EU Military Staff and NATO: Light in the Tunnel

Posted in | 20-Oct-03 | Author: Rainer Schuwirth

- Exclusive Interview with LtGen Schuwirth, first EU-Military Staff Direcor General by BrigGen (ret.) Dieter Farwick, Global Editor in Chief WSN -

WSN: Sir, please give us some information about your staff.

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: The EU Military Staff (EUMS), comprising 140 personnel, is part of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. It is not a military Headquarters but supports the EU Military Committee and co-operates with civilian elements within the EU. Thus, the staff contributes to an important political goal of the EU: as a Political Union of currently 15, soon 25 Member States, to have the capacity for successful crisis prevention and crisis management in the framework of its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as well as its European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) . This means in military terms that the EU can also assume responsibility for military operations like rescue, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping or combat tasks in crisis management.

Europe-led operation "Concordia" in Macedonia (FYROM)
WSN: What is the greatest achievement of the European Security and Defence Policy to date?

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: One has to bear in mind that the project of a European Security and Defence Policy has a history of only a few years and that the build-up of the ESDP structures including the EUMS and all related work has developed over some two and a half years.
Against this background, it is certainly quite an achievement that in 2003 the EU has assumed the responsibility for three operations: the EU Police Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the EU-led military operation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and another military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is already terminated. The operations have been conducted with great success and have accomplished their purposes. Another particularly important achievement is the permanent EU-NATO agreements ("Berlin Plus"), bringing EU and NATO into a strategic partnership and giving the EU permanent access to NATO planning capabilities and the possibility to have recourse to NATO assets and capabilities.

WSN: Is the EU ready to take over full responsibility in the Balkans?

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: To assume full responsibility in the Balkans is not just a matter of EU readiness. There is first and foremost the requirement of careful political consultations between all actors involved: NATO, EU and their member states as well as the local authorities. After the EU has assumed responsibility for the military operation in FYROM, which will not be prolonged beyond 15 December 2003 but will be followed by another police operation, these consultations have started to concentrate on a further EU engagement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, once SFOR is terminated by NATO. Already in Copenhagen last year, the Heads of State declared that the EU would be prepared to assume that responsibility. Bearing in mind what has been achieved, the EU, with necessary support by member states and partners and in cooperation with NATO, would be capable to do that.

Europe-led operation "Artemis" in Democratic Republik of Congo
WSN: What support do you need from NATO to run the operation in the Balkans?

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: The operation in FYROM is run on the basis of the permanent "Berlin Plus" NATO-EU arrangements. This means that the EU uses elements of NATO's integrated command structure and some other common NATO assets and that DSACEUR is the Operation Commander.
This is one option to command and control EU-led military operations. On the other side, the operation in Congo was conducted autonomously by the EU using command and control facilities provided by one member state, in this particular case by France as a Framework Nation. Needless to say, the Command and Control and the force were multinational. Both options have worked.

WSN: What are the major stumbling blocks to more efficiency?

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: Capabilities. Both NATO and EU share the concern about continuing deficiencies in military capabilities of European countries. The EU devotes considerable work to the European Capability Action Plan in order to remedy shortfalls and make improvements over time. A decisive factor will be to better harmonize requirements and to better co-operate in research, development and procurement as well as to use the potential of increased multinational options.

WSN: What about the NATO’s 3 D's - no duplication, no discrimination, no decoupling ?

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: Activities in ESDP are mainly determined by the positions of EU Member States and the required unanimity for any decision. The same principle applies to NATO, and many countries belong to both organisations. With the permanent EU-NATO arrangements, the two organisations have also entered a strategic partnership. These facts should suffice to avoid the so-called "3 D's". It should be in everyone's interest for the EU and NATO to continue to remain efficient and mutually reinforcing organisations in order to have all options available in meeting the security challenges of the future.

WSN: Do you see your staff as a potential nucleus for a separated EU Military Headquarters - perhaps at Tervuren ?

LtGen Rainer Schuwirth: In the beginning, I explained briefly the role of the EU Military Staff, which is similar to the one of the International Military Staff at NATO Headquarters, and the two principle options for command and control agreed so far. The agreed EU Military Staff Terms of Reference do not give it a role as a military Headquarters and consequently it is not organised in such a way. As everyone knows, there are ongoing discussions on how to further improve the operational planning and command and control capabilities of the EU. We will have to wait for the results.
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