Motion to Take Note
My Lords, we move from the defence of circus animals to the defence of the half a billion people who reside within the European Union and perhaps those beyond as well. I shall give a brief background, although noble Lords will be aware of most of it, to give a context and then go through some of our key recommendations and move forward from there to what I, as committee chair, see as the most important issues to be addressed in this area.
We should remember that the CSDP is very recent. It is just over 10 years old. In many ways, it arose out of the brave movement of the St Malo agreement, which took a lot of people by surprise at the time, and we could perhaps objectively and critically say that it did not fulfil its potential at the time.
In a way, there was an important area in which clarity of definition was made before that, in 1992 as part of the Western European Union, namely, the Petersberg tasks. It is important to remember what those are. They are all around humanitarian assistance, conflict prevention and peacekeeping, crisis management and peacemaking, and post-conflict stabilisation. To this day, I think that describes very well the role and the expanse of European Union defence capability and vision.
One thing that the European Union is certainly not about, nor does it intend at any time soon to be about, is territorial defence of the “homeland” of Europe from external threats. In fact, that is one of the problems in the defence world, because the majority of Europe’s population—although not all of it—do not see any conventional, external territorial threat to member states of the European Union, the exception being still the nervousness of some central and eastern European states, which understandably are still very nervous about the instability—in a political sense, and certainly in a long-term sense—of the Russian Federation and perhaps its longer-term issues and challenges. However, there is no commonly agreed external territorial threat. That makes it very difficult during a time of budget cuts and restraints and all the difficulties where social programmes are being squeezed at the moment, where some European states, such as the Republic of Ireland within an EU context, are under huge pressures fiscally. Clearly defence has to take a hit out of that as well, so we have a difficult situation at the moment.
There are three current missions: Operation Althea in Bosnia, which has been there for some time now; Somali piracy, which we have discussed in Grand Committee a number of times; and the more recent Somali training operation, which takes place in Uganda. There is likely to be a future Mali mission very soon as well. In the past there have been a mission in Macedonia, two missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a mission in Chad. Some of those missions have not been very comfortable, if you like, not almost civilian, take-it-easy missions. They have a hard edge to them. Some of our witnesses made it very clear that if fighting had to take place it would have done. They are the same troops that are used in NATO operations in Afghanistan and operations in Iraq. They are the same people, the same military forces, and are capable of taking those sorts of actions.
Perhaps it is worth looking at some of the statistics, because we are not always aware of the importance of European defence. For instance, we were told by witnesses that one-third of global defence expenditure outside the United States is European. It has just been overtaken by China, but we are big spenders in terms of defence. In terms of military personnel, more than 1.5 million of our citizens are in uniform in the European Union, and that is greater than in the United States. On the other side of that, we are atrocious in terms of research and investment in weaponry. The rather fuzzy statistic that came out to us is that probably three-quarters of those 1.6 million personnel are non-deployable, and that is one of the themes that I want to come back to in my opening address on this area.
The other issue that noble Lords will be aware of is that European defence expenditure is dominated by two member states, France and the United Kingdom. In reality only those two member states are willing and able within a reasonable timeframe to wage rather more aggressive campaigns where necessary outside our territory. There are very few others that are able to take that strain. Again, that theme might cause difficulty in the future.
The other part of the context is, “a changing world”. I have already talked about the budgetary side, which affects not just Europe but the United States, although perhaps not so much some of the Pacific nations. However, what is clear apart from that is the change of stance of the United States in a way that has been utterly predictable since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in 1989. That is that future security priorities for the United States will be in the Pacific theatre. They will not be within Europe; and the United States—and I am sure that this will be the case whichever Administration take charge in Washington at the beginning of next year—will have to make major budgetary cuts, programmed at the moment at some $0.5 trillion over the present budget-programming period. So we have a very different scenario in that area.
There is a different philosophy, to a degree, within the United States which is the idea—denied by some of our American witnesses—of leading from behind. The US, in the Libyan operation, had to provide the resources that were necessary—there were European capability gaps—while saying, “Europe, this is on your doorstep. You have to take the operational strain of this, once we have started the operation”. Surprise, surprise, the United Kingdom, France and some of our closer allies managed to deliver, at least on that ask.
I will consider some of the main recommendations, but before I do so, I should mention that one of our final sentences and one of the things that was clearest to us as a committee as we went through this, was the obvious and fundamental discovery that member states and nation states within Europe make decisions about defence, their budgets and how they co-ordinate their forces with other nation states. Because of that, anything that is good for Europe, in terms of better and more effective defence expenditure, is good for NATO—and that is equally good for the European Union and any other bilateral or multilateral organisation or alliance that takes place. These are not alternatives but win-win situations if we get them right. So the institutional arguments can be a destructive distraction from some of the key issues.
I shall quickly go through some of the main areas in the report. As regards NATO versus the European Union, one of the areas that the External Affairs Sub-committee has been concerned about on many occasions is the inability of the EU and NATO in terms of military forces to work together at operational level because of the difficulties over Turkey, Cyprus and so on. Certainly as regards Afghanistan, we found that that actually threatened the lives of European civilian operational staff in terms of carrying out their duties. That to us is fundamentally unacceptable. We of course say that a resolution to this has to be found. We obviously have the Berlin Plus agreement under which the EU can use NATO resources, when agreed by NATO. They are currently still used in Bosnia—that was agreed some time ago—but there is no prospect of similar co-operation in the future. We need to resolve it, and both sides of the argument know that.
Another area that came out as regards NATO was that Europe has to pull its weight and contribute to NATO, otherwise America will lose interest in it. Something I had not thought about before, not being a defence expert, was that NATO is a unique organisation. There is no other similar integrated organisation, certainly not since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, which enables the United States to operate so closely with allies. However, we should not take it for granted and feel relaxed as a consequence.
An area that the press took up when the report was released was the role of Germany. We were critical of Germany’s 1.5% defence expenditure, but perhaps more so of its reserved position in the Security Council over Libya. We feel strongly that European defence cannot work properly without Germany playing a full part in it. However, some witnesses made it very clear that some nations within the European Union might be concerned if Germany increased defence expenditure to 2%, but we think that is well and truly a risk worth taking.
We welcome the UK-France model and the two defence treaties of 2010. We think this is a potential model for use in other areas. It shows that Europe is serious about defence and combining its defence capabilities. It is not the only example of that in Europe but it is certainly the most important one. However, there is a risk that the rest of the European Union will say, “France and the United Kingdom get on with it. You do it very well. That is your role. We are not up to that. We will retreat back out of that”. We believe that that could cause much concern in the future.
As regards the staffing of CSDP missions, we are very aware that resource targets for civilian missions are never met. This is degrading for the image of the European Union. European Union civilian or military missions are always exceedingly small compared with NATO operations and their modest resource needs must be met. It is outrageous that medical support was not obtained in the Uganda-Somali operation. That is unacceptable. In Operation Atalanta, there was very little air surveillance, but it was finally provided by Luxembourg. Large capability gaps were evident in the Libyan operation in surveillance, air-to-air refuelling, transport, medical support and smart munitions. Clearly, Europe needs to operate much better in that area. It is strange, or perhaps not, that battle groups have not been used. However, for them to have credibility they have to be audited, as they would be in NATO. When there is an opportunity to use them, as there has been, they should be used where that is appropriate.
The biggest message that came out of the report concerns deployment. The irony is that if Europe spent its financial resources and deployed people slightly more effectively, and deployed them in different places, and co-ordinated what each nation did, it could be amazingly effective even on reduced resources resulting from budget cuts. That must be the main message that comes out of this report.
Europe needs a defence capability. There are a number of models: the EU model; the NATO model; and multilateral and bilateral models. That is great; none of those opposes each other. What is good for the EU is good for NATO and is good for Europe. We must get that deployment right. Europe has to stand up for itself and be able to show that it is prepared to defend itself.
My Lords, this is a valuable report and I congratulate the members of the committee and its chairman on presenting it here today. It is timely, wise and important and it makes a lot of significant recommendations, which we should all listen to. I feel as though I am in an echo chamber. I seem to have been making that kind of speech now for about 16 years both in opposition, then in the Ministry of Defence and in NATO—exactly the same lessons. As one of the architects of the St Malo agreement, I watched with dismay. Although it revolutionised thinking—it certainly came as a surprise to many people at the time—it has not lived up to anything like the expectations that it should have because it was trailblazing and crucially important.
The report said many of the things that I used to repeat, and that members of NATO and others in this small community who are interested in European security have been making all the time. The sad thing, in a way, looking at this Room today and looking up at Moses with the tablets of stone, is that we are speaking again to the converted. We need to get that message further afield as well. What the report says is right: Europe is not doing enough in its own security interests. That is what is so aggravating. We are not advocating something that is academic. There is a security interest and there are threats out there. We are not doing enough to recognise that.
