History of WEU

  1. Origins of WEU: from the Brussels Treaty to the Paris Agreements (1948-1954)
  2. WEU was created by the Treaty on Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence signed at Brussels on 17 March 1948 (the Brussels Treaty), as amended by the Protocol signed at Paris on 23 October 1954, which modified and completed it.

    The Brussels Treaty was signed by Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Conceived largely as a response to Soviet moves to impose control over the countries of Central Europe, the Treaty represented the first attempt to translate into practical arrangements some of the ideals of the European movement. Its main feature was the commitment to mutual defence should any of the signatories be the victim of an armed attack in Europe. In September 1948, military co-operation was initiated in the framework of the Brussels Treaty Organisation. A plan for common defence was adopted, involving the integration of air defences and a joint command organisation.

    By demonstrating their resolve to work together, the Brussels Treaty powers helped to overcome the reluctance of the United States to participate in the nascent European security arrangements. Talks between these powers and the United States and Canada began shortly afterwards, leading to the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on 4 April 1949. Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal were invited and agreed to accede to the Treaty, which formalised the commitment by the United States and Canada to the defence of Europe. Article 5 of the Treaty states that an armed attack against one of the signatories shall be considered an attack against them all and that each party will then take such action as it deems necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

    The need to back up the commitments of the Washington Treaty with appropriate political and military structures led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). In December 1950, with the appointment of General Eisenhower as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the Brussels Treaty powers decided to merge their military organisation into NATO, which had become the central element in the West European and North Atlantic security system.

    Meanwhile, the desire to integrate the Federal Republic of Germany into the emerging security structures prompted France, in October 1950, to propose the creation of a European Army which would operate within the framework of the Alliance. This proposal led to the signature, in May 1952, of the Treaty setting up a European Defence Community (EDC) in which Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany were due to participate. However, in August 1954 the French National Assembly refused to ratify the Treaty.

    The failure of the EDC meant that an alternative way had to be found to integrate the Federal Republic of Germany into the Western security system. At a special Conference convened in London in September 1954 and attended by the Brussels Treaty powers, the United States, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy, it was decided to invite the latter two countries to join the Brussels Treaty. The conclusions of the conference were formalised by the Paris Agreements, signed in October of that year, which amended the Brussels Treaty, created Western European Union (WEU) as a new international organisation and provided for the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy to join.

  3. WEU from 1955 to 1984: the Saar, arms control, the UK and the EC six
  4. The signatories of the Paris Agreements clearly stated their three main objectives in the preamble to the modified Brussels Treaty:

    • To create in Western Europe a firm basis for European economic recovery;
    • To afford assistance to each other in resisting any policy of aggression;
    • To promote the unity and encourage the progressive integration of Europe.

    From 1954 to 1973, WEU played an important role by promoting the development of consultation and co-operation in Western Europe, in the aftermath of the Second World War.

    It permitted:

    • the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany into the Atlantic Alliance;
    • the restoration of confidence among Western European countries by assuming responsibilities for arms control;
    • settlement of the Saar problem;
    • consultation between the European Community founding Member States and the United Kingdom.

    The role of liaison between the European Community and the United Kingdom ended when the UK joined the European Community in 1973. Between 1973 and 1984, WEU’s activities as an intergovernmental organisation gradually slowed down. The Agency for the Control of Armaments and the Standing Armaments Committee continued their work. WEU’s economic, social and cultural roles had been taken over by the OEEC and the Council of Europe. The WEU Council’s political activities lost much of their relevance with the development of European Political Co-operation.

    During the following years, the political and institutional dialogue between the Council and the Assembly made a significant contribution to the reflection on European security and defence requirements.

  5. Reactivation of WEU: from the Rome Declaration to the Hague Platform (1984-1989)
    • The Rome Declaration
    • The early 1980s witnessed a revival of the debate on European security. European Political Co-operation (EPC) could not be extended beyond the economic aspects of security issues. The failure of the Genscher-Colombo initiative in November 1981, whose aim was to extend the EPC’s sphere of competence to security and defence questions, prompted the countries in favour to look for another framework of consultation. WEU was the obvious choice.

      On the initiative of the Belgian and French Governments, a preliminary joint meeting of the Foreign and Defence Ministers within the WEU framework was held in Rome on 26 and 27 October 1984. It was marked by the adoption of the founding text of WEU’s reactivation: the "Rome Declaration". Work on the definition of a European security identity and the gradual harmonisation of its members’ defence policies were among the stated objectives. Ministers recognised the "continuing necessity to strengthen western security, and that better utilization of WEU would not only contribute to the security of Western Europe but also to an improvement in the common defence of all the countries of the Atlantic Alliance".

