the Foreign and Security Policy - Europe Superpower

Europe Superpower
Europe Superpower
Go to content

the Foreign and Security Policy

Europe in the world 2019
As for the divided Europe, one can find different levels of dividedness in the European Union dependent on whether one has a look at the economy and trade or at its foreign and security policy. While the first are supranational policy areas (the EU is responsible), the latter are intergouvernemental ones (the member states are responsible). In the first case the EU is a superpower, an equal to the other ones, the US and China, but in the second case the EU is divided and a subordinate to the US, dependent on them for its own defence. That’s why I will concentrate here on the latter areas, the foreign, security and defence policy of the EU and how they developed during the last decades.

1. The European divisions during the Yugoslav wars and the birth of the ESDP

The first and perhaps the best example of a divided and weak Europe are the Yugoslav wars that erupted after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991. Here the Europeans demonstrated that they were not capable of bringing the wars to an end and that they depended on the US to make peace in their own backyard. They showed that the EU is no military power in the international system because of the dividedness of its members and the lack of a military instrument. It was after the end of the wars that the EU showed by its major role in the state building process that it was a civilian power. (Arikan, Harun: The European Union Policy towards the Balkan States in the Post-Cold War Era (15))

So, the end of the Soviet Union made visible the deep political differences among the Yugoslav republics. While Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia, wanted to maintain the federation, Croatia and Slovenia wanted their independence. While the Yugoslav wars were already in their initial phase, the European Community offered in 1991 an association agreement and 4,5 billion of dollars for structural reforms. This was rejected by the two biggest republics Serbia and Croatia which were dominated by nationalist leaderships. Ethnic violence and political tension rose. But the EC was deeply divided: While Germany, Austria and Italy pleaded for a confederation of sovereign states, France and Great Britain wanted to maintain the federation. In June of 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence (followed by Macedonia in September and Bosnia in 1992). So, due to their own division EC members were unable to prevent the outbreak of the wars. In December of 1991 Germany reaffirmed its difference with France and the UK announcing that it would formally recognize the independent republics of Croatia and Slovenia. As a consequence of European internal divisions, over a dozen EC negotiated ceasefire agreements collapsed (Zifciakova: The EU and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, May 14, 2010 (18)). Unable to end the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the years to come, the European Union saw no other solution as to ask the US for help. In 1995 NATO intervened with a series of air strikes and only now the wars could be ended with Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina becoming independent states. And it was also NATO that could end the Kosovo war in 1999 by bombing Yugoslavia, it was not the EU.

As these wars demonstrated clearly the dividedness and weakness of the EU in its own backyard, they now were the reason to establish the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) of the EU (Treaty of Amsterdam 1997), the policy within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that relates to crisis management and defence. But this policy was and is an intergovernmental one depending on the approval of each member state. An important development in this regard was a change in the British policy that now was ready to participate in a European security policy that was not integrated into NATO. Thus, the Saint-Malo declaration of the Franco-British summit of 1998 says: “[...] the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises” (Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom: Joint Declaration on European Defence. Joint Declaration issued at the British-French Summit, Saint-Malo, 3-4 December 1998 (1)). This provoked some resistance from the US, with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright voicing concern that an independent European security pillar could undermine NATO, as she put forth the three famous D's: “Any initiative must avoid preempting [NATO] decision-making by de-linking ESDI from NATO, avoid duplicating existing efforts, and avoid discriminating against non-EU members.” (U.S. Department of State: Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright Statement to the North Atlantic Council, Brussels, December 8, 1998 (2). In the following years the ESDP was developed under the leadership of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana. In 2000 and 2001 a number of ESDP bodies were established within the EU Council, including the Political and Security Committee (PSC), the Military Committee (EUMC) and the Military Staff (EUMS).