We spent a huge amount of money during the Cold War against what happened to be a threat that never appeared. As a consequence, we saw off the adversary of the time and we stopped the dominoes that Stalin had designed for the rest of Europe. There is complacency and a lack of political will across the European continent that could be very expensive in later days as well.
The report highlights the capability gap between Europe and the United States. The chairman made the point that there are 1.5 million troops in the NATO European countries but only 2% of them are deployable outside national boundaries. The point that has been made effectively in this report and with which he just concluded his peroration, is that we spend a huge amount of money on defence and waste most of it. If that amount of money was spent effectively, Europe would be a superpower in the world. As it is, it is an economic giant but a military pygmy and taxpayers are being short-changed as well.
Of course it has to be said that Libya was a success. Winning is everything. Winning ugly is still winning and we won that one but, boy, did it not illustrate our capability gaps? If it took so much effort and with so many difficulties to overcome the like of Colonel Gaddafi, what if we are up against a bigger adversary in the future? It beggars description.
The report says that what is good for the EU is good for NATO and I am glad that the government response endorses that point. Did I not have to make that point over and over again to people in this country as well as in the United States of America? It is right. If the capabilities are increased, they are available for national purposes, European purposes and for NATO as well.
The report goes into pooling and sharing and the need for more co-ordination in Europe, and that is critically essential. Some 30 years ago, the NATO AWACS fleet was created because countries except for America, Britain and France could not afford the cost of the AWACS. An AWACS fleet commonly owned, commonly operated and successfully operated was created as well. Since then, the only real pooling arrangement has been the C17s and the SALIS formation. That was a hard-won achievement as well.
The report points to the frustration of practically all Europe's ambitions by the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus. One can only hope—and there are greater experts than me around here—that we might see a way through that. But again, it is Europe acting against its own best interests. It was an aggravation to me when I was in NATO and it continues to be an aggravation to my successors.
In the headquarters in Brussels, I had on my desk a variety of encrypted phones and one of them was specifically dedicated. There was a button you pressed for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and another for the Greek Department of Foreign Affairs. I had occasionally to use that as well.
One of the great graphs in the report points out the amount of money that Greece, already almost bankrupt, is spending on defence, with the vast bulk of it dedicated to defending itself against a NATO ally on its boundary. That is a scandal. One of our great misconceptions is that all we need to do is mobilise the United States to persuade Turkey to stop being obstructive in this. As Xenia Dormandy of Chatham House said to the committee, we have to forget the illusion that the Americans have muscle over Turkey. We all have an obligation in that situation.
I am glad that the report talks about the Berlin Plus arrangements. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Roper, and I were the only ones who ever knew what those arrangements were. Getting them took up a vast amount of my time at NATO, and they were a huge bargain for the Europeans by basically allowing American assets to be available to the European Union. The documents that led us to arrive at those arrangements take up almost a whole shelf in my office, but the basic principle is simple and they need to be used.
The final thing that the report highlights, if it needed highlighting, is the role of the French. France coming back into the integrated military command from which it had excluded itself for so long was a major and significant step forward for NATO. It stopped a lot of the internal aggravation that was created during my time in office there. However, I always had to explain, especially in America, that despite France’s rather peculiar and very French approach to NATO in the military context, France was there in every conflict. Every time that a military presence was required, France was there. In every decision that was taken, especially after 1996, France was deeply involved. There was the fiction that France was a country member of NATO, and now that that is resolved we have taken a major step forward.
I want finally to concentrate on a couple of areas—Afghanistan and NATO itself. As regards Afghanistan, I genuinely fear—and I say this with some passion—that we have lost the will to win. We have 9,000 troops in Afghanistan today, every day risking their lives. Some 400 UK troops and 2,000 American troops have died and countless thousands of the British, the Americans and the other NATO allies have been crippled and maimed for life. In a few weeks’ time at the remembrance parades, we will remember them. A great deal of affection will come out and a great deal of sentiment will be aroused for those individuals. Yet we are paying little or no attention to the mission that they are on. What comfort can it be to the bereaved families to know that we care so little about the mission that the troops are involved in.
Here is one statistic that I use regularly and which shocks the people I tell, and should shock everyone in the country. The last speech made by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the subject of Afghanistan in the House of Commons was delivered on 4 July last year. That was the last occasion when a speech was made on that subject by our Prime Minister in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. What does that tell the people who have been bereaved, the soldiers who have come back and those from the forces who have been maimed for life about the commitment of the British Parliament and the British Government to what is going on. Actually, the previous Administration was not much better in many ways in terms of that. We do not win wars by military means alone. We do it if the enemy believes it can and must be defeated. Psychology is as important as military tools. We found that out in the Second World War, in the Cold War and in Bosnia and Kosovo—and we do not seem to have learnt the lesson in Afghanistan.
Leon Trotsky once said something very wise. I do not often quote him, but he said of another war at a different time, “You may not be interested in this war, but this war is interested in you”. That says it all about Afghanistan. As an American general recently said to me, “The closer you get to Afghanistan, the more you realise that we are winning”. Some 80% of the violence in Afghanistan is taking place in territory where only 20% of the population lives. The violence in Kabul has reduced by 20% from last year alone. The general added, “The closer you get to Brussels, Washington and London, the more you realise that we are not succeeding”. We should bear that in mind. We need to tell the enemy that we are not going to be defeated, that NATO does not do defeat; and we need to tell the people in this country that it is in their interests that troops are risking their lives and dying, because it matters to them as well.
My final point is about NATO itself. In the past couple of weeks I have been engaged in a debate in Scotland about NATO membership. It has engulfed the Scottish National Party in the debate about separation at the present moment, and I—sad person that I am—watched the whole of the SNP’s debate on NATO last Friday. I did so because I care about the subject, I care about my country and I care about what people think. It was a passionate debate that divided the SNP. It lost two members of the Scottish Parliament from its ranks yesterday as a consequence of what was ultimately a totally dishonest decision. It simply said that it would join NATO, but on its terms—terms that would be unacceptable to the alliance.
What was amazing about that debate and the wider debate around it was people’s colossal ignorance about what NATO does and its importance. If it had not been for NATO, we could not have won the Cold War. If it had not been for NATO, the transition of the Warsaw Pact countries towards civilian control of the military and to normality simply would not have happened. If it had not been for NATO, Milosevic would have won the civil war in Bosnia and would have exterminated all of the Kosovar Albanians from Kosovo. If it had not been for NATO, we would have had another civil war in Macedonia. If it had not been for NATO, the mission in Afghanistan would have collapsed immediately after the coalitions of the willing had run out of steam. Yet people do not seem to realise the unique nature, as the noble Lord said, of an organisation that brings the Americans around the table every single week of the year to discuss security issues with European allies. The Government recognise that and state in their reply to the report:
“NATO remains the cornerstone of European security and thus the principal vehicle for collective defence, although the EU and UN can play a role to compliment NATO”.
So I ask the Minister, and the country in general, why do we spend no money at all on educating the public about NATO? Why is there no information campaign to tell the country how important, how valuable and how necessary NATO is? I asked some Parliamentary Questions before the summer. Nothing is being spent. If you search the website of the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence for any real information about NATO it is hardly there at all. It is the cornerstone of our defence and we all agree that, but we do not bother to tell anything about that. That is, I think, a recipe for disaster. It is also a recipe for enfeebling the organisation that is so important to all of us.
This is a wise, masterful and educational report of some importance and significance. I believe that it requires further dissemination and discussion, and I hope that this is not going to be the only debate about what this report says. It goes to the very heart of this nation’s and Europe’s safety and security. Much of what it says needs to be said but, much more importantly, it needs to be heard as well.
My Lords, I welcome this debate and congratulate my noble friend on bringing it here. I also feel rather small because many members of the EU Committee and sub-committee are here—some are down to speak and some are not—who have spent a lot of time preparing what is a very worthy document, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said, and I am not anywhere near being an architect of the St Malo agreement.
The thing that worried me yesterday was a Question in the Chamber on the European Defence Agency in which I asked a supplementary question. Noble Lords know that at Question Time one looks around to see who you should give way to. One of the people I looked to give way to was a noble and gallant Peer. No noble and gallant Peer got up to speak. I said to one such person, who shall be nameless, that I was surprised that no noble and gallant Peer got up to speak because I was ready to give way. He did not see the purpose of European defence. It was not his priority. I can only say what I was told. No noble and gallant Peer got up to speak on the European Defence Agency. That is very worrying.
