NATO-EU deal ready for Bush visit

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Series Details Vol.7, No.23, 7.6.01, p1
Publication Date 07/06/2001
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Date: 07/06/01

By David Cronin

EU DIPLOMATS say the final settlement to the protracted dispute over allowing the Union's fledgling military force access to NATO assets will be reached on the eve of the US President George W. Bush's visit to Europe next week.

British officials have drafted a proposal which should lead to an agreement on this delicate issue, stalled for several months because of differences between the Union and Turkey over how much involvement the latter should have in operations of the 60,000-strong rapid reaction force.

Although Ankara has indicated it is generally happy with the draft, it may not formally endorse it until the meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels next Wednesday (13 June), a day before the EU-US summit in Göteborg, Sweden. "We're still waiting for the smoke to come out of the chimney and see what colour it is," said one diplomat, who described the UK document as "close to being acceptable" to Ankara. "It will have to be resolved at ministerial level, rather than cast a pall over the summit."

The plan suggests that countries such as Turkey which belong to NATO but not the EU would have to be regularly consulted about the force's strategy and planning but would not have a veto over any of its operations. Consultation would be mandatory when the EU wishes to avail itself of NATO's military hardware or other facilities.

Intensive talks are to take place in the coming days between the US, the Union and Ankara to ensure that any doubts about the plan can be removed.

Bush, making his first official visit to Europe, is stressing his desire to maintain strong ties with the EU even while he is under intense criticism for his environmental and defence policies. Dedicating a memorial to the 1944 D-Day invasion, Bush said he was committed to preserving the "deep ties" between the two continents.

Bush was also finalising a new proposal for voluntary measures to address the problem of global warming. The US president is hoping to pre-empt strong criticism next week from European leaders over his decision to abandon the 1997 Kyoto climate-change accord. Bush hopes to have a new global-warming agreement in hand when he meets EU leaders next Thursday in Göteborg.

Meanwhile, European Voice has learned that a progress report on the EU's security and defence policy due to be discussed by foreign ministers next Monday and Tuesday (11-12 June) fails to say if the target of having the rapid reaction force fully operational by 2003 is likely to be met.

Officials said the paper is deliberately vague on this point due to uncertainties about whether the force will have the equipment needed to fulfil its goal of being able to react to outbreaks of violence or emerging humanitarian crises within 60 days. They insist, though, that the general tone of the report is upbeat. "My personal view is that we are on track to reach our objectives," said one.

EU diplomats say the final settlement to the protracted dispute over allowing the Union's fledgling military force access to NATO assets will be reached on the eve of US President George W. Bush's forthcoming visit to Europe.

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