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Interview of General Håkan SYRÉN Chairman of the European Union Military Committee Released to Olivier JEHIN EUROPE DIPLOMACY & DEFENCE - Issue No 349 23 September 2010 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ EU/DEFENCE: GENERAL SYREN REAFFIRMS NEED TO IMPLEMENT NEW INSTRUMENTS PROVIDED BY LISBON TREATY Brussels, 22/09/2010 (EDD) – As the informal meeting of EU defence ministers fast approaches, the chairman of the EU Military Committee is calling for a new way to build European defence, merging a pragmatic approach based on requirements and the political will under the constraints imposed by the economic crisis. During an exclusive interview with EDD, General Håkan Syrén also places emphasis on rapidly setting in place the new tools provided for by the Lisbon Treaty. EDD: What are currently the main priorities of the Military Committee? Håkan Syrèn: To answer that question, I can use the structure that we have created with the new Lisbon Treaty. I took up this position in November last year and I came about the same time as the treaty was launched, which was quite timely, I would say. So what we did here in the Committee was literally we took the Lisbon Treaty, read it word by word, made some conclusions and started the dialogue with the 27 member states, with all the Chiefs of Defence. And in a very open and frank manner, we asked them what they expected us to do here in the Committee, ...

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Interview of General Håkan SYRÉN
Chairman of the European Union Military Committee
Released to Olivier JEHIN
EUROPE DIPLOMACY & DEFENCE
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Issue No 349
23 September 2010
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EU/DEFENCE: GENERAL SYREN REAFFIRMS
NEED TO IMPLEMENT NEW INSTRUMENTS
PROVIDED BY LISBON TREATY
Brussels, 22/09/2010 (EDD) –
As the informal meeting of EU defence ministers fast approaches, the
chairman of the EU Military Committee is calling for a new way to build European defence, merging
a pragmatic approach based on requirements and the political will under the constraints imposed by
the economic crisis. During an exclusive interview with EDD, General Håkan Syrén also places
emphasis on rapidly setting in place the new tools provided for by the Lisbon Treaty.
EDD: What are currently the main priorities of the Military Committee?
Håkan Syrèn:
To answer that question, I can use the structure that we have created with the
new Lisbon Treaty. I took up this position in November last year and I came about the same time as
the treaty was launched, which was quite timely, I would say. So what we did here in the Committee
was literally we took the Lisbon Treaty, read it word by word, made some conclusions and started the
dialogue with the 27 member states, with all the Chiefs of Defence. And in a very open and frank
manner, we asked them what they expected us to do here in the Committee, what they, the 27 member
states, want to have coordinated? And we had a very good dialogue. I think there were over 130
proposals from the member states, their interpretation of the treaty, and in the beginning of May, after
two or three rounds back and forth, we agreed on five strategic priorities. (…) Firstly, the ongoing
operations in Bosnia, Somalia and Uganda which remain the highest priority. I am the point of
contact for the three operational commanders and I meet the 27 military representatives every week
and we have an update. (…) The second priority is to actively support the implementation of the
Lisbon Treaty. There are a number of important new items that we really want to have in place and,
in my mind at least, I hope that this strategic priority can be under way next year (…). The third one,
which is also extremely important, (…) is capability development: how to have capability
development that is relevant and timely according to threats and also capability development that is in
line with the new economies. We have to do capability development in a completely different way
with the new economies among most member states.
The next priority is related to the
comprehensive approach and the work to be done in the EU in order to develop this concept and
improve its implementation on the ground. The fifth strategic priority is to strengthen international
partnerships and to have increased dialogue with NATO, United Nations and the African Union. The
interesting thing that takes place right now is that I have had a number of delegations here around this
table from countries like Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan and Thailand in order to discuss partnerships
and our operation in the Indian Ocean. This is a new world that is really opening up.
EDD: Do we need a new Headline Goal?
H.A.:
That is a political question, as to whether we need that or not, and there are, for the
time being, different views among the 27 member states. I personally think that sometimes we are
victims or prisoners under different formats and procedures.
Of course there must be a clear
identification of the shortfalls that we have and also of how to come to grips with them. (…) That is
an ongoing discussion and next week (Ed.: beginning 20 September) I will have a meeting where this
issue will be raised again and I cannot rule out that the defence ministers will touch on this question
next Friday morning. (…) For us in the Military Committee, for the time being, we can continue to
have effective capability development mainly together with the EDA, the European Defence Agency.
EDD: And this even without a new Headline Goal?
H.A.:
Yes. With or without, there must be relevant and rational capability development.
