Security as the EU Understands It

Changes in the international power structure and in security policy debate has led to changes in the European Union’s concept of security policy. The “Peace Power Europe,” as the EU has viewed itself since its inception, has become a new, global determinant of power and order. The EU Security Strategy reveals a profound change in the EU’s priorities and goals. The EU no longer defines itself exclusively as a civil power, but also as a military power.

Since the end of the Cold War, two events have especially affected the EU’s foreign and security policy: first, the wars in the Balkans from 1991 to 1999 and the wrong conclusions drawn from them; second, the “War on Terror” after September 11, 2001, led by the U.S. with the involvement of Western states. In the wars in former Yugoslavia, the EU’s political class had no idea how to oppose the murder, rape, and expulsion of hundreds of thousands, and, from its failure, drew the wrong conclusions. There was no political consensus about the causes of conflict and strategies to solve it, but instead the opinion that the EU had failed due to a lack of military capability. Because the US government completely dominated NATO’s 1999 Kosovo War and withheld important military information from its European NATO allies, a large number of European politicians believed that the EU must become a military power itself in order to be able to deal with the United States “on an equal footing,” as the then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder put it at the EU summit in the summer of 1999.

The concept of “expanded security policy” was chosen as the foundation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). It was first expressed in the EU’s common security strategy, published in late 2003 under the title For a Secure Europe in a Better World, and then later in the draft EU Constitution, meanwhile changed to the “Lisbon Treaty.” Even though it has not yet taken effect, the line of approach planned by the EU elite can certainly be deduced (see below). The concept of “expanded security” does have a global thrust, but in contrast to the UN concept of “human security,” it remains subject to the narrow interests of the nation state or the EU. Anything posing a potential threat to the stability of Western-oriented states is considered a security threat. The threat, therefore, does not have to be real.

The EU formulated its first common foreign and security policy in December 2003 in a strategy paper entitled A Secure Europe in a Better World, and then spelled it out in its Headline Goal 2010, adopted in 2004. Five principal threats were identified: international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure in specific regions of the world, and organized crime that develops in its wake. Environmental catastrophes, disasters, and epidemics were relegated to secondary importance. This weighting of threats contrasts with the threat scenarios that were developed in the UN context. The EU’s threat scenarios are, to be sure, a reaction to the concept of “human security,” but also and primarily to the United State’s more strongly militarized concept.

As in other EU documents, the paper lacks any causal analysis of the threats it formulates. Although it does not lie within the scope of such a document to perform such an analysis itself, it should articulate clear criteria for civil as well as military interventions. As a precondition for any kind of intervention, there should be causal analyses that also consider gender relations. This is completely lacking, and in the EU ‘s security strategy, women figure only as objects in need of protection, such as in connection with trafficking in women. They are not conceived of as active subjects.

The EU Security Strategy is thus completely gender blind. Also, the requirements of UN Resolution 1325 are only touched upon indirectly, including in a document of the EU Council Secretariat from 2005 (“Implementation of UNSCR 1325 in the context of ESDP”). There the Council Secretariat suggested some measures to increase the effectiveness of EU missions, including the establishment of “Gender Focal Points” and gender training for mission personnel. The EU strategy includes military intervention not only to protect EU territory, but also in other regions of the world. Although “no new threats are to be addressed by purely military means,” and “preventive security policy” should play an important role, it is still evident, by comparing appropriations for military and civilian conflict management that the emphasis is on the former, even though the EU is the world’s largest financial donor for civil crisis prevention.

Read EU Missions Abroad

The EU has yet to stipulate clearly when and how to proceed with military interventions. Differing positions emerged in particular in 2003 during the Iraq War. The current EU strategic concept also leaves open questions about joint decision-making and intervention procedures; it simply calls for “greater coherence” based on “common action.” Headline Goal 2010 stipulates that these questions should be clarified in a binding manner by that year.

It is already clear that EU forces will be called upon to perform a greater combination of military and civil tasks. Military forces are being asked to feature “interoperability” as a major new quality “to enhance the effective use of military capabilities,” allowing them “to work together and to interact with other civilian tools.” This process depends to a large degree on the type of cooperation between civil and military organizations. If EU military forces do in fact take over tasks that, in the past, were handled by civilians, we may expect a progressive militarization of crisis and conflict management. Already today, civilian-military cooperation is dominated by the EU’s military institutions and staff. The staff of EU High Commissioner for Foreign Policy Javier Solana is also trying to subordinate the civilian domain to the military.

If the EU wants to realize its claim to be a force for civil power and peace, one that has drawn the right conclusions from two bloody world wars, then this is the wrong priority. The priority must be civil, and civilians must maintain political control in all areas. The EU should strengthen its global influence as a civil power whose armed forces are available to a reformed UN as police for the enforcement of international law. The priority would therefore not be military coercion, but civil law enforcement in the context of political solutions arrived at diplomatically. The EU’s new security policy agenda has emerged partly in agreement and partly in competition with the USA. The US government under Clinton and Bush urged the EU to accept military obligations within the NATO framework, both inside and outside Europe. It is therefore to be feared that the combination of partnership with and competition between the EU and the US will lead to an arms race. It is thus all the more important that the EU reflects on its founding vision of peace and commit itself clearly to the UN Charter, which bars every war of aggression and requires a UN mandate for any type of intervention. Contrary to widespread belief, this is not the case so far. In the relevant documents, the EU up to now commits itself to act only within the framework of the UN. Yet there is a backdoor to carry out military interventions, if necessary, without a mandate from the Security Council.

The Treaty of Lisbon, also called the “Reform Treaty,” adopted at the EU summit in the Portuguese capital in October 2007, was supposed to replace the EU draft constitution, which, however, was rejected in two referendums in France and the Netherlands. By the end of 2008, the treaty was supposed to be ratified by all member states so that it would take effect at the beginning of 2009. After the Irish referendum derailed this plan in June 2008 – Ireland is the only EU member state in which any amendment to EU treaties requires a plebiscite – the EU was initially at a loss. Still, by the end of 2008, the parliaments of most other EU member states had voted on the treaty, probably in the hope that the next referendum in Ireland would produce the “right” result.

Read The Treaty of Lisbon

If the Treaty of Lisbon were in effect, there would be a structural conflict with the German constitution, the Grundgesetz. According to Articles 24 and 87a of the Grundgesetz, German armed forces may only be deployed to defend the country or as part of a collective security system, and German soldiers may only be sent on a foreign mission following a resolution by the German Parliament. There is a danger that pressure from the EU and the federal government could be so great as to make an independent decision by parliament impossible. The EU Security Strategy and the Treaty of Lisbon reveal a profound change in the EU’s priorities and aims of action – and this in the absence of widespread public discussion and social consensus. The EU no longer defines itself exclusively as a civil power, but also as a military power.

If a foreign and security policy is to be credible and gender-equitable, priority must be given to the UN system and the acceptance of the provisions of the UN Charter. The UN must be recognized as the sole decision maker for all crisis prevention and conflict management operations. This would substantially validate the EU’s commitment to international law. At the same time, the EU should view its mission of peace in terms of its “responsibility to protect” and participate in civil interventions to establish the rule of law in third countries, in line with the “right to intervene.” UN Resolution 1325 must also be implemented, particularly as it corresponds with EU directives on the equality of women and men and with gender mainstreaming. In the discussion over revamping the UN Security Council and expanding the number of permanent seats, EU member states must also strive to secure a joint seat, in order to broaden the EU’s democratic legitimation, and in line with European unification and the express will of the European Union to play a strong role in the world.