Implementing a Distinctive Approach to Security

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2.3 A New Opportunity

This overview of the ongoing re-conceptualization of security highlights the continuity stretching from the origins of the CSCE, one of the first major endeavours to forge a common and autonomous European approach to foreign and security policy, right up to the European Security Strategy. All of these exercises have yielded similar conclusions: only a comprehensive security concept can provide an effective response to the new security environment. Several States and organisations have attempted to implement this approach and integrate aspects of it in their policies. The EU, as a sui generis organisation, with a foreign and security policy that has a global scope and covers all dimensions of international relations, now has the opportunity to adopt the comprehensive approach as the foundation of its external action.

The recent developments in American strategic thinking have gone in precisely the opposite direction. From merely being reaffirmed when the Bush administration came into office, the traditional ‘neo-con’ concepts of national sovereignty, national interest and the balance of power44 became the cornerstones of US policy after ‘9/11’. In the EU as well, ‘9/11’ brought about a certain renewed emphasis on defence, as reflected in the proposals to introduce a ‘solidarity clause’ and a reference to mutual defence in the Draft Constitution, but defence issues did not push the comprehensive approach to security off the agenda – quite the contrary.

3. The European Security Strategy

At its December 2003 Brussels meeting, ‘The European Council adopted the European Security Strategy and warmly congratulated SH/HR Javier Solana for the work accomplished’.45 The introduction to the Strategy highlights the fact that a Europe which ‘has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free’ and which ‘as a union of 25 states with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world’s Gross National Product (GNP), and with a wide range of instruments at its disposal, […] is inevitably a global player’, hence ‘Europe should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world’. A call to duty, in the interest of global security as well as our own, for ‘Europe still faces security threats and challenges’.

The Strategy is then organized into three chapters: an analysis of the security environment, the definition of three strategic objectives, and an assessment of the policy implications for the EU.

3.1 The Security Environment

Under the heading ‘global challenges’, the starting point of the analysis of the security environment is the impact of globalisation. On the one hand, globalisation has ‘brought freedom and prosperity to many people’, but ‘others have perceived globalisation as a cause of frustration and injustice’. Globalisation has ‘increased European dependence – and so vulnerability – on an interconnected infrastructure, in transport, energy, information and other fields; as a consequence of globalisation, ‘the internal and external aspects of security are indissolubly linked’. The Strategy then goes on to specify a number of the worrying features of this globalized world: poverty; disease, especially AIDS; competition for scarce resources, notably water; global warming; migratory movements; and Europe’s energy dependence.

In the second part of the analysis, recognizing that ‘large-scale aggression against any Member State is now improbable’, a jump is then made to five ‘key threats’, all of which are closely interconnected:

  • terrorism, for which ‘Europe is both a target and a base’; the Strategy notes that terrorism ‘arises out of complex causes’, including ‘the pressures of modernization, cultural, social and political crises, and the alienation of young people living in foreign societies’;

  • proliferation of WMD, ‘potentially the greatest threat to our security’, which in ‘the most frightening scenario’ could be acquired by terrorists;

  • regional conflicts, both worldwide and at the borders of the EU, which ‘impact on European interests directly and indirectly’ and which ‘can lead to extremism, terrorism and state failure’;

  • state failure, which ‘undermines global governance, and adds to regional instability’ and which ‘can be associated with obvious threats, such as organized crime or terrorism’;

  • organized crime, an internal threat with ‘an important external dimension’, such as ‘cross-border trafficking in drugs, women, illegal migrants and weapons’ as well as gemstones and timber; organized crime ‘can have links with terrorism’ and is ‘often associated with weak or failing states’.

