Historical archive

The Brussels Summit and Intergovernmental Conference - A Norwegian Perspective (Traavik)

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement by State Secretary Kim Traavik at a seminar on the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference (16.12.03)

State Secretary Kim Traavik

The Brussels Summit and Intergovernmental Conference –A Norwegian Perspective

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 December 2003

We are very pleased to have John Palmer with us this afternoon. His presence in Oslo is fast turning into a pre-Christmas tradition. And we look forward to his analysis of the outcome, or - perhaps more to the point – the lack of an outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference.

Before passing the floor over to Mr. Palmer, I will make a few comments from a Norwegian perspective. Following the two introductory statements, as usual, the floor will be open for questions, comments and discussion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There has been a lot of doom, gloom, and hand-wringing, in the wake of the collapse of the IGC summit meeting.

To be sure, the failure of the leaders of the European Union to approve the new constitutional treaty is a significant setback. But it may not be a disaster, at least not necessarily. And as we all know, setbacks have happened before in the history of the EU.

From the point of view of outsiders, it is significant that the break-down of the IGC has no immediate effect on the day-to-day running of the EU, or the EEA, for that matter. And the historic eastward enlargement remains on track and will take place as planned on May 1 next year.

If it proves possible to pick up the IGC pieces next year – perhaps during the Dutch presidency in the second half of 2004 – last Saturday’s events may in hindsight appear to have been a temporary delay, albeit a regrettable one.

That seems at least a possible scenario. John Palmer is better placed to judge how likely it is and how long it will take.

Even though the question of voting rights proved an insurmountable obstacle, there was broad support for the rest of the draft. The leaders were tantalizingly close to agreeing on a constitutional treaty that would make the EU more democratic, more transparent, and hopefully more efficient. That would be in the Norwegian interest as well.

The failure of the IGC has brought the specter of a two-speed Europe back to the fore. It is probably too early to speculate on this. First the dust has to settle.

But if it were to come to this, it would obviously raise a number of important questions about the future of the EU and more specifically about first and second-class members. It remains unclear how - and perhaps if - a two-speed Europe would work. Hence, we assume that all other possibilities will have been exhausted if this road is eventually embarked upon.

In the meantime, let us focus on the positive, meaning the prospect of EU enlargement, which also means EEA enlargement and thus a strengthening of Norway’s co-operation with the EU.

And EU enlargement does not end with the accession of ten new member states on 1 May 2004. For Bulgaria and Romania the Brussels European Council on Friday set January 2007 as the target accession date. Croatia applied for membership in February this year, and may accede somewhat later.

Somewhat paradoxically, Norway is a strong supporter of the enlargement of the EU. Enlargement will strengthen political stability and economic prosperity throughout Europe. This will benefit Norway, too. From this perspective it is entirely appropriate that we will contribute substantially more to the reduction of economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU.

In the period 2004 to 2005, the EEA/EFTA countries will contribute an annual amount of 230 million Euro, primarily to the new member states. Most of this money will come from Norway. The new financial instruments will provide a solid basis for further development of our relations with Poland and the Baltic countries, which between themselves will receive more than half of the sum total.

But from a Norwegian perspective, the most important part of the conclusions of the European Council was the agreement on measures to strengthen EU capability in the area of civilian and military peace operations.

We realize that in some, probably exceptional cases, the EU needs to have the ability to mount autonomous operations, without the recourse to NATO assets. But normally, the EU would draw upon the structures and resources of the Alliance.

Hence, we appreciate the strong emphasis in the Summit’s decision on European Defence on the need to strengthen contacts and consultations with NATO. And we agree wholeheartedly that "the Alliance should remain the forum for discussion and the natural choice for an operation involving European and North American allies".

The formula worked out between the United Kingdom, France and Germany and endorsed by the other summiteers is predicated on partnership, and not competition, between the EU and NATO. We agree with Lord Robertson’s comment that the agreement is a good one.

That certainly includes the idea of an EU planning cell at SHAPE, which will enhance EU planning capacity and facilitate recourse to already existing resources. In conjunction with the envisaged liaison arrangement for NATO in the EU military staff it will also enhance transparency between the two organizations.

The latter is important not least for allied non-EU countries such as Norway. We aim to support EU-led operations, as we are already doing in Bosnia, but if so we will need information and dialogue at an early stage of the planning of operations. The establishment of the SHAPE planning cell and the Cortenberg liaison element will go a long way towards meeting that need.

As we see it, the European Council’s decision on European defense and crisis management is a positive contribution to rebuilding the frayed trans-Atlantic relations. The same applies to the Declaration on Transatlantic Relations, with its strong emphasis that the transatlantic relationship continues to be irreplaceable even though the EU is strengthening its own operational and planning capabilities on security and defence.

And we welcome and support the adoption of the European Security Strategy. Its analysis of global challenges is broadly consistent with our own thinking. And the emphasis on economic development, international law and preventive action as prerequisites for stability is of course fully in line with Norwegian policy.

The wide range of instruments that the EU has at its disposal, including increased capability for crisis management with both civilian and military means, creates an effective tool box for preventing and solving future conflicts. We subscribe to the EU’s view that neither a single country nor one international organization is able to tackle today’s complex problems alone.

The security strategy should contribute to enabling the EU member states to confront a wide range of threats in a coordinated way. First and foremost the EU will set out to meet these threats by building security in its immediate neighbourhood; in the Balkans, in Eastern Europe and in the Mediterranean area, including the Middle East. We see the new Wider Europe initiative as an important part of this approach, building on established programmes, agreements and institutional links.

Turning finally to the area of justice and home affairs, we note with satisfaction the Council’s endorsement of the political agreement on a European Borders Agency. As a Schengen partners, we fully subscribe to the need for cooperation and coordination of operational measures, and have already signalled our intention to participate in the Agency.

Other important conclusions under this point include the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating third countries in the fight against illegal immigration, and a financial instrument relating to cooperation with these countries. Along with the statement on interfaith dialogue, these conclusions also highlight the close relationship between the CFSP and the JHA areas.

This of course brings me right back to the EU Security Strategy and the need for a comprehensive approach in order to obtain security, stability and development, and shows yet again why the EU is such an important player across a range of policy areas.

In conclusion, in spite of the collapse of the IGC important decisions were made in Brussels last weekend. The fact that there will now be more time for reflection on the constitutional treaty may not be entirely negative I suspect it will be taken as a useful opportunity to reconsider priorities, national and European. We do indeed live in interesting times.

On that note, over to you, John.