15 November 2009 - Summary of the meeting of the Economic and Security Committee
I. Opening Remarks
1. The Chairman, Hugh Bayley (
The draft Agenda [157 ESC 09 E] and the summary of the meeting held in
The Chairman then explained the procedure for submitting amendments to the draft Resolution on Moving Beyond the Global Economic Crisis [211 ESC 09 E].
II. Presentation by Dr James Sumberg, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, on Food Shocks and Food Security in Sub‑Saharan Africa: Debates, Policies, Opportunities and Challenges
2. James Sumberg began by saying that he would build his presentation upon the report of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, which he praised as a detailed, thorough, and balanced analysis. The speaker highlighted that even before the food price spikes of 2008, there were over 800 million hungry people in the world – a reality that posed both moral and global security challenges to policymakers. Dr Sumberg emphasized that this was not only a problem for developing countries: global agricultural markets are congenitally distorted and protected, while millions of farmers are starved of the capital needed to increase productivity. Dr Sumberg then focused on Sub-Saharan Africa – a region where chronic food insecurity seems to be an especially stubborn problem.
3. The speaker reviewed the central debates in the literature as to why this was the case: debates covering farm size; whether global competition was desirable; whether export or subsistence crops should be grown; the extent to which technological development should be embraced; and whether agricultural transformation could help foster economic growth. He expressed his strong opinion that all of the debates were relevant. Flexible “contextual” approaches to agricultural and rural development were essential to Sub-Saharan Africa because of the heterogeneity of the region. There are no blueprint approaches that could be broadly transferable there.
4. Dr Sumberg noted the perennial attraction of “silver bullet” solutions. What is needed is a more nuanced approach to rural development that gives a key role to local policymakers. Thus, their skills and capacities would need to be built up. The speaker concluded by explaining that more information is needed on the effects of local policy processes on agricultural productivity.
5. In the discussion, the importance of the cross-border transfer of expertise in
6. Dr Sumberg acknowledged that there was a compartmentalization in the academic community, whereby agriculturalist researchers were less aware of the extent to which food security was a ‘hard’ security issue, but he added that there was a trend towards righting this. It was agreed that hard security and food security were profoundly intertwined in states such as
7. The speaker suggested that crises can provoke opportunity, but felt that the moment had almost passed for the food crisis to spark meaningful change. When asked about the African Union’s NEPAD (New Partnership for
III. Presentation by Dr Adrian Kendry, Senior Defence Economist, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, NATO, on Allied Defence Budgets in Light of the Global Economic Crisis
8. Adrian Kendry started by highlighting that the global financial crisis was deep, and of uncertain duration. Although the IMF had recently revised upwards its forecast for global economic growth in 2009-2010, rising unemployment, business fragility and uncertain trade prospects continue to cloud the economic horizon. There are likely to be large disparities in growth over the next several years, with non-NATO nations such as
9. Reviewing the defence expenditures of NATO countries, Dr Kendry stated that the economic crisis would likely have a markedly negative impact on defence budgets throughout the
10. In light of the above, the speaker suggested that the challenge for European NATO members was to increase the utility and effectiveness of their proportionally large personnel expenditures in the armed forces, whilst the
11. In the discussion, the speaker drew attention to
12. The second half of the discussion centred on the stark imbalance in transatlantic defence expenditures. Dr Kendry saw no signs of a reversal in current trends. He did, however, praise
IV. Consideration of the draft Report of the Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co‑operation and Convergence on Central Asian Energy Production: Potential Contributions to Transatlantic Energy Security [177 ESCEW 09 E] by Attila Mesterházy (Hungary), Rapporteur
13. The Rapporteur, Attila Mesterházy (HU) began his presentation by reviewing the security dilemmas posed by high energy prices in
14. The Rapporteur then turned to
15. Mr Mesterházy said that Central Asia held large reserves of gas that could be brought to Europe by pipelines that bypassed