In the first draft, the emphasis on threats, especially terrorism and WMD, was much stronger; thus the first draft was much closer to the American National Security Strategy, which focuses very strongly on defence against external threats. This renewed focus on defence, provoked by the events of ‘9/11’, can to some extent also be found in the proposals in the Draft Constitution, subsequently discussed at the IGC, to introduce a ‘solidarity clause’, which would provide for the use of ESDP means and mechanisms within the territory of the EU in the case of terrorist attack or natural or man-made disasters, and to include provisions on mutual defence based on Article V of WEU’s Modified Brussels Treaty. More than one observer thought of the first draft as the EU ‘unambiguously re-calibrat[ing] its priorities to match those of the US’.46 Confirming the American threat assessment can be interpreted as a political statement, signalling to Washington, in the aftermath of the transatlantic divide over Iraq, that the EU shares the US’ concerns on the threats posed by terrorism and WMD – without necessarily implying that it will adopt the same approach to deal with them. For the ‘strong’ first chapter can also be seen as a means of softening the US to the much more comprehensive approach to security advocated in the ensuing chapters of the Strategy. One can thus also discern an intra-European compromise, between the two camps in the Iraq crisis: including a firm stand on terrorism and WMD in the threat assessment, in return for an emphasis on comprehensive security in the following chapters.

In the final version of the Strategy, the analysis of the security environment has been extended and toned down at the same time:

  • more attention is being devoted to the effects of globalisation, which went almost without mention in the first draft;

  • a distinction is no longer being made between ‘old’ and ‘new’ terrorism; the first draft seemed to reflect the hypothesis that current, ‘new’ terrorism is somehow unique, notably as to the scale of its destructiveness and its lack of constraints, but this is being contradicted by scholars pointing out that such waves of terrorism are recurrent throughout recent history;47

  • proliferation of WMD has been re-defined as ‘potentially the greatest’, rather than ‘the single most important’ threat, and the statement that against small groups having acquired WMD deterrence would fail, has been deleted;

  • state failure and organized crime have become separate entries in the list of key threats and regional conflicts have been added to it.

These amendments reflect the mood at all three seminars on the draft Strategy that the EU organized in the Fall of 2003, where it was pointed out that the current predominance of terrorism and WMD on the political agenda should not allow policy-makers to forget either ‘old’ threats, such as regional conflicts, or the need to address the root causes of threats.

Yet it can be argued that even the final version is overly threat-based, both by overestimating the threat of terrorism and WMD specifically and by overemphasizing the need of ‘addressing the threats’ in general, which is put down as the first of the EU’s strategic objectives in the second part of the Strategy. Such a threat-based approach carries the risk of focusing too much on defence, which is the most obvious, but not necessarily the most effective way of dealing with threats, to the detriment of prevention. Although the links between the five ‘key threats’ is emphasized, much less is said on the causal relationship between the ‘global challenges’ or the ‘dark side of globalisation’, which is the first part of the analysis of the security environment, and the second part, the ‘key threats’. In that sense, the threat assessment seems to be lacking coherence.

Terrorism and proliferation of WMD certainly are the most important remaining direct threats to the EU, now that large-scale aggression is no longer a probability. That does not mean that by themselves these threats are likely to materialise, however. The fact remains that most terrorist groups have a domestic agenda and are therefore unlikely to target the EU. A far bigger threat seems to be posed by internal, European terrorism, as witnessed e.g. by the ongoing activity of the ETA movement in Spain, or by the unexpected letter bomb campaign against the EU institutions by an obscure grouping originating in Bologna at the end of 2003. The likelihood that the EU will be targeted by international terrorism is further lessened by the fact that its non-confrontational policies, in the Middle East for instance, present little cause for the anger and frustration that provide the brains behind terrorist organizations with a fertile recruiting ground for potential martyrs. The threat would indeed be increased if a terrorist group were to acquire WMD, but none has done so yet. This demonstrates the importance of effective non-proliferation, but should not lead to alarmism. The only parties that do currently possess WMD are therefore States. In their case, the danger is even more limited: no State, apart from the EU’s allies, has the means to mount a full-scale offensive and pose any serious threat. Besides, the use of WMD would imply the risk of massive retaliation, by conventional means or otherwise. But the main argument is that in view of the EU’s economic might it is hard to imagine which State would not damage its own interests by an act of aggression.48 This is not to say that terrorism and WMD can be ignored, but the threat that they pose should be put in the right perspective.

