The European Union’s Security Strategy from a Spanish Perspective

The European Union’s Security Strategy from a Spanish Perspective

Theme: The European Foreign Affairs ministers, at their informal meeting in Castelorizo on May 3, 2003, entrusted Secretary General and High Representative for CFSP, Javier Solana, with the preparation of a global strategy for foreign policy and common security. The Salonica European Council on June 20, 2003, responded favourably to the recommendations presented in a document titled “A Secure Europe in a Better World” and gave him a mandate to develop it for the European Council of December 2004. The mandate establishes that the global strategy must reflect European interests, as well as the interests of member states and the priorities of their citizens, so as to constitute an open document to be debated and updated. This article responds to the call for social participation in the mandate, presenting the author’s personal reflections and contrasting his perception of Spanish and European security interests by discussing the recommendations adopted.

Summary: This article does not set out to analyze the document presented by the Secretary General and High Representative (hereinafter the Solana Document), but rather makes use of it to compare the interests, objectives and strategies of European and Spanish security. To do this, I have contrasted the Document’s essential guidelines with those defined in similar Spanish documents, although there is a lack of a comprehensive Spanish security strategy that systematizes and makes sense of the security directives that have until now been linked to defence and foreign policies. Secondly, the collective list of new threats focuses on terrorism, proliferation, failed states and organized crime, excluding certain security interests and risks that until now have been considered to be shared; I propose that these be reintroduced as common concerns. Third, strategic objectives are defined as the broadening of European security to include its immediate surroundings, contributing to international order, strengthening multilateral action and dealing with new threats –strategic objectives shared by Spain with minor nuances discussed below. Finally, the Document details the strategies for collective action necessary for the Union to become a global player that is committed, coherent and capable of action, either independently or in cooperation with its strategic allies. This is an ambitious design that requires some clarification regarding financing procedures and the management of common capabilities in order to not to widen the present gap between expectations and capabilities, between consumers and receivers of security.

Analysis: Global security strategies in the European Union and in Spain
The Foreign Affairs ministers, at their informal meeting in Castelorizo, entrusted the Secretary General with the preparation of a global strategy for foreign policy and common security and their recommendations follow along these lines, while scrupulously respecting the limits between internal security and defence. Despite what is blithely referred to as the Union’s “strategic concept”, Solana’s recommendations are nothing of the kind, but rather a security strategy, as required by the mandate and as reflected in the very text, which at no time uses this term. The Document consolidates the multi-dimensional, multi-level, integrated vision of security that the Union has been developing in recent years. This concept is marked by the need to coordinate the various instruments, players and management procedures in the face of security risks that have emerged between the boundaries of defence and European public order –but a concept of “soft” security, in which the use of military means is dissociated from the use of traditional “hard” security, typical of national and NATO strategic concepts for the exercise of collective defence, dissuasion, the imposition of peace or humanitarian intervention.

No less blithely, the Document is said to be a novelty in the process of European integration, when it is not. This is not the first time a document on European security interests has been agreed on, whether in the more military and strategic sense (the Hague Platform in 1987) or in the broader, multi-dimensional sense of security (the Common Concept prepared by the 27 members of the WEU in 1995). What is new, therefore, is only that the institutional framework of the Western European Union has been replaced by that of the European Union and its European foreign and common security policy.

The above is not to question the need and usefulness of considering the Document, nor does this analysis purport to study it. On the contrary, the Document is acknowledged as a valid way of articulating and systematizing security initiatives and capabilities that are disperse and lack a sufficiently logical framework. But the Salonica mandate has opened a process of reflection and this article takes a look at the content of the document from the perspective of Spanish security interests, objectives and strategies.

Any comparison necessarily involves contrasting the contents of the Document’s European strategy with that of its Spanish counterparts. However, this methodology is not easy to apply because there is no official document –at least from open sources– that presents a systematized, global vision of Spanish security interests. Until now, Spanish security strategy, like that of all Spain’s neighbours, has been conceptually dependent on defence, and we must take an indirect approach to Spanish security interests, objectives and risks.