2. The division in the “old Europe” and the “new Europe” during the Iraq war 2003, the ESS, first common missions and capability goals
But all that was not enough for a really common foreign and security politics: as the CFSP and especially the ESDP still were intergovernmental the divisions showed again in the following crisis: the Iraq-war of 2003. Here the US could easily divide the European states in an “old Europe” and a “new Europe”, as then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called it in January 2003 (US Department of Defense: Secretary Rumsfeld Briefs at the Foreign Press Center, January 22, 2003 (17)). The old Europe referred to Germany and France which rejected the war, and the new Europe was formed by the Eastern European countries that depended on US protection against the Russians and decided to not provoke them and even to support them openly. But also the UK, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands were on the side of the US and sent troops to Iraq.

As a consequence of the division during Iraq war the four war opponents met, on 29 April 2003, at a summit in Tervuren, near Brussels to decide over a closer cooperation in security matters. Invited were only the four that had rejected the war: France, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. They now wanted to strengthen the European pillar of NATO, make the enhanced cooperation possible in the field of defence, and, above all, the creation of a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU) with interested states that were ready to go faster and further in strengthening their defence cooperation. “States taking part into the ESDU will especially: Commit themselves to bringing mutual help and assistance in the face of risks of all nature. Systematically aim at harmonizing their positions on security and defence issues. Coordinate their defence efforts. Develop their military capabilities. Increase their security and military efforts, more specifically as to their investment in military equipment.” (European Commission: Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of Germany, France, Luxemburg and Belgium on European Defence, Brussels-April 29th 2003 (3)) And as concrete initiatives they agreed on the development of a European rapid reaction capability, a European command for strategic air transport, a common strategic air transport unit and a multinational deployable force headquarters.

The practical results of the summit were, in 2003, the European Security Strategy (ESS), in 2007, in the treaty of Lisbon, the enabling of the permanent structured cooperation and, in 2017, the decision of 23 EU member states on the PESCO, this permanent structured cooperation. Furthermore, in 2003 the first missions of the EU started.

The European Security Strategy was drawn up in 2003 under the authority of the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and adopted by the Brussels European Council of 12 and 13 December 2003. It was the first time that Europe had formulated a joint security strategy. As for the key threats – against the background of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington of 11 September 2001 – the ESS listed terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure and organized crime. To address these threats and create stability in the European neighbourhood „our task is to promote a ring of well governed countries to the East of the European Union and on the borders of the Mediterranean with whom we can enjoy close and cooperative relations.“ (Council of the European Union: A Secure Europe in a Better World - European Security Strategy. Brussels, 12 December 2003, p.5 (4)). This could be achieved mainly through internal reforms motivated by economic incentives. But as Sven Biscop shows with the example of the Arab Spring, in reality this didn’t work this way everywhere, as the EU was not very enthusiastic to support the protests against the authoritarian regimes there. Only in weak countries with a perspective of EU accession this was successful. (Biscop, Sven: European Strategy in the 21st Century. New Future for Old Power, Abingdon, New York 2019, p.14ff. (21)). As far as world politics is concerned, the ESS stressed the importance of an international order based on "effective multilateralism", that is strengthening the international institutions and international law (p.5f.).

It was also in 2003 that the first missions of the EU began: the first police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUPM BiH), a first military mission, based on NATO structures, in Macedonia (EUFOR Concordia) and a first autonomous mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (EUFOR Artemis). Another military mission, based on the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) of NATO, is the EUFOR BiH (Operation Althea) in Bosnia and Herzegovina that started in 2004 and is still existent in 2019. In these missions the EU concentrates on a comprehensive understanding of security that seeks for „the integration civil and military instruments, the active prevention of conflict and instability, the pursuit of multilateral and rule-based cooperation, and the definition of a global scope of action.“ (Hagemann, Frank: Strategy making in the European Union, Berlin 2010, p. 120 (5)) But especially in the first years of the missions there were many problems in the cooperation between the participating states that hampered the realization of this concept of comprehensive security. Thus, the EU lacked of a concept for a truly coherent and comprehensive approach to crisis management, there was no permanent Operation Headquarters (OHQ) and it lacked of the readiness of credible nations to offer leadership in these missions. But, as Ana E. Juncos states, at least in the Western Balkans as a region there was something like a coherent EU strategy regarding the political end-goal, the membership perspective, and the readiness to use considerable resources to achieve this aim, mainly these CSDP missions. (Juncos, Ana E.: CSDP strategy in the Balkans and the Eastern neighbourhood, 2016 (9))

