Implementing a Distinctive Approach to Security

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5.1 Strategic Choices and Specific Policies

The Strategy itself is not an immediately operational document in the sense that it is not a detailed plan of action: it lays down the overall objectives of EU external action and the principal ways of achieving these. These constitute a set of political choices. The overall choice is for comprehensive security as the general approach. This choice is the most important; it determines all dimensions of external action. This approach the EU will implement in its neighbourhood, which geographically is defined very ambitiously. Here, the EU seeks the leading role itself; resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority. At the global level, a clear choice is voiced for reinforcing the multilateral system, of which the UN is the core. A strong commitment to actively pursue these objectives and to enhance capabilities and coherence accordingly completes the picture.

All the aspects of these choices have then to be elaborated in specific policy plans, across the pillars, with regard to States, regions and global issues, as well as with regard to the development by the EU itself of the instruments and capabilities that the implementation of the Strategy requires. The difficulty is that while the Strategy words a clear choice for the general approach of comprehensive security, on a number of particular issues it remains rather vague and prone to interpretation, because no clear choice is being made with regard to more specific objectives and/or with regard to the instruments to apply. In that sense, the Strategy could have been somewhat more operational.

In some instances therefore, political choices have yet to be made, at the level of the specific policy plans; a number of difficult debates might therefore still lay ahead, while in the meantime on these issues the EU still lacks a clear and unambiguous framework for day-to-day policy-making:

  • Global governance is at the core of the objective of ‘effective multilateralism’, but although a whole range of issues are mentioned as determining ‘the quality of international society’, the Strategy does not prioritize between policy fields or name more specific objectives, nor does it contain any guidelines as to how the international institutional architecture in general and the UN in particular are to be improved. Similarly, under the heading of ‘more capable’ the Strategy does not mention capabilities in the fields of inter alia aid and trade. The EU certainly is one of the most active and often most powerful players in the vast and diverse fields of international trade, development, environmental policy etc., most of which fall within the Community competence – all the more reason to make clear strategic choices.

  • NATO is mentioned as an important ‘strategic partnership’ for the EU, specifically with regard to crisis management and enhancing the EU’s military capabilities, but no indication is given as to how relations within NATO should evolve in view of the shifting role of the Alliance and its growing global involvement, the creation of the NATO Response Force and the affirmation of the EU’s own ambitions as an international actor. That ‘an effective and balanced partnership’ with the US is wanted might indicate that some sort of re-balancing is sought. Partnership with the US includes far more than NATO, as the Strategy says, but no details are given with regard to other policy fields.

  • The OSCE is mentioned as a regional organization of ‘particular significance’ to the EU. EU-OSCE relations are certainly very close, but at the same time raise a number of significant questions. As a consequence of ever-growing EU activity, particularly with regard to its neighbourhood, the geographic as well as functional overlap between the two organizations is increasing. The naming of an EU Special Representative for the Southern Caucasus, which is now also mentioned in the Strategy, is a case in point. A clearer division of labour, with each organization focussing on the areas where it can offer the greatest added value, would enhance the efficiency and efficacy of both the EU and the OSCE.

  • Implicitly, the Strategy opts for the use of force as a last resort only, and with a UN Security Council mandate. On this issue, if at all, a crystal-clear, unambiguous position is wanted however, in order to prevent a recurrence of the paralyzing divide over the invasion of Iraq. Of course every case is particular and has to be judged on its merits to some degree, but as the Strategy is now formulated, too much room for interpretation is left; consequently, future crises could again lead to serious divisions and the paralysis of EU external action when it is most needed. The exemplary function of the EU vis-à-vis other States and regions calls for an explicit choice as well – who will yet support the collective security system of the UN if not the EU?

In other cases, policy documents in fact already exist even though the Strategy itself is less explicit; here the matter is to link current dynamics and policies to the overall objectives in the Strategy:

  • Although the Strategy names ‘building security in our neighbourhood’ as a strategic objective and defines the geographic scope of ‘neighbourhood’ very ambitiously, slight reference is made, beyond the general principle of promoting ‘good governance’ and providing economic support, as to how the effectiveness of existing instruments can be reinforced. The Wider Europe/Neighbourhood Policy initiative, which offers an opportunity to integrate existing policies towards the EU’s neighbouring States and, more importantly, to revitalize them at the same time, is not even mentioned at all, although on 13 October 2003 the Council already invited the Commission to submit detailed proposals for action plans by early 2004.

