A European Security Strategy for the future inspired by the past

Today more than ever, there is a strong call for a uniform EU foreign and security position as a consequence of the current events in Ukraine, of the energy security issues, or of the future prospects for further enlargement. In this article, I will shortly suggest a view on the shape of EU’s upcoming Security Strategy.

European Security Strategy

© European Union 2014 – European Parliament

The European Union is the incarnation of a pragmatic ideal: the need for security, prosperity and good relations between European nations. The end of World War II enabled the creation of an earlier aspiration, a united Europe, after leaving aside the logic of balance of power and by promoting economic integration and shared sovereignty. It is the power of history that kept peace in Europe so far and it should inspire a future EU Security Strategy.

For now, EU’s approach is based on two instruments: the European Security Strategy (external security) and the Internal Security Strategy. Both define security issues under globalization which is in turn seen as a force of progress and as an open tap for risks and challenges. What Europe ought to continue doing is to deal with threats by adopting a comprehensive approach and a multitude of policies.

Internally, the main threats remain terrorism, organized crime, cyber-crime and other potential disasters. The EU should thus continue following the guidelines proposed in the ISS:

  • Vertical and horizontal cooperation among local, regional, national, EU level and international entities;
  • A democratic and judicial supervision of security related activities;
  • Improvement of preventive capabilities such as early-warning, crisis management and intelligence sharing:
  • Higher levels of enforcement, judicial and border cooperation through instruments like Europol, Eurojust and Frontex;
  • Integration of the internal security policies into a larger security vision.
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What must be added is an urgent need to tackle the roots of crime and instability, not only the symptoms. Organized crime, local terrorism, national deviations from democracy , they all result from poor redistribution policies, discrimination and integration/assimilation failures, political elitism and non-flexible economic measures.

Externally, Europe must continue being a particular type of security entity. The EU is a mixture of strategic cultures, ranging from militaristic to a culture of constraint, even neutrality. This combination produces unique foreign and security policies, characterized by power of attraction and strong multilateralism. Moreover, EU’s civilian abilities like reconstruction and technical assistance in the post-conflict phase are recognized even by promoters of hard power. Nevertheless, the CSDP must gain momentum. The EU needs a common defense voice and military capacity to deter potential and actual aggressors and to stabilize failed states and regions in turmoil.

The EU should pursue its strategic objectives and work against challenges diplomatically in bilateral or multilateral manner. When force is required, international support should be on its side so that its main strength ingredient, legitimacy, is not questionable. The Report on the Implementation of the ESS (2008) clearly pushes towards this. Such behavior creates an International Law- based order that isolates non-abiding actors.

The next logical aspect is EU’s relation to partners. Firstly, the transatlantic relationship and NATO remain a central piece of EU’s global vision. Nevertheless, under the ENP, regional integration policies like the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership have an extreme potential in tackling issues like maritime safety, energy security and migration.

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Of particular importance are today the relations with Russia and Iran. With regard to the first one, agreement is vital both to EU’s interests and to EU’s homogeneity. As a consequence, behind EU outreaching towards Ukraine or the Black Sea region must exist a fresh memory of the Cold War, which would provide cautiousness and respect when dealing with a skeptical Russia, especially due to past failed promises that NATO would not expand into Central and Eastern Europe.

The threat of WMD must be dealt with carefully as not to bring to the  EU further accusations of double-standards regarding nuclear energy. The pursuit of a stronger multilateral treaty regime in the sector must overcome interventionist impulses. As for Iran, concerted pressure must increase and dialogue must always include the US, China, Russia but also regional powers, more specifically a responsible Israel.

In conclusion, in the 21st century, the only pragmatic scenario for the EU to maintain security and promote it globally is the one in which history influences its future cautious actions under a successful soft-power approach. The EU must preserve its own strategy cultural mix, its special relation to the US but also certainly develop on its unique lifelong ties with regional neighbours.

Claudiu Sonda
Passionate student of IR and European politics with an interest in developing a high-level expertise in International Security and geopolitics.