Security: A comprehensive approach

Security bridge concept as business people running across two high cliffs with the help of a safe giant umbrella bridging the gap.

The European Union currently finds itself in a strategic environment that has changed fundamentally over the pastrecent years. The international system is in flux, with shifting power balances, the emergence of new actors on the global stage, and new threats to Europe’s security. The EU is confronted with complex issues ranging from regional to global dimensions. Among them the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as well as conflicts in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, terrorist attacks on European soil, and radicalisation. At the same time, the EU is dealing with a major refugee crisis and the need for a concerted humanitarian response. Energy dependence and global climate change are also pressing problems.

In today’s multipolar and globalised world, these challenges cannot be solved at the national level alone but require cooperation at the European level. The economic crisis and ensuing cuts in defence and security budgets only underscore this. To protect Europe’s interests both at home and abroad, the European Union offers the best forum for cooperation on defence and security issues.

The current crises have revealed the EU’s limited capacity in crisis management, and oblige it to formulate a better response to the ongoing security crisis urgently. However, there is a lack of political will among Member States: the EU heads of state seem reluctant to develop a comprehensive and coordinated response to the different issues facing Europe. But European citizens expect short, medium and long term answers to the current security challenges.

In order to develop a common and effective European response to the various security threats that it faces, the EU needs to:

Strategise and prioritise
High Representative Federica Mogherini will prepare an EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, to be presented by June 2016. This strategy should be realistic, streamlining the existing strategies and policies and set top priorities that all Member States share and should adhere to. A European White Book on Defence should be drafted to follow up on this strategy in order to identify threats and possible solutions, also with regard to the reinforcement of the CSDP. It would also help to concretise the EU’s priorities in terms of capabilities.

Speak with one voice
The strategising and prioritising exercise undertaken by Federica Mogherini will not ensure an effective and common action unless there is a political will among the Member States to cooperate and devote resources to it. This exercise will only have impact if Member States actively convey a joint message and pursue the same priorities, including in other international fora.

Use existing provisions and tools
The Lisbon Treaty contains several articles that have never been implemented, such as articles 20.2 on enhanced cooperation, 44 on the flexibility provision and, in particular, 46 on Permanent Structured Cooperation. The first invocation of the mutual defence clause (article 42.7) by France should be used to further develop concrete security and defence cooperation. The actual deployment of the EU Battlegroups as a first responder in a given conflict would also be a step in the right direction. However, these provisions and tools can only be employed with the aim of ensuring peace on the European continent and in its neighbourhood, and to contribute to peace efforts worldwide whilst defending human rights and promoting European values. Their misuse could generate new crises.

Complete the single market for defence
The completion of the single market for defence, following existing Commission plans, is an important element for a closer, integrated and more competitive defence industry, as well as for civilian and military synergies in research and technology. It will ensure a more efficient use of resources in times of austerity, while increasing Europe’s capability to face security challenges.

Explore new areas of defence cooperation
Fully exploiting the above-mentioned options is not enough to respond to the challenges facing Europe, and new areas of the defence cooperation should be explored. Increased cooperation in the field of cybercrime by setting up an EU Cyber Command could be a start, as well as setting up a permanent civil and military headquarters. Following these steps, the concept of a European army in the form of pooled capabilities and harmonisation among EU armed forces should be pursued, paying special attention to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of civilian and military personnel. Further integration of defence resources can also bring about greater efficiency of budgetary capacities.

Cooperation with partners
The EU needs not only to cooperate internally, but also externally. With regard to NATO, concrete ways to increase cooperation, while avoiding duplication, should be identified. The EU should keep an open channel with all partners and future EU members when devising its security and defence policies.

Coordinated, impactful and joint action is needed to respond to the ongoing and future security challenges. An immediate response is key, and in this light, short-term and practical measures using existing policies, tools and treaty provisions – such as permanent structured cooperation or the flexibility mechanism – should be prioritised. With that in mind, however, only deeper integration in the field of defence and security policy will allow the European Union to bring together its military capabilities, strengthen its global position and permanently ensure its security.

EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy: what should it contain?

The EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy is currently being prepared by High Representative Federica Mogherini. This strategy should start from the core function of the European Union: ensuring peace and security on the European continent and beyond, while respecting European values. Furthermore, it should define European interests and decide on a limited set of key priorities. These can include different sub-priorities or themes. Without pretending to present an exhaustive list, the following elements should be addressed throughout the strategy:

Addressing the current refugee crisis in Europe asks for a focus on the causes of the refugee flows. There is a clear security dimension in addressing the conflicts that result in the displacement of people, such as the war in Syria. The implementation of the so-called EU Agenda on Migration should be fully coherent with the overall direction of the EU’s foreign and security policy. The recent plans to secure Europe’s external borders should also be fully aligned with the new strategy, while ensuring safe access to the EU as well as the freedom of movement.

Structuring relations with Europe’s different neighbours and partners should form a key part of the strategy. The recently reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy should, as is intended, be closely integrated in the EU Global Strategy, and its policies should be in line with the overall strategies set for EU security and foreign policy.

Enlargement should be an integral part of the strategy. Based on strict but fair and credible conditionality, with special emphasis on human rights and democracy, the enlargement process fosters the rule of law, economic development, good governance as well as good neighbourly relations among (potential) candidate countries. As one of the most successful external policies of the EU, it has a direct impact on the peace and security on the European continent.

Climate change and security are closely interwoven. Not only does global warming pose a direct threat to Europe – for example in rising sea levels – but the impact of global warming often aggravates existing tensions and security problems elsewhere, not in the least in the form of mass population displacements, for example due to droughts, water shortages, and poor harvests. Climate change is one of the key challenges that no state can solve by itself, thus asking for closer cooperation on a higher level.

Energy plays a role in many of the conflicts in Europe’s neighbourhood and has a strong geopolitical aspect. Europe’s energy dependency makes it vulnerable, and diversification, interconnection and integration of European energy markets is therefore important. Externally, cooperation in energy matters might have a positive effect on current conflicts. Continuing to purchase Russian gas, in addition to diversification and reduced energy dependency, will put the EU in a stronger position vis-à-vis Russia.

Development cooperation
The EU is one of the biggest global actors in development cooperation, an area that also shows a high level of unity among its Member States. Assistance in establishing good governance, human and economic development in its neighbourhood and worldwide will prevent conflicts and critical situations such as the current migration crisis facing Europe. Development cooperation is therefore a crucial element in the answer to a variety of challenges.

The digital realm
The digital realm is of increasing importance with regard to security. Countering (online) propaganda, cyberwarfare from state-actors, as well as cyberwarfare from non-state actors such as terrorist groups, extremist groups or hacktivists are important elements that should be addressed in any up-to-date security strategy. EU Member States need to invest more in sharing information and improving digital security, while respecting the privacy of citizens. Permanent structures of intelligence-sharing, which will feature all stakeholders, will help develop mutual understanding of common digital security threats and build the trust needed between governments, businesses and citizens to deliver a transparent, robust and proportional digital security network at the EU level.

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