16. Following the presentation, a representative from
17. The discussion then turned to a comparison of the Nabucco and South Stream pipeline routes, with the Rapporteur explaining that while South Stream would allow Europe to bypass non‑EU transit countries, Nabucco would allow Europe to diversify the sources of its gas away from
18. A representative from
V. Summary of the future activities of the Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co‑operation and Convergence, by Kurt Bodewig (
19. Kurt Bodewig (DE) reviewed the Sub-Committee’s successful and informative visit to
VI. Summary of the future activities of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, by John Sewel (
20. John Sewel (
VIII. Discussion on The Assembly’s Contribution to the Development of a New Strategic Concept [Documents referred to: Procedure for Finalizing the Assembly’s Contribution (200 SC 09 E) and Draft Text of the Assembly’s Contribution to a New NATO Strategic Concept (201 SC 09 E)]
21. Sven Mikser (EE), the Assembly’s representative for NATO’s New Strategic Concept, started by saying that the Alliance is currently in the process of debating the concept’s contents in a series of seminars. This will be followed by a tour of national capitals to ‘sound out’ the proposals. The Assembly’s role in this process is parallel to the activities of the Group of Experts, of which it is a member. The Assembly will hand its recommendations to the Secretary General of NATO in March. A few key points the Assembly will recommend include a reaffirmation of Article 5; a recommendation that the
22. Mr Mikser stated that the
23. Committee members emphasized that the New Strategic Concept consider the current crisis in public finance and indicated that the document be “dynamic” and “self-adaptive”. As well as calls for a general statement on burden sharing in the New Strategic Concept from a number of members, representatives also questioned whether the Assembly’s tentative recommendations put NATO at the centre of too many processes which could be better addressed by other organizations. Energy security, in particular, was raised as a point on which the EU might have greater competencies – especially in light of the Lisbon Treaty. Mr Mikser responded to these points by stating that a comprehensive approach was necessary for addressing certain security threats. However, he agreed that other organizations do have competences on certain issue areas. He agreed that the relationship with the EU held a special place.
24. The discussion then turned to the Atlantic Treaty, and whether it was still capable of addressing the new threats facing the
VIII. Consideration of the draft Report of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, Food Price Shocks and their Implications for Food Security [176 ESCTER 09 E] by Petras Austrevicius (
25. The Rapporteur, Petras Austrevicius (LT) began his presentation by highlighting that food prices have remained high during the economic downturn, while credit shortages have made it difficult for farmers to bolster production. The Rapporteur postulated that the return to global economic growth and rise in energy prices likely to accompany this would only precipitate further increases in the price of food. Given that agriculture provides the livelihood for around 70% of the world’s poor, the humanitarian consequences of continued food insecurity were grave.
26. Mr Austrevicius highlighted that agricultural trade is currently mired in protectionism and regulation, a characteristic exacerbated by ill-advised policies pursued by some governments in the wake of the food crisis. On the acute link between energy and agricultural markets, the increasing demand for biofuel has also contributed to food price inflation, a trend the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization believes will only continue in the next decade. In light of the above factors, as well as longer-term climatic changes, the challenge will be expanding the production of food while ensuring broad access to it.
27. In order to achieve this, the Rapporteur highlighted the need for research and development into new agricultural technologies, credit provisions, income support, and sensible agricultural and economic policies. In this vein, Mr Austrevicius specifically cited the need for further agricultural trade liberalization to bolster productivity, as well as agricultural investment. He pointed out that experts suggest that another “green revolution” may be essential to feed the planet over the next 30 years. The Rapporteur reminded the Committee of their opportunity as parliamentarians to mobilize both public- and private-sector investment in agriculture. He urged the Committee to support multinational efforts to bolster global food security, and to scrutinize their national contributions to the vital work of the World Food Program.