      The Rome Declaration reaffirmed that the WEU Council could – pursuant to Article VIII (3) of the modified Brussels Treaty – consider the implications for Europe of crises in other regions of the world.

      Pursuant to the decisions taken in Rome, the WEU Council was henceforth to hold two meetings a year at Ministerial level, in which Foreign and Defence Ministers were to sit at the same conference table.

    • The Hague Platform (27 October 1987)
    • The negotiations between the United States and the USSR on the withdrawal of intermediate nuclear forces highlighted the need for even closer European consultation on defence. The WEU Council and its Special Working Group produced a report on European security conditions and criteria and on the specific responsibilities of Europeans for their defence within the Atlantic Alliance.

      On this basis, in October 1987, the WEU Ministerial Council adopted a "Platform on European Security Interests". This Hague Platform also set out general guidelines for WEU’s future programme of work. Its preamble stated:

      "We recall our commitment to build a European Union in accordance with the Single European Act, which we all signed as Members of the European Community. We are convinced that the construction of an integrated Europe will remain incomplete as long as it does not include security and defence."

      Stressing that the security of the Alliance was indivisible, Ministers expressed their resolve "to strengthen the European pillar of the Alliance".

      The same meeting decided to open negotiations with Portugal and Spain regarding their accession to the modified Brussels Treaty. Those countries formally became full Members of WEU on 27 March 1990. The following year, two other Member countries of the Atlantic Alliance expressed their wish to join the Organisation : Turkey (summer 1988), and Greece (December 1988).

  6. Operational Role
    1. Joint WEU Actions in the Gulf (1988-1990)
    2. Joint WEU actions in the Gulf were undertaken in accordance with Article VIII (3) of the modified Brussels Treaty, which states that "At the request of any of the High Contracting Parties the Council shall be immediately convened in order to permit them to consult with regard to any situation which may constitute a threat to peace, in whatever area this threat should arise, or a danger to economic stability".

      In 1987 and 1988, following the laying of mines in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, WEU Member States reacted together to this threat to freedom of navigation. Minesweepers despatched by WEU countries helped secure free movement in international waters. "Operation Cleansweep" helped to complete the clearance of a 300-mile sea lane from the Strait of Hormuz, and was the first instance of a concerted action in WEU.

      During the Gulf War, WEU Ministers decided to co-ordinate their operations, with the aim of implementing and enforcing United Nations Resolution 661. At their meeting in Paris on 21 August 1990, Ministers stressed that co-ordination within WEU should facilitate co-operation with the forces of other countries in the region, including those of the United States.

      The co-ordination mechanisms approved by WEU Member States in 1988 were reactivated and extended. An ad hoc group of representatives of Foreign and Defence Ministers was made responsible for co-ordination in the capitals and in the operational zone. A meeting of the Chiefs of Defence Staff (CHODS) was held with the aim of co-ordinating naval operations to enforce the embargo on goods. The Permanent Council, sitting in London, monitored developments in the situation and met as required.

      After the cessation of hostilities, WEU continued its mission of co-ordinating mine-clearance operations in Gulf waters. It also contributed to the humanitarian actions for Kurdish refugees in Northern Iraq.

    3. Operations in the Context of the Yugoslav conflict (1992-1996)

    • WEU/NATO Operation Sharp Guard in the Adriatic

    In July 1992, the WEU Ministerial Council decided that WEU naval forces would participate in monitoring the embargo against former Yugoslavia in the Adriatic. NATO was also conducting its own operation at the time.

    On 8 June 1993, the WEU and NATO Councils met to approve a combined concept for a joint operation in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 820. The agreement established a unified command for "Operation Sharp Guard", which was to begin on 15 June 1993.

    In the course of that operation, WEU deployed four ships and some six maritime patrol and early warning aircraft. A small WEU staff controlled one of the joint task groups while the other was detached to COMNAVSOUTH HQ in Naples. Some 74 000 challenges were issued, almost 6000 ships were inspected at sea, and more than 1400 were diverted and inspected in port. Six ships were caught while attempting to break the embargo.

    • WEU Danube operation

    Following an extraordinary meeting of the WEU Council of Ministers in Luxembourg on 5 April 1993, it was agreed that WEU Member States would provide assistance to Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania in their efforts to enforce the UN sanctions on the Danube. In June, the three riparian states accepted this offer, and agreed with WEU on the setting-up of a police and customs operation.