How effective is European defence capability? Two earlier speakers have dealt with this in great detail. The other main question is how many service personnel in uniform in Europe can be deployed? The largest concentration of service people in uniform that citizens of the UK have seen was probably at the Olympic Games because very often service personnel are in Germany or in Afghanistan. How many of them are there and how many can be deployed?
How to build on the UK/French defence treaties has been mentioned. They show how sovereignty can be managed, which is a point made in this report. When I read that, I thought of the “Yes Minister” series, which was always frighteningly correct. You can always imagine that it happened at one stage or another. One thing has changed for the better. When Jim Hacker was asked who was the enemy, he replied “Germany” and Sir Humphrey said, “No, it is the French”. As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said, things have changed to a degree and our main partner is the French.
The task for other EU or NATO states is to contribute to European defence. The cost of the work to maintain and enhance the range of capability needs to be shared. How far can it go and how far should it go? What would the budget of this European capability be, what equipment should it use, where should that be manufactured and what holistic approach can we have to equipment in use by European forces? The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, mentioned Afghanistan. One of the problems of equipment in Afghanistan is: how do you get it back? In fact, much of it will be destroyed. The cost of getting it back from Afghanistan is more than the cost of the equipment.
The report talks about the scale of the European defence capability. It quite rightly calls for Germany, with all its power and ability, to become a more active participant. My noble friend Lord Teverson referred to this. The report also raises the thorny issue of adequately resourcing military missions. This policy must be able to deliver when it is needed on an appropriate scale. Is this feasible or is it just an aspiration? This report raises a lot of unknowns about whether it is adequate, has the ability to do what it is asked to do and whether the countries of Europe want to do it. The report refers to battle groups, and in this context we need to look at and assess some of the initiatives of the European Defence Agency. Helicopters were deployed, and it took three weeks, 49 missions and 487 flying hours with 550 participants from four countries. When one goes forward, I wonder how one can replicate this excellent example of working and training together.
Is there doubt that Europe needs to get its act together on defence, as the USA is demanding, and as mentioned in this report? The EU must be the configuration of choice for this, and the challenge is for European forces to be capable of deployment and to close capability gaps, as was shown in the Libyan operation.
The report quite rightly asks whether some of Europe's security issues should be handled operationally by the EU rather than NATO. It is a question that has been asked for a variety of reasons. For example, should the following be handled not by NATO but the EU; humanitarian missions, mixed civilian and military operations, operations where the geographical area is not appropriate to the USA or NATO and peacekeeping forces?
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, mentioned Afghanistan and the fact that it has fade into the background in terms of debate. There is a big argument as to whether we should ever have gone there. A lot of efforts have been made. Afghanistan swallowed up the Russian forces when they were there. We will come out of Afghanistan and will wonder a year or so after leaving what we have achieved. We have deployed a lot of our service personnel in that area.
I mention Libya again because the operation in Libya showed deficiencies in joint operation, and in some ways a lack of a holistic approach that needs to be a priority.
There is a Question on the Order Paper for next week about the use of civilian contractors—Brits abroad who are contractors. It is an important issue. These people are seen as being UK operatives but are not actually part of our Armed Forces. I will be interested to see the questions that will be raised and the Minister's reply to those questions next week.
I want to say a few words about cybersecurity because that has not yet been mentioned. It can clearly be broken into two parts. I went to a meeting with a contractor dealing with these matters. Contractors are always talking about how they have defence against cyberattacks, but I am sure pretty sure that the same companies are also dealing with cyberattacks themselves, and that is a matter for the EU.
I believe that the European Defence Agency is one of the vehicles that should be emphasised, not put aside and regarded as not important. The air-to-air refuelling, which was also done under the EDA is another excellent example. One of the ways of getting a holistic and collaborative approach is by enhancing the European Defence Agency, which was mentioned yesterday in the House.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his sub-committee on this excellent and extraordinarily timely report. Let us face it: as others have said before me, the report paints a pretty gloomy picture. The financial crisis that we have been living through since 2008 and which has, alas, a long way to run, is wreaking havoc with the defence budgets of all our member states. Many of the early hopes of European defence co-operation have tended to wither on the vine.
The divisions over Libya are fresh in the mind, although I tend to feel that they are exaggerated. The German vote in the Security Council was a gross error: that is clear. Had the Germans merely voted with those authorising the operation but made it clear that they would not participate themselves, we would now be talking about a great European success in Libya. Perhaps we should not dwell on that too much.
You can add to that rather gloomy picture the point that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made—and I entirely agree with him—that whoever wins the American election, the Americans will not be back in Europe in force in the way that they were. The pivot towards Asia is there to stay. Romney or Obama will expect the Europeans to do more for themselves in their immediate region. We will see the Americans involved heavily in Asia and in the Middle East, although probably against their will, and involved heavily in the area around Pakistan. However, we will not see them coming and picking up the chestnuts for us in Europe if something goes wrong in our periphery.
Is Europe facing fewer security challenges? I do not really think so. If anything, there are a few more. It is always a bit difficult to read the mind of whoever is in the Kremlin—whether before the end of the Cold War or after it—but I do not believe that President Putin wishes us very well. I am quite sure that he will continue to probe the Europeans for weakness; that he will divide and rule between the Europeans if he can.
We know that the Middle East is going to present us with some pretty horrendous challenges. Syria is in a terrible mess and our performance is not brilliant, frankly—although I am not a supporter of military intervention there—and it is going to carry on giving a lot of problems, but other countries in the Middle East may well join it. We cannot be sure. We are probably living through a period of 20 years at least of great instability in the Middle East. In Mali, we are already seeing a kind of spillover from the totally desirable overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, which led to a lot of weapons getting out into the Sahara area and a lot of bad things happening there now.
Of course, the Balkans are still not absolutely stabilised. A lot will depend on the way the European Union handles the requests for accession of all the Balkan countries and its own role in stabilising that area.
Confronted with this rather gloomy picture, there are two broad alternative policies. One is to turn in on ourselves—to accept, in a plaintive way, that the budget cuts are there, they are irreversible and we just have to do less. If we do that, and if other Europeans do that, we will become increasingly marginalised and discounted when the major security challenges are thrown up around the world; that will be to our detriment and Britain and other countries in Europe will be the losers.
The alternative is to draw some really quite difficult conclusions, one of which is that increased co-operation between the Europeans—and I do not want to get into the EU versus NATO versus whoever it may be—is no longer, in present and probable circumstances, a luxury; it is a necessity. I agree with the previous speaker that we ought to breathe life again into the European Defence Agency. We should be thinking about how we can broaden our co-operation with the French and perhaps see it as a way of including other European countries. That, undoubtedly, would be very welcome to the present French Government, who want to give a wider European cover to the whole thing, but I fear we will be held back by some kibitzing by people at the other end of the Corridor who probably do not know much of what they are talking about.
It is all the more important that we should take this second option—the constructive, positive option—because, I am afraid to say, our position in Europe is slipping, much though the Government deny this. The whole series of events surrounding the fiscal and banking union make this inevitable. It is going to be a hard struggle to achieve the safeguards we need for the single market. I am not suggesting that we should become a party to all these arrangements, but if we are to avoid the worst of all outcomes—which in my view would be the fossilisation of a two-tier Europe, with us on the lower tier, and not having much say in the shaping of policies—we must pursue the alternative, which is how to update and make more effective a variable-speed, variable-geometry Europe.
However, we cannot always be on the outside of every inner circle. That is where defence comes in as more European defence co-operation can be achieved only with this country being part of it; otherwise, it has no credibility whatever. Would it be good news for us if we were part of that? I believe it would be very good news because it would show that we were not permanently in a second tier and that there were some things such as defence and foreign policy where we were very much in the first tier. There are other things where we are in a second tier. That is inevitable and cannot be helped. I may bewail it but it cannot be helped. However, if we do not do this and we are always in the second tier, it will not be good. If we are always just reacting defensively, that will not be good either.
Therefore, I suggest that for defence policy and procurement considerations and for wider European considerations, we should have a more proactive, positive policy. However, following the exchange in the House yesterday, if we withdraw from the European Defence Agency, we can forget about that.
My Lords, this is an excellent report, and it was well introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I do not think that I will speak for long because the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has said what I intended to say.