On the one hand, we can read between the lines in the National Defence Directives and see that they allude with increasing intensity to security interests, though they are obliged to present them within the defence policy framework. The same distinction between security and defence can be seen both in the so-called White Book on Defence of 2000 and in the recent Strategic Review of 2002. On the other hand, Spanish security strategy can be inferred through the collective documents signed to this respect, both in the framework of NATO and its successive strategic concepts, and in the dismissed framework of the WEU. However, beyond this, there are no official documents from Foreign Affairs or other high defence bodies that lay out a differentiated security policy, although there is certainly no lack of fragmentary and specific declarations by top Foreign Affairs staff and the prime minister. As is the case with the Union, there is no conceptual structure that differentiates Spanish security interests and objectives from those of defence. This does not mean security should be given the exclusive leading role that defence has had until now, but rather that the inertia of fusion and confusion that has done so much damage to the conceptual discourse of both should be broken.

If this is the case, the reflection proposed by the Salonica European Council has an initial lesson for Spain: the need to develop a Spanish security strategy that can be projected both internally and externally to influence the definition of European interests. This appears to be the appropriate task for the Foreign Policy Council created in the National Defence Directive of 2000, or for the National Security and Defence Council proposed in the recent Strategic Review of 2002.

Security interests and risks, shared or otherwise
A security document should begin by establishing the interests that are to be protected. In the case of the Union, the document does not provide a list of interests or their order of importance, nor does it make reference to treaties. Probably this is considered unnecessary, given closely matching constitutional directives, and since strategic interests are decided by unanimous vote in the European Council, so that no member State will accept the adoption of common interests contrary to its own national interests. But it would not be amiss to include a reference to those interests that are vital for survival, to values and to international order –as the Strategic Review and article 193.2 of the draft constitutional treaty approved at the Convention do. Also, the Council’s mandate wisely includes preparing a document to allow it to adapt to future changes in security, which undoubtedly will be achieved by making use of the flexibility clause in the Union’s treaties already used to adapt to new situations. The only precaution would be to maintain the unanimous decision mechanism to guarantee national interests with each change.

If we compare the European security context in the Solana Document with the Common Concept approved in Madrid under the Spanish presidency of the WEU by its 27 member states, it is clear that the sun of Salonica shed little new light. The “new” risks of today, such as international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and organized crime, were also included in the 1995 inventory. Small differences in nuances were included in the wake of September 11, so that including them now means attending to Spanish interests the same way as before. In fact, terrorism and proliferation are also listed as national threats in the Strategic Review, unlike failed states and organized crime, which are not alluded to, and European economic interests, which were included in the Common Concept of the 27 WEU countries and which now have practically disappeared.

As for failed states, their collapse not only fuels armed conflict and organized crime, as the document points out, but also tends to cause massive displacements of population, which is in fact considered in the Strategic Review as a security risk. The Solana Document mentions the possibility that in the future there may be massive displacements due to environmental problems or that the illegal traffic of human beings by organized crime will increase, but it does not predict that economic or political crises, linked or not to the collapse of states, will generate massive and uncontrolled flows of refugees, though the Common Concept expressly did. This is a criterion that would be useful to put back in the inventory of threats to Europe for border states in the Union such as Spain.

Regarding organized crime, the Solana Document is quite restrictive since it only makes reference to it as a problem if it is linked to failed states and does not take into account the trans-national nature of organized crime. The Common Concept had a sharper perspective on trans-border crime as a source of risk for Europe and alluded to illegal trade in arms and narcotics and their terrorist connections as explicit security risks. The aforementioned restriction may be motivated by the same desire to separate external and internal security that impregnates the Document. But this separation, incomprehensible in a globalized context such as the present, could invalidate the developing concept of facing all risks that have been artificially divided as “external” or “internal”, whether terrorism, the cyber-attacks classified as security risks by the Strategic Review, or the contraband in radioactive materials mentioned in the Common Concept. According to the latter, organized crime should be considered a higher risk to European security and current designs should be corrected to avoid compartmentalizing security.

