Tags: CSDP, EU Security and Defence Policy, European Security Strategy, Regionalism, Tobias Felix Franke
The following post was contributed by Tobias Felix Franke. Tobias holds a Bachelor’s degree in European Studies from the University of Maastricht and Masters’ degrees in Contemporary European Studies: Politics, Polity and Society from the University of Bath and in EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies from the College of Europe, Bruges. He currently works for the German embassy in Brussels. The views given are his own.
Several authors use a paradigm of geo-strategy to analyse the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS). They criticize the policy-document for “fall[ing] between two stools – globalism and regionalism”1. In an earlier article, I tried to outline the positive externalities for the EU’s security activity arising from a re-focus of the ESS on the regional.2 Further developing those with reference to the 2008 Report on the Implementation of the ESS (Report) lies beyond the scope of this contribution.
Therefore, this post initially explores to what extent the Report – in comparison to the ESS – seeks to ease the aforementioned dichotomy between regional and global. I argue that while the Report increasingly stresses regional elements (Part I), the underlying geo-strategic strain persists (Part II).
I. The Report: a new regional discourse?
The Report broadly mirrors the tripartite structure of the ESS. However, it introduces some noteworthy commentaries. The ESS starts with a rather global introduction, at the end of which it appraises the deployment of European forces “to places as distant as Afghanistan, East Timor and the DRC”. On the contrary, the Report’s executive summary recapitulates the EU’s successes since the adoption of the ESS. The large majority of them is situated in the regional arena.3 Indirectly, the Report therefore contributes to questioning whether the EU is really “inevitably a global player”. Such a development reflects former European Parliament (EP) president Borrell’s assumption that the EU can only prove its capacity in certain proximate regions, e.g. the Balkans.
If we interpret this process in the light of one of the Report’s key phrases – namely, “[w]e need to prioritise our commitments, in line with resources” – this appears to send a more distinct message for the presence of a geo-strategic paradigm and heightened regionalism. In Everts’ view this would finally lead the EU to single out three or four policy priorities in which it can actually make an impact.4 In analysing the Report, member of the EP (MEP) Vatanen agrees by emphasizing that before acting globally, the EU needs to act in its “immediate regional sphere”.5
A more regional consciousness can also be detected in Part II of the Report, entitled “Building Stability in Europe and Beyond”. The ESS more globally refers to its Part II as “Strategic Objectives”. By introducing a certain hierarchy in prioritization (Europe before Beyond), the Report partially remedies some of the conflictual messages sent by the ESS’ strategic objectives. Within just two pages one finds here the rather opposing statements of “[i]n an era of globalisation, distant threats may be as much a concern as those that are near at hand”, “[with the new threats, the first line of defence will often be abroad” and “[e]ven in an era of globalisation, geography is still important”. This has led authors to deplore the geographical inconclusiveness of the ESS.6 In the Report, enlargement and the EU’s regional efforts are treated first and in great length before elaborating on Brussels’ global activities.
Finally, in the Report’s Part III (“Europe in a Changing World”), “greater engagement with our neighbourhood” is listed as a distinct priority for the future. The ESS’ counterpart (“Policy Implications for Europe”) does not grant this regional dimension a separate heading, and merely calls globally for more coherency and “working with partners”.
In sum, this first part has stressed several elements in the Report underlining a more regional re-orientation. Nonetheless, a lot of it is left to the policy-makers’ proactive and interpretative reading, i.e. a geo-strategic paradigm in favour of regionalism does not immediately impose itself. This is further explored in the following section.
II. A troubled paradigm: the persisting global-regional strain
The abovementioned implications for the regional dimension of the ESS further lose some of their clout when we consider that the Report “does not replace the ESS, but reinforces it”. Hence, from the outset the global-regional dichotomy of the ESS cannot be fundamentally altered. According to former head of the European Defence Agency Whitney, the Report is therefore a “wasted opportunity” to properly re-write the ESS and give European security new impetus and direction.7
Moreover, the global-regional strain gains further momentum when looking at the Report’s threat assessment. It lists proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organised crime, cyber security, energy security and climate change as key threats. The three latter are added by the Report to the ESS list of threats; however, to the detriment of regional conflicts and state failure – arguably two key issues in a European regional outlook. This substantiates Evert’s point that EU policy-makers are inclined to “dream up a policy on all issues, regions and conflicts in the world”.8 Director of the EU Department at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Swieboda echoes Everts and criticizes the Report for not being able to “sort out its priorities so it could better deploy its limited resources”.9
In addition the Report clearly stresses that “Europe has security interests beyond its immediate neighbourhood”. Given the EU’s limited projection capacity, it is remarkable that five years after the adoption of the ESS, the Report still refrains from outlining a clear implementable strategy on how this global commitment is to exist in parallel with its regional ambitions. This in turn feeds the regional-global strain. It therefore materializes that Berenskoetter’s 2005 critique of the ESS remains just as relevant for the Report today: “[T]he EU’s strategic horizon is […] caught in an unresolved tension”.10
On a macro level, this essay is based on the underlying assumption that a paradigm shift towards the geo-strategic is beneficial for the EU’s security actorness. On the micro level, I sought to demonstrate that while the Report – in comparison to the ESS – takes some noteworthy steps into the direction of a more regional outlook, the underlying strain of a regional-global dichotomy persists.
These findings are valuable in so far as in the five years after the adoption of the ESS we have witnessed a growing scholarly body examining this global-regional dichotomy. Moreover, European and national officials, as well as MEPs, have voiced their concerns about this persisting strain. Hence, it appears that the EU continues to be haunted by an old acquaintance: the dual gap between political rhetoric and reality, and, political will and capacity. Future research now needs to identify in detail the obstacles in the way to a more regional outlook and the benefits arising from such a paradigm shift in the period after the adoption of the Report. A proper revision of the ESS could then dedicate itself to a pronounced geo-strategic paradigm, with a clear emphasis on the area in which the EU is increasingly needed, has a considerable impact and proves to be most successful – its region.
What should be the role of the EU’s Common Security and Defense policy? Should it be focused on the EU’s own region or should it be used on a global scale? In a recently published paper in the Bruges Regional Integration & Global Governance Papers (BRIGG) series, “Nosce Te Ipsum: Positioning the EU’s CSDP as a Regional Ordnungsmacht”, Tobias Felix Franke suggests that the EU should shift its aspiration from being a global actor to becoming a regional “Ordnungsmacht”. The paper can be found here.