26-30 September 2005 - VISIT TO MADRID AND LISBON [SUB-COMMITTEE ON TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS of the POLITICAL COMMITTEE]
1. Approximately 20 members of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Relations visited Madrid, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal, during the week of September 26-30, 2005. The delegation, led by chairman Egemen Bagis of Turkey, discussed a broad variety of topics with government representatives, parliamentary leaders, and independent experts. The main issues discussed during the visit included transatlantic relations, the future role of NATO, combating terrorist groups, and security in the Mediterranean basin.
I. MADRID, SPAIN
A. SPANISH FOREIGN AND SECURITY PRIORITIES
2. With regard to Spanish foreign and security priorities, Rafael Dezcallar, General director for Foreign Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, identified the following priorities:
-Advancing the European Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including
3. Senior officials in the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministries stressed that Spain is actively contributing to NATO security. With currently 769 Spanish soldiers in the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and 475 in ISAF, the country participates in Alliance operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Government and parliamentary representatives affirmed that Spain is willing to shoulder its share of responsibilities and does not consider its engagement to Afghanistan as a short-term commitment,. Discussions in Madrid also touched upon the relationship between International Security Force (ISAF) and the US-led counter-terrorist 'Operation Enduring Freedom'. Speakers agreed that creating synergies between the two are desirable, but different views on the operations in Afghanistan were expressed in discussions with Spanish parliamentarians. While Jesus Quadrado described ISAF under NATO auspices as satisfying, Roberto Soravilla was sceptical that ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom' could be combined. Moreover, while the current government has withdrawn the troops from Iraq, Spain is also assisting the Iraqi government to build up its security capabilities. In this context, Mr Dezcallar pointed to the Spanish International De-mining Centre (CID) near Madrid.
4. Pedro Pitarch Bartolomé, General Director for Defence Policy at the Ministry of Defence reminded the delegation that Spain provided 80 percent of the NATO Response Force's (NRF) land component in the 5th rotation cycle. Moreover, of the Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC) which identifies 11 multi-national capability improvement programmes, Spain is the lead nation in air-to-air refuelling and participates in strategic sealift and Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) projects. Like other countries of the Alliance, Spain's military is undergoing substantial transformation, even though the demographic situation poses difficulties for the recruitment of soldiers in the Spanish Armed Forces.
5. A rather provocative view on Spanish defence was offered by Professor Felix Arteaga of University Carlos III. He emphasised the need to meet the major challenge of achieving 'effective multilateralism'. Spain lacks a national security concept, he maintained, arguing that defence is considered in primarily military terms, and that issues like crisis management do not obtain sufficient recognition. According to Professor Arteaga, this is due partly because the public is not really interested in defence and foreign affairs issues, and partly because the foreign and security consensus of the two main political parties no longer exists.
6. Referring to the changed and changing security environment, speakers in Madrid said that both NATO and the European Union play important roles for European security. Slightly different views on which of the two organisations should play the lead role in the future were expressed. Mr Dezcallar pointed to the 'global ambition' of the EU and stressed that NATO is limited to a defence and security organisation. Rafael Estrella, Head of the Spanish delegation to the NATO-PA, cautioned that the EU ambition is currently 'quite empty'. Alluding to the discussion of NATO as a toolbox, he suggested that the EU should perhaps become a toolbox for NATO. However, speakers agreed that the current security arrangement under 'Berlin Plus' is a successful formula for co-operation. Mr Dezcallar suggested that it was important to keep NATO-EU co-operation flexible. He added that NATO-EU co-operation should further develop and avoid any duplication of efforts. Mr Bartolomé emphasised the need for a continuing transformation of both NATO and the EU with the aim of increasing the compatibility of the two organisations. Rear Admiral Enrique Perez, Assistant Director for Defence Policy Planning and International Affairs at the Ministry of Defence, considered a clearer delineation of tasks between NATO and the EU necessary. In this context, he bemoaned that there is no clear allocation of tasks between the EU and NATO on combating terrorism and WMD proliferation. A more sceptical view was expressed by Andrés Ortega, Foreign Policy editor of the daily 'El Pais', who saw limits for a meaningful institutional dialogue between NATO and the EU because 'both have become too big for this'.
