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The Common Security and Defense Policy – Europe as a global player?

Edouard Verté , 12 mai 2014

Le CEJE invited Professor Torsten Stein to give a conference on 6 May 2014 on the topic of The Common Security and Defense Policy – Europe as a global player?
The conference comprised two parts. In the first part, the law of the books and its evolution were presented, and the second part, the actual capability and achievements of the Common Security and Defense Policy were highlighted.


Professor Stein debuted the conference with a presentation of the origins of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), with the creation of the Western European Union (WEU) in 1948 and the high hopes of the European Defense Community, an ambitious project created by a treaty signed in 1952 but that collapsed after the French parliament refused in 1954 to ratify the treaty. This failure led to the increased role of NATO in the effective protection of European security and left foreign policy to the Member states in the 1957 treaty of Rome. The implementation of a Defense Policy in the European Union was slow with evolutions in the Single European Act of 1986, which codified for the first time the unofficial cooperation in the sphere of foreign policy but which was still lacking a binding obligation to European Union Member States and left aside military cooperation due to disagreements between some Member States. In 1992, the Maastricht treaty brought a new evolution when the Common Foreign and Security Policy became known as the second pillar. This evolution had not been anticipated like other evolutions enshrined in that treaty like the implementation of the Economic and Monetary Union but was added after the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the USSR. Because it was in that second pillar it was not a truly European integration but it formally covered all areas of foreign policy including the military aspects. While it was a welcome evolution, it was lacking a collective defense clause similar to what is found in the NATO treaty. The implementation of the policy was left to the WEU that had been left idle for many years. The Amsterdam treaty of 1997 slightly changed the wording and integrated the so called “Petersberg Tasks”, adopted by the WEU members in 1992 and listing the different tasks that were to be fulfilled by the European Union, which was on its way to replace the WEU altogether. The Lisbon treaty was the first one to integrate a mutual defense clause and integrated fully the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the Common Security and Defense Policy in articles 42 to 46 of the treaty on European Union (TEU). It also created a European Defense Agency to coordinate operational needs, rendering the WEU useless and leading to its dissolution in June 2011.

After exposing the legal current state of the defense and security policy, Professor Stein pointed out the factual consequences on the ground, which did not always follow the plans laid out in the different treaties. Defense budgets in all European countries have been decreasing ever since the end of the Cold War. When the military component of the defense policy was included in the Maastricht treaty, it was clear that European nations didn’t have the means to provide additional military capability and therefore NATO to maintain its involvement. The lack of military capability has prevented the Common Security and Defense Policy from developing fully as it remains highly dependent on NATO military equipment. Despite the lack of military capability, the European Union has led several missions in Macedonia and Congo among others and is still conducting missions for example in Bosnia, Somalia, and several African countries. However, these missions are often military training or police cooperation missions and not military interventions.

The conference concluded on the consideration of the position of the European Union as a global player. When looking at it from a purely geographic point of view, the Common Security and Defense Policy has certainly reached a global stage. However, the limitations that clearly appear in the scope of missions that can be conducted without relying on only a few Member States or the United States through NATO show that this policy has yet to make the European Union a global player.

Edouard Verté, "The Common Security and Defense Policy – Europe as a global player?", www.ceje.ch, Actualité du 12 mai 2014