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Multi-National Defence Co-Operation

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what action has been taken to build on increased cooperation between the UK and (a) Finland, (b) France, (c) Germany, (d) Italy, (e) The Netherlands and (f) Norway in the areas of (i) medical co-ordination, (ii) air manoeuvre, (iii) air-to-air refuelling, (iv) search and rescue, (v) unmanned aerial vehicles and (vi) training; and if he will make a statement. [109353]

The United Kingdom is working to improve multi-national defence co-operation across a wide range of military capabilities through NATO's Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC), in coordination with the EU's European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP), which seeks to fill specific shortfalls against the Helsinki Headline Goal, and through our regular bilateral contacts.The UK has been engaged in several ECAP panels including on medical co-ordination, outsized air transport, air-to-air refuelling, search and rescue and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. As part of our participation in a number of NATO capabilities initiatives we currently hold observer status on air-to-air refuelling in the Prague Capabilities Commitment High Level Group.In the area of medical co-ordination, we have worked with Finland to ensure that arrangements are in place to provide continuing medical support of Finnish forces deployed in the Balkans. On air manoeuvre, we have had close consultations with the Netherlands to establish common procedure on doctrine, training, sustainability and equipment for our respective Attack Helicopter forces. We have established permanent liaison with Germany to facilitate the exchange of information on tactical and operational developments. In 2001, we carried out combined air-to-air refuelling training with Finland and an Air Defence exercise is planned in June 2003. We have exchanged information with Italy on Search and Rescue and discussed Combat Search and Rescue. We co-operate with France in a wide range of capability areas and hold an annual summit, which prioritises those key areas of capability in which we wish to work more closely. The UK routinely conducts bilateral and multilateral training to varying degrees with a wide range of NATO and EU countries.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government has taken to promote multinational defence co-operation (a) within NATO, (b) within the European defence dimension and (c) with other partners; and if he will make a statement. [109354]

The Government are actively promoting multinational defence co-operation within NATO, within the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and on a bilateral basis, primarily in order to enhance military capability. Within NATO, the Prague Capabilities Commitment aims to improve Alliance capabilities in CBRN defence; information superiority; combat effectiveness; and deployability and sustainability, and has directed Allies towards pursuing multinational solutions. Within the EU, the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) fosters co-operation between member states in order to fill specific capability shortfalls against the Helsinki Headline Goal. The work within NATO and the EU is closely co-ordinated and mutually reinforcing, and the United Kingdom plays an active role in both. The Government also promotes multinational defence cooperation through regular bilateral contacts with friends and allies. In particular, together with NATO, we are encouraging the seven countries invited to join the Alliance to participate in multinational defence cooperation activities with existing members.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in developing the NATO concept of the European Multinational Maritime Force; and if he will make a statement. [109350]

The European Multinational Maritime Force has now evolved into the European Maritime Initiative, bringing together a number of European Navies. As part of this initiative, we are developing a Generic European Maritime Concept of Operations for endorsement in Helsinki at the end of May 2003.