Rather than terrorism or WMD, the most important threat emerging from the new security environment seems to be the ever growing gap between haves and have-nots, or rather haves and have-lesses, a gap which can be best expressed in terms of access to the essential global public goods. The ‘global challenges’ mentioned in the Strategy – poverty, disease etc. – are all symptoms of this gap, which in some form or other often is at the heart of the ‘key threats’ or, in other words, often reveals their root causes. This gap is foremost among the challenges of the globalized world, because it threatens the stability of the international system itself: at a certain level of inequality, the resulting political upheaval, extremisms of all kinds, economic uncertainty and migration flows will become uncontrollable – as Europe already experienced once, in the 1930s. Against this background of globalisation, specific politico-military challenges do indeed stand out. They include regions of chronic tension and long-standing disputes and conflicts, failed States and civil wars, proliferation of WMD and excessive militarization, and terrorism. These challenges directly threaten other regions and States. On account of spill-over effects and the challenge that they pose to international stability, they also indirectly affect the EU. They have to be tackled head-on, but as they are symptoms of the ‘dark side of globalisation’, effective global governance, improving access to global public goods, must be pursued at the same time as the key to preventing such threats. ‘Security is the precondition of development’, the Strategy states, but this works the other way around as well. Of course, the strength of the causal relationship between, on the one hand, the gap between haves and have-lesses in the broadest sense and, on the other hand, specific politico-military issues differs from case to case. Nonetheless, in the long term no durable settlement of such issues can be achieved unless the stability of the world system itself is assured.

In its final version the Strategy certainly is much more balanced, mentioning at it does a wide range of global challenges linked to globalisation, and presenting a completer picture of the ‘key threats’. It appears though that the inseparable link between the overall challenges of globalisation and more specific threats, from which follows the priority need of ensuring the stability of the world system as such, could have been highlighted more in the analysis of the security environment. At the same time, one should not overlook the fact that reconciling the threat perceptions of the Fifteen, all influenced by specific geographic and other circumstances, is a big achievement in itself.

3.2 First Objective: Addressing the Threats

‘Addressing the threats’ is the first of three strategic objectives outlined in the Strategy, which lists the initiatives the EU has already taken:

  • the European Arrest Warrant, measures addressing terrorist financing and an agreement on mutual legal assistance with the US;

  • the EU’s long-standing non-proliferation policies, highlighting its commitment to strong and verifiable multilateral treaty regimes;

  • its interventions to help deal with regional conflicts, notably in the Balkans, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Strategy then outlines the approach which the EU will continue to pursue in dealing with the ‘key threats’, taking into account the nature of these threats and the exigencies of the new globalized security environment. ‘In an era of globalisation, distant threats may be as much a concern as those that are near at hand’, therefore ‘the first line of defence will often be abroad’, which confirms that the EU cannot be but a global actor. As ‘the new threats are dynamic’ and ‘[…] spread if they are neglected’, ‘conflict prevention and threat prevention cannot start too early’. And because ‘none of the new threats is purely military, nor can any be tackled by purely military means’, prevention will require the application of ‘a mixture of instruments’. ‘The European Union is particularly well equipped to respond to such multi-faceted situations’, it is stressed.

Placing the threats first among the objectives – in the first draft they came last – can again be seen as a political message, in order to emphasize once more that the EU shares US concerns.49 At the same time though the comprehensive EU approach is stressed, which aims to put to use the whole range of available instruments, which is rightly highlighted as a distinctive feature of EU external action. On the whole, as far as the threats are concerned, this paragraph might appear rather superfluous and repetitive; the actual approach that effectively addresses the threats, or rather global challenges in general, is detailed in the ensuing paragraphs. The stipulations on the necessarily global reach of EU external action, on prevention, and on the mixture of instruments indicate the basic principles of this approach, but are somewhat obscured by the emphasis on threats.

3.3 Second Objective: Building Security in Europe’s Neighbourhood

‘Even in an era of globalisation, geography is still important’, the Strategy points out: ‘neighbours who are engaged in violent conflict, weak states where organized crime flourishes, dysfunctional societies or exploding population growth on our borders all pose problems for Europe’. Therefore ‘a ring of well-governed countries’ must be established, ‘with whom we can enjoy close and cooperative relations’, which is to be achieved through partnership and action in the political, economic, cultural as well as security fields. This ‘ring’ is seen to include:

  • the Balkans, where Europe’s substantial achievements must be consolidated;

  • ‘our neighbours in the East’, to whom ‘the benefits of economic and political cooperation’ should be extended – this seems to mean all remaining European non-Member States except for Russia, which is mentioned as a ‘strategic partner’ in the last chapter of the Strategy;50

  • the Southern Caucasus, which thus finds itself promoted to an area of special interest for the EU51 – besides calling for ‘a stronger and more active interest’ on the part of the EU, the Strategy does not indicate any direction for future EU policy though;

  • the Mediterranean, understood as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership or Barcelona Process between the EU and twelve Mediterranean States,52 which should be rendered more effective.

