Theme: The European Security Strategy (ESS) was adopted by the European
Council on December 12, 2003. There have been many changes in the
international community since then and the time has come to consider
what has been accomplished and how to achieve what remains to be done.
Summary: One of the stated priorities for the term of the French presidency of
the European Union Council was to approve a new European Security
Strategy (ESS). In addition to determining results, there was a need
for a critical evaluation of how to accommodate both foreseeable and
essential factors. Expectations have been progressively lowered and
the document submitted to the European Council by the High
Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) on December 11 is formally a report on implementation of the ESS.
Analysis: In December 2007 the European Council asked the High Representative
for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) to study the
implementation of the European Security Strategy (ESS) and propose
improvements and, if appropriate, additions to it, so that the
European Council could approve the final result in December 2008. The
choice of this formula –rather than the development of a new
strategy or a clearly more modest update of the existing strategy–
reflects the impasse surrounding the Treaty of Lisbon, and with it, the election of the
new high representative who would be responsible for the promotion of a new ESS.
As was also the case when the 2003 ESS was prepared, a wide range of conversations and
consultations have been held, involving various institutions,
principally the Commission and the member states. As was the case
then, the EU Institute for Security Studies has again organized a
series of seminars on “European interests and strategic
options” in Rome, Natolin, Helsinki and Paris. And as was also
the case in 2003, there is a certain sense that democracy has been
lacking in its development, although this time the member states are
close partners in the process and have prepared their own contributions.
In early September the Council’s services set out the main areas for
action and the criteria to be followed at the informal meeting of
Foreign Affairs ministers, and on December 11 the “Report on
the Implementation of the European Security Strategy –
Providing Security in a Changing World” was presented to the
European Council. The European Council shares the analysis contained in the Report and backs the Council’s resolutions, which set new objectives to
enhance and optimize European capabilities in order to continue
contributing to international peace and security while increasing the security of European citizens.
The 2003 ESS
The 2003 ESS culminated the initial gestation process of the European Security
Policy that began with the 1998 Franco-British summit in St. Malo and
continued with establishing military capability
goals by 2007, the structured development of civilian police
capabilities, the rule of law, civil protection and the creation of
institutions such as the EU Political and Security Committee, the EU
Military Committee and the EU Military Staff in early 2001. All these
instruments needed to be coherent with a doctrine and an operational strategy that had to be accepted by all member states.
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 (in a coalition with the United Kingdom) and the split among EU
member states caused by this military intervention demonstrated the
existence of a superstructure for a European Security and Defence
Policy (ESDP), but also the lack of an underlying understanding of
how to implement such a policy. The Convention that was then
preparing the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe took
proper note of the situation and introduced important new components
to the EU foreign policy, beginning with the establishment of
principles and objectives that would act as guidelines for the Union.
The invasion and war in Iraq in 2003 also led to a very serious
rupture in trans-Atlantic relations, since Europe did not give its
unanimous and total support to US policy or to the unilateral decision made by the superpower.
In this tumultuous context, the ESS developed by the High Representative of the CFSP, Javier Solana,
calmed relations with the US and also within the EU itself, since
intra-community relations had been equally damaged. It therefore had
its virtues, given the context in which it was developed and approved.
The European document is commonly compared to the US National Security Strategy
that preceded it in 2002. However, since the EU does not act as a
nation, its strategy cannot be compared to that of a single state or
even to the strategies of its own member states. Both documents refer
to similar security threats, but each has a different approach to
dealing with them: unilateral action, where necessary, on the part of
the United States, and effective multilateralism on the part of the
EU; and worldwide or global US interests, versus essentially
regional/peripheral EU interests. There is no reason for these
different interests and capacities to prevent the existence of a
common philosophy or common trans-Atlantic principles, even if they
are called into question at times. The ESS makes the fight against
international terrorism a centrepiece of European security activity, bringing it in line with US security priorities.
