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September 29, 2014

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Strengthening the ESDP - The EU's Approach to International Security

September 19, 2008

Anförande vid EES i Helsingfors, Finland

 

It's a great pleasure to be able to take part in this important conference.

 

I have been among those arguing that we need to go back to the European Security Strategy that we adopted in late 2003.

 

Not because it was flawed in any way. Not because it in essence has not stood the test of time. Not because it hasn't served us well.

 

But primarily because a union like ours needs an ongoing strategic debate in the true sense of that word, and because it is only through such a debate that we can gradually bring the different strategic cultures of our respective countries closer together.

 

One if the criticism levelled against the 2003 document - perhaps in particular on the other side of the Atlantic - that it wasn't a very strategic document.

 

It was seen as richer in description of the challenges - terrorism and organised crime, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and failed states - than in outlining the strategies for how to deal with them.

 

Perhaps.

 

But it should be realized that our union is just starting to emerge as a strategic actor in the true sense of the word, and that any attempt at charting a strategy must start with a description of the terrain that we are likely to encounter as we move ahead.

 

In the debates during the past few months it has been pointed out that there are a number of challenges that loom larger on the horizon now than they did half a decade ago.

 

All the issues associated with energy and climate change obviously belong to this category. Energy security has risen also recently on the political agenda of Europe. And to combat climate change is clearly one of our top priorities in the years ahead.

 

But you could also point at issues like the ballistic missile threat, maritime security and piracy, illicit arms trafficking, cyber attacks and cyber security as well as issues of space security when discussing challenges that looms larger today than they did then.

 

We often forget how much has changed since 2003.

 

2004 saw the great enlargement that surely one day will be seen as one of the truly finest hours of the entire process of European integration.

 

2005 saw the landmark decision to open accession negotiations also with Turkey, thus confirming our vision of an open and strategically ambitious European Union.

 

2006 saw all the issues connected with energy security - already to some extent on the radar screen in 2003 - coming into dramatically sharper focus.

 

2007 saw our Union assume a global leadership role when it comes to tackling the enormous challenge of climate  change.

 

And this 2008 has of course seen the days of war in the Caucasus and the beginning of the changes that are bound to flow from it.

 

Before heading off in that direction, let me just note that the most important starting point for any discussion on the challenges ahead must be the challenge of the Union itself.

 

The kind of Union we are in 2009, 2014, 2019 and 2024 - years of elections and transitions - will have a decisive influence on our ability to shape our strategic environment and to handle the different challenges.

 

Will we be able to come to some more steady state in terms of the institutions we need, and will we be able to anchor these institutions firmly in our respective national political systems? We have stumbled time after time in the last few years, but sooner rather than later we must find the necessary steady state.

 

Will we be able to change and reform our economies, facing the challenge that will come also from demography and continue to be winners in this age of accelerating globalisation - or will a failure force us to sink down into a defensive and protectionist mood?

 

Questions such as these are beyond the scope of our discussions today, but we should not neglect the fact that the answers to these questions carry great significance for our global position.

 

There are parts of the world in which the strategic debate sees our Europe as far more of an interesting part of history than of a true partner for shaping the global future. We should take note - and prove them wrong.

 

The 2003 document famously opened by stating that "Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free. The violence of the first half of the 20th century has given way to a period of peace and stability unprecedented in European history".

 

This was written eight years after the end of the war in Bosnia, four years after the end of the war over Kosovo - five years before the war in the Caucasus.

 

It is not immediately obvious that one would use the same language today.

 

It will certainly take some time to fully assess the different consequences of that war for the wider European and global situation.

 

In a press release after the meeting of the so called Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia on Tuesday of this week it was stated that "the latest events in the Caucasus will have far-reaching and multifaceted consequences for regional and global politics and signify a new quality in the international situation and in the standing of Russia."

 

And in a more immediate commentary on the more immediate situation the independent commentator Fyodor Lukyanov - editor of Russia in Global Affairs - wrote the other day that "the entire post-Soviet landscape increasingly resemble a minefield where the slightest sudden movement could lead to yet another explosion."

