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NATO-EU: a strategic partnership

NATO-EU: a strategic partnership

Sharing strategic interests, NATO and the European Union cooperate on issues of common interest and are working side by side in crisis management, capability development and political consultations. The European Union is a unique and essential partner for NATO. The two organisations share a majority of members (22), and all members of both organisations share common values.

Institutionalised relations between NATO and the European Union (EU) were launched in 2001, building on steps taken during the 1990s to promote greater European responsibility in defence matters (NATO-Western European Union cooperation1). The political principles underlying the relationship were set out in the December 2002 NATO-EU Declaration on a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The declaration also reaffirmed EU assured access to NATO’s planning capabilities for the EU’s own military operations. Later, the so-called “Berlin Plus” arrangements set the basis for the Alliance to support EU-led operations in which NATO as a whole is not engaged.

With the enlargement of both organisations in 2004 followed by the accession of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to the EU, NATO and the European Union now have 22 member countries in common.2

At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, the Allies underlined their determination to improve the NATO-EU strategic partnership. This was reinforced by NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept which commits the Alliance to prevent crises, manage conflicts and stabilise post-conflict situations, including by working more closely with NATO’s international partners, most importantly the United Nations and its strategic partner - the EU.

NATO’s Strategic Concept clearly states that an active and effective EU contributes to the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area. The European Union’s Lisbon Treaty (in force end 2009) provides a framework for strengthening the EU’s capacities to address common security challenges. Non-EU European Allies make a significant contribution to these efforts. For the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU, their fullest involvement in these efforts is essential.

NATO and the EU can and should play complementary and mutually reinforcing roles in supporting international peace and security. The Allies are determined to make their contribution to create more favourable circumstances through which they will:

  • fully strengthen the strategic partnership with the EU, in the spirit of full mutual openness, transparency, complementarity and respect for the autonomy and institutional integrity of both organisations;
  • enhance practical cooperation in operations throughout the crisis spectrum, from coordinated planning to mutual support in the field;
  • broaden political consultations to include all issues of common concern, in order to share assessments and perspectives;
  • cooperate more fully in capability development, to minimise duplication and maximise cost-effectiveness.

Close cooperation between NATO and the EU is an important element in the development of an international “Comprehensive Approach” to crisis management and operations, which requires the effective application of both military and civilian means. The Chicago Summit in May 2012 reiterated these principles by underlining that NATO and the EU share common values and strategic interests. Fully strengthening this strategic partnership is particularly important in the current environment of austerity. In this context, the NATO Secretary General engages actively with his EU counterparts and has addressed the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in joint session with the sub-committee on Security and Defence on numerous occasions.

1. At that time, the Western European Union (WEU) was acting for the European Union in the area of security and defence (1992 Maastricht Treaty). The WEU's crisis-management role was transferred to the European Union in 1999.
2. 28 NATO member countries: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. 28 EU member countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom.


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