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Efforts are underway to prevent a power struggle between the European Parliament and national assemblies in the member states over who will provide supervision of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). "The EP is not going to take over. The Lisbon Treaty is pretty clear that there are no new competences for the European Parliament," insisted Robert Walter, president of the European Security and Defence Assembly (ESDA).

The ESDA is comprised of representatives from national parliaments and served to provide oversight over the Western European Union (WEU), the European defence organisation, which has effectively lain dormant since the EU launched its security and defence policy, in 1999.

"The European Parliament is the only supranational institution with a legitimate claim to exercise democratic supervision over the EU's Security and Defence Policy," said a motion adopted by the EP, on 10 March. "The WEU Assembly [ ] is neither politically equipped nor legally entitled to exercise parliamentary supervision over the CSDP." Walter says there is board agreement among member states and both assemblies that the WEU's end is nigh. He told a small group of journalists, on 24 March, that the process of terminating the 1954 Brussels Treaty, which founded the WEU, was expected to be launched in the coming weeks with the aim of formally wrapping up the 62-year-old organisation by June 2011. However, he said the assembly should be maintained in a revised and streamlined form to provide national parliamentary control over the CSDP, which remains an intergovernmental policy.

"Military deployment is always sanctioned by national governments and national parliaments, it's paid for by national governments and national parliaments, and when there are casualties, it is members of the national parliaments who are answerable for that," the British Conservative member of the House of Commons insisted. "We have to have some kind of structure that brings together the national parliamentarians."

To avoid upsetting sensitivities at the EP, Walter said support was growing for a compromise that could involve bringing a revamped ESDA under the EU umbrella, but changing its definition to standing conference' rather than an assembly. "Nonetheless, it would do the same job that this assembly has been doing for the last 50 years, which is to provide parliamentary oversight of European security and defence matters, in the wider context." Walter acknowledged that the ESDA would need to be slimmed down from its current 400 members, but he said it should have oversight over issues beyond CSDP, such as defence procurement, and relations between the EU and NATO.

He expressed optimism that the compromise would be approved by member states when they announce the plan to shut down the WEU and said the new body could be operational by the time Poland takes over the EU Presidency, in July next year.

The ESDA, which is normally based in Paris, was meeting in Brussels with members of the Political and Security Committee and EU military staff.

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 26, 2010

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