IMI-Standpunkt 2013/024 - in: transform!, 12/2013

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: European Security Strategy

von: Jürgen Wagner | Veröffentlicht am: 14. Mai 2013


Hier finden sich ähnliche Artikel

The June 1999 Council Summit of the heads of state and government in Cologne is considered the founding date of the European Union’s militarisation. At that time the principle of establishing troops for military interventions was established, whose size was determined a half year as 60,000 soldiers (which means a total of about 180,000 soldiers in view later of the required rotation and logistical support). In order to embed this militarisation in a strategic framework, a ‘European Security Strategy’ (ESS)1 was adopted, after a delay, in December 2003.


Global claim to power: Only together are we strong!

The ESS is unequivocal in its claim of a global power role for Europe: ‘As a union of 25 states with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world’s Gross National Product (GNP), and with a wide range of instruments at its disposal, the European Union is inevitably a global player. […] Europe should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world’ (ESS:2).

This pooling of the power capabilities of nation-states on the EU level seems all the more urgent to the EU elites against the background the power shift toward Asia as well as the increasing conflicts in the international system. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s understanding is paradigmatic here: ‘For Europe, the crucial thing is to understand that the only way that you will get support for Europe today is not on the basis of a sort of post-war view that the EU is necessary for peace, […] In a world in particular in which China is going to become the dominant power of the 21st century, it is sensible for Europe to combine together, to use its collective weight in order to achieve influence. And the rationale for Europe today therefore is about power, not peace.’2


The sprawling complex of threats

After the ambitions of the ESS are made plain, the document goes on to present a boundless set of threats against which it is necessary to defend. In the section ‘Key Threats’ no less than five types are listed, which are then subdivided into numerous sub-threats.3 In addition, in other sections of the document, further threats are indicated, for example the question of energy dependence: ‘Energy dependence is a special concern for Europe. Europe is the world’s largest importer of oil and gas. Imports account for about 50% of energy consumption today. This will rise to 70% in 2030’ (ESS: 4).

What is especially striking in such a high-level document is that it nowhere specifies what means are to be deployed against the specific threats. In so doing it fosters a ‘securitisation’ by means of which many phenomena are brought into the military’s sphere of activity. The most prominent example of this is the development policy which actually according to Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union should be exclusively directed toward the eradication of poverty. In fact, it is increasingly being instrumentalised for security issues, which extends all the way to the direct cross-financing of military interventions out of development-policy budgets, such as the ‘African Peace Facility’.

The result is that the ESS, with its hazily defined analysis of threats, opens the door to dealing militarily, under some circumstances, with these ‘threats’, as long as it is considered necessary for the Union’s own interests.


Interventions robust and global

Already shortly before the passage of the ESS, the geographical limit for intervention by EU reaction forces – which were already generous, being set in 1999 at a 4,000 km radius from Brussels – had been abandoned, because the first inverventions under the umbrella of what is now called the ‘Common Security and Defence Policy’ (CSDP) had already begun with ‘Concordia’ in Macedonia in March 2003 and in June 2003 with ‘Artemis’ in the Congo, which clearly is situated more than 4,000 km from Brussels.

It should be noted that the deployment of EU intervention troops was at the time mainly legitimised with the argument that the Balkan conflicts had shown that the EU must be in a position to intervene in extreme cases in conflicts on its immediate periphery. With Operation Artemis at the latest, this argument was dispensed with; after all, there it was obvious that the intention was eventually to be able to intervene militarily on a global level. Here too the ESS shortly thereafter supplied the rationale: ‘Our traditional concept of self-defence – up to and including the Cold War – was based on the threat of invasion. With the new threats, the first line of defence will often be abroad. The new threats are dynamic. […]  We need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid, and when necessary, robust intervention’ (ESS: 8 and 12)

At the June 2004 EU Summit Meeting in Brussels, with ‘Headline Goal 2010’, new plans were released in order ‘literally’ to be better armed for such intervention. This involved the decision to institute intervention-ready ‘battlegroups’ – highly mobile and quickly transferable intervention troops with about 1,500 soldiers each – in addition to the EU intervention troops. From the beginning of 2007 two of these battlegroups are always on call to be transferred in only 5 to 30 days. At the December 2008 Council Summit a new, extremely ambitious planning goal was released: Capabilities are to be built as quickly as possible for making it possible to carry out up to 19 CSDP interventions simultaneously – among them two high-intensity combat operations at a time and two ‘stabilisation missions’, that is, occupation interventions as in Afghanistan.

