European Strategy, European Defense and the CSDP

Written by | Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Sven Biscop, Jo Coelmont, Margriet Drent and Dick Zandee (Egmont – The Royal Institute for International Relations)

In June 2016, the European Council will start to discuss the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, whose current preparation is within the agenda of the High Representative, Federica Mogherini. The importance of this initiative is given by the gradual changes in the international security system, to which the European Union must inevitably adapt. On a global scale, the hegemony of the developed West is slowly but surely being replaced by a multipolar system, which is characterized by increasing tensions between the United States and China as well as a general shift of the economic and political influence towards the Asia-Pacific region.

The EU should therefore focus more on the belt of medium-sized regions of its wider neighborhood, stretching from West Africa across the Indian Ocean, Central Asia to the Arctic. In the relations with its closest neighboring countries, the EU should adequately grasp the challenges arising from the East and South, whether it is a revisionist Russia or regional instability in Syria and North Africa resulting in terrorist threats and migration waves. Given that up to 90 percent of Europe’s trade takes place at sea, the EU should be actively contributing to the improvement of naval safety in a global context.

As expected, the global strategy will also significantly affect the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). Due to the turbulent situation on Europe’s borders in the past few years, the military and civilian units have been deployed ever closer to the European territory under the CSDP (for example, Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean). This leads to the linking of external and internal security dimensions, which could result in closer cooperation of the CSDP and NATO components, both of which remain the main guarantors of the defense of the EU.

The global strategy also presents an ideal opportunity for the subsequent drafting of the White Paper on Defense, where the ambitions and goals set out in the strategy received a more concrete character, and which would also evaluate the EU’s overall potential to achieve them. For example, in order to make the Union in the future operational in its wider neighborhood without the assistance of the United States, the White Paper must set out specific requirements towards the Member States that they will subsequently implement in their multi-year defense plans. Some members could eventually opt for a joint deeper integration in matters of security and defense, thereby de facto partly fulfilling the essence of the permanent structured cooperation, as laid out in the Lisbon Treaty.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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