Implementing a Distinctive Approach to Security




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3.5 Policy Implications


The EU has ‘instruments in place that can work effectively’, but should ‘make a contribution that matches [its] potential’. Therefore under the heading of ‘policy implications’, in its final chapter the Strategy calls for an EU that is more active, more capable, more coherent and works with others.


As mentioned earlier, ‘more active’ means ‘preventive engagement’ and ‘early, rapid and when necessary, robust intervention’, i.e. long- and short-term prevention and crisis management, and this by way of the ‘full spectrum of instruments’ at the EU’s disposal. This does include politico-military power, which in the global environment plays a more prominent role than on the European continent, so there is no escaping the fact that projection of military power, within the bounds of the UN Charter, may be necessary to ensure peace and stability. In the EU’s range of instruments, an effective military instrument and the willingness to use it, are necessary assets to enhance the credibility of the EU as a player on the international stage. As the Strategy puts it – and this applies to all instruments, to both prevention and crisis management: ‘A European Union which takes greater responsibility and which is more active will be one which carries greater political weight’.


With regard to operations, the Strategy specifies that the EU ‘should be able to sustain several operations simultaneously’, which can be seen as an objective for the formulation of a new, extended Headline Goal (‘Headline Goal 2010’), a process which was launched in 2003. Furthermore, the EU ‘could add particular value by developing operations involving both military and civilian capabilities’. The same emphasis on the combination of military and civilian instruments as a distinctive feature of the EU approach can be found in the December 2003 European Council decision to add a ‘cell with civil/military components’ to the EU Military Staff, which is to function as a core that can rapidly be expanded into an operations centre for EU operations without the use of NATO assets when no national HQ of one of the Member States is being used, and particularly when a joint civil and military response is required – which nowadays applies to most if not all operations. This decision ended the heated debate on the proposal, launched by Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg at their ‘Quadrilateral Defence Summit’ in Brussels on 29 April 2003, to set up a fully-fledged EU operational headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Tervuren.68


Under the heading of ‘more capable’, foremost is the need to further ‘transform our militaries into more flexible, mobile forces and to enable them to address the new threats’. While ‘actions underway – notable the establishment of a defence agency69 – take us in the right direction’, the Strategy also calls for ‘more resources for defence’ and, in its final version, ‘more effective use of resources’. The latter addition reflects the budgetary and political unfeasibility of increasing defence spending in the majority of the Member States, a fact which inter alia was voiced at the last of the three EU seminars on the Strategy. Hence the need to make better use of current budgets; as the first draft already said, ‘systematic use of pooled and shared assets would reduce duplications, overheads, and, in the medium-term, increase capabilities’.


Currently, the Headline Goal concerns no more than a fraction of the armed forces of the Member States, which together have over one and a half million men and women in uniform. Furthermore, it is no more than a catalogue of forces made available by the Member States, on a case by case basis, which do not cooperate on any permanent basis. Member States could easily assign a larger share of their armed forces to a more integrated European framework. A new Headline Goal – ‘2010’ – could thus be widened and deepened at the same time.


Certainly for the smaller Member States, widening could lead to them making the whole of their armed forces available to the EU. Deepening would imply increasing multinational cooperation, pooling of means, and task specialisation around cores of excellence, on the basis of force planning at the European level by the Military Staff, in function of the capabilities required for the implementation of the Strategy.70 Thus a much greater output in terms of capabilities could be realised within the current defence budgets thanks to increased efficiency; the smaller Member States would no longer need to maintain the whole range of units and equipment in small and therefore inefficient numbers; and the EU could make use of the full potential of Member States’ armed forces, while ensuring that each Member State contributes its fair share. Pooling of means, e.g. in the fields of strategic transport and intelligence, and multinational cooperation, focussed on creating easily deployable and modular force packages – which could be done in the framework of ‘structured cooperation’ as included in the Draft Constitution – imply a larger permanent dimension in terms of inter alia staff elements and manoeuvres than the simple force catalogue, and therefore stimulate further-reaching integration with regard to concepts, procedures and equipment. The Eurocorps, with its permanent staff, or the Belgo-Dutch naval cooperation, with its single operational command and training cycle, provide useful examples. Of course, increased multinational cooperation implies reduced sovereignty and increased solidarity between Member States. But only by increasing efficiency can the Member States release the necessary budgets to pursue the conversion of there armed forces from what all too often still are large and unwieldy Cold War armies to ‘usable’ forces. The capacity for rapid reaction, projectability and sustainability determines the effectiveness of European forces in a globalized environment. In this light, downsizing and the move to professional armies are inevitable.


