Whither the update of Europe's security strategy?
By Olivier Hubac (*) | Tuesday 28 October 2008
Against the backdrop of political crisis, the European Council of December 2003 adopted the European security strategy (ESS) that the high representative of the European Union for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) proposed to it. It was a bold move. The deep-seated differences of opinion on Iraq were still echoing across Europe as the European Union prepared for a major enlargement five months later. But that was, as Javier Solana pointed out
(1), without taking into account the dynamism of the CFSP.
Now at 27 member states and in a state of great uncertainty following Ireland's refusal to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, Europe is wondering about the relevance of its security strategy. The French Presidency of the EU intends to carry out an update of the European security strategy, as was decided in December 2007. This is not, however, about developing a European white paper but, less ambitiously, about proposing "elements on how to improve the implementation and, as appropriate, elements to complement it", according to the conclusions of the European Council of 14 December 2007. The conclusions of the mandate entrusted to the high representative could also serve broader political designs such as giving the 'Europe of defence' new impetus and bringing Europeans together around a concrete project.
The aim is to be in a position to present, by December, a European security strategy together with an additional document to be adopted by the next European Council. In particular, it is about renewing the joint analysis of threats (over a ten-year horizon) and learning lessons from its implementation, based on which defence capacities and measures to strengthen the CFSP will be defined.
The 2003 security strategy was designed to provide a first joint doctrinal pillar and thereby confirmed a wish to affirm the EU as a global player called on "to take on its share of responsibility in international security," according to a speech by Solana at a European Movement event in France, on 24 May 2004. The strategic concept that the document outlines is very much set within an overall approach of crisis management. It prioritises the use of civil-military tools and multilateral cooperation. This conception compensates for the main weakness of European defence a highly constrained military system by proposing a coherent strategy that takes account of that.
Nonetheless, geopolitical trends in recent years of which the main characteristic is uncertainty call for new threats to be taken into account. The ESS had initially identified five main threats: terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, rogue states and organised crime. While the document also refers to regulating globalisation and competition for natural resources as challenges for the EU, it is also necessary to add threats that have recently grown in importance issues related to immigration and cyber attacks in particular. It is also envisaged that it will refer to new threats such as from climate change and energy security.
But it is in the areas of 'Strategic objectives of the Union' and 'Political implications for Europe' where the current work on recasting the ESS will have to show political sense and concrete progress. Facing up to threats currently defined, building security in the neighbourhood of the European area, founding the international order on multilateralism, pursuing the objectives aimed for more actively, developing capacities, defining methods of cooperation with international partners almost all of these already appear in the initial text. It will be more about deepening its content than giving the CFSP new objectives and more about defining new partnership arrangements. It is very likely to be on the issue of the nature of relations with Russia where the debates are the most sensitive. Recent disagreements between EU foreign affairs ministers on whether to relaunch negotiations with Russia on a strategic partnership underline the difficulty of getting a consensus on this issue.
Five years after the launch of the first EU crisis management mission (the police operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina EUPM - in 2003), it is important to give the CFSP a more solid joint doctrinal pillar. In the medium term, it will not be able to have a coherent range of operations without a real strategic reference document.
(*) Olivier Hubac (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a consultant in the department for strategic analysis at CEIS, the European Company for Strategic Intelligence(1) 'Stratgie de scurit de l'Union europenne, Revue Dfense Nationale', May 2004