Also, the semantic qualifiers applied to terrorism should be changed because the Solana Document mentions the danger of “international terrorism” and restricts action to fighting the “new” terrorism, which it distinguishes from the “classic” variety. The government has held the semantic line of removing all qualifiers of the term “terrorism” precisely to prevent qualifiers such as those in the document from reducing international action in the fight against ETA. Artificial distinctions damage the consensus established after September 11, divide foreign policy from security policy in the fight against terrorism, question the application of the solidarity clause included in the draft constitution and underestimate the security risk that “classic” terrorism represents for European society.

Finally, certain risks are not included which, at least in 1995, affected Spanish security interests: the protection of Spanish nationals abroad and environmental damage on a large scale. Then, the security and rescue of Spanish citizens in the world became one of the Petersberg missions; now, their security is a concern only in terms of terrorist attacks. If the original version is not restored, it will be difficult to explain to Spanish citizens, whether or not they reside in conflictive areas, that the Union is interested in the security of populations at risk in the Congo or East Timor, but that there is no plan to protect European citizens. As for environmental risks, these simply are not included in the Salonica recommendations, which is a step backwards in the definition of Spanish interests, compared to those stated in the Common Concept, which included risks as up-to-date as oil transport, the security of nuclear reactors and the storage of toxic waste, to say nothing of the possibility –as the Strategic Review indicated– that nuclear installations, military propulsion systems or nuclear arms could be the target of attacks. It would seem logical to think that the current debate will eventually include such clear risks to the global security strategy. However, just in case, these issues should be pursued.

Strategic objectives that are practically shared
Whether national or European, strategic objectives are those that guarantee that interests are satisfied. The Solana Document states as strategic objectives: extending the European security zone, consolidating international order and facing threats.

From the Spanish perspective, the European periphery is one of its priority geographic areas. The Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Near East and, less intensely, the territories to the east of the post-enlargement borders, are of special interest to Spain, though action is not ruled out in any part of the world. The European Union has presented itself as a global player and as a result, unlike the Common Concept of the 27 WEU countries, it no longer considers it necessary to enumerate regional intervention scenarios except in its immediate sphere of influence. Since strategic objectives are decided unanimously at the Council, it would be useful to clarify whether or not once a strategic objective is defined, such as the fight against terrorism, action will also be decided by unanimity, case by case, or if the majority procedures for qualified majorities will be applied, given that abstention or opposition to common decisions comes with a high political cost to national interests.

Although there is no systematic geographical list, the Solana Document is dotted with scenarios of conflict all around the globe, except in Latin America. This gap is harmful to Spanish interests inasmuch as this is another area of priority interest for the projection of Spanish influence abroad, with risk levels even higher than those of other scenarios mentioned in the Document. National interest in strengthening Euro-Latin American relations and in involving the Union in the resolution of Central American conflicts and the stabilization of Colombia cannot be left out of a strategic reference list. This is true not only because many European countries have security interests in the area, as the WEU Common Concept reflected, or because the Union itself has already participated in initiatives to stabilize the region, but because omitting it could give rise to a feeling that the Americas are beyond the limits of European strategic action and are reserved for US influence.

As to the enhancement of international order, the Document does little to clarify whether its action in multilateral organizations will consist in strengthening their independence or taking over their security obligations, and if this cooperation will be automatic or case by case, with or without a mandate. This lack of definition leaves each member state free to apply its own perspective on multilateralism, but the interpretation of both Spanish government and society of how to contribute to the different organizations and areas of international order coincide with the Document’s objectives. They also coincide with the will to face threats wherever they occur, to diversify the instruments for intervention and to do this as soon as possible, although the Spanish translation of the term ‘pre-emptive engagement/engagement préventif’ for ‘timely commitment’ (comprometerse a tiempo) hardly conveys the pre-emptive spirit of the original.

Particular and collective implications
The strategic objectives can be achieved through various strategies, whose costs and anticipated results must be discussed by national and European leaders. The strategies considered in the Solana Document set out to intensify action, coherence, capabilities and cooperation between the Union and its allies, which means abandoning a timid, reactive attitude in favour of a more committed, urgent one –an ambitious stance which, in a security context as turbulent as the one described, requires great force of will, coordination and resources. This continues to be the Union’s Achilles’ Heel, especially if it aspires to independent global action.