7. With regard to transatlantic relations Mr Ortega argued that Europe would not be 'anti-US'. However, he submitted that the societies on both sides of the Atlantic are now more divided than they were when the Alliance was founded. In this context he mentioned four areas, where the US and Europe differed, namely religion; international law; the use of force; and the 'socio-economic model'.
8. In Mr Ortega's view, one of the reason why the close transatlantic relationship is threatened, among others, because 'ad-hoc alliances' have become fashionable and because of the shift of power towards Asia. He argued that NATO is no longer the core of strategic transatlantic decision-making but has become merely a 'toolbox'. As for the EU, he added that Europe has no concept of the transatlantic relationship and the failure to ratify the EU constitution has created a 'political vacuum' within the Union. According to Mr Ortega, improving transatlantic relations requires the Allies to focus and find consensus on five issues, namely : Agreement on when military intervention is necessary - and when not; development of a common strategy to combat terrorist organisations; joint action on combating the proliferation of nuclear arms; promotion of sustainable societal and economic reform in the Arab world; and a common approach in our relations with emerging powers like China.
9. A number of speakers in Madrid emphasised the Spanish interest in Latin America. According to Mr Dezcallar, Spain wants to facilitate the entry of Latin America into the 'Western World' while Mr Ortega of the Spanish daily 'El Pais' suggested that transatlantic relations should also include Latin America. Pointing to the strong historic and other links with Latin America, Spain has a 'privileged relationship' with the US, Mr Dezcallar said, even though Spain and the US would not always see eye-to-eye on some issues, such as, Cuba.
10. Because of the long history of attacks by the Basque separatist organisation ETA and the 2004 Madrid bombings, Spanish officials considered terrorism the main security challenge for the Alliance. Professor Fernando Reinares of King Juan Carlos University considered ETA 'seriously weakened', thanks to the Spanish authorities' highly effective and sophisticated counter-terrorist capabilities that have been developed over the years, and the close co-operation with France. Nonetheless, the Basque terrorist group still maintains the potential to 'cause deaths and internal diversion'. To combating internationally active terrorist organisations Spain needs to adapt its counter-terrorism structures and further improve international co-operation. Here, Professor Reinares suggested to improve intelligence capabilities with a special focus on the financing of terrorist groups and on preventing attacks. Progress has been made, he said, particularly after the 11 March 2004 attacks in Madrid, as the number of intelligence personnel that is focusing on terrorist threats other than ETA has increased six-fold to now approximately 600. In addition, Spain has created a national counter-terrorist co-ordination centre.
11. The withdrawal of Spanish forces shortly after the current government came to power has not led to a decrease in terrorist threat, Professor Reinares said. All speakers noted that close international co-operation was necessary to successfully fight internationally active terrorist groups. There is still little co-operation among the 25 EU member countries; most of the EU's counter-terrorist activities being bi-lateral. Professor Reinares and others stressed the need to tackle the root cause of terrorism. Spain has a significant number of immigrants from Islamic countries, and it is therefore very interested in advancing reforms in Islamic countries. Reminding participants of the different birth rates between EU countries and North African countries, Loic Bouvard noted that the demographic factor will have an increasing important impact on Europe. Success against terrorist groups will to a large part depend on our relationship with the Islamic world, in particular whether we can strengthen our economic, political, and cultural ties but also how we can integrate the Islamic populations of the countries of Europe into our communities, Professor Reinares concluded. Rafael Estrella argued that the countries of the Maghreb needed more economic assistance.
12. That the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is seen as the second key security challenge was stressed by Rear Admiral Perez. While he emphasised the need to strengthen military capabilities, the Admiral noted the limits of 'traditional' military capabilities in tackling the new threats.
