Today marked the end of an era: the European Security and Defense Assembly held its 60th and final session in the Palais d'Iéna in Paris. Robert Walter, a British parliamentarian and President of the Assembly, opened the session by reminding attendees that after the demise of the Western European Union (WEU) Assembly, an interparliamentary conference was to be set up to scrutinise the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), now renamed the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Pierre Vimont, representing Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, reminded his audience that the WEU had played a crucial pioneering role in the development of the CFSP/CSDP. He highlighted the Hague Platform on European Security Interests in 1987 and the Petersberg tasks defined by the WEU Council on 19 June 1992 and included in the EU's 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. He spoke of WEU-led operations, in particular the mine clearance operation in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war (1987-1988) and those in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1996) and in Albania (1997).
He paid special tribute to the role of the Assembly which had accompanied the progress of the ESDP "with competence and foresight".
"The European Union is faced with an ever-increasing demand for security and stability. Building the ESDP is a long-term and gradual process which requires a common political will", he added.
Vimont said that "WEU's efforts will not have been in vain. They have not been wasted! WEU has fully accomplished its mission. Today it passes on the torch to the EU. This "hand-over" should be the occasion to give new impetus to European security and defence policy, in the interests of peace, which is the very essence of the European project".
Three legacy reports were presented by the Assembly's Rapporteurs:
"European foreign, security and defence policy: past achievements and new challenges" submitted on behalf of the Political Committee by Mike Hanckock (United Kingdom);
"The Common Security and Defence Policy: the next steps" submitted on behalf of the Defense Committee by Françoise Hostalier (France) and Jean-Pierre Kucheida (France); and
"The future of European defence capabilities" submitted on behalf of the Technological and Aerospace Committee by José Mendes Bota (Portugal).