A New Paradigm for European Security

Middle East Conflicts - July 11, 2024

The new paradigm for European security that has taken shape since 24 February 2022, when troops of the Russian Federation invaded Ukrainian territory, must necessarily make EU member states rethink their Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) cornerstones. The risk of an escalation between Russia and the EU and NATO countries is increasing as the Russian security doctrine moves towards a greater inclination – for example, towards the use of tactical nuclear devices on Ukrainian territory. A war on Europe’s doorstep, fought with military logic from the last century coupled with state-of-the-art technologies that go as far as the use of artificial intelligence, cannot but pose a challenge to the security and stability of the European Union. At the same time, the crisis in the Middle East with the clashes in the Gaza Strip makes it necessary to have new and more capillary instruments to bring to bear the diplomacy and the common foreign policy of the EU countries. This is both in consideration of a mitigation of the consequences within the borders of the member states, and in terms of the role the EU could play in the Middle East peace process. The African scenario, as well as the technological and military challenges, which we will not address in this article but that nevertheless represent an important reflection to understand the changed international scenario, are therefore only some of the aspects to be taken into account to renew the European Union’s common foreign and security policy.


Since 1970, with the European Political Cooperation – the true prodrome of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy – the international scenario has changed a great deal, while the common cornerstones between the member states have not undergone the same development and integration. This despite the fact that, even then, the very first few forms of coordination between the foreign policies of the member states were activated, with regular consultations and, where possible, the publication of joint declarations on crises and international scenarios. In 1992, with the transformation of the European Economic Community into the European Union, the Maastricht Treaty introduced the second pillar – that of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The scenario here is totally changed, with a Europe waking up after the fall of the Berlin Wall in a whole new world and with diplomatic and security paradigms to be rewritten. The aim here was to further integrate foreign policies so that the fledgling EU could play an important role on the global stage, especially with regard to the imbalances generated by the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the USSR. Subsequently, with the Treaty of Amsterdam, the CFSP was given a further instrument: the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This was a completely innovative role that, along with the possibility for the EU to promote peacekeeping operations, should have created the preconditions for strengthening the EU’s international role. Since then, through the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, the CFSP has remained largely unchanged and now, given the new crisis landscape on Europe’s eastern borders, it would need renewed interest from member states.


Looking at the international landscape and the challenges in the field of security and foreign policy that increasingly call for common responses, it seems clear that the European Union is lagging far behind in defining a true common foreign and security policy. It is a problem that becomes increasingly clear to the public when the world of information paints a fragmented scenario, with the various European chancelleries increasingly divided into groups and clusters. A case in point is the position, not always united, that the various member states have taken on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Discrepancies can be seen both in terms of political declarations and in terms of defence cooperation and weapons shipments. While the various steps of the economic sanctions against Russia that have been approved seem to be an important common stance, the bilateral relations and declarations made by the various chancelleries are quite different. The international threats that are gradually appearing on Europe’s doorstep require that the delay accumulated in all these decades can be closed in some way. It is a matter of implementing useful policies to increase the international authority of the European Union and of the positions taken by the member states in a unified manner through the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Peace and stability within the European Union must therefore be achieved through the renewed authority of the EU itself and through the awareness of its own interests. The protection of these two elements must be the cornerstone of an entire political and diplomatic structure that, in a communitarian manner, must be put in place by the member states in the CFSP.


Of course, the priorities in this renewed interest in the Common Foreign and Security Policy cannot be separated from the international scene. The main commitment must necessarily be to prevent and defuse every conflict. The most pertinent example of this aspect is surely represented by the effort to achieve a just peace in Ukraine, which can ensure the territorial integrity of the attacked nation and bring back due attention and respect for the basic principles of international law. Another issue, already mentioned above but worth remembering once again, is the conflict in the Middle East. The aggression against the State of Israel on 7 October by Hamas, which was followed by the operation of armed IDF troops, represents a major crisis not only in the region, but globally. Evidence can be found in the friction and escalation with Iran, or the piracy operations and attacks carried out by the Yemeni Houthis, which we will discuss later. The European Union’s aspiration in this case, besides coming to represent an element of stability, is to work towards the pursuit of the principle of ‘two peoples, two states’. European mediation, even before that of the United States, must, in this scenario, really bear fruit and set the crisis on its way to a resolution.


An issue that has already been introduced is the threat by the Yemeni Houthis, since last November, against free navigation in the Bab Al Mandeb Strait and the southern Red Sea. A situation closely linked to the crisis in Gaza that has prompted many shipping companies to revise their trade routes to circumnavigate Africa. A longer and more expensive route that has generated problems for global trade. The European response was the launch, on 19 February 2024, of the defensive maritime security operation called EUNAVFOR ASPIDES, under Italian tactical command. Greece, France, Belgium, Sweden and Germany (soon to be joined by the Netherlands) are also participating in the operation, the aim of which is to ensure the protection of freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea areas, north of the Mogadishu parallel. The joint support of this mission, which is essential for the security of European trade and production, must be an example of the kind of joint commitment that closely links the care and protection of member states with the creation of an international European authority in peace-making and security-building in high-risk areas such as those under the influence of Yemeni Houthi attacks.