As far as the military capabilities are concerned, that the EU wanted to build up in a consequence of the 1998 Franco-British Saint Malo declaration, the respective Headline Goal of 1999 aiming at the creation of a European Rapid Reaction Force, was not achieved in 2003 as it was planned. According to this goal, also referred to as the “Helsinki Headline Goal”, “member States must be able, by 2003, to deploy within 60 days and sustain for at least 1 year military forces of up to 50,000-60,000 persons capable of the full range of Petersberg tasks“. (European Council: Presidency Conclusions. Helsinki European Council 10 and 11 December 1999 (6)) But their availability remained quite limited. Against this background, in 2004, the European Council approved to further develop the EU’s military crisis management capabilities and agreed on the "Headline Goal 2010". In this goal the EU aimed at creating EU battle groups and agreed on “the complete development by 2007 of rapidly deployable battlegroups including the identification of appropriate strategic lift, sustainability and debarkation assets”, besides other important aims as “the establishment of a civil-military cell within the EUMS, with the capacity rapidly to set-up an operation centre for a particular operation”, a European Defence Agency, the “necessary capacity and full efficiency in strategic lift (air, land and sea)” and the availability of an aircraft carrier. (Council of the European Union: Headline Goal 2010, 17 and 18 June 2004 (7)). These battle groups are non-permanent combat units of 1.500 – 3.000 troops each, deployable within 5-10 days for a maximum of four months. In 2007 the aim was reached with the availability of two battle groups rotating each six months.

The political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations is – under the responsibility of the Council and the High Representative – with the Political and Security Committee (PSC) which is assisted by a Politico-Military Group, a Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management, and the Military Committee and Military Staff. But as the EU only has at its disposal quite limited capacities of mission planning and conduct, in regard of larger missions (like EUFOR Althea) it is dependent on NATO assets and capabilities according to the „Berlin Plus agreement“. Thus, the headquarters of a EU military mission then is situated within NATO‘s SHAPE (Politik und Zeitgeschichte: Parameter der GSVP - Die Instrumente (8)).

As far as the civilian part of the comprehensive security concept is concerned, in the years 2000 and 2001 there were also formulated aims for the civilian crisis management, above all concerning the police, the jurisprudence and the civil administration. Like in the military part of crisis management, there was also established a civilian headline goal 2010 aiming at the mobilization of sufficient resources, the improvement of the rapid reaction capability and a better matching up of civilian and military crisis management (8).

In 2004 the European Defence Agency (EDA) was established by 27 EU member states (Denmark didn’t participate) in Brussels mainly to support cooperative European defence projects. On its website it mentions the following three aspects of its mission: supporting the development of defence capabilities and military cooperation among the European Union Member States; stimulating defence Research and Technology (R&T) and strengthening the European defence industry and, finally, acting as a military interface to EU policies (European Defence Agency: Mission (13)).

3. The Treaty of Lisbon and division over Libya

On 13 December 2007 there was signed a new European treaty in Lisbon (the Treaty of Lisbon) that also brought some changes to the Common Security and Defence Policy, as it is called now officially. One of the most important ones establishes the possibility of the permanent structured cooperation within the CSDP and can be found in Article 42 (6) TEU: „Those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish permanent structured cooperation within the Union framework.“ Another one, Article 42 (7) TEU, introduces the mutual defence: „If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power“. The responsibilities of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for External Relations are combined now with the creation of the post of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Article 15 (2) and 18 TEU) (Council of the European Union: Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, Lisbon 13 December 2007 (10)).