  • Little guidance is offered with regard to Sub-Saharan Africa, although the Strategy’s general approach is evidently applicable to the African continent. A very ambitious comprehensive approach is in fact outlined in a Common Position on conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa adopted in January 2004, which replaces the earlier 2001 position.97 A strong emphasis is put on empowering African States and regional organizations to deal themselves with crisis and conflict.

  • No idea is provided of what strategic partnership with Japan, China, Canada and India might entail, particularly whether a reorientation or deepening of existing relations is being envisaged.

The EU is a prominent international actor that has indeed developed policies in a vast range of fields. A first step towards the effective implementation of the Strategy could therefore be to draw up an inventory of existing policies in all fields of external action. On the one hand this would allow for a process of reassessing policies in view of the objectives in the Strategy and of strengthening coordination between policies; on the other hand the aspects of the Strategy which yet require elaboration into more specific policies could be identified.

5.2 Institutionalizing Strategic Culture

Four areas for initial action have in fact already been defined by the December 2003 European Council in Brussels, at the same time as adopting the Strategy:

  • ‘Effective multilateralism with the UN at its core’: this is at the heart of the comprehensive security approach. In this field a dynamic has certainly been created, which started with a new Commission communication on the subject98 and the EU-UN Joint Declaration of 24 September 2003, to which the strong emphasis on the UN in the Strategy has given additional impetus. In this light, the EU should certainly give its full support to the work of the High-Level Panel. Perhaps in this context substance can be given to the notion of global governance that is inherent in ‘effective multilateralism’;

  • ‘The fight against terrorism’: for the EU, the actual ‘fight’ is above all a matter of law enforcement agencies, in which field a lot has already been done to strengthen intra-European and transatlantic cooperation; intelligence sharing seems to be an area where there is a lot of room for improvement still. Apart from these specific measures, the EU believes in the general preventive scope of the global and neighbourhood policies rather than in the use of the military instrument; terrorism will certainly be an issue in political dialogues, partnerships and agreements between the EU and third States/organizations. So terrorism obviously remains high on the political agenda, inter alia because of its significance for the transatlantic partnership, but is unlikely to be the defining issue for EU external action;

  • ‘A strategy towards the region of the Middle East’: the priority accorded to a settlement in the Middle East certainly represents a change of pace, for in recent years the EU has been rather inactive with regard to the conflict, especially when compared with the period 1996-1999. The EU has long adopted an unambiguous position on the resolution of the conflict though. Nevertheless, forcing a breakthrough will not be easy, in view of the parties’ intransigence. By all means a joint effort by the EU and the US is required, given the fact that each has leverage on one of the parties to the conflict; in other words, an effective role for the EU also depends on the US recognizing it as an equal partner;

  • ‘A comprehensive policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina’: following the large-scale accession on 1 May 2004, integrating Bosnia-Herzegovina and then gradually the rest of the Balkans, continuing the stabilisation of the European continent through its force of attraction, seems to be the next challenge for the EU. Taking over SFOR from NATO fits in this broad approach towards the region.

The Brussels European Council also adopted the Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, crowning and completing EU policies on this issue, so this aspect of the Security Strategy has been elaborated upon already. The Irish Presidency, which assumed the leadership of the EU on 1 January 2004, has added an emphasis on conflict prevention, notably an increased focus on early warning leading to early preventive action and on longer term conflict prevention strategies.

