The Guardian - US warns EU over joint action on security

By Richard Norton-Taylor
Tuesday November 23, 1999

The US is warning its European allies that EU plans for closer security and defence cooperation could lead to a separate decision-making centre and serious divisions within the Atlantic alliance.

Washington is insisting on a clear commitment that it will be consulted before the EU makes any moves to act alone and that Nato must remain the bedrock of European security.

Plans for a European "security and defence identity" will dominate the Nato and EU agenda over the coming weeks. It will feature strongly at the British-French summit in London on Thursday and is due to come to a head at an EU summit in Helsinki on December 10-11.

Britain and France, Europe's strongest military powers, are paving the way towards closer EU defence cooperation. But they are adopting markedly different attitudes towards US fears.

France is concerned that Washington's demands for close consultation will give the US a foothold in EU decision-making. Britain, meanwhile, is anxiously trying to allay US concerns.

Whitehall yesterday admitted the US had doubts about the plan and was concerned that it contained a hidden agenda. Senior British officials insisted it was not about creating a European standing army, it would include non-EU European Nato allies, and neither the European commission nor the European parliament would have a direct say in it.

"It never was and isn't a competitor to Nato," a senior foreign office official said. He added: "It is not about collective defence. It is primarily about crisis management and at the moment there is no plan to go further.",3604,106707,00.html

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