European experience reveals a gap between political commitment and allocated resources, both at the national and European levels, since resources and capabilities are in short supply. National strategic interests lead the group to consider action where individual states do not reach, but if the Union is not provided with its own resources, the cost of international projection will end up worsening –rather than improving– national security burdens. Such a decided move towards a leading role in international security cannot materialize without establishing a link between commitments and new capabilities, and identifying capabilities, responsible agents and time frames for providing the EU with the necessary instruments. The list of capabilities needed not only includes those of a military nature, the difficulties of which are well known, but those involving the police, the economy, diplomacy and intelligence. Shortages in these areas are much more severe since these resources are invested in –and overwhelmed by– national security interests.

A common security strategy that does not include a programme of common commitments and resources runs the risk of leaving security policy at the mercy of those taking part in the operation. The Solana Document mentions that those who put European security at risk must know that there is a price to pay, but does not tell Europe’s citizenry that their security also has a price. As long as collective security continues to be free and no convergence criteria are imposed to prevent the free consumption of security, then security producers will try to obtain other considerations to compensate for their contributions. Therefore, either progress is made towards solidarity, providing common resources for capabilities labelled as European, or else there is a risk of backsliding towards the nationalization of security interests, objectives and capabilities. This is why it is necessary to clearly point out to European society which capabilities contribute to their security, in order to make it easier for member states to justify additional efforts to public opinion in their countries and to prevent burdening European security with the expense of covering national defence commitments. Until a fairly balanced system is established to share the burden, Spain’s interest must be to maximize the exchange value of its contributions and avoid diverting collective resources to private initiatives.

Conclusions: The wording of the final document must maintain national interests and make them compatible with European interests, in accordance with the inter-governmental nature of foreign policy and common security. What has been stated above indicates that the definition of the current global European security strategy coincides in large part with national interests, objectives and strategies, although the study also presents some suggestions for improving their level of coincidence. Also, it appears to be a good time to prepare a Spanish security strategy.

The definition of a global strategy must be made in the context of the debate on the constitutional framework for implementing it, since the strategy will be implemented with the procedures and agents approved by the current Inter-governmental Conference. Protection of national security interests makes it necessary for unanimity to remain the procedure for deciding shared security interests and objectives, until the majority procedures that are progressively occupying the shared security space are shown be efficient. Responsibility for security today –even after the Convention– can only be demanded of governments and this responsibility extends to collective decisions. This means that this responsibility must be protected by mechanisms that restrict the imposition of security interests, objectives or actions contrary to national interest.

In its current state, European security strategy does not cover national security interests as important as the protection of Spanish citizens abroad, the massive displacement of emigrants toward its borders and certain trans-national risks such as environmental concerns, organized crime and economic interests. The conceptual definition of terrorism is contrary to the Spanish strategy of communicating and working –long, hard and alone– to mobilize European cooperation and solidarity. The final document must include a reference to Latin America among its scenarios of conflict in order to be more global and because Cashmere cannot be a greater concern than Colombia. Finally, the document must not increase the gap between expectations and capabilities –which feeds Euro-scepticism– nor limit itself to proposing an ambitious vision of global action for the Union without identifying, providing and setting aside the common resources necessary to guarantee such action.

Félix Arteaga
Professor of European Security at the UNED’s Instituto Universitario General Gutiérrez Mellado. For the text of the document, see

Félix Arteaga. Senior Aesearcher at the Elcano Royal Institute, specialising in international security, cybersecurity and disinformation.

Written by Félix Arteaga

Félix Arteaga is a Senior Analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute. He has worked as Senior Analyst at the International Affairs and Foreign Policy Institute (INCIPE), and the Duque de Ahumada and Internal Security Institutes of the Guardia Civil. He was Director of the Security Sector Reform Programme of the European Commission in Paraguay (1999-2000). He […]