Monday, November 7, 2011

The Importance of EU – NATO Strategic Partnership: visions and perspectives

Written by Tomáš Teleky

The role of EU and NATO for the stability in the Euro-Atlantic region is crucial. The importance of the cooperation between these two organizations is unquestioned. But this cooperation is still not efficient enough. How to enhance this strategic partnership?

The same goals but different strategy

The role of NATO and the European Union is substantial not only for stability and development in the Europe and Euro-Atlantic region but also for stability in the other countries with strategic impact on international community. Many experts agree that promotion of Euro-Atlantic security can be best assured through the broader and deeper cooperation between NATO and EU. Despite the fact that membership of both NATO and the EU is almost identical and both organisations share the same values like democracy, freedom, rule of law or respect of human rights, the mutual cooperation between them has still many shortcomings and lacks efficiency. The goals of both organisations are the same in the broad context but the strategy of their fulfilment is often very different. The serious obstacle for deeper cooperation is not only the result of different character and the way how the organisations were established, but also very often the lack of constructive dialogue and political will.

The NATO’s new Strategic Concept adopted at the Lisbon summit in November last year pays big attention to partnerships with other countries and international organizations. Cooperation with the EU is currently one of the main priorities of NATO and both organizations agree that it must be improved. The Allies have been trying to find the way of cooperation based on comprehensive approach which would prevent them from unreasonable duplication but with the respect to the autonomy of both organizations. The importance of the EU as for the stability in the region is unquestionable and its importance has been growing since EU began to form the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The mutual goals and proclamations are ambitious but the reality shows us that the EU and NATO still have not found the proper “modus vivendi”. The most important is the practical cooperation in the operations where the both organizations participate. The examples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo or The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia demonstrate that this constructive cooperation is possible when the high officials of the EU and NATO member states are ready to talk to each other and to listen to each other. On the other hand, as for the operation in Afghanistan, it is much more difficult to cooperate because the competencies of both organizations are not clear enough.

No more duplication, more synchronization

The history of international relations has taught us that comprehensive dialogue is the best way how to promote cooperation. The regular political consultations at all levels represent a good framework for cooperation and should definitely continue also in the future. It is the best way how the Allies can minimize duplication and maximize cost-effectiveness. Especially now, in the age of austerity and underfinanced defence budgets of the many EU and NATO members, the minimization of the undesirable duplication will be crucial. This approach is in accord with the vision of NATO´s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and NATO’s “Smart Defence” policy. According to this approach, the Allies can ensure greater security, for less money, by working together with more flexibility. This is not only the matter of cooperation of NATO member states but also with other international organizations, most importantly the United Nations and the European Union.

The NATO-EU partnership has evolved hand by hand with the evolution of the ESDP. The Important steps about how to enhance mutual cooperation was adopting of NATO-EU Declaration on ESDP in December 2002, which affirmed the main principles of mutual relationship. Adopting of The “Berlin-Plus” arrangements was important for the closer cooperation in crisis management. These documents contributed to enhancing of mutual cooperation and since that time the several operations have been carrying out by NATO and EU side by side: in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Darfur and in the Gulf of Aden, where the NATO and EU naval forces fight the Somalia pirates.

It may seem that partnership of two organizations with 21 member states in common must be unchallenged, however, reality is different and many mutual talks have been obstructed because of divergent views of particular member states. Nevertheless, the potential of this strategic partnership is much higher. Mutual dialogue does not bring any strategic cooperation. Europe cannot afford this inefficiency and duplications in these austere times. The question is how to make a change and how to make it quickly. The common interests offer a broad spectrum for cooperation. Now it is time for action which must be visible especially in the “out-of-area” missions. The both organization must work together closer on capability development and lead strategic discussions, not only empty dialogue. This approach is beneficial for Europe but is also supported by the USA which has been calling for a long time for higher participation of Europe in the field of defence. The potential of this strategic partnership is unique and enormous. But we must start to act now. Synchronization, complementary operations, regular dialogue and exchange of views must become reality as soon as possible.

1 comment:

DBennett said...

The dilemma you speak of arises out of two conflicting interests. On the one hand you have a number of individual countries which must maintain their ability to defend themselves and act unilaterally. On the other you have an alliance seeking to eliminate inefficient "duplications" of force and capability. Unfortunately eliminating these these inefficiencies would require each member country to specialize in one way or another and therefor sacrifice their ability to defend themselves without the aid of the alliance. In the past NATO members, and the EU, have been able to "have their cake and eat it too", but the fiscal strain of maintaining a modern global force has now caught up with them. Many of the countries that make up NATO and the EU can no longer afford to have a full military force capable of guaranteeing their national security in addition to the meeting their NATO requirements. The time has come for these states to make a choice. Either they abandon their expensive military insurance policies and fully entrust NATO with the task of protecting their national security, or they decide its too risky to rely on NATO 100% for security. Its possible that the economy recovers and with it each member's ability to spend and so this critical decision is postponed, but eventually the states comprising NATO and the EU will have to decide - unite or divide.