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vendredi 23 avril 2010

"Parliamentary scrutiny of the CFSP and CSDP: the way ahead" by Robert WALTER, President of the Assembly of WEU

Robert Walter, MP (United Kingdom), President of the European Security and Defence Assembly/Assembly of WEU, reacts to the forthcoming dissolution of WEU announced in March. This article, written exclusively for AGS, is simultaneously published in French on the website of the Alliance (Contrôle parlementaire de la PESC et de la PSDC : la voie à suivre).


We all know that the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which includes the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), is an intergovernmental, not a supranational policy. This has always been the case and the Lisbon Treaty forcefully reaffirms that “intergovernmental” character of the CFSP, including the CSDP. An intergovernmental policy calls for interparliamentary scrutiny by those parliaments with competence for such scrutiny, in other words, the national parliaments of the member states of the European Union. The national parliaments vote defence budgets and decide on the deployment of troops abroad. The European Parliament (EP) has no fundamental competence in that area. It is true that under the Lisbon Treaty governments have a duty to inform and consult the EP on CFSP matters, but the parliamentary scrutiny of that policy is exclusively the responsibility of the national parliaments, which will maintain their prerogatives in that area in the future.

With its committees, transnational political groups, fact-finding missions, highly relevant political recommendations and well-documented parliamentary reports, the European Security and Defence Assembly/Assembly of WEU has proven its value for the interparliamentary scrutiny of European security and defence policy. To abolish that Assembly and leave it at that would be a grave mistake, whereas it would be highly judicious to build on the Assembly’s acquis in order to better serve Europe’s interests.

Several governments have referred to the current financial crisis as an urgent reason for denouncing the modified Brussels Treaty, the WEU founding treaty, which provides the legal basis for the European Security and Defence Assembly. That treaty also and above all contains a strong, legally binding European “collective defence” clause: Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty. The argument that the mutual assistance clause in the Lisbon Treaty – which relies for collective defence on NATO alone – could replace Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty word for word is not one that everyone agrees with. Indeed some political leaders take the view that the Lisbon Treaty’s mutual assistance clause is no substitute for the legally binding collective defence clause contained in the modified Brussels Treaty. Our governments would therefore be well advised to study carefully all aspects of European defence, bringing due historical insight and political acumen to bear on them! In the statement issued on 31 March 2010 by the Presidency of the Permanent Council of the WEU on behalf of the High Contracting parties to the modified Brussels Treaty – Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom – it is specified that the States Parties to the treaty “have collectively decided to terminate the Treaty, thereby effectively closing the organisation”. The governments nonetheless underline “the specific nature of CSDP” and therefore “encourage as appropriate the enhancement of interparliamentary dialogue in this field including with candidates for EU accession and other interested states. Protocol 1 on the role of the national parliaments in the European Union, annexed to the Lisbon Treaty, may provide a basis for it”.

A firm hand on the tiller is needed now to avoid any weakening of national parliaments’ powers of scrutiny over the CSDP! It is urgent to take steps to implement Protocol 1 of the Lisbon Treaty on the role of the national parliaments. Indeed the national parliaments must continue to be the main pillar and driving force for the activities mentioned in that protocol, if interparliamentary scrutiny is to be truly effective and contribute to strengthening the CFSP, an intergovernmental policy that is crucial for Europe’s future.

According to Article 10 of Protocol 1 of the Lisbon Treaty on the role of the national parliaments in the European Union, “A conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs may submit any contribution it deems appropriate for the attention of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. That conference shall in addition promote the exchange of information and best practice between national Parliaments and the European Parliament, including their special committees. It may also organise interparliamentary conferences on specific topics, in particular to debate matters of common foreign and security policy, including common security and defence policy. Contributions from the conference shall not bind national Parliaments and shall not prejudge their positions”. This idea reflects the type of interparliamentary work carried out by the Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC).

The European Security and Defence Assembly does not wish to stand in the way of implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. But with the disappearance of the WEU treaty, there is a danger that the national parliaments will lose the only tried and tested interparliamentary instrument they currently have for scrutinising the CSDP. The national parliaments must therefore call for an ambitious implementation of the Lisbon Treaty provisions on interparliamentary cooperation in the field of the CFSP. They must promote the only credible model for interparliamentary scrutiny: a light but permanent and efficient structure. It is a matter of respect for the legitimate powers of the national parliaments and of the effectiveness of the democratic scrutiny that it is their full right and duty to exercise on behalf of the citizens who elected them!

