|Author (Person)||Taylor, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.14, 5.4.01, p4|
EU DIPLOMATS are increasingly confident that the planned visit of US President George W. Bush to NATO's Brussels headquarters in June could produce a breakthrough on Union access to the alliance's military hardware.
Officials say Bush could pressure Turkey to change its stance over granting the EU's planned rapid reaction force the right to use NATO assets. "The Bush visit will focus minds," said one NATO diplomat, adding that a formal agreement could follow shortly after the Texan's appearance on 13 June. "Things might move quite quickly after that."
Ankara has been holding up an essential element of the Union's ambitions to create an independent crisis-management corps. Without NATO equipment the EU's division would not be able to quickly reach trouble spots because member states lack transport planes and other logistical hardware.
The Turks have been insisting on the same rights as Union members on launching military missions. But EU governments insist that only full members of the bloc can have the right.
Diplomats say the US has a strong interest in forging a deal between NATO and the Union to allow the reaction force to become effective, even though Washington has been wary that the EU's plans will undermine the alliance.
"The result by the summer will be one which the US can be quite happy with and which will help transatlantic relations," predicted one military official.
EU diplomats point out that progress is being made behind the scenes on the difficult issue of operational planning. "There has been a fair improvement in discussions between national capitals," said one, although he admitted that there were few signs of an emerging agreement in meetings between senior political and military officials in Brussels.
The US and EU are divided over operational planning arrangements for the new force. The UK wants the Union to use NATO's planning headquarters at SHAPE in southern Belgium even when it is running operations independent of NATO command. But France argues that missions should be planned by national intelligence units for all operations in which NATO does not have a command role.
Diplomats say signs of progress over the issue could emerge at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers at the end of May in Budapest.
Alexander Vershbow, the US ambassador to NATO, recently stressed Washington's support for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) provided it complemented and expanded the alliance's capabilities. In a speech to the Dutch Institute of International Relations, he said: "Done right, ESDP could expand our pool of forces and rectify some of Europe's capability gaps. It could help rationalise and redirect resources, result in more balanced burden-sharing, and lead to a genuine strategic between two premier organisations."
But Vershbow warned against treating ESDP simply as the latest stage in European integration rather than thinking about its effectiveness. "ESDP cannot be viewed as a political exercise in European institution-building," he said.
EU diplomats are increasingly confident that the planned visit of US President George W. Bush to NATO's Brussels headquarters in June 2001 could produce a breakthrough on EU access to the alliance's military hardware. Officials say Bush could pressure Turkey to change its stance over granting the EU's planned rapid reaction force the right to use NATO assets.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|
|Countries / Regions||United States|