EDD: Germany has proposed synchronising EU and NATO capability planning. What
level of synchronisation can we reach?
H.A.:
I think that we can go quite a long way in this issue. To begin with, we must
understand that 21 of the 27 are members of both organisations and I think that we can move forward.
There is also pressure on to accomplish something because of the state of the economy. We have to do
things in cooperation. We have to share information. We have to pool resources and we have to
cooperate.
EDD: In some countries, like France, the mood today is to say that European
cooperation does not work and one would do better to go for bilateral cooperation. Is this true?
H.A.:
Much of what is wanted is from the top down, that is, a political view, and I can agree
that there has been a lot of reluctance and we haven’t accomplished much or that we could have
accomplished more. The initiative that I am taking is to start a dialogue that is bottom up which, I
think, makes it much easier and much more pragmatic. We are trying to bring clusters of countries
that can cooperate around the table, and we are trying to find different areas where it’s possible to
cooperate. This can be training and exercise, education, maintenance, procurement, or surveillance
and, if we can identify these areas pragmatically and put the member states around the table, then the
bottom-up approach will meet the top-down approach, and then we have an instrument that really can
activate, stimulate and give inspiration for deeper cooperation. This is also forced by the lack of
money and it is in our third priority for the capability development.
EDD: To come back to synchronisation with NATO, are there some specific needs of
the EU that should be addressed outside this synchronised planning process?
H.A.:
Yes. (…) Because NATO is purely a military organisation and the EU is an
organisation where the military parts are only some little bits but where you have all the different
civilian parts that can be very useful in a civil-military perspective, that is exactly what you can see in
Afghanistan, in the Balkans – this also being the nature of modern conflicts. There are a lot of useful
means for reconstruction, for conflict prevention and we cannot do it alone with a military force, nor
can the civilian resources do it themselves. So there must be integration. While NATO is a purely
military organisation and we are just a bit of military, there are bits that cannot be - you used the word
- “synchronised”, because they don’t do it and we do.
EDD: To improve this civilian-military cooperation in Kosovo, for example, would it
not be better for the Union to take over the military operation there?
H.A.:
That is a very sensitive question and it is not a purely military question. It is of
course a political question. We have done it before. I mean, the EU took over in Bosnia in 2004. So,
yes, it is possible. We have shown that it’s possible. We have shown in Tchad, where we handed over
the mission to the United Nations, that it is possible to change the leadership. But that initiative must
be political and while doing that kind of handover you must also ask yourself, and be very pragmatic
about it again, what happens with regard to contributions from the member states when you change
leadership. Are the member states still willing to contribute to a new leadership or not? So I do not
want to jeopardise this reality to have contributors. It is possible, but I do not have it on my table
right now.
EDD: And in terms of efficiency from a civil-military cooperation point of view?
H.A.:
Well, theoretically yes. We have a police mission in Kosovo, which is a civilian
mission and you can see integration in that context and also with the different contributions to the
country from the EU Commission. That could be coordinated. So, theoretically, that could be in line
with the ideas of comprehensive approach.
EDD: The Lisbon Treaty introduces several new tools: PSC, ECAP, the mutual
assistance clause, the solidarity clause, the conduct of an operation by a group of member states,
the preparatory fund. What is the most important item on this list?
H.A.:
We have touched on it twice already and yesterday (Ed.: 15 September) I had a long
discussion with the Committee about permanent structured cooperation, and this is also a very
important priority for the Belgian presidency. I mean they are all important but Belgium and also
myself will give priority to permanent structured cooperation. It’s not a science. This can be very
pragmatic. We cannot continue to do business the way we have done so far with the new economies in
Europe. We must try to find areas where we can cooperate. (…) I think we already do a lot of
structured cooperation today, like battlegroups, like surveillance, and strategic airlift and right now
there is an ongoing project about counter IED (ed.: improvised explosive devices). (…) And in this
context of permanent structured cooperation, we are also discussing in terms of pooling and sharing.
A number of member states are cooperating on different levels, the Nordic countries for example. And
I think there are a lot of potential money savings to be made and a lot of efficiency in this.
EDD: Do you see any chance for implementation before the end of this year?
H.A.:
This a strong political top-down will. Now we have to show what is possible. What
we have done here in my structure is to try to find a totally different way of working (…) in all the
bodies we have and the military staff and the EDA and the CMPD. I am convinced that there will be
accomplishments of different kinds but (…) you have to have 27 member states on board and this will
take some time.
