Senior ministers representing seven Western European countries formally agreed today to revive a practically defunct consultative group on defense matters in an attempt to strengthen the European voice in the Atlantic Alliance.
A final document, issued after a two-day meeting of foreign and defense ministers here, outlined a program to revitalize the Western European Union, founded 30 years ago with the aim of controlling the rearmament of West Germany.
One of the aims, according to senior officials here, is to offset concern in the United States that Europeans are not doing enough for their own defense. Ministers said that the organization would attempt to persuade public opinion in Western Europe of the importance of maintaining a strategic balance in East-West relations.
At a final press conference, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said that all governments represented in the Western European Union understood that their security was inseparable from that of the United States.
"It is not that America is too strong in the alliance but Europe that must step up its own contribution," he said.
The organization's member states are West Germany, France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In the view of many officials, this restricted membership makes the Western European Union a more cohesive grouping to coordinate defense policy than the more cumbersome European Community, which includes neutral or "problem" countries such as Greece, Ireland and Denmark.
Among the decisions adopted today was agreement to hold twice-yearly joint meetings of defense and foreign ministers. The council will be responsible for discussing a wide range of defense and security issues, including arms control, European security and Europe's contribution to NATO.
The final document also called for the development of "an effective and competitive European armaments industry," which it depicted as "a fundamental aspect of Europe's contribution to the Atlantic Alliance."
The meeting confirmed the lifting of all remaining controls on the production and stockpiling of conventional weapons by West Germany. Controls on West German production of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons will remain in force.
Genscher said he would outline his government's position on the issue before the West German parliament on Nov. 8. He said West Germany had no intention of producing strategic weapons in any case.
An agreement in principle in June to abolish some restrictions, which were imposed at the end of World War II, led to sharp criticism from the Soviet Union, which cited the move as proof of the dangers of "revanchism" in West Germany.
The Bonn government in turn accused Moscow in meddling in West Germany's internal affairs.
The obstacles to the creation of a joint European defense system were illustrated by French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, who insisted at the news conference that his country never would agree to an integrated military command. An Italian proposal that would have allowed citizens of one member country to be drafted by the army of another was shelved.