In these five years, the ESS has enabled the EU to use its capabilities to carry
out over twenty military, police, civilian and mixed missions in the
Balkans, the Caucasus, Palestine, Indonesia, Somalia and Congo. On
balance, the outcomes may be considered positive if we take into
account the situation from which the EU was emerging and the
important but nonetheless modest goals set by the Union, given its
material and political circumstances. It should be noted that the
Union is authorized by the Treaty to carry out Petersberg missions in
the broad sense of the term and that, in doing so, the EU shows its
inclination to use “soft power” instruments, in line with
the foreign and security policy of some member states, including several neutral ones.
Despite all the ESS’s virtues in the context in which it was adopted, past experience and
the current strategic circumstances suggest that member states and institutions ought to reconsider this strategy.
There are several weaknesses in the current ESS approach, among them the
preference for dealing with the area immediately surrounding the EU
and for the use of soft power and exclusively civilian instruments.
Both of these attitudes are in conflict with the EU’s intention
to become a global player with real impact on the burning issues in
international politics that affect world security. However, they are
understandable considering the fact that the member states have not
entirely modernized their armies, despite their commitment to do so.
A revitalized ESDP would be well grounded in an ESS adapted to the global threats to European and world security.
Is a new European Security Strategy necessary?
It could be affirmed that certain aspects of the geopolitical context have
evolved, even though there have not been structural changes to the
international system. Conflicts such as the one in the Middle East
continue to cause worldwide concern, while the recent war in Georgia
has demonstrated that the risk of armed conflict at Europe’s
doors has not disappeared. The risk of proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction has increased, both among states and non-state
players, with certain countries showing particular interest in
acquiring ballistic missiles, amid increasing multilateral efforts to
limit the light arms trade. And of greater medium- and long-term
significance is the increase in tensions and conflicts over access to
natural resources (energy, water, etc.) in a context in which climate
change is becoming increasingly obvious. In turn, shortages of energy resources and basic foodstuffs have led to a global economic crisis in which, as usual, developing countries
are the biggest losers. Added to this, the inequitable distribution
of the world’s wealth, resources and natural disasters has led
to an increase in migratory flows, which, depending on the target
countries and size of the flows, could have destabilizing effects and could affect the living standards of the general population.
While the international context provides the basis for arguments in favour of
an updated ESS, so do the US National Security Strategy (NSS) updated
in March 2006 and the new National Defence Strategy (NDS) passed in
June 2008. Although both maintain their basic focus, there are nods
to the alliance with Europe and there is an emphasis on multilateral
solutions, while unilateral action is not ruled out when this is
necessary for national security. However, despite this positive
trend, the NSS’s over-emphasis on external threats and security
in the strict sense has led the US to ignore other threats to human
security and, as a result, to focus almost exclusively on military
means to deal with these threats. There is a clear difference between
the US concept of “Homeland Security” and the broader
concept of “Human Security” held by most EU partners.
This tendency is qualified in the NDS, which emphasizes the
insufficiency of military force and the need to make use of resources
of all kinds, including soft power, to deal with the security threats
including those arising from poor governance in certain countries,
shortages of natural resources exacerbated by climate change, pandemics and natural disasters.
Furthermore, while the 2003 ESS was approved, as we have mentioned, in the context of open rupture
and disagreement between the US and Europe, and also within the EU
itself, today these differences have eased considerably and there is
a climate of understanding between both partners, with the usual
differences and tensions regarding trade as well as certain
disagreements on how to coordinate action in the NATO framework. The
US is now calling for a more muscular ESDP, brushing aside earlier
fears that this would weaken the Atlantic alliance. The clearest
evidence of this change in mentality was the first explicit statement
by NATO in support of European defence at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008.