EDD: Do we really need to have 27 member states on board? I mean, should the aim
be inclusiveness? Should we not rather decide on some criteria in order to guarantee that a
minimum level of effort is achieved?
H.A.:
You’re right, and to find a common denominator that all the 27 can agree on. I mean
that’s almost theory. So we must find I would say clusters, groups of countries, stimulate them to
work together and that is a good start.
We must be very pragmatic and take examples in the
battlegroup concept. (…)
EDD: Coming back to European capabilities and armaments policy, what do we need
to introduce into this new policy?
H.A.:
While the armed forces are shrinking, I think, concerning armaments, that there will
be a necessity for fusion. (…) There is no room for all the facilitators of personal vehicles or the naval
shipyards. The armed forces are so small now in Europe that it will be difficult to maintain all these
structures. New technology concerning command and control will take us further. There is also a
necessity for interoperability. We have to talk and communicate in one system in real time. Then you
cannot have a number of different command and control systems. I am also very much focusing on
logistics within the member states. We are supposed to be relevant, timely and efficient with our
armed forces.
We must have a completely different view of logistics.
We cannot have such
businesses in parallel pipes and under different policies or regulations. I have touched on surveillance
earlier. (…) So, concerning armaments, I foresee a need for rationality and a lot of pain.
EDD: What kind of expenses should the preparatory fund cover?
H.A.:
I do not want to jump into specific materials, systems or activities. What I think is
that it is very important that we have funding so we can use our forces in line with the preparedness
that they are given. I mean, if you have a unit that is prepared to do something in a specific time -10
or 30 days or whatever it is – we must also have the funding for it. (…) So that mechanism must be
shorter and faster.
EDD: Can PSC and ECAP serve to shape a more efficient transformation process?
H.A.:
Absolutely. No doubt about it. If you can do things in a smarter way, then you are
more efficient and that is really an inspiration for the 27 member states to transform their armed
forces much faster. (…) If one can agree that the battlegroup is a permanent structured cooperation
(…) and in my mind it is a permanent structured cooperation. In my experience, if I hadn’t had the
battlegroup for the transformation of the Swedish armed forces, I dare not think what they would look
like concerning the personal manning system, conscript system, procurement business, the mindset
among the people, and the feeling of being operational, to be ready to go out in 10 to 30 days time.
When we were under this pressure to establish a battlegroup, then almost everyone understood that
they had to get to grips with it for huge parts of organisation and it really helped us in the transition.
So I think permanent structured organisation does not just deliver an operational effect, but is also a
tool for transformation.
EDD: What should be the main priorities for transformation of European armies?
H.A.:
I will give you an answer that you do not expect: understanding. It’s information.
It’s huge. In order to make all people understand, we must leave the Cold War and what we have
done before behind us and have a new focus. You cannot just sit down here and write all these things
and make sketches. We have to start with the mindset of people to understand that now it is the
international perspective that is the most important, not the national. You must understand that you
cannot accomplish everything alone. You must cooperate. This is a completely different way of
working and a completely different way of thinking. So to get there, we must have our values and our
understanding much more in common.
EDD: Would it be useful to develop an EU strategic concept or an EU White Paper on
defence and security?
H.A.:
Of course, when we have all the new tools (Ed. : introduced by the Lisbon Treaty) in
place, when the external action service is organised and when it is manned and when we have seen the
NATO strategic concept, and we almost have – I haven’t discussed this with anyone and I don’t know
if we should call it a White Paper or not – I think it will be very useful to have one message that
makes it very clear where we are going with the comprehensive approach and civil-military
coordination. All this stuff we can take together, merge it, make it one message and have the
possibility to say this is the military tool you have in Europe for the common security and defence
policy. Of course that would be wonderful. We are not at that point yet. They remain bits to be put
in place but, if we meet in six months’ time or one year’s time, please allow me to come back to that.
EDD: You were in Russia recently. What do you expect from cooperation with this
country?
H.A.:
I expect that we can have discussions and I hope that I and the chief of defence in
Russia can have some sort of idea when we meet with all the 27 chiefs of defence in October. What we
discussed in Moscow was a good example that was can continue with. It was the Russian contribution
to the operation we had in Chad, the fact that they are sharing information with us in the Indian Ocean
or off the Somalia coast, the fact that we have participants in our EU Defence College. We have
students here that can participate in our military training and exercises. These are quite pragmatic,
small, careful steps totally in line with the Lisbon Treaty and our strategic priority to have a better
strategic partnership. But we have a long way to go. It is a question of language, culture, backgrounds.
But it is my job to try to exhaust all possibilities, see where the red lines are.