According to Meijer and Wyss here is the end of the “golden age” of European defence integration and a stage of disillusionment now sets in, despite the improved organizational functioning of the CSDP. The operational record and effectiveness of the EU’s more ambitious military missions are questioned now and most European countries don’t want new major EU-led military operations. As a consequence, the focus increasingly shifts to civilian missions and capacity building. A European integration of territorial defence, for example vis-à-vis Russia, is not realized, above all, because of the persistence of diverging national interests and threat perceptions. (Meijer, Hugo and Marco Wyss: Introduction. Beyond CSDP: The Resurgence of National Armed Forces in Europe, in: Meijer, Hugo and Marco Wyss (eds.): The Handbook of European Defence Policies and Armed Forces, Oxford 2018).

The next test for Europe as a unified actor in crisis management was during the 2011 war in Libya when a multi-national coalition, spearheaded by France, the UK and the US, began a broad campaign of air strikes against Gaddafi‘s forces. But by the end of March, only some days later, the NATO assumed command of all air operations. So, one can see two main problems of European military action here: the EU’s dividedness and its lack of military capabilities. First, Europe was again divided as two of the EU’s big three military powers, the UK and France, wanted the military operation but the third of them, Germany, didn’t want to participate as it is in general more reluctant to the use of force. Second, despite of the EU’s positive results especially in the field of diplomacy, Fabrizio Coticchia, who assessed the European military contribution to the war, points to the numerous shortfalls and problems of the Europeans and their massive dependence on the US and NATO. What lead him to a pessimistic view on European military capabilities in contemporary operations. (Coticchia, Fabrizio: The ‘enemy’ at the gates? Assessing the European military contribution to the Libyan war, 2011 (14))

4. New impulse: the Global Strategy, PESCO and EI2

Before dealing with the new impulse to the CSDP, let’s have a brief look at the first activation of the mutual defence clause of Article 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) on the request of France on 17 November 2015. This article was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty and states that “[i]f a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power” (see note 10). Following terrorist attacks in Paris four days before, France requested support from other EU member states regarding its operations in Iraq and Syria and in other regions to allow France to redeploy troops. (European Parliament: Mutual defence clause: what the requirement to help out other member states means, 20.01.2016 (29)). On the same day, 17 November 2015, the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, announces at a press conference with the French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Brussels the full support of all EU member states: “Today, the European Union, through the voices of all the Defence Ministers of all the EU Member States unanimously expressed its strongest full support and readiness to provide all the aid and assistance required and needed.” (Conférence de presse conjointe du ministre de la Défense, M. Jean-Yves Le Drian et de la Haute Représentante, Mme Federica Mogherini, Bruxelles, 17.11.2015 (30)).

Now it were several changes in world politics that lead to further progresses in the CSDP integration: in March 2014 Russia annexed the Crimea, in June 2016 the EU skeptical UK decided in a referendum to leave the Union and in January 2017 the NATO skeptical Donald Trump became US president. This means that there appeared a threat by Russian aggressions in the East of Europe making further defence integration reasonable; that further defence integration was made possible by the announcement of the withdrawal of the blocking British from the EU; and that the EU was told that it would have to assume more responsibility for its own defence as the US called for more burden sharing within NATO, mainly concerning the defence spending of the Europeans.

On 28 June 2016, only a few days after the UK voted to leave the EU, the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, presented the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) to the European Council. It can be seen as a correction and update of the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) that preceded it. It defines the shared interests of the EU as the security of EU citizens and territory, prosperity, democracy and a rules-based global order. Furthermore, the EUGS identifies five priorities: (1) the security of the EU itself, (2) the neighbourhood, (3) how to deal with war and crisis, (4) stable regional orders across the globe and (5) effective global governance. More than in the ESS, there is a strong focus on Europe’s own security and on the stabilization of the neighbourhood, with this neighbourhood “to the east stretching into Central Asia, and south down to Central Africa”. Another change in comparison to the ESS is the stronger awareness of the indispensability of a credible military instrument as a response to external crises. Thus, the Union’s efforts “should enable the EU to act autonomously while also contributing to and undertaking actions in cooperation with NATO” (European Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy: Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe - A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy, Brussels, June 2016, p.20 (16)).

