Written by Clare Ferguson,
This year has seen Europe struggle to come to terms with its place in today’s contested world, and the EU has found it hard to adapt the positions of its current 28 Member States to respond flexibly and speedily to the challenges of the new security environment. Will the shadow cast by conflicts in the EU’s neighbourhood, instability in other parts of the world, and terrorist violence at home and abroad dim the light of the EU’s guiding liberal cosmopolitanism?
Intractable and violent conflicts, jihadi terrorism, and poverty have led to the largest displacement of people since World War II, at the same time as terrorist acts on European soil have undermined freedom of movement and the feeling of security for Europeans. Half of the countries in the world are affected by terrorism, and numbers of casualties from such attacks are rising. In response to the increasingly contested and complex security environment, in June 2016, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, presented the EU’s global strategy on foreign and security policy, drafted in close cooperation with Member States, to respond to the heightened security situation.
The multiple crises both at home and abroad require a strong response from the European Union. The global strategy thus plans to fund and implement strategic priorities in security and defence, building resilience in the EU neighbourhood to the east and the south, making Europe a ‘harder’ target, and ensuring that EU Member States take a common approach to conflict. The new strategy also aims for close coordination of internal justice and home affairs issues and external security and defence, as well as enhanced public diplomacy.
The EU has boots on the ground, with over 5 000 people involved in 16 different Common Security and Defence Policy missions. These initiatives are an integral part of EU ambitions to promote peace in Europe and in the wider world, to allow all to live in security, solidarity, and mutual respect.
Turning the vision into action is not going to be plain sailing however. The EU needs to work with its partners in the wider world, such as NATO, to implement the new strategy, but may also need to act autonomously. Because closer defence cooperation between Member States touches on the subject of closer integration, negotiations could prove difficult. Tangible actions need to follow bold declarations.
The European Parliament has repeatedly called for more robust action on the defence and security front, most recently before the December 2016 European Council on security and defence. External security is likely to be high on the agenda in 2017. The next report on the global strategy is due in June 2017, when we will see how willing EU Member States have been to move forward with the implementation of the new global strategy.