Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Common foreign and security policy

Delivered in Plenary - 23 October 2013

Mr President

I am a staunch defender of national sovereignty and the right of Member States to hold the reins over their own foreign policy and defence, acting in their own national interests. But this does not mean that the United Kingdom my country cannot support a common foreign security policy of the EU where it adds clear value.

The European Union is a powerful bloc of liberal democracies. Although our domestic politics may differ substantially, in our dealings with the outside world our similarities are usually more evident and outweigh our differences. Lady Ashton, your recent achievement in bringing together the Kosovo and Serbian leaders in their landmark agreement demonstrates the potential for a CFSP at its best, particularly given the fact that the EULEX mission in Kosovo was very helpful in re-establishing the rule of law. The EU training missions in Uganda and Mali are also particular successes, as is the EU-NAVFOR Atalanta mission, which has done so much in the Indian Ocean to reduce piracy off the coast of Somalia.

As rapporteur both for the Horn of Africa and for the human rights report on the Sahel, which went through this week in the House, I hear first hand from regional actors how valued the EU contribution is and how effective we can be when we coordinate our soft and hard power strategies. This applies to sticks as well as carrots, as evidenced by the EU-led sanctions now forcing President Rouhani of Iran to the negotiating table, and to the blacklisting of Hezbollah, which sends the right message about terrorism internationally.

Nevertheless, one real problem that my group has with the Brok CFSP report is its continued insistence on a permanent EU seat at the UN Security Council, which the United Kingdom cannot accept. In a sense, this is the key issue. Foreign, security and defence policy can be coordinated, where appropriate, but ultimately, control must be intergovernmental. Where collective decisions are being taken, they must be taken unanimously. We can support them in that case, but we cannot allow a situation to develop whereby small or, for that matter, large countries, such as my own, are forced to submit to policies and interests that they do not share with the others.

We have more reservations as a group over the CSDP, given that the EU has only two major military powers France and the UK. But, where CSDP missions can coexist effectively with NATO without duplication, we are also happy to endorse a collective and constructive approach.