Also ongoing is the process leading to the definition of a new ‘Headline Goal 2010’, which would serve to implement the military aspect of the Strategy’s chapter on capabilities. The level of ambitions as defined in the Strategy should determine which types of capabilities, and in which quantity, the EU needs to develop. Capabilities must meet the desire to play the leading role in stabilizing the EU’s neighbourhood, while also allowing for projection of forces further a field in support of the UN and ‘effective multilateralism’; in all cases, operations both with and without the use of NATO assets must be envisaged, so as to provide for all possible scenario’s. That use of force is considered rather an instrument of last resort is another factor to be taken into account when defining capability objectives. So the Strategy is the basis for the elaboration of scenarios; it is the overall political framework within which the EU Military Staff can assess which types of operations, at which scale and frequency, the EU can be confronted with, which can then be translated into capability needs. This would effectively amount to a ‘strategic defence review’ at the EU level.99 Only such a top-down process can ensure that the combined capabilities generated by the Member States, either nationally or through multinational cooperation and pooling of means, e.g. in the framework of ‘structured cooperation’ as provided for in the Draft Constitution, constitute a complete, coherent and interoperable whole that meets the needs and requirements of the EU.

The crucial challenge now is to establish the Strategy as the reference framework for external action, effectively guiding all of the EU’s external policies.

At the individual level, reference to the Strategy should come intuitively to all policy-makers involved in external action. A strategic culture should indeed be developed, not in the sense that policy-makers should look for politico-military or ‘robust’ answers to problems by default, as it is sometimes understood, but in the sense that policy-makers should at all times refer back to the choices contained in the Strategy and make their decisions accordingly. Greater consistency of EU policies will follow automatically. The same actually applies to the Member States, who should have the reflex to always act through the EU when dealing with issues covered by the Strategy, instead of acting under the national flag as often they still do, especially when specific actions are thought to have a big chance of success and would thus enhance national prestige. Recommendable though the objectives and results of national initiatives often may be, in the end they detract from the image of the EU as a coherent international actor and carry with them the risk of a lack of coordination and inconsistency.

At the institutional level, permanent mechanisms could be provided for continuously reviewing existing policies, elaborating the aspects of the Strategy that have not yet been translated into specific policies and ensuring coherence between policies. Institutionalizing these processes would not provide any guarantees as to the implementation of the Strategy; in the end, the political will of the Member States is the decisive factor. But without doubt it would diminish the chance, which is still present, of the Strategy being just a nicely-worded document conveniently smoothing over differences between the Member States and between both sides of the Atlantic, but without it really becoming the driver of external action.

A way of institutionalizing strategic culture would be to include a reference to the Strategy in the Constitution when the IGC is resumed. Analogous to the current Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union, Article III-193 of the Draft Constitution, in paragraphs 1 and 2 respectively, defines the principles and general objectives of the EU external action. The third and final paragraph of this Article could be amended so as to stipulate that the Security Strategy that is adopted by the European Council shall define how these objectives are to be pursued throughout the different dimensions of EU external action, thus formalizing the obligation to link all external action-related decisions to the Strategy. Currently, the Strategy basically is a political document, a European Council declaration; contrary to what its name might suggest, it does not have the legal status of a Common Strategy, the more specific and rather more binding CFSP-instrument that the European Council can adopt.100 Furthermore, the Security Strategy and the Strategy on WMD formally have the same status, although the latter elaborates just one aspect of the former. Including a binding reference to the Security Strategy in the Constitution would thus significantly enhance its status and would provide a sense of direction for the decision-making process.

Furthermore, existing mechanisms like the annual report on the CFSP and the annual Council debate on the effectiveness of external action could be reoriented and focus on the implementation of the Strategy as the policy framework covering the whole of external action. A further possibility would be to also provide for a regular review of the Strategy, every five years e.g., but such a mechanism would probably be too rigid. It could perhaps best be left to the discretion of policy-makers to decide when changed circumstances require a review of the Strategy, in order to avoid formal exercises without much actual content just because the Constitution demands so.101

With regard to coherence, the Union Minister of Foreign Affairs and the unified External Action Service as proposed in the Draft Constitution offer the best prospect of effectively integrating all fields of external action. The Minister of Foreign Affairs could also serve as the focal point for rapid decision-making when events demand short-term preventive measures or crisis management. As Rynning puts it: ‘Coercive power demands executive authority to make decisions and command resources […]’.102 The effective implementation of the Strategy is thus linked to the institutional reform of the EU that the Constitution should provide.

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