Research Fellow
EU Institute for Security Studies, Paris


Building a European Security and Defence Policy: What are the Priorities?

Paris, 12 June 2003

Lecture in the International Seminar for Experts "The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union - What Lessons Can Be Learned from the Iraq Crisis?", Organised by the Cicero Foundation in the series Great Debates, Paris, 12 - 13 June 2003


The European Union is a newcomer in the business of peace support operations. True, its member states have long been involved in almost any sort of non - Article 5 (NATO/WEU) or Chapter VI - VII (UNO) mission in the past, and they still are today. Yet they have normally done so under other flags than the EU's proper.

I. The development of ESDP

The ambition and the commitment to engage the EU as such in crisis management operations, in fact, were first formulated at the Cologne European Council of June 1999, which marks the beginning of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) as a distinctive part of the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Until then, the potential resort to civilian and especially military means in common external action had been either conferred to other organisations (the Western European Union, WEU) or rather confined to an unspecified future (Art. J.4 of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, TEU). At Amsterdam, in 1997, an odd convergence of old and new member states (the initiative was taken by Sweden and Finland) led to the incorporation in the Treaty (Art. 17 TEU) of the so-called 'Petersberg tasks', defined as "humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacekeeping". They were literally taken from the WEU conceptual toolbox and covered a very wide range of potential missions, thus meeting the still quite differing expectations of the then EU-15.

Since Cologne, the implementation of ESDP followed two main paths. On the one hand, the Union set the so-called Headline Goals for military (Helsinki, December 1999) and police (Feira, June 2000) forces and struggled to meet them through voluntary contributions of personnel and assets by the members states (and additional ones by candidates). By May 2003 they were considered as met by the Union, although considerable shortfalls remain - and are expected to be tackled - in the domain of strategic military capabilities. In addition, some 'doctrinal' elements were tentatively sketched, including operational scenarios and planning assumptions. Accordingly, for instance, the geographical radius for EU-led missions would go as far as 4,000 Km from Brussels; such radius would be extended to 10,000 Km for purely humanitarian operations. At that time (spring 2000), however, the common feeling was that EU-led peacekeepers would be deployed mainly, if not exclusively, "in and around Europe", most notably in the Western Balkans. When they did so much further away, for instance in East Timor, they acted under a UN flag.

On the other hand, new political and military bodies - the Political and Security Committee, the EU Military Committee and the EU Military Staff - were set up in Brussels to deal with the new tasks: eventually, the PSC and its role in crisis management were also incorporated in the 2000 Nice Treaty (Art.25 TEU). What remained unsolved at that level was, first, the link to the Atlantic Alliance, that was already acting in the same functional and geographical area: a (missing) link that mattered for both political and operational reasons, and that was then complicated by tortuous negotiations with Turkey over the so-called 'Berlin-plus' arrangement for the access to, use and release of NATO assets for EU-led operations. The other unsolved issue was internal to the EU and affected the relationship between the CFSP/ESDP bodies and the other institutional actors in European external relations - from the Commission to the member states themselves.

The 'Berlin-plus' arrangement was eventually finalised in December 2002, in the wake of the radical political change that had occurred in Turkey the month before. Accordingly, the Union is now assured to have access to NATO planning capabilities and can assume to have access to NATO capabilities if necessary, although that will be decided on a case-by-case basis. However partial, the deal has somewhat 'freed' ESDP of an important constraint and at last made the 'devolution' of some NATO activities to the EU possible. On the internal EU front, the task of addressing the institutional problems was conferred to the Convention on the Future of Europe and the ensuing Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), while the 'security strategy' paper delivered by the High Representative for CFSP, Javier Solana, in June 2003 - and titled "A Secure Europe in a Better World" - set the new general parameters for future common external action.

The European Convention concluded its work in July 2003 by delivering a draft 'Constitutional Treaty' that was to be passed on to the IGC for final revision and approval. Much as it is always extremely difficult to assess the contents and implications of a new Treaty before its entry into force - Maastricht was widely criticised on delivery, for instance, but brought about the single currency - the draft text seems to add very little to the current CFSP set-up but for the creation of the post of a "Foreign Minister" combining the hats of the current High Representative and the Commissioner for External Relations. This is expected to facilitate coherence and coordination between EU institutions and bureaucracies. By contrast, the new draft articles on decision-making still display all the roadblocks that have long slowed down or impaired CFSP. True, foreign and security policy is not primarily about legislation, for which majority voting is indispensable. In this domain, in fact, consensus increases legitimacy, while action cannot be imposed on reluctant member states. The Convention, however, could perhaps have gone further in limiting the crude veto right of individual member states, especially with a view to a EU at 25 or more. This is all the more true in that the strict unanimity rule is partially broken in what has long been a taboo area, namely defence (as illustrated below). It could therefore have been introduced, with some explicit restrictions, also in the domain of foreign policy proper - at least as an institutional deterrent against individual vetoes.