I believe that, in terms of the general context of our deteriorating relationship with the European Union, we should seize with both hands the opportunity to lead in Europe on questions of European defence capabilities. The Foreign Secretary made his first speech about Britain and Europe yesterday. I think it is the first major speech he has made on the subject since he became Foreign Secretary. From my perspective as a committed pro-European, it was not as bad as I might have feared. He is right, of course, that we are moving to a variable geometry Europe. There is no prospect in the near future of Britain becoming part of the euro inner core, but there is a real opportunity here for Britain, and it is disappointing that the Foreign Secretary did not take it and emphasise it. There is a real opportunity for Britain to take a much stronger lead on European defence. I would like to hear from the Minister how he sees this key strategic question for Britain.
One of the key points that the report emphasises, which I think a lot of people in the Conservative Party get rather mixed up, is that NATO and the EU are not a choice. Seeing NATO and the EU as some kind of choice is the problem as regards a lot of people who are reluctant to go down the EU defence road. I just do not see that. What I see as a problem is that we are no longer engaged in an existential fight for freedom as we were for much of the post-war era and America’s priorities are changing. We see a shift from its willingness ultimately to rescue us in the former Yugoslavia, in both Bosnia and Kosovo, to the attitude it took towards Libya and now Syria. There is a shift in the US outlook, and Europe simply has to get its act together if it wants to be in a position to defend its values and interests. We, more than the United States, are on the front line of terrorism in Europe, and we face a more immediate threat from failing states in Africa. We stand to lose more from the Middle East conflict. Our neighbourhood is a very unstable place. We have to find a way of seizing the opportunities of the Arab spring. Europe has to get its act together. One of the strengths of the European Union is that it has potentially a lot of soft power; for example, in its trade relations, in the aid that it can give and in the cultural and diplomatic relations that it can offer. Nevertheless, it also needs that hard, military capability to intervene if necessary, which is so badly lacking, as was shown in the recent Libya campaign.
I do not think that the challenges of austerity for defence budgets are going to go away in the present decade. We have to face the fact that the pressure on defence budgets is going to get worse. I do not think that we have seen the worst of what is likely to happen to the UK defence budget. I would not say that we have reached, as it were, the bottom baseline. For Britain, it poses some very big choices. We have already, without actually saying so, abandoned the idea that we have the full range of capabilities that the US has, except on the smallest scale. Nevertheless, we face the challenge of making procurement cheaper, and common procurement through the European Union is one of the ways of doing that. In addition, we have to think about how we share roles and how we specialise in roles with our European partners. This is a very touchy subject because it goes to the heart of national sovereignty, but we have to face up to it if we are going to be honest about what we are going to be able to do efficiently within our limited budgets.
I am not saying that we have to go for the full community method on defence procurement or anything like that. I think that we need more practical co-ordination, but we should not be ruling out using EU methods where they might work and where they might lead to better value for money and enable the defence budget to be more effective. There is a real challenge for us because of the budgetary position, but also a real opportunity to lead in Europe, and I hope that the Government will take it.
My Lords, I found this report extremely interesting, and I congratulate my noble friend and his committee on it. Given that defence expenditure in the UK, as the report graphically shows, is 2.56% of GDP, this report should concern us all as parliamentarians. The fact that that percentage actually grew between 2010 and 2011, when expenditure on pretty much everything else went down due to the austerity Budget, is an enormous incentive for us to look to our friends and neighbours for areas where we can share capabilities and save an awful lot of money.
However, I was surprised to find almost no mention of the nuclear capability and no discussion of it. There are some tangential references at the beginning explaining how threats have changed from the old Cold War scenario to threats involving food security, water issues and terrorism. Noble Lords have spoken of a two-tier Europe, and almost nothing is more two-tier than the two countries that belong to the P5—the UK and France—and the rest. So I do not think that it is just about the money, although phasing out the Trident system would save something like £83 billion, according to the Trident Commission which is co-chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and Sir Menzies Campbell; and the French would surely make similar savings. So that is economically interesting. However, I am puzzled as to why the report does not discuss whether two of the biggest European spenders on nuclear issues—France and the UK—would have a very different commitment to the EDA if, for example, they did not have that level of spend on things nuclear. It is the psychology of having two nuclear states and then the rest.
I accept that a lot of expertise is gathered around the table and that noble Lords may well put me right on this issue and say that it is not a question. However, I believe the public will continue to question it and the debate about whether we should continue with our so-called independent nuclear deterrent is already alive here politically.
In France, the force de frappe is perhaps less discussed at the moment, although Michel Rocard, the former Prime Minister, suggested that France should abandon its independent deterrent, saying that the money spent on maintaining it serves absolutely no purpose. The traditional French view was probably more fairly put recently by Josselin de Rohan, chair of the Senate foreign affairs, defence and armed forces committee, when he laid out all the reasons why France would continue to maintain a nuclear capability: essentially the nuclearisation of the Middle East and the nuclear capability in Pakistan, India and China, so I accept that scrapping the French force de frappe is not an immediate prospect. However, we need to consider where this fits in to a commitment to a different sort of European defence force. While we are thinking about things nuclear, there is the question of whether an independent deterrent can be independent when it depends not on the European Galileo system but on the American satellite system.
Finally, there is another gap in this otherwise constructive and useful report. It is European deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. In several European countries, this deployment is seen as very undesirable. As long ago as 2004, the Science and Technology Commission of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly advised NATO to come up,
“with a proposal on a phased and verifiable withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe”,
“do not substantially add to the security of Europe”.
States hosting such weapons need to keep their fleets of fighter bombers up to date, which is another cost that is unlikely to be borne in the present times of austerity and which the public may not see as justifiable. Indeed in a Dutch March 2011 survey, 14 NATO states supported the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons, 10 would accept withdrawal and only three opposed it. These issues about the future of the nuclear weapons in Europe are perhaps ones that the EU committee intends to address in a separate paper, complementary to this one. I certainly hope so.
My Lords, I, too, welcome this debate for a number of reasons, not least for the chance it has given us to listen to the excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. It is not all that long ago that it used to be argued that to develop European defence was dangerous because it would duplicate NATO and cause the Americans to weaken their commitment to Europe. That is very clearly yesterday’s argument. NATO has changed greatly and so has America’s perception of its self-interest, which is focusing increasingly on the Asia-Pacific region and, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, it sometimes prefers to follow not lead where its own interests are not perceived to be directly engaged, as we saw in Libya.
The EU has changed too. It is larger, more diverse and more variegated, due in good part to the policies of successive British Governments over the past 20 years or so. There is now an acceptance that inner groups sometimes need to act together, even if not all the others join in. We see that in the common foreign and security policy and most notably in Iran where Britain, France, Germany and the EU High Representative in effect represent the EU in the negotiations. We saw it in Libya, where the UK, France, Italy and, importantly, some smaller EU states, although not Germany, worked with the US and under a UN Security Council resolution to prevent a pretty devastating civil war.
So the question is not whether there should be more effective European defence arrangements but how they should best be organised. Importantly, they must be consistent with NATO but recognise that there are tensions and conflicts in the world that will not attract US or NATO intervention. As the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said, they must also recognise that the EU’s ability to combine diplomacy, economic aid and different degrees of military involvement—from training, as in Somalia; to intervention, as in Libya; or in combating piracy, as in the Indian Ocean—gives the EU a role distinct from that of NATO. There is no question of the one diminishing or replacing the other. The question is how they can reinforce each other to the advantage of both, and very much to the advantage of Britain’s interest.
I do not want to cover all the ground in the report this afternoon. I support the concept of pooling and sharing. I hope that we do not let the issue of an operational headquarters distract us from the real need for effective defence co-operation. The arrangements to support the Atalanta operation in Somalia are a good model that could be built on.
However, I want to mention two issues. The first, which some others have mentioned already, is Franco-British co-operation, which must be at the heart of any effective European defence co-operation. France and Britain share a tradition of global reach. We are both permanent members of the UN Security Council. We both face acute budgetary pressures, and France is of course back in the integrated military structure. So the logic of working more closely together seems to be unanswerable, with the aim, as the report says, of improving interoperability between Europe’s two most capable military nations.
I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, will forgive me if I do not follow her down the nuclear road, except to agree entirely with her that the chances of France giving up its nuclear deterrent are zero at best. None the less, there will be a French tendency to work more closely with Germany. If one effect of that is to prevent another division, as there was over Libya, so much the better. However, I do not see that closer Franco-German defence co-operation should in any way affect the case for strong, continuing and developing Franco-British co-operation.
At the risk of repeating what I have said in other debates in your Lordships’ House, one of the clearest examples of the need for strong Franco-British co-operation is over Mali. There may be a tendency— I have heard it said from time to time—to ask what our interest is in a part of Africa which the French know a great deal better than we do. However, the establishment in northern Mali of an al-Qaeda/Boko Haram/radical Tuareg state can have or will have a direct and destabilising effect on our interests in the region, in north Africa and, through support for terrorism, much closer to home. Perhaps the Minister can assure us that we indeed see this as a potential threat to our interests and will work with the French to try to resolve it and participate actively in an EU mission, if there is to be one.
