|Author (Person)||Abbott, Dennis|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.43, 28.11.02, p9|
THE European Union figured prominently in the 'Prague Summit Declaration' issued by heads of state and government leaders at last week's NATO meeting in the Czech capital.
The key elements of the communiqué held few surprises. As expected, seven former Eastern bloc countries were invited to join the Alliance - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - all of them also candidates to join the EU. They are expected to sign accession protocols by the end of March 2003 and to complete the ratification process before the next NATO summit in May 2004.
The summit also confirmed well-flagged plans to create a NATO Response Force (NRF), designed to be 'technologically advanced, flexible and ready to move quickly to wherever needed'. The declaration states that 'the NRF and the related work of the EU Headline Goal should be mutually reinforcing while respecting the autonomy of both organisations'.
However, it avoids direct mention of the key component of the Union's Headline Goal, the soundalike EU Rapid Reaction Force. The declaration goes on to call for a 'spirit of openness' between the EU and NATO 'to develop new military capabilities for modern welfare in a high-threat environment'.
Leaders pledged to improve capabilities in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defence; intelligence surveillance and target acquisition; air-to-ground surveillance; command, control and communications; combat effectiveness, including precision-guided weapons; air and sea lift; air-to-air refuelling; and deployable combat support.
The declaration also stressed the 'common strategic interests' shared by the EU and NATO. 'The success of our cooperation has been evident in our concerted efforts in the Balkans to restore peace and create the conditions for prosperous and democratic societies.
'Events on and since 11 September 2001 have underlined further the importance of greater transparency and cooperation between our two organisations relating to security, defence and crisis management,' the paper states.
Finally, it notes the 'need to find solutions satisfactory to all allies on the issue of participation by non-EU European allies in order to achieve a genuine strategic partnership' - a non-too-subtle reference to the dispute which has resulted in Turkey blocking EU access to NATO assets.
Lord Robertson, the Alliance secretary-general, said the communiqué was 'about decisions, not just declarations' with the aim of transforming NATO into an organisation ready to cope with new challenges, especially terrorism.
He claimed that the 'tide had turned' in terms of the attitude towards defence spending, with several members committed to an increase in real terms.
'NATO remains the embodiment of transatlantic security,' he added.
Earlier, NATO spin doctors avoided a diplomatic headache when Leonid Kuchma, the controversial Ukrainian president, turned up in Prague uninvited. He had been urged to stay away after failing to answer charges that he had agreed to sell anti-aircraft radar to Iraq.
He arrived at a dinner for the 46-member Euro-Atlantic partnership Council, expecting to be seated next to Tony Blair and one place away from President Bush. However, quick-thinking NATO officials decided to seat the leaders in French alphabetical order, rather than the usual English.
That moved Bush (Etats-Unis) and Blair (Royaume-Uni) away from the Ukrainian 'bad guy'.
Report of the NATO summit in Prague, 21-22 November 2002.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|