At the same time, the scope of the original "Petersberg tasks" is significantly broadened in that it encompasses also "joint disarmament operations, .. military and advice assistance tasks, .. conflict prevention … and post-conflict stabilisation "(III-205). Furthermore, some new articles seem to entail - as opposed to the current Art.27 TEU (that excludes "matters having defence or military implications" anyway) - as many as five potentially different formats and scenarios for flexibility in the ESDP domain, that is, for policy arrangements including only some, not all member States. They refer i.a. to an internal solidarity clause (III-226), armaments cooperation and procurement (III-207), "structured" cooperation based on "high military capability criteria" (III-208), mutual defence proper (III-209), and the implementation of certain tasks by a "group" of willing and able member States (III-206). On the one hand, this creates confusion; on the other, however, it keeps the door open to various, even competing developments, thus enabling rather than binding the Union's action in the future. On the whole, therefore, it is arguable that the draft 'Constitutional Treaty' - if eventually released by the IGC without major changes - would make CFSP only marginally more coherent and focused, but would substantially widen the scope as well as the modalities for the implementation of ESDP.

The 'security strategy' paper, in turn, moves in the same direction by giving a much broader assessment of the potential threats to European security (including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism) as well as the Union's responsibilities in the wider world. Accordingly, as the paper reads, the Union needs "to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid and, when necessary, robust intervention". At the same time, the "added value" of the EU as a security actor not just regionally - although "extending the zone of security around Europe" remains a top priority - but also globally lies in its capacity to mobilize a wide array of policy tools well beyond the military. At any rate, the Union should do so in order to strengthen the international order and spread the rule of law and good governance, in cooperation with partners and within the framework of the United Nations Charter.

II. ESDP in Action

In parallel to all this, the EU has launched its first peace-keeping operations on the ground. Since January 2003, in fact, the EU has been engaged in three missions - in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo - performing a variety of tasks, from law enforcement and ceasefire monitoring to security and humanitarian crisis management. On the whole, over 2,000 police and military personnel are involved in the operations.

The military operations, in particular, are important test cases for the Union's ability to apply some of the security policy instruments it envisaged under the 1999 Helsinki Headline Goal. Although limited in scope and time, the current engagements are the first hands-on manifestation of the EU's security and defence dimension, which may lead to more ambitious interventions within and beyond its periphery.

Launched on 1 January 2003, the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia-Herzegovina represents the EU's first-ever civilian crisis management operation under ESDP. Taking over from the United Nations' International Police Task Force (IPTF), which had been in place since December 1995, the operation seeks to establish local law enforcement capabilities that can contribute to the stability of the region. 531 police officers - about 80 per cent from EU member states and 20 per cent from third states - perform monitoring, mentoring and inspection activities.

Austria 7   Bulgaria
Belgium 10   Canada 6
Denmark 14   Cyprus 4
Finland 23   Czech Republic 6
France 85   Estonia
Germany 83   Hungary 5
Greece 11   Iceland 3
Ireland 5   Latvia (*)
Italy 47   Lithuania
Luxemburg 3   Norway 8
Netherlands 37   Poland 12
10   Romania 9
Spain 22   Russia
Sweden 15   Slovakia 4
United Kingdom 70   Slovenia 4





  Switzerland 4
  Turkey 12
  Ukraine 5
  TOTAL 89

Deployment of Police Officers, 24 April 2003

Source: EUPM MHQ / Personnel Office

(*) to be deployed

The EUPM has a mandate for 3 years (until 31 December 2005) and an annual budget of € 38 million, of which € 20 million are financed from the EU budget. The police officers are backed by about 400 support staff. The EUPM, whose headquarters are located in Sarajevo, is divided in three departments, namely Operations, Planning and Development, as well as Administration and Support Services. The Danish Police Commander Sven Frederiksen was appointed Police Commissioner for the operation.

The EUPM is based on a Council decision from 11 March 2002, following the United Nations Security Council's endorsement (Resolution 1396 of 5 March 2002) of a EU engagement. On 4 October 2002, the EU signed an agreement with the Bosnian authorities that defined the conditions and terms of the EUPM.

On 31 March 2003, the EU launched the Concordia mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), its first ever military operation. EU forces took over NATO's Operation Allied Harmony with the aim of contributing further to a stable, secure environment in the FYROM and ensuring the implementation of the August 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement, the political accord which settled the conflict between Macedonian Slavs and Albanians. The EU force, within which France acts as 'framework' nation, patrols the ethnic Albanian-populated regions of Macedonia that border Albania, Serbia and Kosovo.