The Strategy lists other fields in which the EU can be made ‘more capable’ yet:

  • ‘A greater capacity to bring all necessary civilian resources to bear in crisis and post crisis situations’, which again emphasises the added value of the EU’s comprehensive set of instruments; the stipulation in the first draft that ‘in particular we should look at stronger arrangements for civilian planning and mission support’ has been deleted, probably in view of the agreement on the ‘cell with civil/military components’ that was afterwards reached;

  • ‘Stronger diplomatic capability’, notably ‘a system that combines the resources of Member States with those of EU institutions’; the reference to the desirability of pooling national diplomats in the first draft has been omitted however, as the debate in the Convention and the IGC did not yield any result on this matter. The Draft Constitution does provide for a ‘European External Action Service’, which would integrate the relevant parts of the Commission administration and the General Secretariat of the Council, as well all external representations of the Commission and the Council, and which is to cooperate with the diplomatic posts of the Member States;71

  • ‘Improved sharing of intelligence’, an area in which cooperation is still rather limited.


The Berlin Plus arrangement, which provides the EU with assured access to NATO operational planning, the presumption of availability of NATO assets and NATO European command options for EU-led operations, is mentioned in the final version as a factor enhancing EU capabilities. In view of steadily increasing capabilities, the Strategy calls for ‘a wider spectrum of missions’, a reference to the extended definition of the Petersberg Tasks included in the Draft Constitution: ‘joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peacekeeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking, and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories’. The Petersberg Tasks as originally formulated in the TEU already include everything but collective defence however, so this mere specification does not really add to the content.


The Strategy does not discuss other than diplomatic and politico-military capabilities, e.g. in the field of trade or development. As in the paragraph on ‘effective multilateralism’, a strong emphasis on the politico-military dimension rather obscures the comprehensive approach that is put forward as the general principle.


Under the heading of ‘more coherent’, the Strategy states that ‘the challenge now is to bring together the different instruments and capabilities’, for ‘diplomatic efforts, development, trade and environmental policies, should follow the same agenda’ – an unambiguous call for a comprehensive approach, which should also embrace ‘the external activities of the individual Member States’. The Strategy’s final version adds to this an emphasis on ‘better co-ordination between external action and Justice and Home Affairs policies [which] is crucial in the fight both against terrorism and organized crime’, and on the fact that ‘coherent policies are also needed regionally, especially in dealing with conflict’. Coherence, though perhaps at first sight a vague and theoretical notion, will indeed be crucial to the effective implementation of the comprehensive approach, at the level of policy objectives, instruments and means, across the three pillars. Given the scale of the EU and the diversity of the policy fields involved, this is far from an easy task, which requires that coherence be institutionalized. In that regard, the Draft Constitution already includes far-reaching proposals, particularly the creation of a Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, who would combine the current positions of Commissioner for External Relations and High Representative for the CFSP – Patten and Solana – and who would be assisted by the unified European External Action Service mentioned above.72 Although different decision-making procedures would remain in vigour for Community matters and other, this would constitute a significant break-through of the pillar system, which greatly hinders effective coordination of policies.


Finally, the Strategy states that the EU will be ‘working with partners’, and this ‘both through multilateral cooperation in international organisations and through partnerships with key actors’. The former are listed in the paragraph on ‘effective multilateralism’; the latter are deemed to include first of all the US and Russia, and then also Japan, China, Canada and India, ‘as well as all those who share our goals and values, and are prepared to act in their support’.73


Overcoming the dark side of globalisation requires the cooperation of all States. Great powers have the greatest responsibility for projecting stability in the world. It follows that a comprehensive and equitable transatlantic partnership is indeed indispensable to promote global governance.