Finally, the main European governments that were most opposed to US unilateralism (and which, as
a result, most provoked it) –those of Germany and France–
have been replaced by others more clearly favourable to an increase
in the quantity and quality of trans-Atlantic relations. For the
first time in the history of trans-Atlantic relations, no European
government is openly hostile to the US government, especially because
of the change of administration. France has even made defence policy
the centrepiece of its term in the EU presidency. At the same time,
the end of the distrusted Bush administration is sure to facilitate
even greater rapprochement between allies on both sides of the
Atlantic. It is now generally understood in Europe that the EU cannot simply be a receiver of security, with the US as the sole supplier.
In addition to all these reasons for updating the ESS, there is also reason for
concern regarding the failure to make further headway with the Common
Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which requires revitalization
based on the sovereign will of European states. This policy has
suffered from the paralysis in the European constitution-building
process which, for the moment, shows no signs of a quick recovery,
given the lack of a way out of the situation produced by the Irish
referendum. Without the Treaty of Lisbon, it is difficult to increase
permanent structured cooperation among the states with greater
military capabilities, and other formulas essential for the flexibility of a 27-member EU.
We are also witnessing the frustration of the expectations generated by the
European Defence Agency (EDA) which, in practice, limits itself to
verifying commitments of national capabilities and obtaining the best
prices for military materiel, while ignoring its more ambitious goal
of promoting joint research projects. There is also ongoing criticism
of the lack of proper operational planning as well as a clear dispute over the relationship between this military planning body and NATO.
Factors to consider in the 2009 ESS
Like any security strategy, the ESS should begin by clear defining EU interests, since any document
of this kind must specify how to coordinate all the resources
available to achieve the desired goals. The 2003 ESS deals with EU
defence and security and with the promotion of the EU’s values.
While the latter are quite clear, the same cannot be said of the
concept of security in the ESS. Today, both doctrine and practice
have evolved to include the broader concept of human security.
However, while this is true, there are now more threats to human
security and more resources are needed than those provided for in the 2003 document.
Second, a change is needed in terms of how threats are identified. While the
essential approach may remain the same, it must be adapted to current
strategic circumstances. Although terrorism, organized crime and
rogue states are indeed threats, we must not overlook the present or
potential threats posed by countries such as North Korea and Iran;
nor must we lack the will to deal with them jointly, preferably by
diplomatic means, but without ruling out military, economic or other
forms of pressure. Regarding the former, the report accepted by the
European Council states the EU action guidelines, which focus on
preventing radicalization and recruitment, protecting potential
targets, pursuing terrorists and responding to attacks. Piracy is a
sub-variety of organized crime mentioned in the report as a threat to
security, given the events in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden that
have led to the EU’s first seagoing mission. While the report
continues to identify weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as a threat
that the EU must work to prevent by devoting resources and time to
the revision of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons in 2010, it adds cyber-threats to security and the risks posed by small and light arms, cluster bombs and land mines.
Along with this, pandemics and natural disasters pose a threat to human
security, very often with clear links to security threats in the most
classic sense, since they generate conflicts or large population
movements. Climate change and energy security are also problems that
have, or may have, a broad impact on security, while also generating
or sparking local armed conflict in unstable regions. All these are
considered in the ESS report as new threats to European security,
based on a relatively broad consensus among member states, European
institutions and scientific forums. As has been mentioned, this type
of threat was already included in the US National Defence Strategy in
2008. In this regard, the ESS report calls for a more interconnected
energy market with diversified supplies and supply routes, with more
action on this issue in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Africa, the
Western Association and the Union for the Mediterranean territories, while promoting renewable energies.