 

I have so far restricted myself to making two strategic observations.

 

The first is that it is evident that the threshold for Russia to use military power to defend what it defines as its interests has clearly been lowered. This does not mean that it is equally low everywhere - it was obviously particularly low here - but it is nevertheless a somewhat unsettling observations.

 

The second is that Russian policy has now opened up border issues in the post-Soviet space that it is difficult not to describe as destabilizing for the future. The informal discussions at the meeting we had yesterday in Paris with the Central Asian states certainly confirmed this.

 

One of the key strategies identified in the 2003 document was "to promote a ring of well-governed countries to the East of the European Union and on the borders of the Mediterranean with whom we can enjoy close and cooperative relations."

 

But on the question of relationship with Russia it chose to be vague in the extreme - just noting that "respect for common values will reinforce progress towards a strategic partnership."

 

As a theoretical concept this sentence certainly still holds true, but as a description of the present situation it does not hold water. If anything, there is a tendency for values to drift apart, and the element of a relationship there is must rather be defined in terms of possible common interest.

 

We obviously need to develop new strategies and devise better instrument in order to be able to contribute more effectively - under more adverse conditions - to the pursuit of our aim of "well-governed countries to the East of the European Union."

 

Leaving the question of Russia itself aside - whether it will slide backwards into a 19th century geopolitical attempt to achieve hegemony, or whether it will join a 21st century world of cooperation and integration - we must develop a true Eastern Partnership with those countries of this area - including the Southern Caucasus - that sees gradual entry into the structures of European integration, respecting our values and building the institutions of the rule of the law and open societies, as their way towards a better future.

 

Here, I do believe that there is the need for innovate and ambitious approaches, and the need to see even the smallest of steps in the broader strategic perspective.

 

This should not be seen as attempts to establish a "zone of influence" to the detriment of the willingness of these countries to develop their relationship with other countries, including Russia. But it should certainly be seen as giving these countries the right and the possibility to freely choose their own future.

 

Whether they want to be influenced by us or not should be their free decision - zones of influence imposed by others should be alien to the Europe that we are seeking to build.

 

The most powerful strategic instrument Union has deployed during its decades of existence has been the policy of being open to new members. This is a policy that is laid down in Article 59 of the Treaty of Rome, and this article applies to every country of Europe without any restrictions or exemptions.

Much has been achieved since 2003 in this regard.

 

We have opened accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia. We have signed SAA agreements with all the countries of the Western Balkans. We have developed the European Neighbourhood Policy - since then given more concrete form in one direction with the Union of the Mediterranean and about to be given the same in another with the Eastern Partnership.

 

The most critical of the questions ahead in these respects is clearly the question of the accession of Turkey. We know that there exists significant resistance in a number of countries - and we also know that Turkey itself will have to go further in its reform policies.

 

Nevertheless - there are few questions as important when it comes to defining and deciding the role the European Union can play on the wider stage in the future as this.

 

It is not only the size and the strategic location of the country that I am thinking of. I would argue that Turkey is today already the second most important strategic partner to the European Union after the United States.

 

But the question of admitting Turkey or not will boil down to whether we are to build a Europe truly open for cooperation with countries of other cultures or traditions - as well as to give them inspiration for the future - or whether we will risk sliding into a long-term confrontation of cultures and - eventually - countries.

 

Few issues are - in my opinion - of greater strategic significance for the future of our Union than this.

The 2003 document was supposed to be followed by different more concrete policies in different areas, as well as by efforts to develop the instruments necessary to carry out these policies.

 

But I am afraid we have seen less of this than should have been the case.

 

In much the same way as I see the need to develop our strategic debate in order to move towards a common strategic culture in our different countries, I see a need to develop the common instruments of knowledge upon which our policies will be based.

 

Elements of this are already in place. We see our Heads of Missions around the world making joint assessments of different situations. We have developed a Situation Centre in Brussels that is often useful. We have institutions in Brussels that are making their assessments of the challenges we are facing.