13. Members of the delegation were interested in obtaining views on how the 'Broader Middle East' (BME) could be stabilised and on how reforms that advance democratic structures could be promoted. Emilio Cassinello Aubán, Director General Toledo International Centre for Peace (TICpax), suggested that the possibility for finding peace in the Middle East will depend on a 'reformed Road Map' and on meeting a number of criteria simultaneously. That NATO's role may be limited was suggested by George Irani, Senior Project Manager for the Middle East and Africa of TICpax, who reminded the Committee that a majority of the countries of the BME region are heavily influenced by tribal and clan societies and where Islamist organisations like Hizbollah and Hamas carry a big weight.
14. Recognising the diversity of the countries of the BME region, several members of the delegation, including Paul Keetch (UK), warned of the danger that the West may be perceived as imposing itself. Some independent speakers, including José Luis Herrero, Director of FRIDE (Foundation for International Relations and External Dialogue), stressed that the international community, and the West in particular, have given priority to stability for too long and argued that the West should promote democracy more strongly. Eventually, the international community has to answer the question whether it is 'willing to risk easy access to fuel to promote democracy'. In a similar vein, Mr Ortéga noted that promoting democracy in the region might well mean that groups like Hamas or Hisbollah win elections. However, he warned against following the 'Algeria model of 1991' (when the international community and the West looked aside when the military took power in the country).
15. Mr Herrero discarded the notion of an 'Arab-Muslim exceptionalism' and cited the experiences in Latin America and in South Africa as positive examples of how democracy can be promoted. Reminding of the positive Spanish and US contributions to democratisation in Central America, Rafael Estrella, considered the reform of the military a crucial first step to democracy building in the countries of the BME. He added that democratisation is both a top-down and a bottom-up process. Asked what the NATO Parliamentary Assembly could do to help improve the situation in the BME, Sean C. Carroll, Director of Programmes at the FRIDE suggested security sector reform and the democratic control of the Armed Forces. Some speakers considered Iraq the litmus test of whether sustainable democratic structures can be built in the BME. Spanish speakers also reminded Sub-Committee members about the 'forgotten conflict' in the Western Sahara. In this context, Director-General Dezcallar welcomed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's decision to name a special representative for the West Sahara.
16. Responding to a question by Sub-Committee chairman Egemen Bagis (TR), Mr Dezcallar said he considered the 'Alliance of Civilisations', co-chaired by the Turkish and Spanish Prime Ministers Erdogan and Zapatero, as a valuable forum to help bridge divides and overcome prejudice and misperceptions which potentially threaten world peace.
17. At the roundtable in Madrid, the speakers welcomed the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip, but added that they hoped that this was not the last step. Mr Dezcallar added that we needed to help Mr Sharon to finish the disengagement process and Mr Abbas to convince Palestinians that the peace process is worthwhile. Moreover, he expressed concern about the lack of reform in Syria.
18. More generally, some Spanish briefers also submitted that it is important to prevent states from 'failing'. Mr Dezcallar stressed that the West has a responsibility and interest in helping Africa. He recommended that Western aid to Africa be drastically increased and explained that Spain has already increased development aid from 0. 24% of GDP in 2004 to 0. 35% in 2005 and that it plans to provide 0. 7% in the following government.
19. In addition to NATO's relations and partnership with the region to its south, discussions in Madrid also touched upon the importance of deepening both NATO's as well as the EU's relationship with Russia. NATO and the EU have a strong interest in the economic and military recovery of Russia, submitted Rafael Calduch, Senior Fellow at Complutense University. With regard to the economic issues, the speaker pointed to the increased trade ties between the EU and Russia, with the latter having an increasingly important role as energy provider for Europe. While Mr Calduch anticipated Russia's economic, political and social situation to improve over the next few years, he voiced concern about its military weakness, which, he said, has been exposed in the Chechen war. Another point of concern, he said, was Russia's desire to maintain a 'hegemonic role' in Central and Eastern Europe. In the exchange with the delegation, members raised a number of issues, including Russia's support for the government of Mr Lukashenko in Belarus, and the reporting of Russian media on the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. With regard to the latter, the academic noted that a majority of Russians have apparently accepted a limited freedom of the media in their country and that there was not much that the EU or any country could do.
