BRUSSELS — A senior NATO figure has conceded that "more could be done" to improve cooperation between the alliance and the European Union.

Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO's influential Military Committee, believes that EU capabilities could better complement NATO's military efforts. The Czech official also said that the security environment has changed to the "most complex, unpredictable, and challenging security situation Europe has seen in decades."

His comments came during a hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels.

In a wide-ranging address to MEPs, Pavel highlighted the importance of NATO-EU cooperation and said that "while the EU Military Committee and the NATO Military Committee work well together, in practical terms, more could be done."

During his speech, entitled "Current Security Challenges and the Role of NATO and the EU", General Pavel highlighted that "our security environment has changed to the most complex, unpredictable, and challenging security situation Europe has seen in decades and this is unlikely to change in the near future."

The 54-year-old went on, "It is not a moment, but an era," Pavel, 54, continued. "For us at NATO and for the European region, this situation materializes through two distinct security challenges, the East and the South. There is an arc of instability surrounding much of Europe." 

The general pointed out that the EU "has, besides the military other strengths and tools that make it, without any doubt, a formidable economic power with extensive rule of law and governance capabilities."

But he cautioned that "NATO and the EU could be doing more on top of what the two organisations are already working on in tandem."

He said, "In order to be prepared to respond efficiently, the EU and the alliance must remain cohesive and proactive within each organization and, better yet, even together.

"Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation minimizes duplications and maximizes cost-effectiveness," he said. "If coordinated and shaped to assist in current crises, EU and NATO assets in the same geographical areas with similar missions should be complementary".

After two decades of deployments, training, exercises and operations, NATO is postured to be a capable partner with the EU during this time of geopolitical uncertainty, he argued.

"I believe that we in NATO and you in the EU are ready, and the time is right to begin the process to truly promote EU/NATO cooperation," added Pavel, who was chief of the general staff of the Czech Army from 2012 until earlier this year. He's held his current post since June and is the first person from a former Eastern bloc state to hold the position.

The Military Committee is the senior military authority in NATO and the oldest permanent body in NATO after the North Atlantic Council, both having been formed months after the Alliance came into being. It is the primary source of military advice to NATO's civilian decision-making bodies – the North Atlantic Council and the Nuclear Planning Group.

The conference was organized by Pavel Svoboda, a Czech member of the European Parliament and Anna Fotyga, who chairs the Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE).

Fotyga emphasized the importance of NATO-EU cooperation and stressed that she has always been "a strong advocate of the closest-possible relationship" between the two, adding that "NATO is the chief ally in guaranteeing European security."

Martin Banks covered the European Union, NATO and affairs in Belgium for Defense News.

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