28. During the discussion, the report’s sections on biofuel was reviewed. Highlighting the importance of the margin of production, one member opined that additional production of biofuel may be necessary to lower energy prices. Another representative took the opposing view, criticizing the idea that certain countries will require a mandatory bio component to internal combustion fuels as a tax on land and resources. In responding to the above, the Rapporteur agreed that more types of biofuel should be investigated in light of their positive effects on the environment and providing income in times of economic crisis. He mentioned that technological advances may lead to less compromise in the impact biofuels have on food production.
IX. Consideration of the Information Document, The Global Financial Crisis and its Impact on Defence Budgets [178 ESC 09 E] by Hugh Bayley (
29. The Chairman began by explaining that his assessment of how the current financial crisis was affecting defence spending and planning in the
30. Going into further detail, the Chairman highlighted that defence budgets remained largely steady in 2009 as they were set before the crisis, but that 2010 onwards would likely see strong pressure on defence spending levels. He postulated that investment levels in research and development were particularly vulnerable, in spite of the fact that these were essential in helping NATO to maintain its overall military advantage. Also of concern was the fact that
31. Mr Bayley then stated that the
32. In the discussion, it was noted that the full effects of the global financial crisis on national budgets have yet to materialize, and that the course of economic recovery would be important in this regard. A member suggested that states will nonetheless have to maintain core defence capabilities or risk grave insecurity. He highlighted that military spending was a bureaucratic tug‑of-war, and that NATO member country defence budgets were in a bad state. Another delegate pointed out that the problems surrounding burden sharing in the
X. Consideration of the draft General Report, The Global Financial and Commercial Crisis: Implications for the Transatlantic Community of Nations [175 ESC 09 E] by Simon van Driel (
33. The General Rapporteur, Simon van Driel (NL) began his presentation by stating that although we are seeing the signs of growth in some economies, the world has not returned to business as usual. The pace of economic recovery will be slow at best, and the international community now confronts a range of challenges. First, it must rectify grave deficiencies in the global financial architecture. The details of the banking sector reforms proposed by the G20 have yet to be finalized, and it is not clear whether we will be able to build an adequate regulatory system without thwarting the gains of international financial and trade flows.
34. Secondly, Mr Van Driel highlighted that serious fiscal and structural current account imbalances must be resolved. Policymakers will have to commit to future spending cuts and/or tax increases, and should also implement counter cyclical fiscal policies. They must resist the temptation to preserve domestic jobs through trade protectionism, and implement a range of labour policies in order to prevent millions of people from sliding into poverty. The Rapporteur stated that the potential of the world’s largest emerging markets –
35. Finally, Mr Van Driel suggested that the international community must also deal with the security and humanitarian problems posed by failing economies in the developing world. The global financial crisis has had serious implications in these places. In light of the fact that real security challenges are faced, like resource wars and the potential rise of ungoverned spaces, the Rapporteur said that it was critical that we maintain, if not step up, our support to these countries to counter the effects of the crisis. Mr Van Driel concluded by suggesting that it was not yet time to unwind the economic stimulus programmes. He said that there was opportunity in crisis, but that political courage, economic finesse, and a good deal of imagination was now called for.
XI. Consideration of the amendments and vote on the draft Resolution, Moving Beyond the Global Economic Crisis [211 ESC 09 E] by Simon van Driel (
36. The Committee considered the draft Resolution proposed by the General Rapporteur, together with the amendments proposed to it.
The draft Resolution [211 ESC 09 E] Moving Beyond the Global Economic Crisis, as amended, was adopted.
XII. Election of Committee and Sub-Committee Officers
37. The Chairman announced the procedure for the election of Committee and Sub-Committee Officers for 2009-10. The following candidates were elected by acclamation:
Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co-operation and Convergence
Chairman : Petras Austrevicius (
Vice-Chairman : Kresimir Cosic (
Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations
Rapporteur Jeppe Kofod (
All re-eligible Committee and Sub-Committee Officers were re-elected.
XIII. Any other business
38. After thanking the Committee for their contributions, the Chairman said the next full meeting of the Committee would be in February in