20. The role of the United Nations (UN) in international security was also touched upon in the discussions in Madrid. Referring to the recent UN reform summit Mr Dezcallar felt that the media reported too negatively on its outcome. He noted that the summit produced agreement on limitations of national sovereignty in the context of the 'responsibility to protect'. But the Spanish foreign service official welcomed agreement on the responsibility to protect' he cautioned against too high expectations, particularly in regard to possible interventions of the international community if a government is not following up on its responsibility to protect its people. In this context, he cited Haiti as a negative example: failure to stabilise the country through interventions from outside demonstrated that the international community did not have the instruments nor the sustained will for a necessary longer-term engagement.
21. Mr Dezcallar and other speakers also regretted that there has not been an agreement on non-proliferation in the final UN document, particularly on the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which poses an important security challenge. In this context, the Iranian nuclear programme was briefly discussed, and some Spanish speakers voiced concern, arguing that a nuclear-armed Iran would be 'very bad' for regional and international security.
22. During the Portugal leg of the visit, the delegation also had the opportunity to visit NATO's Joint Command Lisbon (JCL) in Oeiras, one of three NATO Operational Commands. JCL assumed Initial Operational Capability in July 2005 and currently has a staff of 210 military and civilian personnel from 17 nations (plus an additional 72 within HQ support). The Headquarters now operates 84% of total personnel strength and will reach Full Operational Capability on 1 July 2006. JCL's first activation has appeared in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina after the US requested NATO to assist in coordinating the delivery of disaster relief from Europe.
23. Oeiras will foster new ideas towards transformation and plays an important role in the development of the NATO Response Force, the delegation learned. The NRF provides the Alliance with an expeditionary capability as its land, sea and air elements allow it to move quickly to wherever needed to conduct in and out of area operations. The NRF may be deployed in different ways, for example, as a 'show of force' to deter aggression; as a stand-alone force for article five or non-article five operations; or as an initial entry force for a larger force.
24. At an operational level HQ, JCL provides the fundamental link between the strategic and the tactical level of operations. Oeiras will command NRF 5 and 6 from July 2005 to June 2006. Moreover, it provides the sea-based Combined Joint Task Force HQ for a single deployment period, and an Operational Preparation Directorate (OPD) with 29 persons. In the discussion with the delegation, military officers at Oeiras were optimistic that NRF may reach Full Operational Capability prior to the scheduled deadline of October 2006. However, some officers expressed concern that the decision making process within NATO may be too slow to allow for a timely, rapid response to emerging crises. Vice-Admiral Melo Gomes, Deputy Commander of JCL suggested that NATO's political decision making must be improved so that it allows timely synchronisation with the readiness of NRF force deployments. In this context, he also referred to the delay by national parliaments.
25. Briefing on Portugal's foreign policy, Joao Gomes Gavinho, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, identified the following priorities:
-the continuation and deepening of the 'European project';
26. NATO has an important role in international security the Foreign Ministry official affirmed. In this context he pointed to the growing relevance of the Alliance in security outside its original area of operation. Depicting 'NATO as the tangible reality of transatlantic relations' he emphasised that America's role in European security remains relevant. Mr Gomes Gavinho commended the Alliance for its remarkable ability to adapt to a new security environment and stressed the importance of NATO's outreach programmes. Emphasising the need to continue the transformation of the Alliance, he said that it may be helpful to update the existing strategic concept, rather than to completely rewrite it. Lieutnant-General Evangelista Esteres de Araujo stressed the need for a holistic approach to tackle the current security challenges Portugal and the NATO allies are facing. He offered a long list of security threats which included WMD proliferation, terrorists groups, failed states, pandemics, and others. State Secretary Gomes Gavinho commended the NATO PA for its important role in transatlantic security dialogue and said that the NATO PA was important for NATO's cohesion. National caveats were also discussed during the meetings in Lisbon. Vice-Admiral Melo Gomes expressed scepticism that it will be possible to remove all existing national caveats.
