At its meeting on 12 February 1958, the Council of Western European Union (WEU) analyses the cooperation between France, Germany and Italy in the field of arms production, which could be extended to all types of armaments and weapons systems covered by the policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The WEU and NATO Armaments Committees will be informed of the armaments selected by the three countries so that other states can be involved in this cooperation.
The minutes of the 110th meeting of the Council of Western European Union (WEU) at ministerial level, held in Rome on 5 March 1958, focus on the debates on cooperation in arms research, development and production. British representative Selwyn Lloyd believes that multilateral consultations on the subject are possible but that most countries are limited by programmes that have already been adopted. In order to establish a definite production programme, the United Kingdom thinks that consultations should begin on a bilateral basis. The British Government has therefore begun discussions with Germany, France and the Netherlands and will shortly hold talks with Italy. The United Kingdom is keen to conclude other bilateral agreements with the Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and WEU and to keep its WEU partners informed. The end product of this cooperation should be made available to all the members of WEU and NATO. Finally, Selwyn Lloyd refers to a statement made in the House of Commons by the Minister for Supply to the effect that the United Kingdom is seeking to cooperate not only with the Americans but also with the countries of Europe, which share similar industrial and strategic problems. The German representative, Heinrich von Brentano, believes that difficulties particularly arise when attempts are made to solve problems by pursuing several separate lines and that it would be useful for the chairmen of the steering committees set up by the various different arrangements to meet with the members of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC). He also suggests that the North Atlantic Council should make use of the experience of the SAC. French representative Maurice Faure supports the position of the German representative and confirms that after discussing the matter for so many years, it would be regrettable if the Member States were unable to coordinate their efforts; he believes that success depends on the political determination of the governments to promote effective cooperation. Selwyn Lloyd also agrees with the German proposal and suggests that the North Atlantic Council should refer the matter to NATO before the meeting of the NATO Defence Ministers.
On 17 April 1957, the extract from the minutes of the 87th meeting of the Council of Western European Union (WEU) outlines the address by Michael Cary, Chairman of the International Secretariat of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC), on relations between FINABEL and the SAC, particularly the different views on the procedure for the development of weapons. FINABEL is willing to go ahead without the United Kingdom if the country is not prepared to examine the military characteristics established within FINABEL. British representative Lord Samuel Hood summarises the British position on this matter and affirms that his government is not prepared to join FINABEL, firstly because it does not share the view that the procedure for arms development should separate an examination of the military characteristics from the technical, economic and production considerations, and secondly because FINABEL contributes to the idea of duplication with the military structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The German representative, Ulrich Sahm, agrees with Lord Hood that the method adopted in the SAC of inviting military representatives to take part in the discussions is the best way of achieving closer cooperation between FINABEL and the SAC.
This extract form he minutes of the meeting of the Council of Western European Union (WEU) on 6 March 1957 depicts the debates on further steps to stimulate and extend cooperation in the field of research, development and production within the framework of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC). The Chairman asks the delegations if this matter is ready for examination. The British representative Lord Samuel Hood does not think so, arguing that it would be better to await the outcome of technical consultations before launching a political debate. French representative Jean Chauvel also wonders whether it is a good idea for the Council to take fresh steps at the moment and whether it would not be preferable for the International Secretariat of the SAC to provide the Council with information on progress made so that it can consider any action that should be taken.
On 6 December 1961, the Western European Union (WEU) Council meets to discuss Recommendation No 68 (C(61)182) on the Standing Armaments Committee and the joint production of armaments. The Council approves the slightly amended version of paragraph 4 of the British draft reply proposed by French representative Jean Chauvel, as well as various formal amendments to the English text.
The minutes of the 420th meeting of the WEU Council, held on 26 May 1971, outline the debates on the activities of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC). The Prefect Mr Roux, Secretary-General of the SAC, raises the problem of the Committee’s inactivity and calls for the activities of some sub-groups to be transferred to the SAC. He suggests that a group of independent experts should examine this question. French Ambassador Geoffroy de Courcel is particularly struck by the problem of relations between the ad hoc group and the SAC. He notes that, given the complexity of the question, he is currently unable to give a reply on the proposal to set up a group of experts. The British Ambassador Sir Thomas Brimelow and the Netherlands representative emphasise that the problem should be dealt with at ministerial level. The British representative is of the view that preparations for the meeting of 1 July should take differences of opinion into account, without losing sight of the possibility of setting up a committee of experts. Following the explanations given by Mr Roux, Geoffroy de Courcel notes the disadvantage of having armaments problems addressed by representatives that do not hold sufficient delegated powers from their military authorities. He confirms that he will ask his government whether the question of the SAC can be included on the agenda for the meeting of the Council of Ministers, though he is not sure that this will be possible.