I should say a word about defence procurement and industrial collaboration. I have to say that I regret the breakdown of negotiations between EADS and BAE Systems on a merger. This seems to be a case where the commercial logic for a merger was compelling, but the political difficulty is great and the issue, I fear, became public—for whatever reason—before the political issues had been sorted out. I do not at present clearly see BAE’s alternative strategy. I hope that the Minister was right in saying yesterday that it would continue to thrive on its own. Does he think that that is really the only option now before British Aerospace?
Finally, on defence procurement, I believe, as others have said, that the European Defence Agency has a role to play, as the report argues, in greater co-ordination and the development of capability, particularly at a time of budgetary constraint. I know that the Government are considering their position in the EDA, and I noted carefully what the Minister said yesterday. Still, towards the end of a—how shall I put it?—characteristically thoughtful speech on the European Union yesterday, the Foreign Secretary said that the British felt that,
“in too many ways the EU is something that is done to them, not something over which they have a say”.
However, it is very difficult to have a say and to make your voice heard if you are not in the room. That is an important point to bear in mind when reflecting on our role in the EDA and indeed on broader European Union issues.
My Lords, I am afraid that I am going to be in a very small minority today, probably not for the first time, which gives me no tremors whatever, as I am unable to add to the fulsome welcome that this report has received.
Before I turn to the substance of the report, I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to some of the stylistic matters that caught my eye. I do not normally care to read reports, but I intended to read this one from cover to cover. However, I gave up on page 10, actually only the fifth printed page of the report, where there is a misplaced apostrophe. Noble Lords will ask, “Why am I wasting the Committee’s time on a misplaced apostrophe?”. On the previous page, page 9, there is one of many subordinate clauses without any commas at either end, so you have to read the sentence over and over again to find out what it actually means. On page 8, going backwards, there is an egregious spelling mistake that any child of 15 would be punished for making. On page 7 we have a sentence starting with a conjunction.
The real blow, though, comes on the very first page. I am now going to read out to the Committee a direct quote from the middle paragraph of the summary:
“By better coordination of forces and most of all by ensuring that forces are capable of, and willing to, deploy Europe can achieve this now”.
I will happily buy lunch for any member of this Committee if he can show me how to parse that into an English sentence; it is not capable of being made into a sentence. It really is disgraceful.
This accumulation of grammatical solecisms, misspellings and punctuation errors says to me one of three things: that the members of the committee read the report and did not notice these things, which I find unbelievable, seeing how talented they are; that they read the report and did not give a damn about them, which I do not think would be the case; or, much more likely, they never read the report. That is the most charitable explanation. The noble Lord, Lord Roper, may frown, but his name is on this report. He is chairman of the committee and is responsible for putting the report in front of us with the House of Lords imprimatur on it.
I am loath to intervene on my noble friend’s speech because I am sure that it is going to be extremely good, but I suggest that the noble Lord reads the sentence before the one that he has criticised. He might then find that it was more intelligible. It is a good thing to read a couple of sentences rather than just taking one on its own.
Of course, I read the whole page. The noble Lord is right, but that sentence is rubbish. It is not even a sentence and it should not be in a House of Lords report. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Roper, to ensure that in future any reports from any sub-committee of his committee are written in decent English. I have got that off my chest, but I stand by what I said. It seems to be perfect evidence that the people who wrote the report did not read it before it was printed.
Now we come to the substance of the report. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has been overwhelmed with congratulations at how wise and timely it is, but I am afraid that I am rather bored with this report. Why am I bored with it? Because it does not say anything new. Why does it not say anything new? Because I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, say it 16 times before. He told us himself that he had, over and over again. What is in this report? It is in the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson.
I hesitate to point this out to my noble friend, who was my boss at one time, but I think Albert Einstein pointed out that to say the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is a higher form of lunacy. Why has the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, had to make the same speech over and over again? For the very simple reason that everybody ignores him. They all say, “What a wonderful speech”, but the continentals do not do anything and are never going to. That is the point. All the Eurofanatics sitting on this side of the Room are in denial. They think by saying that Europe has to do this or that, Europe might do it. However, Europe has never done it. It is not going to do it and has no interest in doing it—and we all know it.
It is high time that the House comes to recognise what I have said many times: this country’s friends are not the other side of the North Sea or the English Channel but in the English-speaking world. We have talked about taking the lead in cyberdefence, but we are doing that with the Americans and the Australians. As you would expect, that is where our friends are—in the English-speaking world. I am afraid I have no great enthusiasm for this report.
Coming to a subject close to my heart, I draw your Lordships’ attention to paragraph 93, on page 42—
I dipped into it. Of course I did not read through it. The noble Lord, Lord Radice, is very active on this. I am very interested. They found some idiot called Pierre Vimont—what a lunatic. This is what he is summarised as saying:
“Despite the limited success of the A400M”.
I would like to hear anybody else in your Lordships’ committee talk to me about the “limited success” of the A400M—it is a disaster, but there is not a word in this report saying why it is a “limited success”. The paragraph goes on:
“We also heard evidence that money could be saved by collaboration”.
That is a deep insight. Before that, the report notes that Pierre Vimont also suggested that,
“it was important to continue with such projects”
as the A400M.
For the benefit of noble Lords who do not keep up to speed on logistic arrangements, the Americans have found the combination of the C130 and the C17 quite capable of satisfying all their airborne logistical requirements, as have the Canadians, the Australians and the Indians—and so, up to now, have we. When we finally procure this A400M, we will be abandoning the C130 and so will lose interoperability with the Indians, the Canadians, the Americans, the Australians and, by that time, quite a lot more people.
I have been told by a former Conservative Defence Secretary that the Americans were going to close down the C130 production line. That is rubbish, and simply not true. If you read the most recent edition of Defense News, you will see that they are going to go on with more and more sophisticated C130s. The C17 has also proved itself capable of undertaking tactical missions. The A400M is a complete, absolute wanking disaster, and we should be ashamed of ourselves. I have never seen such a waste of public funds in the defence field since I have been involved in it these past 40 years.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, takes this all in the spirit in which it is offered. It is not a personal criticism of him, but this report is nothing new. My noble friend Lord Robertson has said this many times before, and nothing is going to happen from it.
My Lords, I find myself rather more in agreement with the majority of the members of the committee than I do with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. I congratulate my noble friend and his sub-committee on the report and on securing this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, is of course right in one matter. Although the report is the result of the work of the sub-committee, it is the last report which, as chairman of the European Union Committee, I agreed before ceasing to be chairman of that committee, and therefore he quite rightly says that my name appears on it. I am sorry I missed the errors to which he has drawn attention. I read it at the time and I thought that it was a very good report.
Like many reports from the European Union Committee, this one will be extremely valuable for the wider discussion of ESDP issues not only in this House, but outside. Although, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has said, a number of things in it have been said before, they are put together in a context and with a relevance that, given the current situation, I believe to be particularly useful. Perhaps I may also say a word about the ministerial response from Sir Gerald Howarth as he now is, but who at the time was the Minister for International Security Strategy. It was a helpful and positive response, perhaps more positive than some would have expected him to make. But, again, it shows the value of the committee in holding the Government to account on areas of their activity. Given that ESDP and CFSP are intergovernmental matters, it is of particular importance that national Parliaments should be monitoring them and paying them proper attention. That is because these are not areas in which the European Parliament has co-decision, they are matters for which national Parliaments have primary responsibility in terms of watching the activities of their own national Governments.
Rather like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I have to say that the progress which has been made on defence has in many ways been disappointing. Progress since Lisbon is not as significant as one might have been expected, and the report sets out some of the reasons why that has been the case. One should perhaps look at those. It is clear that falling defence expenditure has made life more difficult. Also, as a number of noble Lords have said, there are difficulties in generating forces because of the vast numbers of non-deployable forces, and the fact that in our defence expenditure, we are not using the money. We are big spenders, but we are bad spenders, a point made particularly by the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Over the period there has been a certain UK reticence about European defence because of the historic misgivings that more European defence means in some way less NATO. That I believe has changed with the French return to the integrated military command of NATO and indeed has been reinforced in some ways by the UK/French treaties.
