Evolution of NATO-EU relations


In the 1990s, there was a growing realization of the need for European countries to assume greater responsibility for their common security. In parallel, NATO recognized the need to develop a European Security and Defence Identity within the organization that would be both an integral part of the adaptation of NATOs political and military structures and an important contributing factor to the development of European defence capabilities.

This led to the development of arrangements between NATO and Western European Union (WEU), which, at that time, was acting for the European Union in the area of security and defence (1992 Maatricht Treaty). These arrangements laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of the NATO-EU strategic partnership, after the the WEUs crisis-management role was transferred to the European Union in 1999.

In January 2001, an exchange of letters between the NATO Secretary General and the EU Presidency formalized the start of direct relations between NATO and the EU. Since then, considerable progress has been made in developing the NATO-EU strategic partnership, though its full potential is yet to be realized.

Key milestones:
Feb 1992
The EU adopts the Maastricht Treaty, which envisages an intergovernmental Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the eventual framing of a common defence policy (ESDP), with the WEU as the EU's defence component.

Close cooperation established between NATO and the WEU.


June 1992

In Oslo, NATO foreign ministers support the objective of developing the WEU as a means of strengthening the European pillar of the Alliance and as the defence component of the EU, that would also cover the Petersberg tasks (humanitarian search and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks, crisis management tasks including peaceenforcment, and environmental protection).


Jan 1994

Allied leaders agree to make collective assets of the Alliance available, on the basis of consultaitons in the Norht Atlantic Council, for WEU operations undertaken by the European allies in pursuit of their Common Foreign and Security Policy.NATO endorses the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces, which provides for separable but not separate deployable headquarters that could be used for European-led operations and is the conceptual basis for future operations involving NATO and other non-NATO countries.


June 1996

In Berlin, NATO foreign ministers agree for the first time to build up an ESDI within NATO, with the aim of rebalancing roles and responsibilities between Europe and North America. An essential part of this initiative was to improve European capabilities. They also decide to make Alliance assets available for WEU-led crisis management operations. These decisions lead to the introduction of the term "Berlin-Plus".


Dec 1998

At a summit in St Malo, France and the United Kingdom make a joint statement affirming the EU's determination to establish a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).


April 1999

At the Washington Summit, Heads of State and Government decide to develop the Berlin-Plus arrangements.


June 1999

European Council meeting in Cologne decides "to give the European Union the necessary means and capabilities to assume its responsibilities regarding a common European policy on security and defence".


Dec 1999

At the Helsinki Council meeting, EU members establish military "headline goals" to allow the EU, by 2003, to deploy up to 60 000 troops for Petersberg tasks'. EU members also create political and military structures including a Political and Security Committee, a Military Committee and a Military Staff. The crisis management role of the WEU is transferred to the EU. The WEU retains residual tasks.


Sep 2000

The North Atlantic Council and the interim Political and Security Committee of the European Union meet for the first time to take stock of progress in NATO-EU relations.


Dec 2000

Signature of the EU's Treaty of Nice containing amendments reflecting the operative developments of the ESDP as an independent EU policy (entry into force February 2003).


Jan 2001

Beginning of institutionalised relations between NATO and the EU with the establishment of joint meetings, including at the level of foreign ministers and ambassadors. Exchange of letters between the NATO Secretary General and the EU Presidency on the scope of cooperation and modalities for consultation.


May 2001

First formal NATO-EU meeting at the level of foreign ministers in Budapest. The NATO Secretary General and the EU Presidency issue a joint statement on the Western Balkans.


Nov 2002

At the Prague Summit, NATO members declare their readiness to give the EU access to NATO assets and capabilities for operations in which the Alliance is not engaged militarily.


Dec 2002

EU-NATO Declaration on ESDP.


Mar 2003

Agreement on the framework for cooperation. Entry into force of a NATO-EU security of information agreement.Transition from the NATO-led operation 'Allied Harmony' to the EU-led Operation 'Concordia' in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*


May 2003

First meeting of the NATO-EU capability group.


July 2003

Development of a common strategy for the Western Balkans.


Nov 2003

First joint NATO-EU crisis-management exercise..


Feb 2004

France, Germany and the United Kingdom launch the idea of EU rapid reaction units composed of joint battle groups.


Dec 2004

Beginning of the EU-led Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Sep 2005

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (New York).


Oct 2005

Agreement on Military Permanent Arrangements establishing a NATO Liaison Team at EUMS and an EU cell at SHAPE.


Dec 2009

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Brussels)


Nov 2005

NATO Permanent Liaison Team set up at the EU Military Staff.


Mar 2006

EU Cell set up at SHAPE.


Apr 2006

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Sofia)


Sep 2006

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (New York)


Jan 2007

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Brussels)


Apr 2007

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Oslo)


Sep 2007

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (New York)


Dec 2007

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Brussels)


Sep 2008

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (New York)


Dec 2008

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Brussels)


Jan 2009

NAC agreement to schedule a joint NATO-EU crisis management exercise (CMX/CME) in 2010


Mar 2009

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Brussels)


Dec 2009

Transatlantic (NATO-EU) informal ministerial dinner (Brussels)


Dec 2010

At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, the Allies underline their determination to improve the NATO-EU strategic partnership and welcome recent initiatives from several Allies and ideas proposed by the Secretary General to improve NATO-EU cooperation. NATOs new Strategic Concept states that an active and effective European Union contributes to the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area and that therefore the EU is a unique and essential partner for NATO.

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