In the politico-military field, the transatlantic partnership is embodied in NATO. In the wake of the 2003 crisis in the Alliance and in view of the ambitions of the EU as an international actor – and its ever growing capabilities – a rethinking of NATO seems to be in order. The growing awareness in the EU of its distinctive identity in international relations and the increasing will to make a proper mark on the course of events, as evidenced by the Strategy, is a major new factor in transatlantic relations. A ‘two-pillar’ NATO could provide the answer. With regard to ‘non-Article 5 missions’, now that the EU has the necessary institutional and military capabilities at its disposal to act autonomously, the EU can itself implement – coercive and non-coercive – military operations to support its global and neighbourhood policy; it could also assume first-level responsibility in the event of crises in its neighbourhood. Such burden-sharing would meet long-standing US demands for a greater European effort, and would contribute to transform NATO into an equitable, two-pillar alliance, in which both partners have responsibilities and can call upon the alliance and its assets according to pre-arranged mechanisms.74 The overarching NATO level would then be activated only if the means of one of the pillars turned out to be insufficient to resolve a crisis or if the EU and the US agreed, for political reasons, to be jointly involved in an operation from the very beginning. In such a constellation, non-participation in a non-Article 5 operation by the other pillar need no longer automatically be considered a breach of solidarity. The level activated – NATO or one of the pillars – rather than being the subject of a strict ‘right of first refusal’ on the part of NATO, would depend on whether both pillars consent on the proposed intervention or not. This implies that the pro-active, global role for NATO that is being envisaged in some circles is far from automatic. In the case of threats to the territorial integrity of either partner, however, the mutual defence commitment under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty provides the ultimate security guarantee. An EU-US division of labour along the lines of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power, as suggested by some,75 makes no sense: either player needs both in order to implement an effective and a legitimate foreign policy.


The transatlantic partnership is more than NATO however, as the Strategy itself points out. ‘Acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world’, therefore the final version has added ‘our aim should be an effective and balanced partnership with the USA’. The latter emphasis seems to confirm the need to re-think transatlantic relations.


Of course, the Strategy’s comprehensive approach contrasts with the US National Security Strategy and certainly with recent US policies. The two documents share an emphasis on threats. Threats are the dominant theme throughout the US document; all policy areas are considered in the light of the fight against proliferation of WMD and ‘rogue States’ and particularly of the ‘war’ against terrorism – a struggle that ‘will be fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive enemy over a long period of time’ – referred to as ‘our strategic priority’. When it comes to dealing with these threats, the European Strategy however advocates a much more positive and comprehensive approach. Unlike the US, the EU does not consider itself to be engaged in a new war.76 As a diplomat once put it: according to the American document, the world is dangerous; according to the Solana document, the world is complex. In the National Security Strategy, the emphasis is on defence policy and the use of military means, including pre-emptively. The US document also exudes unilateralism: even though the text is peppered with references to ‘allies and friends’, it makes it clear that these are expected to accept US leadership and that the US ‘will be prepared to act apart when our interests and unique responsibilities require’. The EU is barely mentioned. It is primarily seen as ‘our partner in opening world trade’ and even though the US ‘welcome[s] our European allies’ efforts to forge a greater foreign policy and defence identity within the EU’, the basic concern is ‘to ensure that these developments work with NATO’. The document does mention other dimensions of security and corresponding policy instruments: trade and aid, democratization etc. But these too are primarily put in the context of the ‘war on terrorism’. Besides, actual US policies have evidently focussed on the use of the military instrument; Iraq is the obvious example. Other dimensions of security than the military, although they are present, have thus been eclipsed by the predominantly military discourse and policies of the Bush administration.


The existence of different strategic approaches means that the EU and the US will continue to have differences of opinion as to how to deal with the problems – current and future ones – of this world. Yet, these differences need not be irreconcilable. By focussing on Iraq, it is easily forgotten that on other issues, e.g. North Korea, policies are remarkably similar. Nor should the European Strategy be interpreted as being directed against the US. On the contrary, the EU and the US should aim to reinforce the transatlantic partnership in all fields of external policy, not just in NATO, in order to put their combined means to use in the most efficient and effective way ‘for good in the world’. But this should be an equitable partnership, one which both partners enter into on the basis of their own priorities and their own distinctive approaches to security. As long as the EU had not defined its own agenda, a balanced partnership was impossible; the intra-European strategic debate is inextricably linked to the debate on the autonomy of EU policy-making vis-à-vis the US.77 So the adoption of the Security Strategy has been a necessary first step towards an enhanced transatlantic partnership. The ambitions of the EU as a global actor which it expresses represent a new factor in transatlantic relations. The debate on the legitimacy of the use of force now seems to stand out as the first hurdle to be overcome,78 certainly if the work of the High-Level Panel is to have any effect.

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