14 March 2012 - NATO PA DEFENCE COMMITTEE VISITS FRANCE TO DISCUSS IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LISBON SUMMIT, MISSILE DEFENCE
16 legislators from 12 NATO member states visited Paris and Brest on 5-7 March to continue monitoring the implementation of NATO’s November 2010 Strategic Concept by member states and to learn about France’s defence policy priorities. Host country interlocutors emphasised the commitment of France to NATO.
The meetings and discussions focused particularly on French views on and contributions to NATO’s operations and capabilities as well as French defence planning. Missile defence also featured prominently on the agenda, as did France’s nuclear deterrent, the Franco-British agreement on defence and its implications for NATO and for the European Union.
The Defence Committee’s Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Co-operation(DSCTC), led by Sir John Stanley (United Kingdom), met with senior French officials and legislators, including, among others, Defence Minister Gérard Longuet, Francis Delon, Secretary General for Defence and National Security and Rear-Admiral Pascal Ausseur, Head of the Department for International Organisations at the French Joint Chiefs of Staff.
While acknowledging that the continuing financial crisis puts pressure on public expenditures, Minister Longuet and other host country officials warned that declining defense budgets would weaken the capabilities of NATO forces. The Minister and other speakers warned against further reducing defence expenditures; they called for increased cooperation in defense procurement, particularly among European Allies. France’s nuclear deterrent remains key to its defence; maintaining its strategic autonomy is a high priority for the country, the delegation learned. Given the continuing, and even accelerating, proliferation of ballistic missile technology, ballistic missile defence should be given close attention; France is prepared to take an active part in the development of a European component to missile defence.
As to NATO operations, defence officials stressed the success of the Libya campaign, which was led by France and the United Kingdom and supported by the United States. The exchanges also revealed consensus that the situation in North Africa and the Middle East remains unclear and poses a challenge to the international community, including NATO. Afghanistan remains high on the agenda of the Alliance; France will honour its commitment made at the Lisbon summit.
A visit to Brest, where the delegation visited a naval base and a naval air base concluded a highly interesting programme which provided the NATO parliamentarians with a comprehensive overview of France’s defense posture and contribution to the Alliance.