Anders Fogh Rasmussen says measures are needed for closer EU-NATO co-operation.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of NATO, has called on the European Union to give Turkey a role in the Union's security policy. He said that NATO and the EU had to find pragmatic ways to improve their co-operation. Under his proposals, the EU would conclude a security agreement with Turkey, give Turkey special status with the European Defence Agency, and involve it in decision-making on EU security missions.
Fogh Rasmussen told European Voice that such measures were required to overcome the chief obstacle to closer EU-NATO co-operation, the division of Cyprus. NATO member Turkey has been occupying the northern third of the island since 1974, but the rest of Cyprus became part of the EU in 2004. Fogh Rasmussen said that because of mutual vetoes by Cyprus in the EU and Turkey in NATO, co-operation between the two organisations was hamstrung.
“We are in the absurd situation that the only issue we are allowed to discuss in formal joint EU-NATO meetings is Bosnia,” he said. A special arrangement was found for co-operation between NATO headquarters and the EU missions in Macedonia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the arrangement does not apply to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Somalia where both organisations have separate missions. With prospects for a Cyprus settlement receding, pressure for a more permanent mechanism to allow strategic co-operation is growing.
Fogh Rasmussen is preparing for a NATO summit in Lisbon on 19-20 November, at which he will present his strategic concept for NATO.
“It is my intention to make an EU-NATO partnership an important part of the strategic concept,” he said.
“If we are to put substance into that, then we need some progress on the ground, and this is the reason why I have accompanied the strategic concept with more pragmatic proposals as to how we could overcome the obstacles,” Fogh Rasmussen said.
The NATO summit, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama, will be followed by an EU-US summit. The US has been urging its European allies to work more closely on defence matters with Turkey.
At their European Council meeting on 16 September, the EU's national leaders charged Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, with preparing proposals for increased co-operation with NATO. Fogh Rasmussen said that he had discussed his ideas with Ashton and a number of the EU's prime ministers.
He warned that there was a contradiction between the EU's ambition, advanced in its Lisbon treaty, to be a global actor, and its actions.
“What I am concerned about is a lack of will in Europe to put substance to the vision of a global role for Europe,” he said. “But Europeans must realise that if Europe wants to have a global role then Europe must also have a global range, which takes more investment in defence capabilities.” He said that the Lisbon treaty, with its strategic ambitions, would remain “an empty shell” unless the EU member states invested more in defence.
Fogh Rasmussen said that the current economic climate made increased defence spending difficult. But he appealed to EU states to use the economic crisis and dire budget situations at home as an opportunity to pool military resources and improve their defence capabilities.
He said that the European members of the alliance could not afford to reduce defence spending in the face of a continuing threat from terrorism, nuclear proliferation and new energy-supply risks.
“The solution is not just to spend more but, I would say, to spend smarter,” Fogh Rasmussen said.