Partnering for Global Security: The EU, Its Strategic Partners and Transnational Security Challenges

Written by | Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Thomas Renard (Egmont – The Royal Institute for International Relations)

Europe is currently being confronted with a number of security issues, which by their nature transcend national boundaries and although these are, by and large, not entirely new challenges, they can continually evolve and gradually adapt to the changing international environment. The 2003 European Security Strategy identifies four fundamental types of such security challenges. These include terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), organized crime and cyber security. The fight against these problems must be led, among others, at the global level, which has prompted the European Union to establish strategic alliances within the frame-work of multilateral and bilateral treaties and platforms.

Among the ten strongest global players, the United States is by far Europe’s most important partner with whom the Union has greatly strengthened its cooperation in all four strategic areas over the years. The transatlantic partnership with the United States is moreover positively per-ceived also by European citizens in all its aspects. Japan, South Korea and Canada also fall into the category of Europe’s democratic partners on the global scale, and it was particularly the Land Of the Rising Sun with whom the EU has maintained a sufficiently developed cooperation. The cooperation with India and Brazil does not have the same intensity in each of the four stra-tegic areas, which is even more evident when it comes to the countries such as Mexico and South Africa. The partnership with these countries is, however, still in its infancy, and therefore it is expected that the Union will cooperate with them more and more intensively in the near future.

Russia and China then lie at the opposite end of the value spectrum. Given the normative dif-ferences, for example in their respective views of the democratic system, the cooperation with these countries is much more difficult, though admittedly security challenges cannot be ad-dressed without the assistance of these powers at the regional or global scale. The Union and Russia have thus managed to establish an ambitious agenda in the fight against organized crime, though the reality of the Ukrainian conflict significantly undermines this partnership. In the areas of the prevention of the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction or the strengthening of cyber security, these partners often seem more like a big part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Although the EU is trying to position itself as a security player with global ambitions, its influ-ence in this area cannot be so far described as significant enough. The transnational nature of the outlined challenges could, however, enhance the coordination of the EU foreign and security policy at the European level in the future. Nonetheless, until this scenario becomes reality, the long-standing argument – namely that the Union’s security partnerships reach their limits within the EU itself rather than with the above-mentioned allies – will remain valid.

The study can be downloaded here

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