    Some 250 WEU personnel were involved when the operation was at its height. They manned a co-ordination and support centre and three control areas (Mohacs-Hungary; Calafat-Romania; Ruse-Bulgaria). Equipped with eight patrol boats and 48 vehicles, WEU personnel carried out 6748 inspection and monitoring operations resulting in the discovery of 422 infringements.

    This operation was a practical example of concrete cooperation with the Associate Partners, within WEU, and of OSCE-WEU co-ordination, through the WEU Presidency delegation to the OSCE Sanctions Co-ordination Committee in Vienna.

    Following the Dayton Peace Agreements and the termination of the UN arms embargo, the Adriatic and Danube operations were wound up.

    • Police contingent in Mostar

    In October 1993, a few days before the Treaty on European Union came into force, the Ministers of the EC Member States requested WEU to examine the contribution WEU could make to the planned EU administration of the town of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As a result of this request, WEU contributed a police contingent to the EU Administration of Mostar, established early in July 1994. The aim of the WEU police contingent was to assist the Bosnian and Croat parties in Mostar to set up a unified police force for the town. In May 1995, the Permanent Council accepted the offer of contributions to the WEU police force element from Austria, Finland and Sweden, which enabled it to reach its maximum strength of 182 personnel during the summer.

    The EU Administration’s mandate ended in July 1996 and an EU Special Envoy was appointed until 31 December 1996. The WEU police contingent continued to assist him until he transferred his public order executive powers to the local authorities on 15 October 1996.

  7. Crisis Management Operations (1997-2001)

  • Mission in Albania

In May 1997, the WEU Council decided to send a Multinational Advisory Police Element to Albania, as part of the efforts undertaken in that country by the international community, notably the OSCE and the EU. The primary aim of MAPE was to provide advice and train instructors.

A key part of MAPE’s work was to provide advice to the Ministry of Public Order on restructuring the Albanian police. A new State Police Law was drawn up with MAPE’s support and contained the foundations for building a democratic police to internationally accepted standards.

Approximately 3000 police officers were trained in the Tirana Training Centre (Police Academy), in a second training centre in Durres and through field training programmes.

On 2 February 1999, the WEU Council approved plans for an enhanced MAPE mission with a mandate until April 2000. This mission was conducted by WEU at the request of the EU on the basis of an Article J.4.2 decision, enabling among other things a major part of the costs to be met from the EU budget.

MAPE enhanced its geographical coverage and increased its operational mobility. The mission expanded its training and advice to selected ministries, directorates and "low risk" police districts down to the operational unit level. MAPE’s strength was approximately 143 by mid-1999.

WEU’s mission played an important role during the Kosovo refugee crisis from April 1999 by supporting the Albanian police in their responsibilities for receiving, registering, supervising and escorting refugees. MAPE maintained constant contacts with the Ministry of Public Order. WEU assisted the Albanians in setting up their own joint crisis centre and a 24-hour MAPE presence was provided to support them in its operations and decisions.

MAPE teams were dispatched to Kukes, near the Kosovo border, to assist the police directorate there, as well as to the police directorates in Tirana and Durres.

The MAPE mission finally terminated on 31 May 2001.

  • WEU Demining Assistance Mission in Croatia

At the request of the EU on the basis of Article J.4.2 of the Treaty on European Union, WEU implemented a joint action in the field of mine clearance. Within the framework of the WEU Demining Assistance Mission to Croatia (WEUDAM), which began operations on 10 May 1999, WEU provided advice, technical expertise and training support to the Croatian Mine Action Centre (CROMAC) in the areas of programme management, planning and project development, geographic information systems, and level II surveys. Sweden acted as lead nation for this nine-strong mission. The mission was funded by the EU. The WEUDAM mission terminated on 30 November 2001.

  • General security surveillance mission in Kosovo

In response to a request from the European Union based on Article J.4.2 of the Treaty on European Union, in November 1998 the WEU Satellite Centre embarked on a mission of "general security surveillance" of the Kosovo region.

The initial focus of the general security surveillance mission was to gather information for the EU as well as the NATO and OSCE missions on the state of implementation of the Belgrade agreements dated 15 and 16 October as well as on the situation of refugees and displaced persons and the related infrastructure. The mission of general security surveillance was conducted in close co-ordination with the WEU Military Staff, which provided additional information for each of the Satellite Centre reports transmitted to the EU, NATO and OSCE.

With the changed situation in Kosovo, with KFOR troops and other representatives of the international community on the ground, the Satellite Centre concentrated its work from July 1999 on the finalisation of a geographic information system (GIS) on Kosovo. The GIS was a digital map of the entire Kosovo region with visualisation and analysis tools and could be used to assist in several aspects of reconstruction work (including demining) in Kosovo. In July 1999, this system was also made available to the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).