NATO strategy to look at EU relations, says Albright

EU Observer (Link) - Valentina Pop (January 28, 2010)

Relations between the EU and NATO are to be included in the new strategic concept for the military alliance currently being developed by a group of experts led by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

�We need to maximise collaboration with the EU and make more use of political consultation,� Ms Albright told MEPs in Brussels during a special hearing on Wednesday (27 January).

Ms Albright was the US� foreign policy supremo during 1997-2001 when NATO launched its first military action in the former Yugoslavia. The 72-year old has now been appointed to chair an expert panel tasked to advise NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Ramussen on an updated �strategic concept� for the military alliance.

The document will outline new security threats ranging from cyberattacks to terrorism and energy security and the way the military alliance, founded during the Cold War to protect Europe from a potential Soviet invasion, can respond.

�With 20 plus members, NATO can be slow and caught flat-footed by change,� Ms Albright argued, highlighting �internal complacency� as a major threat.

She said the founding principle of the alliance � the military defence of its members in case of an armed attack � would remain at the centre of the organisation.

But the alliance had to take into account new threats and its own enlargement to 28 members since the last strategic concept, dating back to 1999.

In addition, NATO must take into account the EU�s own expansion and its military and civilian missions abroad.

In this era of �scarce resources,� when national coffers are near empty and military budgets have been slashed, avoiding duplication between NATO and the EU is of particular importance, Ms Albright argued.

For their part, MEPs called for a clear division of labour and more co-ordination between the two organisations.

Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz Wolski, in charge of EU-NATO relations, said he was struck how the two institutions were working in �totally separate worlds,� despite having the same concerns and roughly the same armies and citizens, on the European side.

Of the EU�s 27 members, only Austria, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are not part of the military alliance.

At the same time, Mr Saryusz-Wolski identified converging trends as NATO looks to developing a �soft,� civilian side in Afghanistan, while the EU is going for increased military capabilities within its foreign and security policy.

�If the two are going more towards each other, the question arises how to make their roles complementary and avoid overlapping,� he said.

UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff asked Ms Albright if she was worried about the possibility of a �core group� of military-capable states establishing their own club within the EU � a provision enshrined in the bloc�s new legal framework, the Lisbon Treaty.

Ms Albright kept her remarks general and pointed out that her team�s work was still ongoing. A draft concept is to be issued by NATO�s secretary general in time for the November summit in Lisbon, when NATO leaders are meant to adopt the final document.