Implementing a Distinctive Approach to Security

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1.3 Strategic Momentum

Undoubtedly, ‘9/11’ and Iraq influenced Member States’ willingness to consider an exercise in strategic thinking that was impossible when ESDP was created just a few years earlier. The various States may have had differing motivations: defining a distinctive ‘European way’ for some, so as to distance themselves from a US policy with which they could not agree and to highlight alternatives; aligning European priorities with those of the US for others, to preserve a transatlantic partnership perceived to be threatened in its existence; or a combination of both, reconciling the necessary drafting of an EU agenda with the need for continued transatlantic partnership. Whatever the motivation, the important thing is that this enabled the decisive step to launch a strategic debate in the EU, to translate policy practice into strategy, an endeavour which far exceeds the specific issue of Iraq.

An endeavour also which complemented the European Convention which was then in process and the Draft Constitution that it produced, which dealt primarily with institutions and capabilities. Voices in favour of the definition of a new approach to security were raised in the Convention.22 The final report of Working Group No. VIII on defence – chaired by European Commissioner Michel Barnier – did state that ‘the concept of security is very broad, by nature indivisible, and one that goes beyond the purely military aspects covering not only the security of States but also the security of citizens. On the basis of this broad concept of security, the CFSP and the ESDP which forms part of it promote international security founded on multilateral solutions and respect for international law. Conflict prevention is a key element in the approach followed by the EU in international relations. The ESDP allows the EU military options over and above the civil instruments of crisis prevention and management’.23 The Working Group did not advance such a concept however, as this fell outside of its mandate.

At the informal meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Greece on 2 and 3 May 2003, Javier Solana was thus – rather unexpectedly – tasked with producing a draft strategic document. At its meeting in Thessaloniki (19-20 June), the European Council welcomed the document submitted by Solana, ‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’,24 and charged him with taking the work forward with a view to completing a European Security Strategy, which was duly adopted by the European Council meeting in December 2003.25

2. Re-Conceptualising Security

The immediate background and motivation of the formulation of the European Security Strategy was the aftermath of the Iraq crisis, which produced a divide both among Europeans and between Europe and the US, but Solana’s exercise also fits in a series of broader efforts to define a new approach to security. This ongoing re-conceptualization of security was prompted by the changes in the security environment since the end of the Cold War.

2.1 A New Security Environment

During the Cold War, Europe’s security was essentially defined in politico-military terms, as the avoidance of direct military danger by a clearly identified foe. This uni-dimensional definition was a product of the bipolar constellation, in which Europe’s security was deemed to hinge on avoiding armed conflict on the European continent by maintaining a nuclear and politico-military balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union. So European security policy was forged under American leadership, mostly within the framework of NATO, and was essentially limited to defence policy. The non-military dimensions of security were regarded as being of much less consequence, as were developments in other parts of the world. There was a tendency to develop security policy without taking other external policy aspects into consideration, even to dominate them.

The end of the cold war produced a drastic change in Europe’s security environment. The collapse of the Soviet bloc and of the Soviet Union itself meant the end of a direct and major military threat to Europe’s security, i.e. one that could threaten the very survival of the EU. Accordingly, defence policy became less important. The EU Member States had long ceased being a threat to one another, and through enlargement the deeply integrated European ‘security community’ was to be extended to Central and Eastern Europe.26 But the end of the cold war also triggered a wave of inter- and intra-State armed conflicts in the vicinity of the EU. Although they have not threatened the EU directly, they have produced negative spill-over effects. In these conflicts, the civilian population has been targeted more than ever before. And a much more diffuse threat is now posed by international terrorism. The issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery is closely intertwined with both developments.

In the absence of a major military threat, other factors that can constitute the underlying causes of terrorism or of armed conflict between or within third States, or that can intrinsically affect the values and interests of the EU, have come much more to the fore: organised crime, illegal immigration, social and economic underdevelopment, lack of democratic institutions and respect for human rights, failed States, ineffective multilateral institutions, ecological problems etc. These factors are much more difficult to grasp than the previous clearly identifiable threat. Another element is the growing awareness of the importance of values in international relations, such as democracy and respect for human rights and an effective international legal order. The number of international players – State and non-State, legal and illegal – has increased too. Security is evidently becoming a multidimensional concept.