The operation, requested by the FYROM and endorsed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1371, is expected to last six months. Its budget amounts to € 6.2 million. 13 EU member states (all except Ireland and Denmark) and 14 non-member states are contributing forces to the mission, totalling 350 lightly armed military personnel.

Austria 11   Bulgaria
Belgium 26   Canada 1
Finland 9
  Czech Republic 2
France 145   Estonia 1
Germany 26   Hungary
Greece 21   Iceland 1
Italy 27   Latvia 2
Luxemburg 1   Lithuania 1
3   Norway
Portugal 6   Poland 17
Spain 16   Romania 3
Sweden 14   Slovakia 1
United Kingdom 3   Slovenia
      Turkey 10





Participating Personnel by Country (357 overall)

Source: EU Council

While Concordia constitutes a EU-led mission, the Union draws on NATO assets and capabilities under the so-called 'Berlin-plus' arrangement. The EU Operation Headquarters are located at the Supreme Headquarter Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium. Deputy SACEUR, Admiral Rainer Feist (Germany), has been appointed Operation Commander while General Pierre Maral (France) holds the position of Force Commander on the ground. The EU's operation in FYROM, therefore, represents also the first test case for the strategic EU-NATO partnership for crisis management that was made possible by the long-awaited bilateral 'Berlin-plus' agreement of December 2002.

With the aim of preventing a large-scale humanitarian and civil crisis in Ituri, a region in the North-East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the EU responded to an appeal by the United Nations Secretary General and launched a military operation on 12 June, 2003. In accordance with the mandate set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1484 (30 May 2003), the Artemis mission seeks to contribute to the stabilization of security conditions and the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Bunia, the Ituri capital. The multinational force is mandated to protect camps of internally displaced persons, secure the Bunia airport as well as ensure the safety of the civilian population, UN personnel and the wider humanitarian presence. The force is to encompass about 1,800 soldiers, mostly French. The operation is planned to end on 1 September 2000, at which point a strengthened UN mission (MONUC) should be ready to take over.

The rapid deployment of the interim EU force followed an escalation of violence and increasing acts of atrocity in the Ituri region. Fighting between ethnic Hema and Lendu militias caused chaos in and around Bunia since early May, with hundreds of people killed and tens of thousands fleeing their homes. The unrest threatens to derail the DRC peace process and to destabilise the wider Great Lakes region further.

France is, once again, the 'framework' nation for the Artemis mission and Major General Neveux was appointed EU Operation Commander and Brigadier General Thonier EU Force Commander. The Operational Headquarters are located at the Centre de Planification et de Conduite des Opérations (CPCO) in Paris. Along with France, the United Kingdom and Sweden are contributing combat troops too. Belgium and Germany are sending non-combat forces, while non-EU contributors include Canada, South Africa and Brazil. Artemis is the EU's first military operation outside Europe and, unlike the other two missions, does not rely on NATO assistance.

III. Open Questions

The three EU operations launched in 2003 represent a major breakthrough for ESDP. For the first time, the Union is proactively engaging in security affairs, covering a variety of tasks that stretch from policing to military intervention. The missions show that the EU is capable of reacting to ongoing or emerging humanitarian/security crises and to contribute to peace enforcement, reconstruction and stabilisation.

The EUPM and Concordia operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and FYROM are examples of where the EU has taken over responsibilities from other international organisations, in order to increase its commitment to security in its periphery. Going beyond the EU's immediate neighbourhood, the most recent engagement in the DRC is a sign for the Union's nascent willingness to 'go global' with ESDP. At any rate, it is worth mentioning that ideas about a possible ESDP operation in Sudan - another weak or 'failed' African state ravaged by civil war, and one that is suspected to harbour terrorist organisations - were floated inside the Union earlier in 2003, and that the Great Lakes region has long been an area of European concern: years ago already, the Union appointed a CFSP 'special envoy' to Central Africa (Aldo Ajello) and requested the WEU to assess the feasibility of a humanitarian operation on the ground.

Moreover, by pushing for a EU intervention in Bunia, the United Nations has shown that it considers the Union as a ready and capable security actor/provider. The Secretary General Kofi Annan's call to Javier Solana finally answers Henry Kissinger's (in)famous question about Europe's "telephone number". Not only was the EU asked to act, but it did so - and quickly, too. Within a week, the Council approved the Congo operation: a few days later, troops were on the ground.

