Written by | Thursday, December 19th, 2013

European Defence under Scrutiny: What Can Be Expected from the European Council?
Tuomas Iso-Markku (The Finnish Institute of International Affairs)

EU security and defense policy is on the agenda for the December meeting of the European Council. Does this mean that the single European army will be created or would the EU countries once again dismiss the dream about Europe as a strong European actor? Since last December, this theme has been frequently discussed among the Council members and expectations are high. The author of this analysis assumes that if there is no agreement on this issue this time, the termination of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is sealed.

The US is increasingly distancing itself from European security issues, which means that the Europeans themselves will have to take responsibility for their own safety. However, the EU member states cannot agree even on the simple issue, such as whether or not and to what extent the EU should participate in solving international conflicts. Although the Union has a wide variety of instruments its comprehensive approach – from development assistance for military force – it is unable to effectively use them due to the lack of political consensus. NATO has always been seen as a cornerstone of the European defense. With the United States stepping aside, it is important for the Europeans to remember that NATO will only be as strong as is the strength of its European members.

In recent years, the problem of serious deficiencies in military capacities of even the largest member states became increasingly obvious. If the cuts in the defense budget continued, the European military capabilities will continue to decline. The budget cuts have a direct impact on European defense industry, research and development. The situation is complicated by the traditional protection of this sector from foreign competition or deals of individual states. The coordination of security policy at the European level would lead to big savings and efficiency.

At the December summit, any serious strategic debate will probably be omitted since the definition of priorities is now crucial. Without the definition of priorities, the states will never agree when and where to intervene and what capacity needs to be invested to common security. The current European security strategy is a vague and outdated document. An attempt at creating a new strategy will probably not take place because the debate would only enhance the existing discrepancies between the perspectives of individual states. The document produced by this new debate could be even less ambitious than the current one. The summit will then rather be about how to better implement policy that was already agreed and to agree on how to improve cooperation in areas in which there is consensus.

Divided Asia: The Implications for Europe
Francois Godement (European Council on Foreign Relations – ECFR)

Francois Godement, strategic director of the Asian Centre and the Head the ‘Program of China and Asia’ at ECFR, deals, in his recent work, with the dynamics of security in Asia and its links with overall economic trends, taking into account historical developments, the rise of China and the role of the United States that is still the most important Western partner for Asian countries.

In the case of Asia, most of the media, politicians and the public focus mainly on the economic opportunities that the continent has to offer. However, despite the relatively high level of economic integration, different historical territorial disputes and tensions over the division of boundaries combined with nationalism seem to constitute an increasingly serious problem.

Europe and Asia have adopted very different approaches to trade and security cooperation in the region. With regard to trade and economic matters, Europe deals with its partners on the basis of bilateral agreements and currently is not a member of any single large initiative such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). However, in the field of security, Europe promotes respect for the international law rather than the multilateral system that operated in Europe after the WWII. However, Asia that has never relied on this system is currently moving in a different direction. Moreover, it is assumed that, in the future, Asian countries will be taking care of their own security without help from Western powers as previous guarantors of regional security.

For this reason, Europe should concentrate on expanding its arms trade and, by that, strengthen its role in security. Europe should also take the US as an example and move from the system of bilateral agreements to support the strategy of regional trade (Trans-Pacific Partnership). Thus, if Europe does not want to be left behind, it should quickly follow the example of the United States and create its equivalent of “Trans- Eurasia Partnership”. Such a strategy could facilitate strengthening of relationship between Europe and Asia.

The Janus-Faced New European Neighbourhood Policy: Normative (Hard) Power vs. the Pragmatic (Soft) Approach
Frederico Casolari (Istituto Affari Internazionali)

The way the European Neighborhood Policy has been implemented, has been highly criticized. The emphasis was placed especially on its inefficiency and weak institutional and legal framework. Particularly the nature of the legal instruments that are available to the European Union for the implementation of the ENP has become a thorny issue. It has always been based mainly on the so-called soft power and its legal instruments, which should have provided for the necessary flexibility and differentiation.

It was the Lisbon Treaty that introduced the formalization of the ENP, aiming at replacing the soft power by a new political concept, which attaches more importance to the normative power of the EU. However, the author notes that the new legislation could not be successfully put into practice because the ENP is still performed largely pragmatically using soft power and its instruments. The reason for the legal instruments of soft power to prevail is the belief of EU member states that only instruments will ensure flexibility and adaptability in light of the different circumstances that the individual partner countries are facing.

However, this assumption does not stand a chance when closely examined and it may also threaten the development of the whole European Neighborhood Policy. The author argues that, with the help of a wider and more frequent use of multilateral or bilateral agreements as the main instruments of EU normative power, both the flexibility and a greater degree of responsibility of each European actor involved in the implementation of the ENP can be achieved. The use of legally binding international treaties would serve as legal standard and will prevent the circumvention of individual arrangements within the ENP (which is often the case when soft power is used) and allow the allocation of individual competences between the EU and the member states. European stakeholders should therefore better reflect the need for a balance between differentiation and efficiency.

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