It is indeed the case that, while the security issues arising in the vicinity of the EU are global phenomena that are not specific to this region, their potential effects on the EU are greater because of the geographic proximity. The EU and its neighbourhood, and in particular its neighbours on the European continent, can be considered a ‘security complex’ as defined by Buzan: ‘a group of States whose primary security concerns link together sufficiently closely that their national securities cannot realistically be considered apart from one another’.53 Therefore, in this area the onus is on the EU to assume responsibility and take the lead: a stable neighbourhood is a necessity for our own security and promoting stability in our area is our duty, since we are the local actor with the means to do so. Through its force of attraction, the EU has succeeded in stabilising the European continent; now it has to replicate that success in a wider neighbourhood.

The Strategy offers a definition of how far this neighbourhood reaches, and an ambitious one at that. The neighbourhood can be seen as the area in which the EU deems it has a specific responsibility for peace and security, and therefore the leading role, as opposed to its general contribution to global stability as outlined under the third strategic objective. The Strategy also puts down the general principle of how comprehensive and cooperative relations with the States concerned will increase security, i.e. an approach that emphasises long-term prevention. It does not however go into any further detail as to the instruments that the EU can apply to make these relations work, although in fact several instruments already exist or are being envisaged.

The potentially most effective instrument would be the comprehensive Neighbourhood Policy proposed by the Commission under the heading of ‘Wider Europe’. The concrete benefits and preferential relations offered in that framework, besides aiming to promote economic and political reform via conditional assistance – and thus having a broad preventive scope – could also be linked to substantial politico-military cooperation, in order to establish joint mechanisms for early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management. The benefits offered are basically a stake in the EU’s internal market, which is to be accompanied by further integration and liberalisation to promote the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital – ‘the four freedoms’.

The Neighbourhood Policy’s overall objectives would thus be:

  • preventing conflicts in our neighbourhood and acts of aggression against the EU;

  • settling ongoing disputes and conflicts;

  • establishing close economic and political partnerships based on shared values, prosperity and security;

  • controlling migration and all forms of illegal trafficking into the EU;

  • protecting the security of EU citizens living abroad.

The Commission does not aim to replace existing bilateral and multilateral frameworks for relations, such as the EMP, the Stability Pact for the Balkans or the Common Strategy on Ukraine; rather it wants to supplement and build on them. The Neighbourhood Policy will have to strike a balance between bilateral action plans, so that benefits and benchmarks for progress can be tailored to specific needs and circumstances, and multilateral partnerships such as the Barcelona Process, in order to deal with regional issues and promote regional integration between partners. The founding document of the EMP, the Barcelona declaration, actually already mentions a lot of the measures that are now being proposed in the framework of Wider Europe. For the Neighbourhood Policy to succeed, the Member States will have to muster the necessary political will to invest sufficient means and offer the neighbouring States real benefits.54 Otherwise, it will suffer the same fate as the ‘old’ EMP: well-intentioned principles, but very limited implementation. Promises only of the proverbial carrot will be insufficient, for they have been made too often. A large effort will thus also be required on the part of the EU.55

In the long term, if it is successful, the Neighbourhood Policy could, through permanent close interaction and sharing of norms and values, lead to the progressive emergence of new ‘security communities’56 encompassing the EU – a ‘security community’ in itself that is expanding through enlargement – and the neighbouring regions or sub-regions. Implementing the Neighbourhood Policy should be nothing less than a top priority. It is not as such mentioned in the Strategy, but the title of the second strategic objective has been changed from ‘extending the zone of security around Europe’ to ‘building security in our neighbourhood’.