One of the other ways we have seen declining capabilities is that in spite of a good deal of discussion about pooling and sharing, and now in NATO of smart procurement, relatively little progress has been made. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, mentioned the AWACS and, since then, there has been the collective purchase of air transport aircraft by a number of countries. We talk about duplication, and one of the areas in which there is great duplication is in the 27 ministries of defence and structures of Armed Forces that do the same thing in many different places. We cannot get rid of them quickly, but there ought to be economies in co-ordination. However, any rationalisation of this sort would mean a loss of jobs in some parts of those ministries of defence and, indeed in the command structures of the Armed Forces. This has certainly led to considerable institutional resistance to pooling and sharing. Over here as elsewhere, turkeys do not usually vote for an early Christmas. We have to see that as one of the resistances to change in a number of areas of co-operation.
The discussion that we had on the Floor of the House yesterday following the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, on the European Defence Agency showed the continuing value of the agency, and it is important that the sub-committee has also been examining that in recent months. But, again, one can regret, as is discussed in the report, that it has not fulfilled its potential; it should have been able to do more and one should not be too complacent about it. We await the imminent decision of the Government, which we now expect in the late autumn—I am not quite sure when the autumn gets to be late. The review of the European Defence Agency being carried out by the Government may explain the extraordinary omission of defence from the list of topics in the review of the balance of competences announced by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday. In the Written Statement in Hansard, there is a list of all the departments that are going to be considered in the balance of competences, but, for some reason, defence is omitted. Perhaps the Minister will be able to explain the omission in his reply.
Relations between NATO and the European Union are obviously of great importance and our noble friend the High Representative has followed the example of her predecessors. One can have good relations personally between the secretaries-general of the two institutions, but while we still have the problems of Cypriot attitudes within the European Union and of Turkish attitudes within NATO, the chances of our being able to use the facilities and the Berlin Plus machinery, apart from Althea, are held back. That is another barrier to effectiveness in co-operation and it has certainly handicapped our development.
There is one point to which consideration might be given again—again, it depends on what future role the British Government play in the European Defence Agency. The Turks had certain access to one of the predecessors of the European Defence Agency, of much smaller capacity, which existed under the WEU—as did the Norwegians, even though they were not members of each. The Norwegians have been allowed to have access to and membership of the European Defence Agency. That is the sort of thing that might—I repeat, might—help a little in facilitating relations with Turkey, if that issue could be re-examined. I do not know whether it is practical, but at least it might be of some advantage.
Having said that things have gone wrong, I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jay, that, on the positive side, there have been successes. There have been missions, of which I shall give three examples, where the European capacity has provided added value, which is what we are looking for. The first of those was the deployment of EUFOR in Chad in 2008-09. It was certainly very helpful in preventing the difficult situation in Chad being affected by the disruption in Darfur. It would not have been something that NATO would have undertaken and is therefore a particularly good example—Mali may well be of a similar kind.
Similarly, although at first sight the fact that we have parallel anti-piracy operations of EU NAVFOR Atalanta and of NATO might seem a bad example of duplication, they have in fact provided extra flexibilities, with countries which might not wish to be associated with an operation which was exclusively NATO having been able to come in and involve themselves because of the European Union parallel activity. The existence of the EU NAVFOR operation has provided added value there.
Finally, after a period in which NATO ceased to have an active presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Union military and police missions in that very difficult part of the west Balkans have certainly played an important, indeed critical, role in assisting the maintenance of stability. The EU was able to bring a range of competences to play.
In conclusion, I once again congratulate my noble friend and the sub-committee on producing an extremely valuable and comprehensive report. I ask my noble friend the Minister to reassure us that the omission of defence from the review of European Union competences does not mean that the Government have taken the view that the European Union has no competence in this field.
I cannot claim to be a defence expert, but I am perhaps one of the few Members on my side of the House who was actually in the Armed Forces. I was a national service subaltern in Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards, but I cannot be said to be an expert.
I just wanted to make a couple of remarks. First, our report is useful not only for the conclusion that it reaches but for the information and the facts that it actually contains. It is well worth reading beyond page 10 rather carefully because it is a document that will be very useful to noble Lords.
I want to say a word or two about the NATO common security and defence policy split. NATO, to which 21 out of the 28 EU members belong, must come first. As all our witnesses made clear, it is the organisation of choice in large-scale military operations. Even if the US did not wish to lead or be involved and European nations took the lead, as happened over Libya, it would still be a NATO operation because it is large scale.
Where the common security and defence policy should come into play is for smaller complex interventions where there is a mix of political weight, economic know-how and development, and sometimes military capacity might be needed. That is where you need the CSDP. My belief is that the two organisations, in most cases fit very neatly together. There should not be an ideological argument—although there sometimes has been—about their respective roles. As our witnesses made absolutely clear, they are basically complementary. Those who have worried about this in the past should not have any worry at all.
To finish, as far as NATO is concerned, the two key issues here are first to ensure that the US continues to participate, despite its increasing focus on the Pacific. Of course what that means is, secondly, that Europe takes greater responsibility for its own security and defence, as we were told in the wake-up call from Secretary Robert Gates in his retirement speech—a very good speech it was too. That is clear for NATO.
As far as the CSDP is concerned, it must not just be a talking shop. It must be able to deliver. That means first that military missions should be properly financed. Secondly, battle groups must be able to be deployed and not just a fancy set of figures and drawings on a piece of paper. Thirdly, operations must be planned efficiently and pragmatically using both national and EU resources.
We should move beyond the rather sterile argument that we have had about what kind of operational headquarters one ought to have. We can arrive at a perfectly sensible arrangement to ensure that some of these really rather effective operations are properly planned and properly deployed. That is all I have to say in the rather short time that I had to make a speech.
I think the noble Lord’s reference was to the Eurofanatics on this side, so I took it as including me. At the risk of reinforcing my noble friend in his view, I would like to express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the European Union Committee for this comprehensive and measured report. As the summary states, the shift in the economic and political balance away from the United States and western Europe towards Asia, the revision in US defence thinking and the economic crisis have created a new situation to which the European Union and its member states need to respond.
It is through our global alliances that we can remain a powerful and significant force in the world. We have a unique diplomatic reach through our membership of the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the United Nations and, indeed, the Commonwealth. Maximising our role within these institutions through greater co-operation and collaboration will surely be the principal means by which we can remain a lead influence on international trends and world events. Our international partnerships are the principal source of strength in our defence posture.
The threats that we face today, from terrorism to climate change, nuclear proliferation to cyberattack, are shared, and shared operations to combat them are increasingly commonplace. European nations have worked together in the Balkans, Chad, Afghanistan and around the world in European Union, United Nations and NATO missions. We share objectives and standards, priorities and interests. We involve ourselves in joint missions and operations overseas based on mutual support and shared interests in order to protect each of our domestic borders. Our futures are linked, so the action we take to enhance and shape them should be collective.
To say that we need to deepen European defence co-operation is not a change in philosophy, but rather a logical step to ensure that European nations can each maintain a strong defence policy which allows intervention to protect and promote our interests and values. In the same way, during conflict, we must better co-operate in preparation for and prevention of such conflicts, based on a pragmatic approach which reflects the world we live in.
Greater European co-operation in defence procurement is crucial, enabling us to maximise our ability to project force and to do so cost-effectively, supporting both the front line and the bottom line. It is vital that a more efficient defence industry and better value defence products are promoted, distortions in the market are regulated out and defence companies and their supply chains are supported. That means limiting the fragmentation which arises from differing national procurement regulations, reducing the number of national equipment programmes and ironing out the delays which arise from individual export authorisations. There has been progress on this in recent years. The European Defence Agency code of conduct on procurement competition, the directive on defence procurement limiting individual export licences and the EDA’s limits placed on offsets all work in favour of a strong European industrial base.
The merger between BAE Systems and EADS has been prominent recently. We supported the proposal in principle, but we accept from a UK point of view why it could not go ahead,; however, BAE Systems needs to get into new and different markets as the UK and USA markets contract. It would be helpful if the Minister could say what the Government are doing to help BAE Systems retain a sustainable base in the UK in the light of recent developments. Yesterday, the Minister said that Ministers in the Ministry of Defence were doing their best to help BAE Systems sell its products. Is that some new initiative, or simply a continuation of what was happening prior to the possible merger between BAE Systems and EADS falling through?
Co-operation over procurement is the only way Europe can compete in a very expensive and technologically driven activity and it must learn to do this better together or have no other option than continually buy from the United States. We should look first at where we can co-operate further with those with whom we have existing successful partnerships, including, of course, France.
The economic crisis has ushered in competing sentiments. On the one hand, countries need to shrink budgets and are actively seeking savings, which can come from economies of scale but, on the other hand, their protective and protectionist instincts are stronger. We must surely fight the latter and address practices that hinder legitimate access to markets. We must protect national discretion, but strong national export markets will be bolstered, not limited, by European co-operation, and that is surely the shared challenge.