Territorial integrity is a more delicate issue. In principle, it was assumed that
there were no threats to territorial integrity, either for member
states or nearby states. At the very least, with the expansion into
Eastern Europe, the Russian invasion of Georgia and the fears
expressed for other countries such as Moldavia and Ukraine, it is no
longer clear that the defence of territorial integrity should not be
an objective of the ESS. Nevertheless, at least these events bring
Russia’s return to power politics back into the spotlight, but
two factors weigh against this being an issue included in the
strategy. First, there is a shortage of resources and of political
will for the EU to undertake the defence of territories on the basis
of clauses such as article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This is
precisely NATO’s role, and the aforementioned countries have
requested membership in it. In fact, we see that the most recent
accessions to the EU have come precisely from prior accession to the
Washington Treaty, making this organization the one responsible for
this type of territorial defence. Furthermore, even if it were
expressed in generalized terms, the inclusion of this threat would be
a de facto labelling of Russia as a threat to European security. Considering
this continental power’s strategic importance and the EU’s
important ties with it, a cooperative and constructive approach to
the Russia policy would seem to be the best option for the Union and
its global interests. An explicit declaration on EU’s Russia
policy would be a useful and in fact essential component of European
security. Conscious of the deteriorating relations with Russia, the
report sets the guidelines for relations with this continental power
and says they are based on respect for common values and interests
and on common goals. However, this statement is too ambiguous to
serve as a criterion that could unify the different national policies
vis-à-vis Russia, since the absolutely essential prior
political accord among member states is still a long way off at this point.
Third, the European Security Strategy should provide more details on the forms
and situations in which force could be used by the Union. While
Europe’s preference is to give top priority to the use of
civilian instruments for crisis management, it is no less true that
some of the ESDP missions carried out to date have required the use
of military force, and this should not be left to improvisation or to
the criteria of the head of any given operation. In this regard, the
ESS, while not a defence strategy –something that does not
exist in Europe today– should develop explicit strategies for
EU action that balances all the tools at the organization's disposal.
In short, as has been correctly affirmed, the ESS should stop being descriptive and should become prescriptive.
In its explanation of the political implications of security threats
to Europe and the role of the EU in the world, the report submitted
to the European Council proposes three lines of action aimed at:
increasing European efficiency and capabilities, making a greater
commitment to neighbouring countries and enhancing effective
multilateralism on an ongoing basis. These are the same action
guidelines already stated in the ESS, although effective
multilateralism in the ESS is considered a strategic objective. In
its consideration of these issues, the report stresses the main
weaknesses of European foreign and security policy and calls for them
to be improved. It advocates better international coordination, a
more strategic approach to decision-making, top priority given to
early prevention by peaceful means including poverty reduction, the
coherent use of all tools at the EU’s disposal, improved
dialogue and mediation capacities, and flexibility in crisis
response, making use of tactical groupings and civilian teams. It
also stresses the importance of the United Nations and the role of
NATO and regional organizations. However, it still fails to define an explicit strategy for EU interventions.
Finally, the ESS must prioritize its strategic interests and objectives. These
priorities do not appear clearly in the current strategy, although a
commitment to security in the regions closest to the EU is one of its
key components. However, if we analyze how the ESDP is put into
practice, it fits badly with the stated priorities. Of the 20 ESDP
missions carried out to date, five have been in Congo, one in
Indonesia and two in Palestine. While not denying the virtue and
necessary of these missions, it should be made clear what strategy or
criteria they are based on; otherwise, we would conclude that
missions are based on agreements among member states, even if they do
not correspond to EU priorities. Another possible conclusion is that
it is superfluous to go on declaring this preference for the
periphery of Europe since, if the EU aspires to be a global player,
it cannot limit its interests to this area. Without ignoring its
periphery, the EU should focus on the points of greatest interest for
European security. Here we see one of the changes in the
international strategic context, because the world at the end of this
first decade of the century is not the same as it was five years ago,
when Europe was still shaken by the impact of the Balkan wars, nor
does the EU have the same resources or the same aspirations as it did
then. Also, expectations were not as high then as they are today. In
this regard, the report to the European Council takes a step forward
by broadening its goals to include stability beyond Europe and, while
it still insists that action is necessary on the European periphery
(in Turkey, the Balkans, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
countries to the south and east of the EU, Ukraine, Belarus and
Moldova) it also indicates the need to stabilize the Middle East,
Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, with express reference to supporting the
neighbouring countries in Central Asia and the importance of improving relations between India and Pakistan.