With regard to the Mediterranean specifically, the Strategy stresses that resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a ‘strategic priority’, for indeed ‘without this, there will be little chance of dealing with other problems’, as the Mediterranean partners are reluctant to engage in cooperation in the security and other fields while the conflict is raging. The Middle East conflict receives additional emphasis in the final version, which as compared to the first draft adds a strong call for a joint effort by the EU, the US, the UN and Russia to implement the ‘two state-solution’.57 This could then also be the first step towards a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. But other conflicts and disputes demand a settlement as well: the EU should support a settlement for the Western Sahara, it should make use of the association agreement to engage in a critical dialogue with Algeria and it should continue to encourage Libya to accept the Barcelona acquis and join the EMP. If significant steps are taken in this regard, it will enhance the legitimacy of the EU and hence the chances for success of the Neighbourhood Policy. In that framework, a deepening of the EMP’s politico-military basket could then be achieved through partners’ active participation in the ESDP. This would also dispel their misgivings about it.58 The Strategy does not mention Turkey separately, although this would certainly have pleased Ankara, and would perhaps have better reflected its status as the only remaining Mediterranean candidate for accession after Cyprus and Malta join the EU; but it is of course one of the Mediterranean partners and thus included in the framework of the EMP.

The Strategy further states that ‘a broader engagement with the Arab world should also be considered’. This can be seen as a reference to the report on the EU’s relations with the Arab world that Romano Prodi, Javier Solana and Chris Patten submitted to the December 2003 European Council, in which they recommend, for the States outside the Barcelona Process, ‘to explore proposals for a possible regional strategy for the Wider Middle East, comprising relations with GCC59 countries, Yemen, Iraq and Iran’.60 This one sentence in the Strategy thus ambitiously extends the EU’s definition of its neighbourhood, but rightly so, for relations with these States are less developed, while at the same time certain security issues affecting the members of the EMP, notably in the Middle East, obviously cannot be tackled without them. The European Council invited the Council to pursue this work, within the implementation of the Strategy and taking into account Wider Europe and the EMP. It thus seems that these States would not be included in the Neighbourhood Policy or the EMP, but that an additional framework is envisaged which would be closely linked to both existing frameworks.

Perhaps under the heading of ‘building security in our neighbourhood’, Sub-Saharan Africa could have been mentioned as well. Not to include it in the Neighbourhood Policy, but as an area where it is the EU’s duty, inter alia because of historic ties, to play a special role. A more systematic, comprehensive partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa could be envisaged.

3.4 Third Objective: Effective Multilateralism

Referring to the impact of globalisation again, the Strategy names as final strategic objective the establishment of ‘an effective multilateral system’: ‘a stronger international society, well functioning international institutions and a rule-based international order’. The centre of that system is the UN, hence ‘equipping it to fulfil its responsibilities and to act effectively, is a European priority’. Contrary to the first draft, in the Strategy’s final version the central position of the UN is also reflected in its place in the text, where it now comes first. The institutional architecture further comprises global organizations like the WTO and the International Financial Institutions on the one hand, and regional organizations such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, ASEAN, MERCOSUR and the African Union on the other hand. The transatlantic relationship, of which ‘NATO is an important expression’ – thus not the sole one – is also defined as a core element, in the EU’s bilateral interest but also for the international community as a whole. The final version of the Strategy further adds an emphasis on ‘confidence building and arms control regimes’. Through this network of regimes and institutions, what amounts to global governance must be pursued, which implies: ‘spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights’, as well as ‘assistance programmes, conditionality and targeted trade measures’.

The emphasis on long-term prevention through the combination, as envisaged in the Neighbourhood Policy, of partnership and support in order to promote reforms, is thus repeated at the global level, but rather than ‘leading from the front’ itself, as it proposes to do towards its neighbours, the EU will primarily act through the UN and other multilateral institutions and regimes. The comprehensive approach that is advocated, without naming it comes very close to the notion of global public goods.61 Promoting regional integration is part and parcel of this approach, in order to consolidate peaceful relations between States and strengthen their position in the global order, so as to increase their access to GPG. The aim is ‘a world seen as offering justice and opportunity for everyone’. An attempt can thus be made to provide an answer to the feelings of exclusion, marginalization and impotence with regard to the core GPG that certainly constitute one of the root causes of political extremism, terrorism and conflict.62 The document does not go into detail as to how effective global governance is to be primarily pursued, i.e. how can the institutional architecture be improved and which are the priority policy fields in which action must be taken, apart from proliferation and terrorism, which are just two of the global issues that need to be addressed. With regard to the institutional dimension e.g., the Commission has already elaborated extensive proposals.63 Perhaps at least a general direction could have been indicated. Now the need for global governance overall is somewhat obscured by the emphasis on the politico-military aspects.

