|Author (Person)||Abbott, Dennis|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.13, 29.3.01, p2|
THE German general responsible for turning the Union's rapid reaction force into reality is keeping his head down amid the crossfire surrounding this week's call by France for the EU to have a planning capability independent of NATO.
Rainer Schuwirth, who took up his new post as head of the Union's interim military staff earlier this month, declined to comment specifically on controversial remarks by French Chief of Staff General Jean-Pierre Kelche.
In an interview with the UK's Daily Telegraph, the head of France's military suggested that the new EU force had to have its own planning staff if it was to be properly accountable to its political masters.
"European politicians need to know what is going on. They need to be able to select options and then conduct operations," Kelche said. "Why should we have to through NATO?"
In a carefully-worded statement to European Voice, Lieutenant General Schuwirth avoided any specific reference to planning capabilities. But he made it clear that he will work closely with NATO during the development of the new force "to establish a full operational capability by the end of 2003".
That would mean ensuring "necessary working relations within the existing European Union structure, as well as with other organisations such as NATO and the UN".
"The main challenge certainly is to identify and overcome shortfalls as far as forces are concerned which would be of benefit both for the EU as well as for NATO. You need effective forces, effective structures and common procedures," he added.
Schuwirth's comments will be welcomed at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Washington, where defence officials have reacted with dismay after previous suggestions that the EU force should have an independent planning capability.
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has underlined in recent speeches that he sees no reason to have separate planning bodies. Four NATO working groups, consisting of military top brass and politicians, are currently looking at ways to achieve common ground between the alliance and Schuwirth's new force.
"The two must work together," said a NATO spokesman. "We're talking about the security of the 21st century - we have to get it right."
French defence ministry spokesman Jean-François Bureau later insisted that Kelche's comments about an independent planning capability applied in only two particular cases: crisis management under civil control and very limited military operations.
The general "regrets the important problem of European defence capacity should have been treated in such polemic terms", he added.
Earlier this week, Kelche joined other Union chiefs of defence in Brussels to welcome the appointment of 55-year-old Schuwirth. An artillery man who entered the military at 18, Schuwirth was previously commanding general of IV (GE) Corps in Potsdam. It is not his first posting to Brussels - from 1994-96 he headed the German military mission to NATO, where he gained first-hand experience of how the alliance works.
He told European Voice: "It is a special challenge to be the first director-general of the new European Union military staff and to contribute to the establishment of as defence dimension in the EU. I was very pleased in the trust that was given to me by member states."
This week's meeting of defence chiefs also agreed on recommending Finnish four-star general Gustav Hagglund's appointment as first permanent chairman of the EU military committee.
The German general responsible for turning the Union's rapid reaction force into reality, Rainer Schuwirth, is keeping his head down amid the crossfire surrounding France's call for the EU to have a planning capability independent of NATO.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|