Paradoxically, perhaps, this surge of ESDP activity comes at a time when the Union's CFSP is perceived to be in shambles. Indeed, disagreements in Europe over Iraq and especially over the US policies made a common European response on this specific issue very difficult. However, as current ESDP operations illustrate, EU member states continue to share a wide array of common interests and are willing and, at last, also able to pursue common policies through joint actions. Needless to say, this is all the easier to achieve whenever and wherever there is no major disagreement with the Americans over the respective roles of NATO, the EU and other possible formats and/or coalitions, as it is happening in the Balkans at the moment. The current blossoming of ESDP, therefore, should help put the Iraq debacle in perspective, allowing the demanding European public - as shown by most opinion polls - to be slightly more optimistic about the scope of shared interests and polices under CFSP.

At the same time, it is important to recall that EU missions thus far remain very limited in scope, and depend heavily on the leadership, commitment and interest of major EU member states. On the one hand, this means that certain member States in particular may not always be keen on engaging their national assets and capabilities within a EU framework: it is happening with Artemis, but it did not happen earlier on in Ivory Coast or Sierra Leone, where France and Britain, respectively, preferred to act autonomously, applying - in a way - the 'subsidiarity' principle to peace support. On the other hand, this also means that the EU has no common military capabilities of its own at its disposal. Moreover, significant command and control capability shortfalls among member states mean that any complex, high-end operation will have to rely on NATO support. True, Concordia implements the Berlin-Plus agreement, yet the long-term relationship between the Union and the Alliance remains to be fully defined. The controversy surrounding the question of which organisation should assume responsibility for post-SFOR military operations in Bosnia reflects a degree of uncertainty about how a changing EU and a changing NATO will work together in the future. Besides, EU operations thus far, while important symbolically, are not complex operationally. None of the current operations, with the exception of Artemis, pushes EU military capabilities and political will to the limit: a post-SFOR operation certainly would. In this respect, the EU remains untested across the full spectrum of peace support missions.

A further critical factor may soon become the financing of such EU-led operations. To date, in fact, the relevant acquis is minimal (the only comparable operation run by the EU before 2003 was the civilian administration of the Bosnian city of Mostar in 1994-96). For its part, the letter of the Treaty (Art.28 TEU) is extremely fuzzy: it keeps the door open to different solutions, but it separates rigidly operations "having military or defence implications" from purely or mainly civilian ones. In turn, the practice for financing CFSP actions in general has been varied and mostly ad-hoc, and the first ESDP operations look no different. However, future peace building tasks are likely to be 'mixed', encompassing both military and civilian components and involving both EU and national resources. It is also predictable that not all (present and future) member states will have the same willingness and ability to participate in them. This could generate a 'burden-sharing' dispute inside the Union and/or lead to a restricted group of 'core' countries that, through a sort of "hub-and-spoke" system with occasional junior partners, would be in charge of the operational side of ESDP and therefore demand a special status - not unlike in the UN. This is why it is particularly important that a measure of agreed flexibility (with related mutual obligations) be inserted in the new EU 'Constitutional Treaty'.

A final element of uncertainty has to do with the openness of ESDP operations to third parties, i.e. non-EU members. The three current operations involve a high degree of third state participation, involving both EU acceding or candidate countries and non-European states. The Artemis mission, for example, includes South African, Canadian and Brazilian troops. The real limits of third party participation will be tested with regional powers, such as Russia, with which the EU will need to interact should it decide, for example, to deploy a OSCE-mandated peace support operation in Moldova: such a scenario is currently being evaluated by the Dutch Chairmanship-in-Office of the Vienna-based organisation. Detailed arrangements for third party participation were agreed at the Seville European Council of June 2002, but questions remain: how many troops are acceptable from third states in a EU-mandated operation? How involved may third states become in the development of a concept for operations? How heavy may a third party's role be in daily command and control?

This said, it is hardly questionable that EU is now in the peacekeeping business - at long last. Much remains to be improved, tested, learned, and fine-tuned. Yet the Union - whose current 15 member states also cover more than of the UN peacekeeping budget proper - can claim to have become a fully-fledged actor in its own right also in this domain. The geographical and strategic scope of its action is still subject to significant evolution. For the time being, it encompasses the immediate proximity of the EU (the Western Balkans, maybe Moldova) and also, potentially, the wider cultural/historical/economic proximity represented by some post-colonial states, in Africa (Congo) as well as further away (East Timor). It is not by accident that these areas happens also to be the main recipients of EU direct aid and assistance schemes and preferential trade arrangements, although the Union is still far from linking up effectively all the policy tools at its disposal. This is to say that the functional scope of EU security policy is likely to be varied, mixed in both space and time, and encompassing economic, civilian and also military components. Finally, the 'doctrine' and the policy 'style' are expected to stem more or less directly from the norms, principles and values that have hitherto inspired the very process of European integration.