The EU Global Strategy and Defense: The Challenge of Thinking Strategically About Means  

Written by | Monday, December 12th, 2016

Fabian Willermain and Anca Cioriciu (Egmont – The Royal Institute for International Relations)

In late June, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini presented the new Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) at the European Council meeting. This is already the second version because the EU’s first security strategy was introduced in 2003. Almost three months have passed since its introduction but the plan for the implementation of this document was submitted to Member States only at the end of November. Can the strategy be considered successful so far? Are its objectives being met?

Within this concept, we encounter two battalions with a varying size of their power when on standby. It is these battle groups that have been the subject of discussions for a long time. Criticism is raised particularly regarding their automatic accessibility, which is a measure for how fast they can be deployed. This debate has yielded a proposal to increase the EU’s military ambitions. The battalions could be increased by merging the two battle groups into one brigade and four battalions instead of two, which would double their power. However, in order to keep the EUGS operational, this boost would still be insufficient.

Those who think that the EUGS comes up with greater military ambitions of the EU Member States are mistaken. The aim of the EU battle groups is not their readiness to fight, but, as agreed on in 1998, their readiness to be deployed as corps (ie. 60,000 troops) of air and naval forces for a period of up to one year.

Another problem, which the EU has to deal with, is the fact that Member States are not autonomous in their military strategies. This fact stems from the EU Member States’ cooperation with the UN or NATO during military operations. Obtaining this strategic autonomy is necessary, among others, also because unless European countries have demonstrated their willingness and ability to act in the military area, this can negatively influence their mutual relations with the US. There is a risk that European countries could even lose the United States as a key ally.

The Union seeks to use the EUGS as a tool to enhance the army’s strategic goals, but it foremost obliges Member States to carry out the tasks to attain these strategic goals themselves. But more questions remain unanswered: Will the EUGS lead the European nations to a greater strategic autonomy? And is it possible to achieve the EUGS’ objectives without a revision of the basic assumptions of this document?

(The study can be downloaded here)

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