A paradox is taking place in Europe. On the one hand, armed conflicts, traditional state invasions, revolutions, terrorist activities among others are taking place at the European Union’s doorstep. On the other hand, the EU is going through a process of risk-aversion and lack of strategic vision combined with progressive demilitarization as most EU Member States are barely investing in their national armies, in R&D, and even in their commitments to the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With the current types of threats and the global shift of power, one would expect the EU and its 28 Member States to maintain and/or at least increase their spending and investments in defense and security policies. The book, Debating European Security and Defense Policy. Understanding the Complexity, asks a simple question: “Why has the integration process of the EU security and defense policies been so unpredictable?” (p.4)
This overarching research question has allowed the author to demonstrate throughout 12 chapters the multitude of dimensions and variables affecting the integration and/or demise of the CSDP from the 1950s to today. Debating European Security and Defense Policy is a journey into the European construction and broader narratives of a commitment among the initial six Member States to the current EU-28 to develop a common approach, policy and thinking to security and defense. Such project is directly intertwined to the story of European integration as the first attempt goes back to 1954 with the European Defense Cooperation (EDC) promoted and killed by the French, and supported by the US under President
Eisenhower. The evolution of European defense is closely linked to the integration process of the Union and saw several phases of integration. The problem of harmonization and integration in defense is similar to the one on fiscal policy. Both policies are causing headaches for Member States as they are at the crossroad between traditional state sovereignty and EU integration. Defense and fiscal policies are some of the most controversial to harmonized as they are forcing Member States to identify up to what point integration is necessary without affecting too much the sanctity of national sovereignty.
Purpose, Debate and Skepticism about the CSDP
The idea of this book fermented throughout my research for my Ph.D. dissertation seeking to look at the different degree of integration in EU defense and security. During a very insightful interview with a top expert in a highly renowned and respected Washington think tank, the interviewee told me: “your dissertation ought to start with the ESDP [this was before the 2009 Lisbon Treaty] and terminate with the ESDP.” For some reason, such comment/advise has stayed with me all these years and could be the words than fostered my desire to dig deeper into the topic of the CSDP.
The goal of this book was to decorticate the CSDP into manageable pieces centered on relevant debates. This work shall be seen and understood more as a reflection with diverging narratives and be read as such rather than a linear storyline. The manuscript is organized around three main parts: part one, the theoretical debates (positivist approaches) around the CSDP; part two, the historical and strategic evolutions of European Security and Defense Policy; and, part three, the Actors of the CSDP such as the Member States, the different institutions (Parliament, Commission, Council, EEAS) and agencies (European Defense Agency), the High Representative, and the CSDP (read here the table of contents).
This work distinguishes itself from the existing body of literature by the structure of the argument and chapters (access here to the introduction). Each chapter, answering an overarching research question, is divided into two sub-level research questions underscoring two-sides for each theme. Instead of evolving in the gray area as the entire literature on the topic, the book purposely answers each question through a yes and no answer. The reason behind such model is to demonstrate to the reader how successful or not the EU and the Member States have been in promoting and developing the CSDP. Such approach has demonstrated to be very effective in order to foster discussion and a debate.
Additionally, the book features a foreword written by Dr. Jolyon Howorth, undeniably one of the most accomplished researchers on the topic (read here his latest analysis on the 2011 Libyan military operation). His argument fits perfectly with the purpose of this book to underscore the existing debate on the CSDP. As he writes “Prior to 2009, the overall mood was upbeat, optimistic and constructive. Most scholars writing in the late 1990s and early 2000s were confident that the creation of a European defense capacity was an important new development, both for European integration and for European security. […] All this began to change around the time of the ratification of the Lisbon Treat. The mood among scholars switched to one of uncertainty, pessimism, skepticism” (p. xi).
— Ashgate Politics (@AshgatePolitics) December 6, 2014
One of the most interesting chapters to write and research on was about the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis on the CSDP (Chapter 7). Theoretically (as informed by neoliberalism), the financial crisis should have been a vector contributing to the fostering of integration in security and defense policies; but the EU has seen another evolving trend: mini-clusters or sub-EU defense integration. Member States have instead increased spending on sub-regional defense cooperation initiatives with their closest neighboring states sharing similar national security problems like the Visegrad Group (as well known as the V4 composed of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Weimar Triangle (Poland, Germany and France), Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO composed of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) among others. A debate among EU experts exist as some claim that these sub-regional initiatives will ultimately spill-over at the regional level – meaning the CSDP –, while others (myself included) see a trend lowering the deepening process of defense and security integration at the EU. This could lead to a multi-speed Europe in the realm of defense and security.
The CSDP, A Priority in the Future of the EU?
Once again, the CSDP does not appear to be on the list of priorities of the EU-28 for the coming year or even decade. Almost a year ago, the 27 heads of states and governments (Croatia was not part of the EU yet) met at the December defense summit (read analyses on the summit here, here and there), wherein they all committed to deepening European defense, and famously agreed that “defense matters.” One major way to empower the CSDP since the 2008 financial crisis has been through an increase in the pooling and sharing (P&S) of military capabilities among the Member States in order to decrease the levels of duplication at national levels.
From “defense matters” to “what defense?” the EU-28 has not expressed a great interest in empowering the CSDP. The usual argument of Pooling & Sharing (P&S) has been a way for Member States to avoid to develop and commit behind a clear strategic vision requiring credible European forces and strategic thinking. Additionally, the pillars of the CSDP, the Big 3, have been shifting away their interests from the CSDP to more national policies. Historically, European defense has evolved thanks to Franco-British initiatives. With the current distance between Paris and London for political and ideological divergences, the CSDP is slowing declining. Additionally, France has increasingly gone alone since the Libya mission in order to advance its interests and influence in Africa; Britain is fighting against the EU and trying to identify its future outside of the Union; and Germany is struggling in maintaining a standing national army and values its influence over other EU
policies (nevertheless, Falk Tettweiler argues that the CSDP fits in German mindset for its contribution to crisis management and prevention, civilian missions, and its multilateral nature).
Debating European Security and Defense Policy comes at the time where the CSDP is not a priority for European capitals and remains a mystery to most European citizens. This manuscript seeks to identify the important problems facing the EU and many themes of debate challenging European experts. The new EU leadership, President Tusk, President Juncker and HR Mogherini, seems to have brought a new wind into their respective positions (even though President Van Rompuy has done an excellent job). It may be that this new group of EU leaders could reinvigorate the CSDP and EU foreign policy, at least at the European level.
(Copyright 2014 by Politipond. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission).