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Critique of the EU's Security Defence Policy

Info: 5432 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019

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Tagged: European StudiesMilitaryPolitics

Chapter I

The History and Development of the Common Security and Defence Policy

Since its beginnings with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, the European Union has moved far beyond economic ideas of a single market, a single currency or the removal of all trade barriers. The European Union has become more and more politically integrated as member states place a growing number of policy areas previously held nationally in the hands of the supranational and intergovernmental institutions of the European Union.

While prior attempts to bring security and defence issues or foreign policy matters into a European Union framework were largely ineffective, the last ten years have shown an important shift in these areas, leading the European Union to adopt not only a Common Foreign and Security Policy but also a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as well as a concise European Union Security Strategy.

This dissertation will argue that while the European Union is becoming increasingly integrated in areas pertaining to defence and has produced a framework for a Common Security and Defence Policy, serious shortcomings prevent the CSDP from becoming an effective military tool in the near to medium future. Over the past 60 years, the European countries have worked to agree a common framework and a common policy on defence. Now the EU must back the rhetoric and institutions which have emerged from this cooperation with capabilities. 

This thesis will argue that there is a substantial gap between current European defence capabilities and its aspirations in the field and explain which underlying factors contribute to this gap, despite clear rhetorical commitments to the Common Security and Defence Policy. This gap will need to be overcome if the EU wants to realise its ambitions. It will contrast European Union defence aims, as expressed in European Union publications, with actual European Union defence capabilities and institutions and experiences in the field. This thesis will also analyse whether more fundamental differences regarding strategy or political unwillingness to commit to military action add to the capabilities-aspirations gap.

The conditions for a common defence policy are almost as good as after the Second World War, due to the progressive retreat of US forces from Europe, and the deeper integration between European countries. The reduction of US military personnel in Europe could lead EU member states to take security more into their own hands as reliance on US protection becomes less assured. This does not mean that the US is ‘abandoning’ Europe but rather that US strategic and geopolitical interests have shifted away from Europe. This is illustrated by the substantial reduction of US troops stationed in Europe. Due to the size and state of European forces, coordinated and joint efforts to ensure Europe’s security make more sense from a financial and a security perspective than if for example Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands or Austria each had armies aimed at guaranteeing their own security (which they cannot do effectively anyway). 

This thesis will assume that cooperation and durable peace between EU member states is a given. In this context, the EU has formulated its Defence and Security policy, which is arguably Europe’s most ambitious project of integration as security has traditionally been an area that has remained under the control of national governments and therefore only reaches an intergovernmental mode of cooperation at the EU level. Nevertheless, the CSDP has set relatively clear goals for itself, which go beyond mere ideas of achieving a defence pact such as NATO. In fact, the CSDP appears to concentrate on the Petersberg tasks[1] leaving territorial defence completely in the realm of NATO and of the member states. 

These goals include, but are not limited to, bringing stability to the Union’s periphery, becoming a more persuasive and active global player, to improve European military capabilities to such a level as to allow the EU to take on the first two tasks, to build a comprehensive crisis management policy including civilian elements and finally to establish a common strategic culture in Europe that would bring the geopolitical objectives of EU member states closer together. 

However, despite excellent conditions to achieve these objectives and a global and European environment favouring the development of a defence policy, the CSDP fails to establish the conditions necessary to the realisation of its own ambitions laid out in chapter two. This work will demonstrate where the greatest discrepancies between aspirations and realities lie and where the CSDP and its participating member states lack the most. These areas will mostly mirror the ambitions that were analysed in the second chapter, in essence, the modernisation of armies, the development of adequate capabilities for the strategic goals the EU has set itself and the development of a common strategic culture. The third chapter will also analyse the conditions underlying the difficulties, which have to be overcome in order to fulfill the ambitions, for example, the lack of a single market in defence matters in the Union or the lack of political will to integrate defence competencies. A case study will illustrate how these deficiencies translate into the theatre of operation and what lessons can be learned from the missions undertaken for the CSDP.

The relationship with NATO is also important in understanding the limits or at least obstacles the CSDP might encounter before reaching the dimensions it aims to achieve. One must therefore understand whether NATO and the CSDP are mutually exclusive, competing against each other or even complementing each other. Does the CSDP progress when NATO regresses and vice versa? Which organisation will remain the preferred organisation for self-defence on the one hand and force projection operations on the other hand? Is a work-sharing scenario likely where NATO would take on high-end military operations whereas CSDP would focus on low-end military operations and civilian missions? The fourth chapter will argue that while NATO has weakened politically in recent years, it will certainly not be done away with. One may however argue that the creation of a ‘European Pillar’ within NATO is becoming more likely. The role Canada has played and could play in the CSDP will also be discussed. This dissertation will argue that Canada often finds itself between a rock and a hard place in NATO and that it should allow itself some flexibility for working with both NATO and the CSDP, separately if necessary. The security values Canada traditionally shares with Europe could help to be the common ground to establish a permanent link between Canada’s armed forces and the CSDP.

Overview of the Chapters

The first chapter broadly examines the history of European defence and security cooperation and its institutions since 1945 and looks more specifically at the period from the Saint-Malo summit of 1998 to now, as the Saint-Malo agreement between France and the United Kingdom effectively led to the Common Security and Defence Policy in its current form. This includes examining relevant treaties, agreements and summits of this period in order to give an account of how the current legal and institutional framework came about.

 A historical perspective is relevant, because it provides insight into the dynamics of European politics, which are hindering the development of a single strategic culture. It also provides the reader with background and historical information regarding European politics and the balancing of currently 27 national interests at the European Union level, which is discussed in more detail in chapters two and three. Chapter One also outlines the efforts, which have been made to back the Common Foreign and Security Policy with defence elements, i.e. the Common Security and Defence Policy as well as the relationship between Foreign and Defence Policy of the EU.

The second chapter focuses on the major aspirations of the Common Security and Defence Policy by analysing statements of European leaders and European Union officials during summits, as documented in press releases and European Union publications. While the 2010 Headline goals represent imminent and concrete aspirations, this thesis also assesses the objectives aspired to in the European Security Strategy, which states that the European Union needs to be “more active in pursuing our strategic objectives.

This 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.”[2] The second chapter, therefore, includes not only a description of the current defence institutions of the European Union, but also identifies the forum used for the majority of discussions in the defence realm. The aim of Chapter two is to provide the reader with an insight to the underlying politics and dynamics, which drive and hamper the process of European integration in general and the development of a Common Security and Defence Policy in particular. It focuses particularly on the positions and attitudes of the ‘big three’ of European politics, namely France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and includes an analysis of the traditional French preference for European Defence options and the British turnaround on the European Security and Defence Policy since Saint-Malo.

The third chapter addresses the conditions that have to be met to build an operational military force for the EU. It analyses the existing institutional framework and the capabilities currently in place for the European Security and Defence Policy in order to highlight its deficiencies. Furthermore, it assesses the impact of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and joint research and development programs of European defence firms. Chapter three also outlines the budgetary constraints that limit the development of such capabilities. It focuses on the military aspects of the CSDP as civilian aspects of international mission are largely deemed to be exceeding international standards. One should however note that the EU sees the CSDP as a combination of civilian and military crisis management tools.

 Chapter three also contains a case study briefly outlining the missions and operations undertaken under the European Security and Defence Policy, in order to draw lessons from these missions. The thesis takes into account which countries are in command for specific European Security and Defence Policy missions and what in fact constitutes a mission under the European Security and Defence Policy, since the military scope of some missions is not always evident. The third chapter also suggests changes to European Union security thinking and the common strategic culture of Europe that need to occur in order for the European Union to develop its defence aspirations.

The fourth chapter addresses the relationship between the European Security and Defence Policy and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Canada’s relationship with the European Security and Defence Policy will also be considered. It will argue that for the time being, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation remains the primary defence forum, at least in terms of territorial defence and for major operations, as military missions depend largely on the military might of the United States. It examines the divide in strategic thinking in the European Union where key member states such as the United Kingdom or some Central and Eastern European Countries prefer to maintain the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s primacy, whereas others, for example France or Ireland, appear to favour a European option.

 However, it also explains how and why the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been regressing as an institution in Europe as European Union defence cooperation has been progressing since the end of the Cold War. It also shows that while large-scale operations remain dependent on US and thereby NATO input, military missions with limited scale can now be carried out by European forces on their own. This makes the creation of a European pillar within NATO an increasingly likely option. Chapter four also offers a section focusing on the issues and opportunities the changes to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Common Security and Defence Policy present for Canada.

This thesis will then conclude with an outlook to the future of European security and defence cooperation. It will address the prospects of a continued European Union cooperation and assess the impact this would have on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation framework. For this assessment, it will draw from previously made arguments and offer a concluding view of the aspiration-capabilities gap of the Common Security and Defence Policy, largely dependent on changes to the strategic culture and the security thinking of Europeans.

The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community

With the Berlin crisis of 1947, the separation of Germany in the late 1940s and the growth of communism worldwide, the United States concluded that all Western European states including West Germany needed to contribute more to their own defences. However, its European neighbours, in particular France, viewed West Germany’s rearmament very critically. This resulted in France drafting its own plan for Europe’s defence, the European Defence Community (EDC). In 1950, René Pleven, the French President of the Council, today’s equivalent of the country’s prime minister, issued a proposal for the EDC, in response to American calls for the rearmament of West Germany.

The plan aimed to build a transnational European defence force as an alternative to Germany’s accession to NATO. It intended to control the military strength of the new German state supranationally in proportion with possible conflicts with the Soviet bloc. The EDC parties were France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries. On 27 May 1952, a treaty creating the EDC was signed. It was, however, never ratified by all parties and thus never came into effect.

The plan collapsed when the French Assemblée Nationale voted against its ratification. Some Gaullists feared that the EDC would infringe on France’s national sovereignty. Other conservatives had concerns about the constitutional indivisibility of the French Republic (i.e. subjecting it to some kind of supranational authority) and about the remilitarization of Germany. Communists and other leftists opposed a plan tying France to the capitalist United States, and setting it in opposition to the Soviet bloc. The absence of the United Kingdom from the EDC was also of concern to some parties. 

In other words, the same parties and ideologies (with the exception of some Gaullists) that opposed the EDC in 1954, opposed the European Constitution in a referendum over 50 years later. The French National Assembly voted against ratifying the EDC treaty on 30 August 1954 by a vote of 319 “no” to 264 “yes” votes.[3] Along with the above ideological issues, important disjuncture between the original Pleven Plan of 1950, and the plan of 1954 lead to its defeat. Many preferred the original plan of Pleven to the draft that went to ratification before parliament a few years later.

The EDC would have established a European military, formed by troops committed to it by national forces. French, Italian, Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg forces would report to their national governments under coordination of the EDC, whereas bureaucrats of the supranational EDC would control the German component. Due to fears of a remilitarised Germany, the EDC member states agreed that the German government would not have control over its own military. Interestingly, in the event that the EDC would fail, the parties agreed to allow Germany to control its own military. 

Since the EDC was designed as a common defence army, most countries would only have committed territorial defence forces, not capable of engaging into the expeditionary missions it envisages for the CSDP today.[4] The EDC also provided to put in place common equipment procurements. It would have had a centralised budget, arms and institutions, its structure would have been more integrated and more supranational than the EU is under the Treaty of Lisbon, even in economic matters.[5] Today, the European Union, NATO and to an increasingly limited extent the Western European Union all carry out some of the functions that were envisaged for the EDC. However, these organisations do not reach the degree of integration and supranationality the EDC would have provided for.

The Western European Union

After the EDC treaty failed to be ratified by the French Parliament, the Treaty of Brussels signatory countries as well as West Germany and Italy agreed to create instead a European security and defence organisation. The Western European Union would be based on the Treaty of Brussels. The 1948 Treaty of Brussels between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom was the first significant European defence treaty signed after the end of the Second World War, and was the first attempt to form an alliance to counter Communism in Europe’s periphery. 

It was originally intended as a mutual defence pact aimed at defending its signatories against a possible new German threat. However, soon after the treaty had been adopted, Western European countries began to recognise that the USSR represented a far greater threat to their security than a recovering Germany, especially since the latter was fully integrated in Western international organisations. The Western European Union however remained weak, lacking the forces, capabilities and reputation it required to be an effective institution. 

Already then, Europe was having difficulties in agreeing a framework and resources to build a common army on its own. Western European Union member states continued to rely on the United States to guarantee their security against the USSR in order to counter the military power of the USSR. As a result, the EU joined the US initiative to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1949, together with the United States and Canada, which would consist of a system of collective defence obliging its member states to respond if any one of them were attacked.[6]

Foreign and defence policy cooperation in Europe have always been closely linked as will be illustrated by a more detailed discussion of the relationship between CSDP and CFSP later in this chapter. In the late 1950s, European Community member states tried to create foreign policy cooperation through the Fouchet Plans between 1959 and 1962, which also proved unsuccessful. The creation of a basic European foreign policy was finally agreed on with the European Political Cooperation in 1970, although it only took onto its current form since the creation of the European Union in 1993. The European Political Cooperation can however be considered to have been the predecessor of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

A Revival of Foreign Policy Cooperation: The European Political Cooperation

The European Political Cooperation was the mode of operation of foreign policy coordination in the European Communities until the Common Foreign and Security Policy superseded it through the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the European Communities (EC) member states attempted to give the EC a foreign policy dimension, but such initiatives never left the stage of informal discussions. This changed with The Hague summit of 1969 when governments instructed their foreign ministers, to “study the best way of achieving progress in the matter of political unification, within the context of enlargement.”[7] As a result, European foreign ministers drafted the Luxembourg / Davignon report, which put into place an informal intergovernmental consultation mechanism by which “member states could achieve politics of scale.”[8] 

The European Political Cooperation adopted the intergovernmental mode of operation proposed by the Fouchet Plans and the participation of the United Kingdom guaranteed its Atlanticist nature. This allowed the United Kingdom to influence politics at the European level even though it only joined the European Communities in 1973. The European Political Cooperation also allowed the European Commission to express its opinion in matters affecting its competence. Furthermore, the European Political Cooperation did not have the Paris-based powerful secretariat the Fouchet plans had aimed for. Some countries had been uneasy about such a secretariat, as they feared it could turn into a competitor of the European Commission. The European Political Cooperation was strengthened and amended by the Copenhagen report of 1973 and the London report of 1981. It was codified and formalised with the Single European Act of 1986.

The European Political Cooperation enjoyed limited success. During the 1970s, it attempted mediating and brokering between parties in the Middle-East conflict and helped create the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the predecessor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). However, the organisation of the European Political Cooperation remained informal and its competencies vague. The intergovernmental mode of operation often proved stifling, thereby limiting its impact on world events. This remains a challenge to European foreign policy until today. 

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the handling of the Yugoslav Wars from 1991 to 1995 exposed the weaknesses of the European Political Cooperation.[9] The Yugoslav wars triggered a renewed discussion, and eventually a complete break with past positions of the EU on a common European involvement in Foreign and Defence policy, as European countries failed to prevent or even manage the first Balkan crisis, just beyond its borders. The Yugoslav wars effectively led to the creation of the Common Foreign and Defence Policy, as Europeans saw that the European Political Cooperation was insufficient to coordinate common foreign policy action, while each member state was unwilling to get involved individually in the conflict. The European Political Cooperation never reached the dimensions of the European Defence Community or today’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, since most military components remained with the Western European Union and because foreign policy competencies remained in the hands of the EC and defence policy competencies in the hands of the Western European Union.

The Treaty of Maastricht

In 1992, the Treaty of Maastricht brought about a new framework to EU external action and to the EU in general. With the end of the Cold War, NATO’s original function, the defence against the Soviet Bloc and the Warsaw Pact disappeared. For the US, the collapse of the Soviet Union clearly reduced the centrality of Europe to its security policy as the reduction of its forces permanently stationed in Europe over the past 20 years exemplifies.[10] Other theatres outside Europe, for example the Gulf region and the Middle East gained in strategic importance for the United States. Consequently, calls from Washington for the Europeans to take greater responsibility for their own regional security grew in volume and strength. When the first conflicts across the Balkans broke out, the member states of the European Union realised that its sphere of peace and stability did not extend beyond its borders.

Influenced by its inability to agree and cooperate on the Balkan wars, European Union member states signed the Maastricht Treaty in February 1992, which declared “the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framework of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to common defence.”[11] The Treaty further requested the Western European Union, which was now referred to as an “integral part of the development of the Union, to elaborate and implement decisions on actions of the Union which have defence implications.”[12] The WEU thereby became mostly integrated into the EU. Many functions of the Western European Union were transferred to the EU, and the Western European Union was essentially phased out over the next 10 years.

In the years following the Maastricht Treaty, the Yugoslav conflict worsened. The United States resisted involvement in the Yugoslav civil war under both presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton as they considered it a European problem. European diplomatic efforts to stop the war proved unsuccessful and divisions among the EU member states increased. The United Nations forces had neither the mandate nor the capabilities to prevent the massacres in Sarajevo and Srebrenica. The Dutch and with them the rest of Europe recognised after Srebrenica that the current format of a UN mandate supported and executed by NATO troops was insufficient. 

The Europeans turned to its transatlantic allies again, which reluctantly agreed to lead NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1995. The American intervention was considered an emergency measure Europeans could and should not rely on again in the future. The conflict showed how dependent Europe remained on US military assets and how problematic this dependence was, when the United States was reluctant to get involved in a conflict Europeans had a stake in. Because of their military dependence on the US, the European NATO members decided to create a European pillar within the framework of NATO, which they hoped would strengthen Europe’s political cohesion and military capabilities.

NATO itself was undergoing a process of reform and redefinition triggered by the end of the Cold War, which not all of its members were convinced it would survive. In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam brought about consensus among EU member states that a common European policy on security and defence matters should be incorporated into the EU framework. The EU and its members had realised that the framework of the Treaty of Maastricht required further adjustments, especially in terms of foreign policy. The Amsterdam Treaty provided for the ‘progressive’ framing of a common defence policy and, more importantly, incorporated the ‘Petersberg Tasks’ into the legal framework of the EU. The Petersberg tasks are humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking tasks to be carried out by armed forces that the European Union is empowered to do with recourse to a United Nations mandate. They had been defined at the Petersberg Hotel near Bonn by the Western European Union Council in June 1992. 

The member states agreed to deploy the whole spectrum of their military and resources under the authority of the Western European Union in approved circumstances or events. As a part of the merger of the Western European Union with the European Union, the Petersberg tasks now form a part of the European Security and Defence Policy. The adoptions of the provisions contained in the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Petersberg tasks were both significant steps in the evolution of the CSDP, but their importance should not be overstated. The Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties provided only the framework for an emerging European security and defence policy. The continued reliance on the United States and the bleak European response to the Yugoslavian crisis stressed the need to add substance to this framework.


For half a century, the different attitudes of Britain and France towards serious European defence and security cooperation acted as a substantial obstacle to its development. While France believed that the creation of a capability-backed European defence project would lead to a more balanced and therefore stronger Atlantic Alliance, Britain feared that the opposite would be the case. It was worried that Washington would retreat from Europe and abandon NATO. However, the example of Yugoslavia and Kosovo made the Europeans realise that the United States would not pay their bail in every case. 

Even the new British Prime Minister Tony Blair had become convinced that the US was no longer willing to play the role of Europe’s peacemaker, unless Europe took more responsibility towards it own security. As Blair explained, “We Europeans should not expect the United States to have to play a part in every disorder in our own backyard.”[13] The British Strategic Defence Review of 1998 reflected this view, stressing the “vital role” of the EU, notably through the Common Foreign and Security Policy.[14] In the view of many Europeans, this also entailed that NATO was not the adequate forum of dealing with international matters, let alone some of the Petersberg tasks. For some, NATO was limited to being a territorial defence alliance, and the void created by new security conditions of extra-territorial defence had to be filled by other means.

At the climax of the Kosovo crisis, Prime Minister Blair met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac in Saint-Malo in December 1998. In a joint declaration, the UK and France stressed that the European Union “must have the capacity for autonomous action backed up by credible military forces” in order to respond to international crises.[15] The ability to achieve these tasks, the means to decide to use them and a readiness to do so were deemed necessary for the EU to be able to “take decisions and approve military action where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged.”[16] 

At first, the Saint-Malo declaration only appeared to be an attempt to speed up the process of implementing what had been agreed upon at the Amsterdam summit on the Foreign and Security Policy in 1997, namely, the “progressive framing of a common defence policy.”[17] However, the declaration also appeared to move beyond such statements. While it honoured the collective defence provisions of NATO’s Article five, it did not mention in any way the Berlin-Brussels agreements on NATO’s implicit primacy and the notion that there should not be a duplication of NATO for tasks falling outside of Article five such as in Kosovo. The explicit idea of a European Defence policy within the NATO framework that could make use of separable but not separate military capabilities was also absent. The omission of either of these key issues was unprecedented and therefore a significant redirection of European defence and security politics.

The declaration also asserted that “the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action” (emphasis added).[18] The inclusion of the word “autonomous” in this declaration was highly significant since it had never been used before in such a context. France understood “autonomous” in the sense that the European defence initiative should be independent of NATO. Britain however interpreted the word as meaning that the European defence project could develop autonomously but only under the umbrella of NATO. Whereas for France, European security and defence policy should be mainly a European project, assuming a readiness, when necessary, to make use of NATO assets, for the UK, such cooperation was seen as the best means of maintaining the Atlantic Alliance only with a stronger and more coordinated European presence

While the British Prime Minister’s willingness to sign the Saint-Malo Declaration may well have derived in part from his desire to boost Britain’s role in the EU after its non-accession to the Euro, Prime Minister Blair certainly believed that a move towards enhanced European military capabilities would reduce American criticism about inadequate burden-sharing in international operations, which had intensified during the Kosovo conflict.[19] The Saint-Malo Declaration was adopted bilaterally and outside the EU framework, without first consulting other EU member states or discussing the matter with them. However, it was agreed upon by the two most important European states in military matters and two states holding different views of NATO, the transatlantic relationship and the rol

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