The Future Security Strategy of the European Union – part 1 – Origins

Politics - March 15, 2023

In a constantly changing world, the European Union is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the peculiarities of the way it is structured, make its uniqueness a permanent challenge in terms of its adaptation to the global environment, whose configuration has unprecedented dynamics. At the same time, this construction, unique in human history, presents unprecedented opportunities to transform into a homogeneous global actor that integrates the capabilities of all component states, thus maximizing the advantages of diversity.

The European construction is, without a doubt, the most complex model of interstate collaboration achieved so far, having the special merit of facilitating the ideal of democratic peace in Europe for the first time in history. The vision of a united Europe does not stop here, however. Being a dynamic construct, whose framework is not limited to the simple cooperation of states but goes further towards the joint realization of an ecosystem of prosperity whose foundation resides in shared values, originating from the ideals of freedom of man as cornerstone of the foundation of the societal construction.

Ever since the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, European leaders have understood the need to identify common interests, far superior to the national interest of territorial conquest and struggle for resources, a zero-sum game whose consequences have always been wars resulting in the loss of an increasing number of human lives and in which it was very often difficult to differentiate the victor from the vanquished, given the fact that each of the combatants was left with a shaken nation and a country in ruins.

The Treaty of Rome of 1958 meant a pivotal moment in terms of understanding and carrying out the European construction. The most powerful nations on the continent joined forces for the common good and were the catalysts for what would become the European Coal and Steel Community. This common objective, economic in nature, gradually generated increasingly complex mechanisms of collaboration. The ex-combatants, now partners, saw the opportunities that presented themselves in the context of unity, engaging in a long journey to find increasingly efficient models of collaboration, expanding its scope beyond simple economic benefit. We can say that, without a doubt, the successful model did not go unnoticed by their European neighbours, attracting the interest and perhaps the admiration of all the nations of Europe who aspired to prosperity based on democratic principles. Thus, during the course of several decades, they were joined by new partners. Each country brought its own contribution within a process that, once started, experienced a unique development, even if not without difficulties, which led in 1986 to their signing of the Single European Act, precursor to the Maastricht Treaty (TEU), whose vision already extended far beyond simple cooperation on economic principles, and which had the subsidiary objective of a united and homogeneous Europe.

The Maastricht Treaty established the formation of the European Union, being the first of a series of subsequent treaties through which the European construction took shape and permanently adapted to the challenges, while capitalizing on the opportunities identified by its members. This treaty marked the beginning of maturity for the Union in matters of security and foreign policy. Until this moment, the European Community, now the European Union, had focused very little, after the Second World War, on security as the countries that formed it, most of them NATO members, took advantage of the capabilities of the US in military matters. The end of the Cold War was, arguably, a catalytic factor in revealing the Union’s need to position itself in the sphere of foreign and security policy.

The new challenges in terms of internal security represented by terrorist and external security threats, in the context of the resurgence of Russia, common to all the states that made up the Union, were some of the elements that acted decisively in making the decision to develop a common foreign and security policy at European Union level. Thus, the Maastricht Treaty marked the enunciation of the declaration: “a common foreign and security policy is established”. However, the lack of coordination and the unilateral action of the members meant that although the statement had been made, there was a long and arduous road to achieving the stated objective. Over the next two decades, through the treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon, the European Union’s external and security action underwent slow but sometimes significant changes, failing to fully fulfil the function of an instrument of diplomatic power.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was established treaty the Treaty on the European Union (Article 11) and later reaffirmed by the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice. It pursues five key objectives: to ensure respect for the common values, fundamental interests, independence, and integrity of the Union, to strengthen the security of the Union, to ensure the preservation of peace, to strengthen internal security, to promote international cooperation, to develop and strengthen democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The previously mentioned treaties meant the polishing of the CFSP and its continuous development into an increasingly integrated, complex, and comprehensive policy. The Treaty of Lisbon marks the much more precise definition regarding the way and instruments by which this policy is translated into action. The principles behind the CFSP, the guidelines, as well as the common policies and actions set for implementation, become the mandate of the European Council, constituting the framework in which the EU collaborates with individual countries and regions. Coherence between the various areas of external action and other policies of the Union is ensured, starting with The Treaty of Lisbon by the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and very importantly, by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who also fulfils the function of vice president of the Commission (VP/HR).

Several tasks have been transferred by the Commission, the High Representative, and the European External Action Service. Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the High Representative is also the Vice-President of the European Commission, ensuring in this way a better coordination of activities and an increased coherence of the European Union’s foreign policy. Its role is an extensive one involving attributions regarding the general management of foreign policy and security policy on behalf of the European Union, the coordination of foreign policy instruments in the fields of development, trade, neighbourhood policies, humanitarian aid and response to crises. It also has a decisive role in establishing consensus between member states and their national priorities, by presiding over monthly meetings between EU foreign ministers, defence ministers, trade, and development ministers. He regularly participates in the meetings between EU leaders within the European Council and takes positions in the debates in the European Parliament on foreign policy and security issues. Its role is also one of ensuring the Union’s representation at international meetings. The High Representative leads the European Defence Agency, the EU Institute for Security Studies and, finally, the EU’s diplomatic corps through the European External Action Service.