Europe Security Strategy – a proposal for a new Western partnership?

Posted in Other , Europe | 13-Dec-03 | Author: Klaus Becher

The new EU Security Strategy is for 450 million Europeans in 25 countries
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At their summit meeting on 12/13 December in Brussels, the member states of the European Union presented an official EU Security Strategy that defines, for the first time, the role and purpose of the EU’s agglomerate power in the world. After its scheduled next enlargement, the EU will represent 450 million people in 25 countries from Lisbon to Tallin and from Dublin to Nikosia who produce one quarter of the world’s GDP. Among EU states are two permanent members of the UN Security Council, four members of the Group of Eight and 19 of 26 members of the future enlarged NATO.

Still, the EU is not a unified actor in foreign, security and defence policy, and nobody should expect that its member states are going to hand over control of these policy areas to the European Commission and European Parliament in the foreseeable future. However, rapid and decisive changes have occurred since 1998, after the British-French initiative of St. Malo, in the way EU members engage together to develop institutionalised instruments for conducting a more focused, more responsible and more powerful security and defence policy and for pooling their nationally owned, but jointly used resources.

The EU Security Strategy is not an answer or counterweight to the US National Security Strategy. It serves a different purpose. Unlike the NSS, it is not a policy statement by the directly elected, democratically accountable commander in chief of the world’s most powerful armed forces, but a declaratory text adopted by an intergovernmental meeting of 15 heads of state and government. As all strategies should, the EU strategy does not advertise specific solutions, but defines challenges and broad objectives. Given the wide differences of party preference and electoral dynamics in EU member nations, the EU cannot, and should not, be more specific about the particular values to be pursued and means to be provided in particular cases.

It is exactly by virtue of its generality that in effect this EU strategy comes close to the formulation of a joint Western strategy that all democratic nations can subscribe to. While there is a habit of mind in Europe to label certain policy approaches as specifically European, such as the preference for non-military solutions and a rule-based, institutionalised, multilateral international system, there are few, if any democracies that would disagree with this ‘European’ philosophy. In most instances, this is also true for the United States – the country that pioneered these notions, brought them to Europe, and is still better than most others at applying its large arsenal of ‘soft power’ for strengthening international peace and security.

Klaus Becher is Associate Research Fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris and London Correspondent of
In spite of many disagreements with the US and among each other over specific policy issues, legal interpretations, the right sequencing and packaging of measures, and the question who pays for what, EU member states are now proving that today they are able to agree on a security strategy that underlines their shared commitment to the ideas that bind the West together: joint and active responsibility for international peace and security and the conviction that the shared Western experience of democratic cooperation can also serve to overcome conflict and foster development in other regions.

Never before has there been a better basis for formulating and implementing a cohesive joint strategy for advancing the Western-inspired agenda for peace and development on a world-wide basis. The central challenge ahead of us – offering avenues to the new generations of the wider Middle East for their inclusion as respected equals in the world of civil liberty, justice, economic opportunities and social prosperity in a secure, non-violent environment – requires nothing less.

The EU’s outlook in this context, however, is deliberately defined in much more regional terms than the global role the US plays. This is realistic, as Europe’s power-projection capacities, both civil and military, to more distant parts of the world are limited. Europe’s first strategic objective, as stated by the new Security Strategy, is „extending the zone of security around Europe“ by supporting „a ring of well-governed countries“ in Eastern Europe and around the Mediterranean, also including Israel and its neighbours. More than anything else, the lessons of the Balkans wars of the 1990s have been driving Europe’s strategic debate.

The EU Security Strategy should be seen as a proposal by Europe to the US for a renewed, trusted and lasting partnership with shared responsibilities and burdens. As the final text of the strategy paper presented by Javier Solana stated: „Acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world.“

Klaus Becher is UK editor of the World Security Network and currently an Associate Research Fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris