Now that the European Union (EU) is back into ‘strategic’ mode, with a view to producing a ‘global strategy on foreign and security policy’ by June 2016, it may be worthwhile to take a step back and look at the record so far.
Typically, the most effective ‘strategies’ devised and implemented by the European Community/Union over the past few decades were rarely labelled as such – be it the drive to the single market and monetary union, the implementation of Schengen or the ‘big bang’ enlargement of 2004. In fact, the expansion of the EC/EU has been driven by a short and simple article in the Rome Treaty; the single market was spearheaded by a sort of ‘Green Paper’ (the Cecchini Report) and pushed through by judicial action; and Schengen is a quintessential case of spill-over, both geographic and functional.
The open call for a ‘strategy’, when it is made, often highlights the need for a review of political objectives in the light of new developments, or just for a clearer sense of direction and a convincing ‘narrative’ as an antidote to purely reactive policymaking and simply muddling through. Perhaps tellingly, this has happened quite often in the domain of EU foreign and security policy.
The 1997 Amsterdam Treaty even introduced ‘common strategies’ among the foreign policy instruments at the disposal of the Union. These were mean to have a regional focus and to be public documents agreed upon unanimously — while allowing for qualified majority voting when adopting specific ‘joint actions’ and ‘common positions’ stemming from them. As soon as the new treaty entered into force, in May 1999, three ‘common strategies’ were swiftly released: on Russia, Ukraine and the Mediterranean – while a fourth one, on the Western Balkans, was implicitly dropped following also the simultaneous launch of the Stability Pact for the Balkans. None of these, incidentally, generated any ‘joint action’.
Shortly afterwards, the newly appointed High Representative (HR) for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Javier Solana, delivered a critical evaluation report on the ‘common strategies’ in which he argued inter alia that:
(a) the three documents brought no added value because they referred to areas where common EU policies were already well established, thus amounting to little more than inventories of existing activities;
(b) lacking any guidelines, procedures were improvised and ended up in lengthy negotia tions in Council working groups which led, in turn, to a ‘Christmas tree’ approach based on the lowest common denominator among the stakeholders, with no clear priorities;
(c) the decision to make the ‘strategies’ public turned them into classical declaratory texts, well-suited for public diplomacy but less useful as internal working tools balancing pros and cons, evaluating EU interests and goals, and identifying areas of disagreement with partners.
It is against this background that the European Security Strategy (ESS) was first conceived, then drafted, and finally agreed – thus opening a new chapter in the EU book. It is still a moot point whether the 2003 ESS was truly a ‘strategy’ in its own right or rather a general doctrine, a combination between a fresh appraisal of the new security environment and a broad set of policy guidelines and recommendations. Ever since, however, no comparable equally comprehensive exercise has been carried out at EU level, despite the dramatic changes that both Europe itself and the wider world have gone through in recent years.
This volume starts notably from there and explores both the context and the process leading up to the European Security Strategy (or Strategies, considering the two successive versions of June and December 2003). It then dwells upon the 2008 report on the implementation of the ESS and, finally, briefly illustrates the basis on which the current High Representative (HR) released her report on the ‘changing global environment’ in June 2015 and is now preparing for the new strategy, due out next year.
Along with the relevant EU documents, this volume also presents the two texts that are most likely to represent a key point of reference for the forthcoming ‘global strategy’, namely NATO’s current Strategic Concept, dating back to 2010, and the latest US National Security Strategy, released earlier this year by the Obama administration.
The expectation is that this Reader will help all those interested and involved in the ongoing ‘strategic review’ better understand the nature, the scope, the potential benefits as well as the intrinsic limitations of such exercises.
Read full report here.