August 2000

Solana "wrong choice for EU"

The mounting drive for secrecy in European military matters has been encouraged by having NATO's ex-General Secretary as EU's top foreign policy representative. This accusation was launched by the EU Ombudsman Jacob Söderman in a newspaper interview.

Söderman told the Finnish regional daily, Aamulehti (12 August 2000), that recent developments have shown that Javier Solana was the wrong choice as  EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Solana has been aggressively backing the demand from big NATO countries for more secrecy in military matters.

According to Söderman, there is notable enthusiasm for military matters amongst EU foreign ministers. In July the Coreper Committee of EU ambassadors  approved tighter secrecy rules for documents on security and defence policy. The aim is to secure the confidentiality of NATO's military information. EU is developing its own crisis management operations but cannot do this without NATO's resources and intelligence.

Only Finland, Sweden and Holland voted against the decision in the Coreper Committee. Denmark and the current EU President, France, abstained while others voted for it.

Söderman says that the problem is not so much the secrecy of defence documents but the wide range of the decision. It covers also the civilian side of crisis management like police operations and judicial matters.

"If one wants to protect military information, current regulations are quite sufficient. It is childish to think that Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic would try to get hold of NATO information as a European citizen", Söderman complains.

In a simultaneous development, Heidi Hautala, a Finnish Green MEP and an outspoken proponent of openness in EU decision making, is planning to take the Coreper decision to court. Hautala says that the Amsterdam Treaty clearly applies openness principle to foreign and defence issues. She also points out that the Council of Ministers can no longer change decisions about openness without the European Parliament. Hautala thus sees two reasons to doubt the legality of the Coreper decision.

According to Aamulehti, Hautala agrees with Söderman that Solana is the wrong person to lead EU foreign policy. She says that even some of his supporters are unhappy about his attitude. Hautala reminds us that of Finnish politicians, Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and ex-President Martti Ahtisaari supported Solana's appointment.

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