In that regard, a recent draft resolution of the French Senate on the parliamentary scrutiny of the Common Security and Defence Policy describes the WEU Assembly as “the only institutionalised body bringing together, in a regular and organised fashion, national parliamentarians from the 27 EU member states for joint discussions of issues of European defence”. The French Senators therefore take the view that “the disappearance of the WEU Assembly should be made subject to the creation of a structure that would bring together parliamentarians from the 27 member states – at least from those member states that so wish – who are specialised in defence matters (i.e. who are members of their parliaments’ defence committees) (…)”.

Mere exchanges of views or sporadic conferences, whether within or outside a COSAC framework, would not be enough to provide interparliamentary scrutiny of the CFSP worthy of the challenges facing Europe in the field of security and defence. There is a vital need for a lightweight but permanent structure which I would urge the 27 national parliaments to finance jointly. The European Council could provide assistance for the functioning of that permanent cooperation body, but in my view the national parliaments must remain in charge.

In my capacity as President of the Assembly I recently spoke before the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Belgian Senate during a hearing on CFSP and CSDP and the future of parliamentary scrutiny of those areas of EU policy, in the wake of the announcement by the ten States Parties of their decision to close the organisation by the end of June 2011.

I pointed out that the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty had marked the beginning of a period of transition during which it was necessary to study various options regarding the future form to be given to the parliamentary scrutiny of Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Indeed, the proposal to abolish WEU had already acted as a catalyst for the ongoing efforts to define the most suitable system for ensuring satisfactory involvement by national parliamentarians in the Common Security and Defence Policy. I also expressed regret at the fact that the governments had taken the decision to close down WEU before setting up a new structure, rather than the other way round. It is therefore important – indeed essential – that interparliamentary scrutiny continues to be exercised by the Assembly until such time as the new structure is up and running. It is also important that the new structure should be more than a simple conference which would allow parliamentarians to exchange views but not to exercise scrutiny over EU players and actions.

The members of the Belgian Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee supported the appeal I addressed to the Belgian Presidency of the EU/WEU (second half of 2010) to launch an initiative with a view to setting up a new structure that could eventually replace the Assembly. The Chairman of the Belgian Delegation to the Assembly, Mr Philippe MONFILS, suggested that this question be added to the Belgian Presidency’s programme of work for the second half of 2010.

That new structure has to be compatible with the Lisbon Treaty, formally recognised by the EU Council and High Representative, given sufficient financial resources and has to include within it representatives of the European NATO member states. Indeed, Norway, Turkey and others make a major contribution to our operations and deserve to be involved in our interparliamentary cooperation.

The Speaker of the Belgian Senate, Armand De DECKER, who presided over the hearing, said that national parliaments needed to make sure that their debates on EU policy were not confined to the national level. They needed to have an instrument available to them at the European level for interparliamentary dialogue and scrutiny by national parliamentarians. Another Senate member, Hendrik DAEMS, the Assembly’s Rapporteur for “CSDP monitoring by national parliaments and in the European Parliament”, added that the change now being imposed could offer the prospect of some significant improvements. Parliamentary scrutiny should in future be extended to deal with the wider issues of security, rather than being limited to purely military matters.


The acknowledged need for continued interparliamentary scrutiny of the Common Security and Defence Policy involving the members of the 27 member states’ parliaments is beyond question.

There are different ways of establishing a framework for such scrutiny, which should be exercised at a sufficiently high level to be properly representative. Any proposal must be consistent with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

In my view the way ahead is as follows. In order to ensure coordination between government and parliamentary positions on how to continue interparliamentary scrutiny of the Common Security and Defence Policy, a steering committee should be set up under the joint chairmanship of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the incoming Belgian EU Presidency (represented ideally by the Speakers of the Senate and the Chamber) to determine the way ahead and in particular the legal and financial basis for such scrutiny.

The steering committee should also include, inter alia, the President of the European Security and Defence Assembly / Assembly of WEU, the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, the Chairman of COSAC (Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union) and representatives of the defence and foreign affairs committees of the national parliaments.

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1 commentaire:

Anonyme a dit…

Effectivement, M. Walter a raison de s'inquiéter de la fin de cette assemblée: supprimer une assemblée en prétextant un coût de 2 millions d'Euros par an, comme le font les britanniques dans leur déclaration à ce sujet est tout de même peu crédible.
Si la Grand-Bretagne en est là, l'heure est grave.