Time for a new European Security Strategy?

23 March 2011

Carl Bildt, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that these are testing times for Europe that demand effective policies and a strategic framework with clear priorities. If the EU does not become an assertive global actor it will slide into marginalisation. The two priorities for strategic action are the economy and the neighbourhood - the continuation of the enlargement process is crucial to the EU’s credibility as a foreign policy actor.

In the South the power and attraction of Europe is limited - Turkey is the main source of inspiration, which amplifies its strategic importance to Europe. Although Libya is a current preoccupation, the strategic focus is Egypt. Traditional security policy is associated with territorial defence, but the megatrend of the age is globalisation, which makes the security of flows across borders of people, ideas, information, goods, and service more relevant for future strategy.

Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary General, European External Action Service (EEAS), said that the threat analysis of the ESS is still ‘worryingly valid’. The parameters have changed - security has become network-centric, and the convening power of social media needs to be factored in.  There is much to be done, but the instruments are inflexible. The EEAS needs to demonstrate added value through a coherent and comprehensive approach to foreign policy, diplomacy, defence and development. The best opportunity to do this is North Africa.

Sven Biscop, Director of Europe in the World programme at the EGMONT Institute, said that the European Security Strategy tells the EU to do things in a holistic, preventive and multilateral way, but doesn’t provide direction about what to do. Lack of priorities is a problem, many of the other world powers are much more proactive about their interests

The interdependence of the great powers is a new factor - they need to cooperate to solve complex challenges, like climate change.

Rosa Balfour, EPC Senior Policy Analyst, said that the political context today is fragmented and uncertain, and political solidarity has been weakened. It is unlikely that a review of the ESS would produce anything substantially different in terms of broad strategy, and it would be more useful to focus on implementation. Outcomes must be commensurate with spending, resources, capabilities and structures. Foreign policy is not just about having an impact on the world, it is increasingly about representing citizens and responding to their expectations. It would be more representative to pursue a broadly based exercise that was more inclusive and participatory, which would help bridge the capabilities expectations gap.