The Strategy strongly stresses that for ‘international organisations, regimes and treaties to be effective’, the EU must ‘be ready to act when their rules are broken’. Effective multilateralism would thus appear to mean enforceable. A two-step approach seems to be envisaged with regard to short-term prevention and crisis management, which complement long-term prevention, i.e. towards States that ‘have placed themselves outside the bounds of international society’, either because they ‘have sought isolation’ or because they ‘persistently violate international norms’. In the first place, ‘the EU should be ready to provide assistance’ to help them ‘rejoin the international community’. But: ‘Those who are unwilling to do so should understand that there is a price to be paid, including in their relationship with the European Union’. At first instance, this price will be paid in terms of economic sanctions and cutting back partnership and cooperation, as can be gathered from the use of the notion of conditionality in the Strategy, but when necessary it can also include military intervention, and this at an early stage. This becomes clear when the chapter on effective multilateralism is read together with the next chapter of the Strategy, on policy implications, and notably the paragraph on an EU that is ‘more active in pursuing [its] strategic objectives’, which ‘applies to the full spectrum of instruments for crisis management and conflict prevention at our disposal, including political, diplomatic, military and civilian, trade and development activities’. In that context the EU needs ‘to develop a culture that fosters early, rapid and when necessary, robust intervention’, for ‘we need to be able to act before countries around us deteriorate, when signs of proliferation are detected, and before humanitarian emergencies arise’. Or in other words: ‘preventive engagement can avoid more serious problems in the future’. For the thorough assessment of situations that this approach requires, the EU can build on the extensive toolbox for early warning and prevention that the Commission has created.

The emphasis clearly is on the comprehensive approach, on putting to use ‘the full spectrum of instruments’. The coercive use of military power therefore certainly is not the default instrument for short-term prevention and crisis management, although the Strategy does not explicitly say that it is an instrument of last resort. This seems to be confirmed though by the fact that – very significantly – the words ‘pre-emptive engagement’ in the first draft have been replaced by ‘preventive engagement’ in the final version. From the point of view of the clarity of the document and the rationality of the debate, this was without doubt a wise thing to do, for the connotation that ‘pre-emption’ has acquired since the US-led invasion of Iraq, i.e. the use of force at the State’s own initiative before it has been the subject of armed attack, at the same time blurs the debate and renders it very emotional.64

This immediately leads to the issue of the legal mandate required for the use of force, excluding cases of course in which intervention takes place with the consent of the parties, e.g. in the context of the OSCE, or when the EU is invited, as was the case in Macedonia. On this question the Strategy is not very explicit either. It states that the EU is ‘committed to upholding and developing International Law [sic]’, an addition as compared to the first draft, and that ‘the United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security’. But it does not say that the EU should always seek a UN mandate for coercive military action. The Strategy thus leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which on this issue detracts from its utility as a framework for policy-making. Even taking into account the extreme sensitivity of the issue – the matter was at the heart of the Iraq divide – and the fact that the need for unanimity serves as a very effective built-in brake on over-hasty military operations, it is to be regretted that the EU has renounced from setting an example – and thus from leading by example.

Inspiration to solve both questions – at what point and under which mandate is coercive military action possible – could have been found in the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. As mentioned earlier, the ICISS made a very recommendable attempt to collectively define common criteria, adapted to today’s security environment, for the use of coercive measures, military and other, in order to provide a response to States that do not live up to their commitments – vis-à-vis the international community, but also vis-à-vis their own population, whom it is indeed the international community’s responsibility to protect as the ICISS states65 – and in order to counter threats at an early stage.

The criteria that the ICISS devised can be summarized as follows:

  • ‘Just cause: is the harm being experienced or threatened sufficiently clear and serious to justify going to war?

  • Right intention: is the primary purpose of the proposed military action to halt or avert the external or internal threat in question, even if there are some other motives in play as well?

  • Last resort: has every non-military option for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis been explored, with reasonable grounds for believing lesser measures will not succeed?