On 24 June 1973, the extract from minutes of the 460th meeting of the Council of Western European Union (WEU) contains an examination of the activities of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC) and sets out the issues relating to the standardisation of armaments in Europe. The French Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Jacques Delarue Caron de Beaumarchais, states his government’s position on the SAC, confirming the proposal made at the last ministerial meeting (CR(73)3) to call a meeting of the national armaments directors of the WEU Member States for September. The meeting should define the part the SAC could play in strengthening European cooperation in the field of armaments and cooperation with other bodies. British Ambassador Thomas Brimelow takes note of the French proposal and undertakes to report it to his government, pointing out that any such meeting would have to be well prepared if it is to be fruitful.
On 20 May 1975, at the 495th meeting of the Western European Union (WEU) Council at ministerial level in London, the ministers discuss the activities of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC) and the problems of armaments standardisation in Europe. They particularly consider the proposals set out by Belgian representative Renaat Van Elslande, who believes that standardisation and the maintenance of a viable, competitive armaments industry in Europe for the production of large-scale weapons are essential for European defence. But he notes that the idea of ‘European preference’ is easier to talk about than to achieve. French minister Bernard Destremau and British minister James Callaghan, who chairs the session, agree with the Belgian proposals. They confirm the need for a competitive European industry and better cooperation with the United States. For the French delegate, this cooperation also raises the question of ‘European defence within the Alliance’. He also shares the view of the role the Standing Armaments Committee can adopt in a number of problems relating to standardisation and the cost of operations so that proposals might be submitted to the Council. James Callaghan, on the other hand, believes that WEU is not the appropriate forum at the current time for reviewing the defence industries and suggests that the permanent representatives should start by determining the scope for activity of the SAC in the field of European armaments cooperation and then report back to the Ministerial Council.
At the 496th meeting of the Council of Western European Union (WEU), held on 10 June 1975, the permanent representatives continue the discussions that the ministers began on 20 May (CR(75)8) on the activities of the Standing Armaments Committee (SAC) and the problems of arms standardisation in Europe. Sir John Killick notes that, in accordance with the line taken in the Belgian memorandum, British minister John Callaghan has requested that the governments should decide exactly what they want the SAC to do before allocating it new responsibilities. French Ambassador Jacques de Beaumarchais then expresses his government’s disappointment at the decision taken by two Member States concerning the replacement of their military aircraft, noting a contradiction between this decision and the Belgian proposals. These events clearly highlight the importance of leaving no stone unturned in developing cooperation in the field of armaments. He reaffirms France’s support for the Belgian document, while noting that his government will confirm its position on some points at a later date. Sir John Killick emphasises that the British minister did not think WEU was the appropriate forum for addressing the question of European arms production and purchases, but explains that his government is willing to study the proposals in a positive spirit, not wishing to delay the action taken by the WEU Council. Replying to the French representative on the matter of the replacement of the F104 aircraft, the British representative regrets that it has not been possible to find a European solution but says that it could now be argued that the United States has an obligation to make purchases in Europe. He says that this should be seen as a lesson for the European countries, which should perhaps have developed a European project in anticipation of this replacement. Finally, the French representative expresses his agreement with the Belgian Ambassador’s remarks on the importance of political will for achieving a competitive production capacity in Europe, since economic considerations, although important, cannot be the determining factor.
On 11 February 1955, the chairman of the committee of experts of the working party on production and standardisation of armaments drafts an informal note expressing his doubts as to whether the work method of the committee will enable it to complete the task required of it. In his note, the chairman offers a series of suggestions that could improve the results of the studies carried out by the committee of experts, particularly linking the various studies to provide an interconnected summary of the question of standardisation.