DEFENCE – EU RAPID REACTION FORCE – 19 March 2001

Dr Julian Lewis: Given that the European rapid reaction force will draw on the same forces as NATO, how will it be able to engage in an operation in which, by definition, NATO does not wish to engage, without reducing NATO's capabilities for the operations in which it does wish to participate? Have the French, for example, said that they intend to allocate a single extra soldier, sailor or airman to the defence of Europe, or will they simply raid the forces allocated to NATO?

[Geoff Hoon: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We have made it clear that we would distinguish between the war-fighting activity in which we would expect NATO to be involved, for which forces that have been allocated to it are properly and suitably trained, and the peacekeeping Petersberg tasks, in which we would expect the European Union to engage. That is why there is no inconsistency between our efforts with NATO and the EU to improve military capability.]