  • Proportional means: is the scale, duration and intensity of the planned military action the minimum necessary to secure the defined human protection objective?

  • Reasonable prospects: is there a reasonable chance of the military action being successful in meeting the external or internal threat in question, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction?

  • Right authority: is the military action lawful?’66

In this view, the coercive use of military power must be a last resort in the European approach to security. It should be considered only if all other means have clearly failed, and subject to an explicit mandate from the Security Council – the ‘right authority’. But if these conditions are met, the EU should indeed have no hesitation in taking military action. If, however, the Security Council – whose authorisation should in all cases be sought prior to action being taken – proves unable to act in a situation where the responsibility to protect is obvious, then the ICISS recommends the consent of the UN General Assembly can be sought at a meeting in emergency special session under the Uniting for Peace procedure, or action within its area of jurisdiction by a regional organisation under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter can be envisaged, subject to it seeking subsequent authorisation from the Security Council. But the purpose in this case cannot be to authorise ‘pre-emptive’ coercive military action on the initiative of the EU or its Member States, i.e. before all other options have been exhausted. Since Article 51 of the UN Charter allows military action by way of self-defence only after an armed attack occurs, the Security Council is the only body that can legally – and legitimately – decide on any other form of coercive military action. Any deviation from this rule, by allowing individual States to determine the need for coercive military action, would pave the way for a complete dismantling of the Charter and the multilateral system.

This approach has in fact already been developed more explicitly with regard to the specific issue of WMD, in the ‘EU Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction’ that was adopted by the December 2003 European Council. This provides for two stages. The first includes strengthening the multilateral non-proliferation treaties and export control regimes, notably with regard to verification, and, in a longer-term perspective, dealing with the underlying causes of proliferation by pursuing political solutions to tensions and disputes and regional arrangements for arms control and disarmament: the ‘first line of defence’. Only when these instruments have failed, can ‘coercive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and international law’ be envisaged, ‘as a last resort’. The Security Council is to play a central part, which implies that its role ‘as the final arbiter on the consequences of non-compliance […] needs to be effectively strengthened’. Recent EU policy with regard to possible proliferation by Iran can be seen as a successful example of this approach. Given that the Strategy on WMD elaborates upon one aspect of the overall Security Strategy, it is doubly regrettable that the latter is not more explicit on this issue itself.

As the Security Strategy says, such a stance implies the need to strengthen the decision- making capacity and legitimacy of the Security Council. If the Security Council is indeed to be ‘the final arbiter on the consequences of non-compliance’, then it must be given the means for effective action – or others will continue to be tempted to act unilaterally in its stead. This is repeated in the next chapter of the Strategy, where under the heading ‘more active’ the EU is said to be ‘committed to reinforcing its cooperation with the UN to assist countries emerging from conflicts, and to enhancing its support for the UN in short-term crisis management situations’. The necessary reforms include curtailing veto powers and amending the composition of the Security Council to make it more representative and thus more legitimate – a necessary prerequisite for the success of the collective security system. With two of its Member States having a permanent seat, the key is to a large extent in the EU’s hands. If the will can be mustered to replace these seats with a single EU one, it will give the EU the legitimacy to demand further reforms.

Continuing the work of the ICISS is another field of action. At the end of 2003 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan established a High-Level Panel with the aim of recommending ‘clear and practical measures for ensuring effective collective action, based upon a rigorous analysis of future threats to peace and security, an appraisal of the contribution collective action can make, and a thorough assessment of existing approaches, instruments and mechanisms, including the principal organs of the United Nations’.67 ‘It is a condition of a rule-based international order that law evolves in response to developments such as proliferation, terrorism and global warming’, the Strategy says – the High-Level Panel should provide part of the answer. Whereas admittedly reforming the Security Council will be very difficult, for both legal and political reasons, adopting a clear framework allowing for more pro-active Security Council action is a much more realistic objective.

The EU can also contribute on a more practical level. A close partnership has already been established between the EU and the UN in the field of conflict prevention and early warning, and on 24 September 2003 both organizations signed a joint declaration on cooperation in crisis management, aiming to establish information and consultation mechanisms. The ongoing development of ESDP would enable the EU to provide the UN with a minimum of standing forces, so as to contribute to an effective crisis management capacity.

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