27. The Minister of Defence, Luis Amado, stressed that Portugal's ability to modernise its armed forces and invest more in procurement is hampered by the high budget deficit, which has reached 6. 8% of the country's GDP. Nonetheless, the Portuguese military is transforming into a more expeditionary, lighter, and more mobile and modular force, according to Lieutnant-General Evangelista Esteres de Araujo. In a separate meeting, Julio Miranda Calha, Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Portuguese Parliament, concurred with this view and emphasised that there is a broad consensus on the need to transform the armed forces in Portugal.
28. The delegation also discussed Portuguese contributions to ongoing NATO operations. Between 800 and 1000 military personnel from Portugal are currently deployed in the Balkans and in Afghanistan (including the commander of the Kabul airport). Moreover, Portuguese Military Police Units have served over a 18 month period. Beginning in early August, Portugal has begun withdrawing its 120-strong military police contingent from Iraq. However, Portugal is helping to train Iraqi security forces in collaboration with the newly elected transitional parliament and NATO.
29. Portuguese speakers supported further development of European Security and Defense Policy, but stressed that it should be pursued in a way that is compatible with NATO. Joao Gomes Gavinho submitted that it is necessary to give more substance to the NATO-EU security relationship. In this context he pointed to the similar threat assessments of both organizations. He and others considered Berlin-Plus a good instrument to achieve this. Acknowledging the need to improve defence procurement speakers commented that the European Defence Agency (EDA) should become a driving force for European procurement.
30. As in Madrid, speakers recognised the importance of Africa for European security. Lieutenant-General Evangelista Esteres de Araujo welcomed the increased Western interest in the continent. The Lieutenant General noted that, NATO's assistance to African Union's operations in the Sudanese province of Darfur is very important as well as a case study of how the Alliance may become involved in peace operations in Africa. With regard to NATO's possible future engagements, it is crucial to conduct operations on the continent according to the "principle of African ownership". However, Lieutenant General de Araujo did not anticipate NATO operations south of the equator. These could possibly be provided by the EU, and by European countries on a bi-lateral basis. Pointing to Portugal's knowledge and experience in Africa, the General said that Europeans, and Portugal in particular, could 'help the US understand Africa'. Members also raised questions about the BME and particularly how democratisation can be advanced in the countries of the region. Speakers noted that the high birth rate in countries like Morocco and the relatively weak economy bereft many young people of opportunities. Portuguese speakers stressed the importance of education, but cautioned that improving the economic and social conditions will be a time-consuming process.
31. The delegation also discussed WMD proliferation during the meetings in Lisbon. The exchanges painted a complex picture with some positive and some less positive developments. With regard to the latter Inal Batu of Turkey and other members of the delegation criticised the failure of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in spring 2005. Ms Ana Gomes, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament maintained that NATO's non-proliferation policy seems to be 'non-existing'. The Director General for International Relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave a different view and argued that NATO in fact does consult on WMD proliferation. However, he added that NATO was not the only forum and the EU is active in dealing with the issue of Iran's nuclear programme. With regard to Iran, discussions revealed agreement among participants that the country's nuclear programme represents a serious challenge to the international non-proliferation regime. There was also consensus that negotiations will be the only possible solution to solve this problem. A senior representative of the Portuguese Defence Ministry praised the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) as a successful initiative outside an international legal framework.
32. Discussion also touched upon Ukraine and how the existing partnership could develop further. Alluding to the many common interests and values, the State Secretary called for an internal discussion among EU member countries, but admitted that the EU is currently facing an identity crisis. Other issues that came up during the exchanges included Portuguese relations with Portuguese-speaking countries which have significantly improved in the last years, and where Brazil has begun to play a very active role; and UN reform where the reform summit 'has not delivered what was expected', but where progress was made on a number of issues, such as the responsibility to protect.
33. The visit provided a valuable opportunity to obtain views of senior representatives from the governments and parliaments of Europe's two westernmost continental NATO allies. In addition to the insightful comments on the importance of Mediterranean security and the relevance of Northern Africa for Europe's development, it was remarkable that the delegation could also discuss relations with NATO's partners to its East.