And also geopolitical great power and regional power competitions are mentioned under the title “cooperative regional orders”. So, for example the Strategy says about Russia (p.33): “Russia’s violation of international law and the destabilisation of Ukraine, on top of protracted conflicts in the wider Black Sea region, have challenged the European security order at its core. […] We will not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea nor accept the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. We will strengthen the EU, enhance the resilience of our eastern neighbours, and uphold their right to determine freely their approach towards the EU. At the same time, the EU and Russia are interdependent. We will therefore engage Russia to discuss disagreements and cooperate if and when our interests overlap.” (p.33) As for the US: “The EU will invest further in strong bonds across the Atlantic, both north and south. A solid transatlantic partnership through NATO and with the United States and Canada helps us strengthen resilience, address conflicts, and contribute to effective global governance.” (p.36) Or China: “The EU will deepen trade and investment with China, seeking a level playing field, intellectual property rights protection, greater cooperation on high-end technology, dialogue on economic reform, human rights and climate action.” (European External Action Service: Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy, June 2016, p. 38 (12)).

Sven Biscop sees in the EUGS a kind of militarily ambitious white paper “that should kick-start more cooperation and even integration in defence” (Biscop, Sven: The EU Global Strategy: Realpolitik with European Characteristics, p.94 (11)). Another opinion hold, for example, Hugo Meijer and Marco Wyss who take the position that it is not the CSDP that is making progress but the "renationalization of security and defence", above all, since Russia's increased military assertiveness, and in particular after the Ukrainian crisis and Moscow's annexation of Crimea. This led to a re-emphasizing of territorial defence, largely within a NATO framework and not within that of CSDP. Nevertheless, there are some integration steps that followed now, as the creation of the MPCC, the EDF or the PESCO; but according to the authors, these are "small and incremental steps" (Meijer, Hugo and Marco Wyss: Introduction. Beyond CSDP: The Resurgence of National Armed Forces in Europe).

The first of the further integration steps was the PESCO, the Permanent Structured Cooperation, established December 11, 2017 by a decision of the European Council (Council of the European Union. Press releases: Defence cooperation: Council establishes Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), with 25 member states participating, 11.12.2017 (19)). 25 states participated, but of the big three one does not: the UK that wants to leave the EU. It is based on the already mentioned Article 42 (6) TEU that determines: „Those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish permanent structured cooperation within the Union framework.“ (see: note 10). According to the decision of the European Council the participation in PESCO is voluntary but it also stipulates that „Increasing joint and collaborative defence capability development projects, is among the binding commitments under PESCO.“ (p.3) According to Article 4 the Council provides the strategic direction and guidance for PESCO, it assesses if the contributions of participating member states fulfil the commitments they agreed upon and establishes the list of projects for the PESCO. Legal acts are adopted by unanimity of its members (except the decisions concerning membership). On the project level each project will be managed by the contributing states. The secretariat functions will be provided by the EEAS and the EDA (Article 7). While the financing of the administrative expenditures will be with the Union, the expenditures arising from the projects shall be paid primarily by the participating states (Article 8). In the annex of this decision the states commit themselves to regularly increase their expenditure on defence equipment, to harmonize their defence apparatus and to take concrete measures to enhance the availability and interoperability of their forces (Council of the European Union: Council decision establishing Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and determining the list of Participating Member States, Brussels, 8 December 2017 (20)).

PESCO is closely connected to the new Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). As for the CARD it means the systematically monitoring of national defence spending plans. The European Defence Agency (EDA) that runs this review describes its purpose as following: „Such an annual review will help foster capability development addressing shortfalls, deepen defence cooperation and ensure more optimal use, including coherence, of defence spending plans.“ (European Defence Agency: Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) (22)). The aim of the EDF is to create incentives for cooperation among member states through co-financing joint research and development of defence technology and equipment. This should „help Member States spend taxpayer money more efficiently, reduce duplications in spending, and get better value for money“. According to the European Commission the Fund could be an incentive for the member states to realize investments in defence capability development and so generate with them together a sum of 5.5 billion euros per year after 2020. (European Commission - Press release: A European Defence Fund: €5.5 billion per year to boost Europe's defence capabilities, Brussels, 7 June 2017 (23)) As for research, the co-financing could rise to 100% of the costs, in the case of development up to 20%. And projects in the context of PESCO can receive an additional bonus of 10% (European Commission - Press release: EU budget for 2021-2027: Commission welcomes provisional agreement on the future European Defence Fund Brussels, 20 February 2019 (24)).