As well as co-operation on procurement, there is a need to better integrate force structures. This takes place but perhaps not to the extent that the real potential for front-line benefits is maximised. Arrangements to pool maintenance, training, education infrastructure and skills on a bilateral or multilateral basis should be explored. Research and development facilities and work streams could be pooled to develop specialisations together. The resultant economies of scale should be used to directly fund training and equipment programmes and to contribute to balancing domestic defence budgets.
The UK-France defence treaty is a very welcome development. It commits to limited interoperability, joint purchasing and sharing of expertise and facilities. It has the potential to build the trust essential for successful partnerships to work and lays the basis for further collaboration between ourselves and France in future. It is characterised by perhaps the most important trait: namely, seriousness of intent. This should not be an isolated achievement. I hope that similar agreements will emerge. Procurement, research and technology spending, maritime surveillance, energy security and combating piracy are all areas that should be looked at in this regard.
The UK-France treaty is surely a model that can lay the foundations for a landscape of European co-operation based on distinct, sometimes regional co-operations. Where countries can do so and where it is in their mutual interests, they should work together. That is certainly not about creating the basis for a “Euro army”, but pursuing gains where they can be found on a case-by-case basis, and making the pursuit of those gains the rule rather than the exception. The steps taken by Nordic countries and the Czech Republic and Slovakia in this direction are to be welcomed. This approach must be balanced, however, with protecting national operational independence and the right for countries to retain the ability to defend themselves without NATO or the European Union.
The success of greater co-operation depends on Europe’s ability and willingness to contribute to tackling international security threats. Europe must decide if it is serious. All European member-state Governments have to be open with each other and about their capacity within NATO. In aggregate, the EU member states, many of which are also members of NATO, have half a million more men and women in uniform than the Americans. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, they can deploy only a fraction of the capabilities of the United States. Among all the talk of coalitions of the willing, the act of creating a coalition of the capable may in the future be a bigger challenge. The present situation hardly appears to be sustainable if Europe wants to prevent the power shift eastwards, to which a number of your Lordships have already referred, from leaving it behind.
The former US Secretary for Defence, Robert Gates, was surely right when he said that Europe cannot rely on others to share the burden of our own security. We must reform or see our own influence wane. As and when the economic situation improves, other nations across Europe should at the very least meet their NATO requirements, which the majority fail to do.
The issue that is well covered in the EU Committee report is about attitude and collective resolve within Europe to retain influence. It is fine that the nations of NATO and the EU share values and goals, but to be truly meaningful, these need to be acted on when threatened. Although the benefits of our alliance are shared by all, too often the contribution to military operations when tested is, as we saw in Libya, unbalanced, as the report points out. In spending and resolve, there must be more equal contributions from within Europe. In Europe, our mutual dependence is a fact, but in too many cases, the embrace of it across Europe is yet to be. Strengthening mutual positions demands greater collaboration and co-operation financially, systematically in procurement, and militarily to boost combat capability. When Europe’s values and interests face a serious test, European countries need to ensure that they can and do act collectively to the very best of their respective abilities. Frankly, one could not say that that is always the case at present.
My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on securing this debate to discuss the important topic of European defence capabilities. I would like to say how very pleased I am that the European Union Sub-Committee is taking such a close interest in defence capabilities. I very much welcome the analysis and recommendations provided in your report.
We have had a very well informed discussion, as one would expect from looking at the speakers’ list. I will start by saying a few words about the Government’s position on CSDP and defence capabilities before moving on to address some of the issues raised during the debate.
The need for European nations to work together to improve our defence capabilities has seldom been greater. If we are collectively to have the ability to shoulder our defence responsibilities, Europe must commit to developing, maintaining and making available those capabilities. That point has been well made by several speakers. The Government want to encourage European defence to make Europe a more effective provider of international security. The UK-France defence treaties are an instance of how we are doing our part. I am very glad that the committee approves of that, as my noble friend Lord Teverson points out. We hope that our example will encourage other partners to seek better value for money and improved capability through closer co-operation with each other. We must work together to enable Europeans to develop and maintain the range of capabilities that will allow sustained and successful operations overseas.
Let me be clear, NATO will continue to be the foundation of the UK’s defence policy, as it is for many of our European partners. As a defensive alliance, it guarantees our safety. As a political alliance, it offers a unique forum to discuss security threats with north American and European allies. As a military alliance, it enables us to fuse our defence capabilities together quickly in a crisis, as demonstrated in Libya last year.
Although NATO remains our multilateral alliance of choice for the UK, the EU’s common security and defence policy can play an important complementary role, focusing on preventing conflict, building stability and tackling crises. The EU is well placed to conduct this range of activity, through its assortment of capabilities. It has access to a wide range of tools: diplomatic, civilian, military and developmental. It can use its capabilities in places where NATO may not be able to act or chooses not to act. It can provide specialised intervention in complex environments where a more comprehensive civilian-military approach is required.
Although there are clearly improvements that can be made to CSDP effectiveness—I will touch on those in a moment—CSDP operations are delivering. For example, in the Balkans, the EU military operation in Bosnia and the civilian rule-of-law mission in Kosovo are supporting continued stability and, in so doing, ensuring that the significant progress made in recent years does not slip back to instability right on Europe’s doorstep. In the Horn of Africa, the EU is leading the efforts to tackle international piracy and training Somali national security forces to counter the al-Shabaab terrorism threats.
The real value lies not just in the individual missions but in the collective expertise and focus that the EU can place in the regions, including its EU Special Representative and development programmes, among others—the comprehensive approach. However, for CSDP tools to be truly effective, they need to be supported by real military capability and greater political will. Europe as a whole is not currently meeting its obligations to ensure self-sufficient, deployable capability.
Improving European defence capability is not just about the amount that individual countries spend. Indeed, with across-the-board cuts to defence budgets throughout Europe, it no longer can be. Our key challenge is not to spend more but spend more intelligently. The UK-France defence treaties of 2010 are a prime example of effective co-operation and collaboration. These treaties are not about weakening one country’s capability at the expense of another but about two of Europe’s most capable military forces working together to improve interoperability, allowing them to deploy together more effectively and at a lower cost. There are other good examples too, such as Nordic defence co-operation. I was very happy to go to Norway a couple of weeks ago, where I saw examples of this. These should be used by other European nations as clear examples of how nations can work together to improve capability that should and must be replicated by other member states in order to avoid overreliance on the United States.
Turning to other European nations, Germany in particular has the clear potential to be a major player in European defence. We have been working increasingly closely with it on bilateral defence issues. Our key message is that Germany must focus more on generating the political will and public support within which to deploy military resources more widely. However, this need to become a more active participant in European defence is one that applies to much of Europe. There is plenty of scope for getting more with less; the combined defence budgets of EU nations total nearly €200 billion. We can look at building on the relationships formed during the Afghanistan campaign—for example working closely with countries such as Denmark and Estonia. We wish to co-operate more closely with Italy. It is only through teamwork that we can fill the European defence investment gap.
As a case study of a UK priority, I would like to return in more detail to battle groups, which I know were a key part of the committee’s report. The battle group concept was a UK-France-led concept intended to provide the hard edge of the EU’s CSDP. Yet, despite a number of opportunities, such as in Chad and Haiti, they have never been deployed. Battle groups, as per the intention in the original concept, have the potential to be extremely useful in conjunction with other EU crisis-management tools, but this means member states need to be prepared to equip and deploy them. We are working closely with other nations to find ways to improve the utility, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the EU battle group, including looking at potentially deploying its support capabilities in their own right, in support of other EU activity.
In the current financial crisis, we cannot simply spend more to improve European capability. We must spend better by finding improved ways of working together to get greater capacity from the resources that we have. Part of this means that member states should not unilaterally cut capability without considering the potential impact on European defence. Countries that spend less than 2% on defence need to review their levels of spending and work together more effectively and efficiently. Organisations such as the EDA may have a role to play in facilitating this, but the responsibility lies with individual nations.
European defence does not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, 21 nations are members of both the EU and NATO; if those nations improve their military capability, both organisations will benefit. It is vital that efforts are co-ordinated, complementary and not duplicative. I believe that the NATO and EU initiatives, smart defence and pooling and sharing are the key to establishing capability shortfalls and identifying ways ahead. This requires a strong defence industry within both the UK and Europe to respond to shifting demands and requirements as threats continue to evolve.
Operation Unified Protector in Libya demonstrated that there are capabilities that NATO can provide only through the United States. Difficulties generated by the Turkey-Cyprus dispute for EU-NATO must be resolved as they not only make collaboration difficult but may cause operational difficulty. It is vital that European nations work together to fill these capability gaps and overcome obstacles that prevent further collaboration.
