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Saint-Malo Declaration ten years after

Publié le December 10, 2008
Joint article by M. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European affairs, and M. David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary, published in the "Le Monde" newspaper
Paris, December 6, 2008

"Saint-Malo ten years after"

Ten years ago, on 4 December, French and British leaders met in the Brittany town of Saint-Malo. Uppermost in their minds was a terrible conflict in the Balkans that the rest of Europe seemed powerless to stop.

The two countries decided that Europe needed a new approach to crises: EU countries should find their own way to work together on defence and security, complementing NATO.

Now, thankfully, the Balkans is by and large at peace. Today’s challenges - and even more so, tomorrow’s - are likely to come from further afield, in particular from failed and fragile states where criminals and terrorists find refuge. But it remains right that European countries should tackle them together.

Ten years on from the Saint-Malo Declaration - that the EU should have a "capacity for autonomous action backed up by credible military forces" - European defence and security has come of age. Since the EU monitoring mission in the Balkans in December 2000, the EU has launched over twenty civilian and military operations in three continents.

Soldiers, police officers and civilian experts from EU Member States are building police forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Palestine, monitored a peace deal in Indonesia and helped to protect the civilian population and to secure the Eastern regions of Congo and Chad. A new rule of law mission is now formally starting to help Kosovo establish a more effective police force, judiciary and customs service.

And, following President Sarkozy’s shuttle diplomacy in August, the EU sent over 200 civilian monitors to Georgia. They arrived within a few weeks of the hostilities, and have played a vital role in preventing further violence.

Before Saint-Malo became famous for Summits, it was best known for its adventurous sailors and fearless pirates. So it is fitting that on the tenth anniversary of the 1998 Summit, the EU is launching its first naval operation - to combat pirates in the Gulf of Aden. At one point this autumn, 15 ships and more than 350 people were being held hostage. The pirates are not just threatening European ships headed for the Suez Canal, but also UN food aid for war-torn Somalia, on which two million people depend. The naval mission will be commanded by a British Admiral, and British and French frigates will play a leading role.

France has used its Presidency of the EU to give greater momentum to these efforts. Tackling violence and instability in the Balkans, Africa or Afghanistan is not just in our interests, it is also our duty. A key aim of the French Presidency has been getting Europe to do more to meet today’s challenges - for example, working through both the EU and NATO to ensure that European countries have the right equipment and training to deal with crises as they arise.

The French and the British also decided in Saint-Malo to enhance their cooperation in Africa.

In that spirit, we have deepened the EU’s cooperation with the African Union, regional organizations and governments to reinforce African conflict prevention and management capabilities. In Somalia, the UK, France and the European Commission are all active with development programmes aimed at re-establishing governance and a functioning economy. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the EU is deeply concerned about the recent degradation of the humanitarian situation. In response, we have stepped up our aid to that country and we support the UN Secretary-General’s request for additional troops to bolster the 17,000-strong UN force deployed there. But fundamentally the situation in Congo can only be resolved by political means: there will be no military solution to this problem.

Some critics have mischievously suggested that if Europe tries to do more, we risk ending up with a European Army or undermining NATO. This is not true. There is no such thing as a European army; nor is there a NATO army. There are national forces, which are used, according to the needs, for national or multilateral operations, whether in the European framework or the NATO framework. Countries decide for themselves when and where to deploy.

The EU naval operation against piracy will run side by side with NATO efforts. Today, NATO and the EU are working alongside each other in Afghanistan and the Balkans too. Membership of NATO and the EU largely overlaps. They are, as President Sarkozy has said, complementary.

NATO remains the cornerstone of our collective defence and is capable of mounting the full range of military operations. But the EU is - uniquely - able to marry the robust and flexible use of military force with development aid and civilian experts such as judges, police and customs officers, backed up by the global diplomatic network of the 27 Member States. We need to harness the strengths of both. When NATO Foreign Ministers met yesterday, one of the key topics was the EU-NATO partnership.

More than ever, complex security problems require a coherent approach. Under the French Presidency, the EU has been updating its Security Strategy. The Strategy makes clear that we must continue to focus on tackling the root causes of instability as well as the visible symptoms.

The threats that we face - the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, organized crime, terrorism, and shocks to our economy - are real. No one nation can tackle them alone. The Saint-Malo declaration was rooted in a belief that we need a range of tools in the European Union, as well as in NATO and the UN, if we are to address them. Ten years on, the EU can be proud of its innovation and is determined to take it forward./.

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