If one asks top EU politicians what the particular characteristic of European foreign and security policy is and how it differs from that of other protagonists, one can be certain that civilian-military cooperation will be pointed to. For example, Javier Solana, EU High Representative until the end of 2009, commented: ‘The logic underpinning ESDP – its unique and distinctive civil-military approach to crisis management – was ahead of its time when conceived. That logic has proved its validity and has been adopted widely by others.’4

This logic serves the civilian flanking of military intervention and increases its efficacy. Once again the ESS supplies the justifying argument: ‘In almost every major intervention, military efficiency has been followed by civilian chaos. […]The challenge now is to bring together the different instruments and capabilities: European assistance programmes and the European Development Fund, military and civilian capabilities from Member States and other instruments’ (ESS: 12ff.).

However, civil measures – mediation, humanitarian aid, etc. – were originally thought of as alternatives, not as supplements to military foreign policy. Now, however, through civil-military cooperation the independence and neutrality of civilian protagonists is being massively compromised, since they are often only seen as an appendage of military intervention. For this reason, the Dachverband der Deutschen Entwicklungspolitischen NROs (VENRO – The Development-Policy Federation of German NGOs) has levelled this criticism: ‘Civil-military cooperation’ means that state development cooperation and reconstruction aid are subordinated to military aims as “counter-insurgency”.’5

The conflation of civilian and military aspects has by now even been institutionalised on the strategic level: On 1 December 2010 the European External Action Service started functioning. Almost all civilian and military instruments have been combined in it with an aim henceforth to be able to carry out a ‘more coherent’ and seamless power politics, as can be seen in the statements of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton: ‘We must mobilise all our levers of influence – political, economic, plus civil and military crisis management tools – in support of a single political strategy. […]The days when EU foreign policy could be dismissed as all talk and no action are long over.’6


New global geopolitical strategy?

The European Global Strategy Project initiated by Italy, Spain, Sweden and Poland has set itself the goal of presenting a new strategy by May 2013, in which ideas are to be developed, which ‘go beyond the risks to also look at opportunities, and to take into account the changes that are taking place in Europe as well as in the rest of the world’.7

An essential matter that has changed is the USA’s shift of focus toward the Far East, which furnished EU power politicians an occasion to extend the EU’s sphere of influence and supersede the USA as the ‘peace-keeping power’ in the greater region. The most prominent to advocate this is the Group on Grand Strategy (GoGS), an association of geopoliticains who are explicitly advocating the establishment of a militarily secured wider imperial area and a consequent expansion of the EU’s sphere of influence.8 When the ESS began to speak about European power politics, the language was quite encoded, but now that period is gradually coming to a close.



  2. Andrew Hough: ‘Tony Blair: EU needs elected president, former PM says’, The Telegraph, 9 June 2011.
  3. The ‘Key Threats’ named are: terrorism, proliferation, regional conflicts, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure and organised crime.
  4. Álvaro de Vasconcelos (ed.): What ambitions for European defence in 2020, EUISS 2009, p. 7.
  5. VENRO: ‘Was will Deutschland am Hindukusch?‘ Positionspapier No. 7/2009, p. 6.
  6. Remarks by EU HR Ashton at the Munich Security Conference, 6 February 2010 (
  7. Think-tank process for a European Global Strategy, EGS Fact Sheet, July 2012 (
  8. Jürgen Wagner: ‘Grand Area: Ein imperiales Raumkonzept für die Weltmacht Europa‘, in: Wissenschaft & Frieden 1/2013.