I will do my best to address the various issues and questions raised. If I do not cover them all, I undertake to write to noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Teverson pointed out the problem that the EU and NATO cannot always work together constructively. There are some well known institutional blockages between the two organisations, but that should not stop us from looking for practical workarounds while these persist. Co-operation must be driven from the top down and the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, and Secretary General Rasmussen have both made good inroads to promote greater transparency and co-operation.
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, pointed out the European capability gaps and the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said that Europe needed to get its act together. The key reasons for the lack of deployability appear to be member states resources and a lack of political will to invest in making assets fit for deployment, a lack of investment in deployment capabilities such as strategic lift, a lack of responsiveness in keeping troops at too low a state of readiness, a lack of understanding of expeditionary military doctrine and concerns about putting troops in harms way, of which we are all aware. To resolve the problem, member states need to take more advantage of the opportunities and initiatives such as pooling and sharing can provide to better support more cost-effective force generation, which is a point that the review makes very well. They need to make use of initiatives such as the temporary arrangements of funding for strategic lift from common funding. We are expecting that as a result of the recent agreement on temporary expansion of strategic lift for battle groups we can start to see more member states committing to the battle group roster.
Encouraging member states to use participation with other member states in the battle group roster is a way to share relevant knowledge and expertise. For example, as a result of Sweden's participation in EU battle groups, its armed forces are more interoperable and in a better configuration both militarily and politically to contribute to a coalition of the willing. Outside of battle groups, pooling and sharing more generally should be used as an opportunity to share knowledge through joint training.
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, mentioned that the Prime Minister's last speech on Afghanistan was on 4 July last year. The Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary make quarterly Statements on Afghanistan in the other place, which are repeated in this House. I have repeated a number of those Statements. I was comforted to hear the noble Lord’s comment that an American general had told him that the closer he gets to Afghanistan the more he feels that we are being successful. That was very comforting.
My noble friend Lord Palmer asked what we have achieved in Afghanistan. Although significant challenges remain, including making sure that the Afghan Government and the Afghan security forces can deliver what is required after we leave, progress continues to be made. NATO and Afghan forces continue to squeeze the remains of the insurgency, and the majority of the population lives in areas that are progressing well through the process of transition to full Afghan control. My noble friend Lord Wallace and I went to Afghanistan in February. It was the fourth time I have been to Afghanistan, and it was completely different and so much better than it was on previous occasions.
My noble friend also asked about cyber. My department is not the government lead for this topic, but we have a considerable stake in this arena. As well as working with our key partners, the US and Australia, the MoD is working increasingly closely with key NATO allies and EU partners to address cyberthreats. This has included a recent letter of intent signed between the UK and France. The United Kingdom is fully committed to cyberexercises that involve NATO and EU partners.
My noble friend and other noble Lords mentioned our membership of the EDA, an issue that came up yesterday when I did my best to point out some of the achievements of the EDA. The noble Lord, Lord Roper, pointed out that the EDA has not yet fulfilled its full potential. The future of the EDA is being considered by my department at the moment, and I am confident that we will come up with an answer very soon—yesterday I said in the late autumn—that noble Lords will be happy with. My noble friend Lady Garden and I will take back to the department the positive comments that were made today about the EDA, and I am sure it will have noted the conclusions that the committee has come to concerning the EDA.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out that whoever is elected in America will expect us to take on more responsibility in Europe. This point was also very well made by the noble Lord, Lord Radice. I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said about President Putin’s ambitions, which are a matter of some concern.
The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, pointed out that we should be taking much more of a lead on European defence. While NATO remains a central pillar of our collective security, we welcome the clear value the EU brings through its wide range of tools. The UK plays a central role in ensuring that the CSDP delivers where it matters most in successful operations and missions and through setting an example on capability development. In CSDP operations, we are, for example, particularly strong leaders in counterpiracy through our command of Operation Atalanta, and in the field of capability development, we are supportive of the EDA-facilitated air-to-air refuelling initiative.
My noble friend Lady Miller mentioned the Trident replacement. My right honourable friend Danny Alexander is chairing the review into alternative options.
The noble Lord, Lord Jay, as one would expect from a former distinguished ambassador to Paris, mentioned the British-French initiative. The UK and France must work together to lead on defence in Europe as we are the only two nations that have the willingness and capability to engage on the world stage. Others who wish to be involved in the bilateral engagement must add value and must not be allowed to reduce the speed and effectiveness of our engagement, but we would welcome their positive input.
The noble Lord also asked about Mali. The UK supports the proposals for EU engagement in Mali. A well designed CSDP mission could strengthen the democratic institutions and help rebuild the capacity of the Malian armed forces to restore security to their country. The UK is conscious that any plan to launch a separate mission in Mali should be properly co-ordinated with the EUCAP Niger mission to ensure that there is a coherent and complementary strategy for the Sahel. The UK has appointed a Sahel special representative who took up the post on 15 October.
The noble Lord asked about BAE Systems and I rather rashly answered the question. I got a bit of a googly yesterday about BAE Systems, which does not have an awful lot to do with the EDA. I hope that the failure of merger talks will not be viewed as a lost opportunity for the European defence and aerospace industry. Balancing national interest between the three nations and the commercial interests between the two companies was always going to be difficult. The French and UK positions converged during the talks, and the Secretary of State and his French equivalent certainly were in regular contact. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about ministerial support for BAE Systems. That is just continuing what I have always done. As Defence Ministers, we will do our very best to support the British defence industry, which employs tens of thousands of people. I am sure we are continuing what the noble Lord’s Government did.
The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, had reservations about the European appetite to get stuck in. While there are examples of this, we must give praise where praise is due and, among others, I draw attention to the incredible support that the Danes and the Estonians give our troops in Afghanistan. My noble friend saw a lot of examples of that. Our troops think the world of the Danes and the Estonians, and they have saved a lot of our lives.
I am conscious that I am running out of time but, finally, the noble Lord, Lord Roper, asked about the balance of competences review. Although the Ministry of Defence is not leading on any of the balance of competences reports, my officials are working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other departments, such as the Cabinet Office, BIS and the Department of Health to ensure that defence interests are represented fully. We expect to feed heavily into the foreign policy report, especially with regard to the CSDP and the internal market report in the first semester.
Again, I thank the committee for the report and today’s debate. We have seen areas where European defence has been successful, and areas where we still have progress to make. There is an increasing urgency for Europeans to step up and deliver defence capabilities. The UK-French model will, I hope, encourage this. No one expects all nation states to contribute equally, but they must contribute fairly. The burden of additional investment and capability can be shared effectively and easily. Just as Europe cannot afford a fiscal deficit, neither can it afford a security deficit.
My Lords, first, I want to thank my noble friend for a positive and considered reply to this report, which I strongly welcome. I will be very brief. We have heard some excellent speeches and some memorable ones. It is the first time I have heard the “w” word used in a Lords debate but, as the report said, we live in changing times. So there we are.
I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, for participating in the debate because he provided an anchor of real experience in this whole area. I take the criticism from the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, because some of it is correct. What we tried to achieve, and one of the things that came out in this report, was clarity. What it showed to us as a sub-committee was that where there was difficulty in understanding the whole picture, when you put all those pieces of the jigsaw together, it not only made a picture but made sense as well. Many of those arguments are repeated, but they are important. Many noble Lords mentioned the comment that taxpayers are being short-changed, and that was the strongest message that came out of today. That Britain should and can lead in this area in the European Union is for sure.
On the nuclear side, I apologise to my noble friend Lady Miller that we did not mention nuclear. Perhaps that should have been there. It is not, as such, an EU competence in terms of strike forces, but one of the UK-French defence treaties is specifically around the nuclear side, and we should deal with that.
The point on A400M was a quote from our evidence. I think everyone recognised the severe problems with A400M and all the lessons that needed to be learnt. The committee has responsibilities with the French Parliament in looking at the UK-French defence treaties. One of the core things that we are concerned about there, as the Minister said, is that we should not go from two, where we collaborate, to a point where that complexity becomes great again so that we cannot deliver programmes of the right sort on time and on budget.
Lastly, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, that he gave me great insight into Question Time in this House by saying that one should hang back to see who else speaks. Today I started to speak over my noble friend Lady Trumpington, and that was one of the biggest mistakes that I have ever made in my career in this House. I withdrew very quickly.
I thank noble Lords very much indeed for an excellent debate. I thank the clerk, Kathryn Colvin, and her small team for all the work that they did in bringing this report together. I commend the report to the Grand Committee.
Committee adjourned at 6.36 pm.