The background to this shifting importance of security factors is globalisation. At the global level, interdependence has proven to be more than economic; it also has political, cultural and security aspects. As a consequence of globalisation, itself a source of tensions between those that benefit from it and those that suffer its negative effects, Europe’s interests are inseparably linked to the stability of its worldwide interaction with other players, and vice versa. This interdependency implies that events anywhere in the world can have an immediate impact on Europe – there no longer is a fixed correlation between the importance of developments for European security and their geographical distance from the EU. It further means that the security of one is dependent upon the security of the other, hence the need for multilateral cooperation. In effect therefore, the security of Europe nowadays is dependent on the stability of the international system as such.

This much more unpredictable context rendered a common assessment of the security environment upon which to base a strategy very difficult for the Member States of the EU.

2.2 A New Approach to Security

In response to this changing security environment and based on a new assessment of security threats, a number of States and international organisations have sought new ways to deal with security – ways that go beyond the State-centric and the defence and politico-military approach. The use of politico-military instruments can deal effectively with immediate security threats, by ending violence or preventing its eruption, but the underlying causes of instability, conflict and terrorism demand a much broader, long-term and permanent policy of conflict prevention. ‘9/11’ has demonstrated that possession of the greatest military might on earth, including the most advanced technology, cannot by itself guarantee security.

Thus these approaches are all much more encompassing than NATO’s Strategic Concept adopted in 1999.27 The Alliance does recognize ‘the importance of political, economic, social and environmental factors in addition to the indispensable defence dimension’. But because of its very nature, that of a defence organization, NATO can only offer the politico-military part of the answer to the new security environment: collective defence (cfr. Article 5), peace support operations (‘non-Article 5 missions’), and politico-military dialogue and partnership.

One ‘new’ approach to security that involves the EU Member States in fact dates back to the beginning of the Helsinki process in 1973: the comprehensive view of security taken by the CSCE (now OSCE), which is reflected in the three baskets of the Helsinki Final Act. The OSCE considers ‘the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, along with economic and environmental cooperation […], to be just as important for the maintenance of peace and stability as politico- military issues’. Security is further seen as indivisible. ‘States have a common stake in the security of Europe and should therefore cooperate’, to the benefit of all parties, since ‘insecurity in one State or region can affect the well-being of all’.28 This cooperative aspect of the OSCE approach to security amounts to inclusiveness or ‘institutionalised consent’:29 security policy is aimed at reassuring third countries, through cooperation in a wide range of fields, rather than deterring them.30 In practice the OSCE has focussed on a number of specific issues and instruments which have proved very successful, including confidence and security-building measures, peaceful settlement of disputes, election monitoring and minority rights. Thanks to its pan-European membership, the OSCE also contributes to disseminating the comprehensive and cooperative approach to security. Through their membership of the OSCE, the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States e.g. can be familiarized with this approach and its underlying values.

In 1995, a first limited attempt to draft a distinctive European security strategy was undertaken within the framework of the Western European Union (WEU). In the resulting Common Concept31 the WEU States ‘acknowledged that their security is indivisible, that a comprehensive approach should underlie the concept of security and that cooperative mechanisms should be applied in order to promote security and stability in the whole of the continent’. The Common Concept stressed ‘Europe’s new responsibilities in a strategic environment in which Europe’s security is not confined to security in Europe’, and described the security environment, highlighting inter alia the importance of ‘the maintenance of international peace and order and the widest possible observance of generally recognised norms of conduct between States’ and of ‘democratic institutions, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law’, as well as the need to ‘prevent economic imbalances from becoming a threat to our continent’. In terms of how to deal with this new environment, however, the document was limited to an assessment of Europe’s military capabilities and the identification of partners for cooperation. A real review of strategy proved to be politically unfeasible because of divisions between the Member States; furthermore the CFSP, to which WEU provided a military arm, was then still in its infancy. Nevertheless, as the first official European assessment of the changing security environment, it was an important and all too easily forgotten step.