At the same time, while there is continued insistence on strengthening security
in our immediate area, some neighbourhood policy action plans have
introduced a new interest in greater European involvement in solving
conflicts and reducing instability in many of these countries. While
taking on this responsibility is a positive thing, the EU has still
not studied the negative consequences of this policy on the countries
surrounding us that are excluded from this privileged circle.
Becoming a global player would require the Union to broaden its
current focus to include human security interests beyond the
countries immediately surrounding it –a clear example being
Central Asian countries– while at the same time avoiding
playing a role that is secondary to that of the big international players in these areas.
From a much more operational perspective and given the difficulties with EU
missions, it has been deemed necessary to consider the joint planning
of the civilian and military capabilities allocated to these
missions. Not only are both components planned separately, creating
or potentially creating inconsistencies, but civilian planning is
also much more chaotic and inefficient. The 2008 report opens the
door to joint planning by declaring that adequate and effective
command structures and HQ capabilities are essential in order to
“combine civilian and military expertise from the conception of
a mission, through the planning phase and into implementation”,
making it possible to unify the planning of the civilian and military
components of a mission. The efforts made by the High Representative
to create a new, single civilian-military structure for strategic
planning are expressly supported by the European Council in its
statement on the enhancement of the ESDP.
The report continues on the current path of emphasizing the EU’s
contribution to a multilateral international system, as befits the
Union’s nature and its very essence. To accomplish this, it is
essential to enhance global governance and this is where the US 2008
National Defence Strategy and the European Strategy coincide.
However, the report accepted by the European Council does not focus
as much on good governance in neighbouring countries or others, as on
the responsibility to protect people against the most odious
international crimes, in accordance with the guidelines established in the final document of the 2005 United Nations World Summit.
Finally, there is a continuation of the typically European approach to tackling threats at their
source before they manifest themselves, with allusions to the fact
that Europe traditionally links security, development and human
security, thus reaffirming that the European crisis management model remains in place.
Conclusions: Five years after the ESS was approved, it is time to assess and
update it. In fact, this would have been a good time to approve a new
strategy, for the reasons explained above, but this is not being considered for now.
In this new phase and given the current international situation, the EU should make it an absolute
priority to enhance an effective multilateral international system to
significantly improve global governance and deal with the new
security challenges. To accomplish this, the EU itself must be
efficient, capable and flexible, enabling it to help make the
necessary changes in the international system, such as reforming the
United Nations, making the International Criminal Court more
effective, restructuring the International Monetary Fund and other international financial organizations, and revamping the G-8.
A clear statement on the connection between security and development could also be a
distinguishing feature of Europe’s concept of security and its way of tackling global issues.
At the same time as a broader concept of security is embraced, it is reasonable to increase the list of current security threats.
The conditions and circumstances in which the EU could use each and every one of the
resources and capabilities at its disposal should also be specified
–military capabilities in particular– as well as
guidelines for their correct, quick and coherent planning and
deployment, preferably in conjunction with civilian capabilities.
While the latter feature is included in the report to the European
Council, this is not true of the conditions for use of EU resources.
Indeed, to be worthy of being called a strategy, the ESS should
provide more details on the EU’s political goals aimed at
ensuring the Union's interests, ignoring as much as possible
diplomatic ambiguities that only reflect political disputes among member states.
Despite being called a “report”, the submitted document actually updates the 2003 ESS and is therefore
a document that will govern EU strategy in the coming years.
As was discussed above, based on the current text and the updates or add-ons
proposed in the report, this seems more like a Grand Strategy than a
security strategy per se, since it states the theory behind the ways of achieving security but,
nonetheless, fails to clearly define the EU interests that this security and defence policy is meant to protect.
While the ESS is confirmed as a distinctive feature of the European identity, the member states do
not appear to be ready to put aside their prejudices regarding
European security and work together to achieve this, based on common
ideas and on a harmonious strategy that is coherent with the EU’s resources and goals.
Natividad Fernández Sola
Professor of Public International Law and Jean Monnet professor, Universidad de Zaragoza