 

But more clearly needs to be done.

 

Sooner or later the External Action Service will come into being. National embassies will certainly remain - and be of critical importance to the respective countries - but the EAS is likely to reinforce the tendency towards a common knowledge base for our policies.

 

But we must also look at other ways of improving our common collection of knowledge and information, and of ways of disseminating this to decision-makers as well as opinion-shapers across Europe.

 

A close inter-action with a vibrant community of think-tanks will be critical to the development of this common knowledge base, as will be a closer dialogue between the different analytical and intelligence agencies we are equipped with.

 

Apart from the more slow-moving strategic instruments of enlargement and neighbourhood policies in the immediate area, and the increasingly important strategic dialogues that we are developing with countries like China, India and Brazil, we must be able to deploy more quick-reaction assets in order to engage with and influence  different situations.

 

As we are now deploying our 200-man monitoring mission to Georgia - and doing that rather fast - we must reflect on why we were not ready to engage in a more ambitious way in this region and with its different conflicts earlier.

 

That some were calling for this is an open secret - as is the fact that others thought it was one bridge too far, and that we should not be overly exposed in far-away places of which we knew very little.

 

The last year has seen us as a Union deploying a 3.000-man strong military force to Thad and the Central African Republic, a large mission to Kosovo and now the 200-man observation mission to Georgia. Taken together this represents a rather significant expansion of the ambitions that we have with our so-called ESDP missions.

 

With these missions expanding in scope and in size, and with the deployed or having to cover increasingly different areas, there is clearly the need for better structures for both planning and command in Brussels or otherwise adjacent to the political authorities.

 

In the past there was the fear that this would either duplicate or perhaps even seek to replace the structures built up during the years in NATO. But lately we have seen even the United States coming out in favour of stronger independent European capabilities - understanding that there is the need for both.

 

Although the military mission are often seen as the most demanding, it is often the deployment of the more political and civilian ones that are the most challenging.

 

While we have standing military units ready to go - notable the two EU Battle groups ready to deploy within 10 days - we don't have policemen, judges, lawyers or different instructors ready in the same way. But while state- building is about security, it is even more about the building of the different institutions of a functioning society.

 

Over the years different Europeans have accumulated a vast experience of the different sorts of stability operations performed under different flags around the world. But once a mission has been completed, this experience - the good and the bad lessons - often disappear, and the next mission is built without sufficient benefit of them all.

 

One idea to remedy this might be to create a European Union Institute of Peace - bringing together not only experiences from the past, but also developing the policies for the future in close contact with everything from the academic world to the hard-nosed practioniers out in the darkest corners of the world.

 

Without making it a copy, one could well learn from the experiences of the US Institute of Peace set up and operating directly under the US Congress.

 

As we develop our instruments and institutions of knowledge, set up our External Action Service, try to foster a vibrant think-tank environment and build new institutions of planning and execution we must obviously also continue to restructure our military forces to be more suited to the needs that we see ahead.

 

Recent independent studies - by the International Institute of Strategic Studies as well as the European Council on Foreign Relations - have painted a picture of rather substantial improvement in European capabilities as we go from the large static defence forces of the past to the more dynamic intervention forces of the future.

 

There will never be - nor should we ever seek - a common European army or defence force.

 

But we all recognise that all operations of relevance that our respective forces will have to take part in will be multinational operations of the one sort or the other, and that in most of the cases most of the other forces in these will be from other European nations.

 

At some point in time we must review the Headline Goals from 1999 as well as the more recent Battlegroup concept. The French Presidency has recently submitted some interesting thoughts regarding this.

 

But in the meantime we should discuss how we can use these forces when they are not used.

 

Why can't we - just to mention an example - as a routine deploy the EU Battle groups to different areas of interest to us. This will test their deployment ability - and it will demonstrate what we are able to do. I'm certain it will be seen as more meaningful by the forces themselves than just waiting somewhere for nothing to happen.

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