The concept of human security is usually thought to have originated in the 1994 Human Development Report.32 It is also very much present in the report drawn up by UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan in preparation of the September 2000 Millennium Summit.33 Human security takes the individual and his community as point of reference, rather than the State, by addressing both military and non-military threats to his security. The security of the State is not an end in itself, but a means of – and necessary precondition for – providing security for people. Indeed, the State itself can be the source of the insecurity of its citizens. Territorial integrity, traditionally the cornerstone of security policy, is less important. Human life and dignity are the keywords. The UNDP lists seven dimensions of security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political. This very broad and therefore unwieldy definition, with ‘vulnerability’ as its defining feature, inter alia is prominent in Japan, one of the proponents of human security.

Another ‘school of thought’ limits human security to ‘vulnerability to physical violence during conflict’.34 This is the view often found in Canada e.g., which under the leadership of former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy became one of the leading promoters of human security. Axworthy defines human security as ‘freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, safety or lives’: i.e. ‘freedom from fear’ as opposed to ‘freedom from want’, the latter corresponding to well-being rather than security.35 Canada has identified five policy priorities – protection of civilians, peace support operations, conflict prevention, governance and accountability, and public safety – reflected in a focus on a number of specific issues, including landmines, the International Criminal Court, women and children in armed conflict, small arms proliferation and child soldiers.36 In the Canadian view, the pursuit of human security can involve the use of military power. This was also the conclusion of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), established on the initiative of Canada within the framework of the UN General Assembly to look into the concept of humanitarian intervention. The commission identified as a basic principle that ‘where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or State failure, and the State in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non- intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect’, including, under strict conditions and if authorised by the Security Council, by military means.37

Like comprehensive security, human security highlights the interconnections between different dimensions of security. It also underlines the global nature of security challenges, which results in mutual vulnerability. Human security therefore requires comprehensive and cooperative responses. While comprehensive security raises the question ‘which threats to our security?’, human security adds ‘whose security?’. It is geared to attaining justice and emancipation, not just order and stability. The Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific, a non-governmental grouping of Western and Asian think-tanks, has attempted to merge the two approaches by including the individual level in its formulation of comprehensive security, which is defined as the ‘pursuit of sustainable security in all fields (personal, political, economic, social, cultural, military, environmental) in both the domestic and external spheres, essentially through cooperative means’.38

For its part, the Council of Europe has developed the concept of democratic security, building on the assumption that armed conflict between democracies is unlikely, and aiming to protect the individual by guaranteeing the rule of law and respect for human rights. At the first Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government, Member States declared that ‘the end of the division of Europe offers an historic opportunity to consolidate peace and stability on the continent. All our countries are committed to pluralist and parliamentary democracy, the indivisibility and universality of human rights, the rule of law and a common cultural heritage enriched by its diversity. Europe can thus become a vast area of democratic security’.39

In that it reflects the need to maintain the stability of the international system, comprehensive security can be linked to another concept that emerged in the context of the UN at the end of the 1990s: global public goods (GPG). Public goods are characterised by non-rivalry in consumption and non-excludability. Global public goods provide benefits that are ‘quasi universal in terms of countries (covering more than one group of countries), people (accruing to several, preferably all, population groups), and generations (extending to both current and future generations, or at least meeting the needs of current generations without foreclosing development options for future generations)’.40 GPG can be grouped under the following broad headings, the core GPG:

  • international stability and security, for which the greatest powers have to carry the greatest responsibility;

  • an open and inclusive economic world system that meets the needs of all, in particular the poorest, so as to enable all to participate fully in decision-making;

  • an international legal order which ensures the effective equality of all;

  • global welfare as the global equivalent of national social security systems, which provides for basic services for all;

  • a shared commitment to combat pockets of lawlessness and settle regional conflicts.41

GPG are strongly interrelated: ultimately, one cannot be ensured without the other. Global stability, and therefore the security of all States, depends on the availability of sufficient access to the core GPG; an excessive gap between haves and have-nots will lead to destabilisation. Indeed, it is often only when a threat to the global order is perceived that such deficiencies are taken seriously.42 An international system that fails to provide the core GPG, as a State should do at national level, lacks legitimacy, hence the need for effective global governance. The idea of promoting global governance in order to increase access to GPG is prevalent in the UN’s Millennium Goals. GPG are usually seen in the context of development, but currently the concept is also being used in more general political terms, by Joseph Nye for instance.43 The definition of the root causes of conflict in the Commission Communication on Conflict Prevention is very similar to the notion of GPG, although in the EU GPG are only explicitly mentioned in the context of economic globalisation and sustainable development.

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