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LEXICON European Security and Defence Assembly (ESDA) / Assembly of Western European Union (Assembly of WEU)

Western European Union site

  1. The Western European Union (WEU) was established by the Protocol signed on 23 October 1954 in Paris, modifying and completing the Treaty on Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence of 17 March 1948 (modified Brussels Treaty) with a view to develop military cooperation. At the time of its self-dissolution, 28 states participated in the work of the WEU: 10 member states (signatory states), 6 associate members (including Poland from 1999), 5 observers and 7 associate partners*.

  2. Until the beginning of the 1970s the WEU promoted the development of cooperation in Western Europe but then it was gradually losing its competence in favour of NATO, the Council of Europe and the European Communities. The Treaty of Maastricht (1993) recognised the WEU as an integral part of the EU development process and it was obligated to prepare and implement EU provisions affecting the defence area. In 1992, according to Council of WEU decision in Petersberg, the competence of WEU was expanded to embrace the so-called Petersberg missions: humanitarian, rescue and peace-keeping, known as crisis management operations. The Treaty of Amsterdam (1999) provided for the possibility of integrating the WEU into the EU and the realisation of Petersberg tasks were included into the EU competence while the Union got access to operational capabilities of WEU (Article J7). In 2000 the WEU Council decided to transfer its operational capabilities and bodies to the EU. Henceforth in the WEU competence remained only the functions connected to the collective defence obligation.

  3. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, an arrangement was adopted (Article 42 (7) of the TEU) making it possible to implement within the EU framework the collective defence obligation imposed by Article V of the modified Brussels Treaty (binding only on 10 states that were also EU members). Hence the last formal reason justifying the existence of the WEU disappeared. Consequently, on 31 March 2010, 10 signatories of the modified Brussels Treaty issued a statement communicating that the WEU would cease its functioning by June 2011.

  4. The Assembly of WEU existed from 1954. It met in a plenary session twice a year to discuss all issues related to the implementation of the modified Brussels Treaty. There were 6 committees working as part of the Assembly, which prepared reports and recommendations for plenary meetings. In 2000, after the WEU Council transferred its operational functions and bodies to the EU, the Assembly redefined its role as a forum for interparliamentary scrutiny of the European Security and Defence Policy, and in 2008 it assumed the name of European Security and Defence Assembly.

  5. The Assembly grouped together parliamentarians from 42 states, including all the EU Member States, 5 associate members (European members of NATO who are not members of the EU: Albania, Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Turkey), and 10 partners. According to the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, the signatory members were represented by parliamentarians - members of delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The composition of the delegations of the other members was determined by the respective parliaments in accordance with the number of places allocated to them in the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly.

    After its accession to the EU, from 2005 Poland had the status of associate member in the Assembly of WEU, and from 2008, following an amendment of the rules of Procedure of the Assembly, the full member status. The delegation of the Sejm and the Senate to the Assembly consisted of 12 members (9 deputies, 3 senators) and 12 substitutes.

  6. In connection with the statement by the signatories of the modified Brussels Treaty on its termination and cessation, by June 2011, of the functioning of the WEU, the European Security and Defence Assembly also finished its activity. The final, 60th session of the Assembly was held in May 2011. Taking into consideration the fact, that the task of elaborating a new format of interparliamentary scrutiny of the Common Security and Defence Policy was given to the Conference of Speakers of the EU Parliaments (EUSC), the President of the ESDA transferred the Flag and archives of the Assembly to the EUSC Polish Presidency of that time for safekeeping – until the successor of the ESDA/WEU Assembly is established.

Updated: 20.04.2016

* According to the WEU Council’s decision of 14 June 2001 concerning the period after 1 January 2002, the member states decided there was no need to make any formal changes in the status of the states that are not full members of the WEU.