integrated capabilities. Critical to the establishment of a European crisis management capability is therefore the attainment by the European nations of multinational forces, of enhanced interoperability and the ability to field more flexible and mobile forces capable of operating in the new military environment. If Europe doesn’t succeed in realising these goals, the idea of an independent European defence structure will lose credibility.

DCI would play an important role in this respect. We should try better to exploit opportunities for co-operative solutions. Force pooling will be necessary. Without a considerable effort on the European side, military interoperability between the two sides of the Atlantic will suffer. In the longer term, that could be a threat to the transatlantic relationship and NATO’s very existence. A satisfactory development in this field will, however, hardly be achieved without stable or preferably increased defence budgets.

This leads me to the issue of force planning and the need to ensure good and efficient working relations between NATO and the EU in this regard. Obviously, NATO should not try to prescribe to the EU any particular solution. The political ownership of the Headline Goal rests with the EU. Both NATO and the EU will be determined to retaining control of their respective business.

That said, however, it seems self-evident to me that NATO’s force planning and implementation of the EU’s Headline Goal must be pursued in harmony and in a co-ordinated fashion. There are several reasons for this.

First, for the countries concerned, NATO and the EU will draw on the same national forces. So far, we have no indications that any country will provide brand new forces to contribute to the Headline Goal.

Second, the eleven countries that take part in NATO’s collective defence planning and, at the same time, are members of the EU, cannot develop two sets of national defence structures - one that is available to NATO and one that is available to the EU. Hence, they will need compatible requirements in order to fulfil their obligations to both organisations.

Third, given limited financial resources, we cannot afford force-planning systems that generate wasteful overlapping, double work and consequently reduced cost-effectiveness. Also we cannot afford force planning systems that generate competition between NATO requirements on the one hand, and EU requirements on the other.

A main task for the European countries today is to decide more precisely what our ambitions should be in terms of European-led operations, and the implications of these ambitions in terms of military standardisation and capabilities. The ongoing development of a capability catalogue is a step in this direction, and EU’s capabilities conference in November will be an important milestone in this work.

Under a new institutional arrangement between the EU and NATO, it is vital that NATO maintains a primary responsibility for military affairs in general, also within a European context. The Alliance should remain the essential forum for consultation on security among allies. Its unity, cohesion and efficiency must be safeguarded, as a strong NATO is the best guarantee for continued strong transatlantic links. It is difficult to imagine that any other institution could replace NATO in its capacity as a collective defence organisation.

On the other hand, I don’t think we should use too much energy at this stage to discuss, on a more principal level, which organisation should have the main responsibility in different kinds of military operations in the future. This could easily become a very theoretical debate, and not very relevant for the real military challenges that might emerge in Europe in the years to come. Ultimately, in an actual situation it would most likely be the composition of capabilities from different countries that will decide which countries should take part in the planning processes and run the operation. As we have already experienced, the constellations of countries engaging in military operations may vary considerably. No US and Canadian participation in a given operation will most likely lead to an EU-led operation.

Norway wishes to take an active part and welcomes the new dynamic related to improved burden- and risk-sharing within NATO and the development of a more effective European crisis management capability. We support the development of ESDP. Our security is interwoven with the security of the member states of the EU, as well as the Union as such. Thus, we have common security interests and challenges and we have a fundamental interest in the security- and crisis management structures now developing within the EU. We wish to be actively involved in these endeavours and intend to play our full part in meeting future European security and defence challenges. For our part we are prepared to agree to a modification of NATO’s force planning system in a way that as far as possible accommodates the EU’s needs. As a European nation we regard ourselves as a natural participant in future European-led operations.

Our understanding so far is that the structure of the ESDP will be open for participation and contribution of non-EU European allies to the overall crisis management capability. A main lesson learned from previous and ongoing crisis management operations in Europe is that there is no surplus of available forces. Consequently, all nations interested in participating in future EU-led operations would probably be most welcomed, also those from non-EU countries.

Norway has a long tradition of participating in international peace operations. We have been present with a substantial contribution on the Balkans since 1992. One of our most demanding tasks is linked to Norway’s position as lead nation for KFOR 5 next year. This demonstrates our will and ability to take on international commitments related to peace and security. Leading a military operation of this size represents, however, quite a challenge for a small country like Norway in terms of operational requirements. At the same time it will increase our level of experience and give us very useful insights in many ways, which in turn will benefit the Norwegian Armed Forces in general. We are now working hard to prepare ourselves for the job, of course in close contact with our Danish friends. We also hope to be able to draw on military infrastructure and personnel from Finland and Sweden.

Worth noting in this respect is also the recent establishment, together with other Nordic countries, of a multinational force which will be capable of contributing to European-led peace operations. At the same time, within the Norwegian Armed Forces we are about to establish an Armed Forces Task Force for International Operations". The force register will consist of units from all services of the Armed Forces and include a total number of about 3500 personnel. In addition to being part of NATO’s force structure, the Task Force may also contribute to international peace support operations under the auspices of other organisations, in particular the United Nations. Norway has confirmed her readiness to assign this force to the EU crisis management structures, which are now being planned.

On a more general level, the Norwegian Armed Forces as a whole will be restructured over the coming years, to be better prepared for participation in operations outside of Norway’s borders. Priority for the Norwegian Armed Forces will be to achieve an even higher degree of interoperability with other Allies and have more flexibility, higher readiness and better sustainability than today. Norway has taken steps to adapt her defence policy to the DCI. Smart and cost effective solutions will be particular important for a small nation as Norway. We will put more focus on flexible and co-operative funding mechanisms and use of commercial efforts where appropriate. Consequently, the Dutch initiative on Precision Guided Munitions was most welcomed by Norway.

Acknowledging that our aims and objectives in the field of security are fully in line with those of the EU, I want to underline that the assignment of Norwegian forces to European-led operations must be seen in the context of our future participation in the EU decision- shaping process. This goes for the process leading up to any operation as well as in the more generic discussions within the ESDP framework. Being part of this decision-shaping process is crucial both in order to facilitate Norwegian decision-making and for constitutional reasons as regards the deployment of Norwegian forces abroad. Of significant importance in this regard is the possibilities for access of Norwegian military officers to work in close co-ordination with the EU military staff.

The institutional European security framework would be incomplete without the full inclusion of the northern dimension. To Norway, the strengthening of our security and defence co-operation with Russia has been - and will continue to be - given high priority, including in the military environmental sphere. The tragic accident in the Barents Sea last month, involving the Russian submarine "Kursk" clearly demonstrated the need for improved communication mechanisms with Russia. This co-operation, be it bilateral or within a broader Nordic, Allied or European framework, is of great importance to Europe as well as to Norway. Also from this perspective, we would welcome a larger EU role in security- and defence co-operation.

Let me sum up by saying that even if there are various views among Norwegians regarding the processes now taking place on the European scene, the time may have come to start focussing more on the opportunities offered by this renewed European co-operation process, instead of concentrating on the problems at hand.

Of course, Europeans, and in particular the EU, must be aware of the need for inclusiveness and transparency- as basic norms - when developing new security and defence structures in the Euro-Atlantic community. Harmony and compatibility between the development of ESDP on the one hand, and the European dimension in NATO on the other must be secured. If we succeed, we may proudly conclude that a stronger Europe indeed means a stronger Alliance and a strengthened transatlantic partnership.

I am very hopeful that this will be the final outcome of the ongoing processes. And let me assure you, Norway is prepared to contribute and play her part in this effort, both in NATO and on the European scene.

Thank you.

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