Assembly of Western European Union05 July 1955 (Paris [France]) - 10 May 2011 (Brussels [Belgium])
Assemblée européenne de sécurité et de défense
The Assembly of the Western European Union was created by the Treaty on Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence signed at Brussels on 17 March 1948 (the Brussels Treaty). Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands signed the Brussels Treaty as an unconditional mutual defence commitment should any of the signatories be the victim of an armed attack on Europe. In September 1948, military cooperation was included in the framework of the Brussels Treaty Organisation and as a result a plan for common defence was adopted, involving the integration of air defences and a joint command organisation.
This European led initiative provided the impetus necessary to convince the United States to participate in the fledgling European security arrangements with talks between Brussels Treaty powers and the US and Canada which led to the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on April 4, 1949. However, there was a need to support the diplomatic commitments of the Washington Treaty with appropriate political and military structures which led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). So as to avoid duplication of missions, the Brussels Treaty Powers decided to amalgamate their military organisation into NATO, which had become a centralising element for West European and North Atlantic defence and security. The WEU strongly backed the attempt in 1954 to create a European Army with the aim of integrating the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) into Europe with the common purpose of establishing a European Defence Community (EDC). However the failure of the EDC meant that an alternative had to be found and as a result invited the FRG and Italy to join the Brussels Treaty. The conclusions of the conference were formalised by the Paris Agreements, signed in October 1954, which amended the Brussels Treaty, and created the Western European Union (WEU) as a new international organisation.
During the period 1954 to 1973, the WEU played an important role in the development of post-War Europe while also acting as interlocutor between the European Economic Community (EEC) founding member states and the UK, until the latter’s entry into the EEC in 1973. Between 1973 and 1984, the WEU’s activities as an international organisation slowed down due to the advent of other organisations which took over some of its functions such as the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), Council of Europe and the development of European Political Co-operation. However, there was a reactivation of WEU with the Rome Declaration and the Hague Platform (1984-1989).
The period 1988 to 2001 was marked by intense WEU operational activity in the Gulf (1988-1990), operations in the context of the Yugoslav conflict (1992-1996) and the establishment of the joint WEU/NATO Operation Sharp Guard in the Adriatic to monitor the embargo against former Yugoslavia. Assistance was provided by WEU to Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania in enforcing the UN sanctions on the Danube. In October 1993, before the Treaty establishing the European Union came into being, WEU sent a police consignment to the European Union (EU) administration of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. WEU was involved in various crisis management missions between 1997-2001 in Albania, demining assistance in Croatia and general security surveillance in Kosovo.
Following the transfer of the WEU’s operational activities to the EU, the Assembly’s inter-parliamentary scrutiny continued to monitor and support intergovernmental cooperation in the field of security and defence. However with the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s role in transparency and accountability was greatly increased and the European Parliament, to avoid duplication called for the abolition of the Assembly of WEU. It was agreed subsequently that WEU would be wound down completely by May 2011.