And still another integrative development of 2017, made possible by the Brexit plans of the UK, was the creation of the so-called Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the EU’s first permanent operational (mini) headquarters that is situated in the Military Staff (EUMS) of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels. As the MPCC with only over 30 officers is quite small it is, at the moment, only responsible for three EU training missions in Africa. But in November 2018 the Council upgraded it a bit, agreeing to give it also the responsibility „to plan and conduct one executive military operation of the size of an EU Battlegroup.“ In this case its permanent staff would be strengthened. (European External Action Service: The Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) (factsheet), November 2018 (25)). In all other CSDP missions the headquarters is either situated in one of five national headquarters or in NATO’s SHAPE.

Another defence related initiative came from French President Emmanuel Macron with the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) in 2018 with the aim “to enhance our collective strategic response” to conflicts and crises affecting Europe’s security. A “Letter of Intent” signed 25 June, 2018 by the defence ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom states furthermore “[t]he ultimate objective of EI2 is to developed a shared strategic culture, which will enhance our ability, as European states, to carry out military missions and operations under the framework of the EU, NATO, the UN and/or ad hoc coalition. Intensifying and deepening contacts between EI2 participating states will facilitate future military engagements, which remain fully subject to sovereign national decisions” (European Intervention Initiative, “Letter of Intent”, 25.06.2018 (27)). It is thus, situated outside of the EU organizations, although it can be used in its framework. But it makes thus possible the participation of the UK after Brexit and of Denmark. The souvereignty remains on the national level.

5. Conclusion

As far as the practical results of the European missions are concerned, Ana E. Juncos writes about the civilian missions – designed to address security threats like organized crime in the Western Balkans, migration in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, piracy at the Horn of Africa and counter-terrorism in Afghanistan and Africa – that they have become an important component of the CSDP with most missions that the EU has launched being civilian ones. They have included so far police missions, civilian administration, training missions and rule of law missions. Institutional reforms have brought significant progress, above all those initiated by the Lisbon Treaty, like the High Representative who leads the EEAS and is, at the same time, head of the Foreign Affairs Council and Vice President of the Commission.

However, she also found significant shortcomings: “Despite its contribution to international security, civilian CSDP – and EU foreign policy, more generally – has suffered from what Christopher Hill describes as the ‘capabilities-expectation gap’, in other words, ‘the significant difference which had come about between the myriad hopes for and demands of the EU as an international actor, and its relatively limited ability to deliver’". (Juncos, Ana E.: Civilian CSDP missions: ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’, in: Blockmans, Steven; Koutrakos, Panos (eds.): Research Handbook on the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, Cheltenham and Northampton, 2018, pp. 89-110, p. 102). As reasons she mentions training and recruitment problems, lack of will by some Member States to contribute to CSDP missions and the design of most of these missions as relatively short in time and small in scale. Thus, many civilian missions didn’t meet their objectives, although the EU has often been quick to declare them a success. Furthermore, the missions also suffered from differences between the Member States, especially as the CSDP is an intergouvernmental policy area, bureaucratic rivalries among EU organizations and the local politics in the target countries.

The Implementation Plan on Security and Defence (IPSD) of 2016 recommends that civilian capabilities should be considerably enhanced by “building on the work of establishing a List of Generic civilian CSDP tasks common to all missions, the required capabilities should be identified; ensure more effective and rapid force generation, including by deploying specialised teams of experts […]; strengthen capacities available for the generic functions common to all missions, such as in the area of command and control, information/strategic communication, mission support, including logistics […] and duty of care; improve the training of mission staff including through the forthcoming new CSDP Training Policy.” (Council of the European Union: Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, Brussels, 14.11.2016, p. 19 (28)).

