Promote EU-NATO cooperation says Lords report

11 March 2009

The House of Lords EU Committee has today called on the UK Government to use NATO’s 60th anniversary next month as an occasion to promote cooperation between the EU and NATO.

In particular the Committee call for a closer working relationship between the EU Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) and NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response and Coordination Centre (EADRCC).

The call comes in a report looking at crisis management in the EU. The Committee point out that the role of the two bodies is similar, but there is practically no contact between them. It would be in the interests of the EU, NATO and the members of both organisations to support and complement each other’s work rather than duplicating it. In the event of a serious natural or man-made disaster the failure of the two bodies to cooperate could have serious consequences.

The MIC co-ordinates responses of EU Member States to environmental and other emergencies, with Member States’ national emergency intervention teams ready to be dispatched to disaster sites within 12 hours. It recently organised the EU’s response to the Mumbai terrorist attack, dispatching a Swedish emergency aircraft to evacuate a number of injured EU citizens, including some from the UK.

The Committee also raise concerns that NATO prevents officials of the EU Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) from taking part in NATO training courses due to concerns about security clearance. The Committee state that the level of security clearance required by NATO should be the same for officials of national Governments and of the European Union.

The Committee also call on the Government to begin working with the EU to ensure a full EU contribution to the security preparations in place at the 2012 Olympic site and in surrounding London boroughs.

The report recommends that the Government should act now to involve the MIC in security preparations for the 2012 Olympics. The Committee ‘urge the Government to contact the MIC without delay to begin work on back-up support for our own national security arrangements’. They express surprise that this work is not already under way, especially given the part played by NATO and the EU in security at the Athens Olympics.

The report criticises the failure of the UK to participate fully in international exercises designed to test preparedness for Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) attacks. The UK has been involved to some extent in only 11 of 31 EU or NATO CBRN exercises between 2000 and 2008; it has played a full part by deploying teams in none of the NATO exercises, and only one of the EU exercises. The Committee call the current rate of UK participation ‘unacceptably low’, and call for the UK to play a full part in all future major exercises.

Commenting, Lord Jopling, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, said:

"The lack of cooperation between the EU and NATO is especially worrying in the area of civil protection and crisis management, where there is virtually no contact between the bodies involved. This cannot be allowed to continue. We hope NATO’s 60th anniversary summit next month will be an opportunity to remedy this.

"It is increasingly clear that the 2012 Olympics could be a prime target for terrorists. It is vital that the Government takes every possible step to ensure that other EU Member States are fully prepared to assist the UK in the case of a potential attack. We are surprised that this process is not already in hand, and we recommend the Government begin liaising with the MIC as a matter of urgency.

"We are disappointed that the UK takes part in so few training exercises for Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear attacks."

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