In the military field, the war in Libya has shown that it is mainly the strategic enablers that are lacking and prevent Europeans from acting autonomously: the capabilities needed to deploy the forces beyond the own borders and project power as well as the capabilities related to information and intelligence. Thus, the IPSD mentions a number of areas in which Europe should invest and develop collaborative approaches: “Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, satellite communications, and autonomous access to space and permanent earth observation; high-end military capabilities, including strategic enablers; cyber and maritime security.(Council of the European Union: Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, p. 20).

Another problem is the readiness of the combat units that are understaffed, lack training, modern arms and equipment. Thus, although there are one and a half million troops in the EU, only about 10 to 12 per cent of them can be used in expeditionary operations. Taking into account necessary rotations the EU can only deploy 50.000 to 60.000 troops simultaneously – the number the Helsinki Headline Goal of 1999 mentions. The operational headquarters of the EU, the MPCC, is with its 30 officers so small that it can only conduct capacity building and training missions, for all other missions the EU must use NATO’s SHAPE or national headquarters. Furthermore, after Brexit a European nuclear deterrence will be weakened, as the EU’s only nuclear power then would be France.

A solution to these problems could be integration in the field of European defence. According to Biscop the 250 billion euros that the EU states annually spend for defence could be sufficient to acquire the capabilities needed for an autonomous European strategy, if the Europeans created a European army that replaced the national ones. As there would no longer be the need for expensive duplications, the money that could be saved could be used to address the priority shortfalls, that is, above all, the expensive strategic enablers, the area where European dependence on the US is the greatest. Although there are good examples of cooperation as f.ex. the Future Combat Air System FCAS between France and Germany, the first 15 capability projects within PESCO don’t concentrate on the priority shortfalls so far. (Biscop, Sven: European Strategy in the 21st Century, p.97-125 (see note 21))

Galbreath and Smith believe that due to reduced expenditures after the end of the Cold War, the European autonomy in the military field could be achieved by pooling and sharing and so spending the money more effectively to get a higher output for the same money. A recommendation also shared by the European Defence Report 2017 that also emphasizes close cooperation among European countries as well as pooling and sharing resources to maximize the value of the investments instead of building purely national armies (Munich Security Conference: More European, More Connected and More Capable. Building the European Armed Forces of the Future, 2017 (26)). But at the moment EU states avoid coordination and so continue to waste money. Specialization is done in an uncoordinated way to not become dependent on others. Each state has its own plannings and so the capabilities of almost all are limited and they cannot act autonomously (Galbreath, David J. and Smith, Simon J.: Military Capabilities and Force Transformation, 2016 – (see note 9)). Furthermore, when someone wants to launch a military operation, the CSDP is rarely used as a framework, instead they prefer to conduct them themselves, or through ad hoc coalitions.

Last but not least, for the realization of a really autonomous European security and defence policy it is also necessary to address the defence component of CSDP, not only crisis management through missions outside the EU. Because for the defence of the European territory itself different capabilities are needed than those for crisis management: thus, for the missions outside Europe one needs the ability to move nimble forces and their equipment for low intensity operations, for example to Africa; whereas defence doesn’t focus on mobility but on air, land and sea interdiction and static defence installations. For this, the EU would have to invest more into anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities like short-range rockets, artillery, stealth aircraft and submarines. Not to forget the deterrence through an own European nuclear shield. (Duke, Simon: Capabilities and CSDP: resourcing political will or paper armies, in: Blockmans, Steven; Koutrakos, Panos: Research Handbook on the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, 2018, pp. 154-181, p. 172 f.).

But the differences between the German Chancellor Merkel and the French President Macron about the importance of NATO show the biggest problem of an autonomous European defence policy: the political division. Thus, the French are in favour of it – Macron even speaking of a “brain death” of NATO (The Economist: Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead, 07.11.2019 (31)) – but the Germans prefer the responsibility of the US for the European defence. (Der Tagesspiegel: Merkel und Maas warnen Macron in Nato-Debatte vor Spaltung Europas, 10.11.2019 (32); Erlanger, Steven: Merkel and Macron Publicly Clash Over NATO, The New York Times, 23.11.2019 (33)).


Back to content