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The slow rise of European defense policy

(B2)After the failure of the European Defense Community (EDC), following France's rejection in 1954, foreign policy was largely absent from the first years of Europe and in particular from the Treaty of Rome (1957). It returned to the agenda only timidly in June 1970. The Foreign Ministers of the Six proposed developing “European Political Cooperation” (EPC). This cooperation is progressing slowly: increase in meetings, European diplomatic information network (COREU), etc. But it remains very informal. It is necessarySingle Act, in 1986, and the Treaty of Maastricht, in 1992, to have a minimum legal and institutional basis.

This is not enough... And the conflicts in Yugoslavia in the first half of the 1990s demonstrate this. The failure of the Europeans is obvious (in Croatia and Bosnia particularly). It will serve as a spur for all future reforms. In the midst of the conflict, the ministers of the WEU (Union for Western Europe) defined the contours of defense Europe. These are the “Petersberg missions”, ratified in the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997). This treaty creates the function of High Representative to coordinate the common foreign and security policy. Position held since 1999 by the former Secretary General of NATO, the Spaniard Javier Solana.

This is a Franco-British initiative, in Saint-Malo (December 1998) which really launched the Europe of defense, calling for providing “the Union with an autonomous capacity for action, supported by credible military forces, with the means to use them”. These objectives were taken up by the 15 Heads of State and Government at the European Council in Cologne (June 1999). They endorsed at the Helsinki summit (December 1999) the format of a European Rapid Reaction Force, “capable of deploying up to 60.000 men in 60 days”.

Le Treaty of Nice (2000) adds decision-making structures, such as the Political and Security Committee (PSC) – made up of EU “security” ambassadors – and the EU Military Committee – made up of the Chiefs of Staff or their representatives. European defense policy was declared operational at the Laeken-Brussels summit (2001). A European and security strategy is defined (2003) in a context of European division following the American intervention in Iraq. An agreement (known as “Berlin Plus”) was made with NATO to use its resources during a military operation (March 2003). And the first external operations deployed (Macedonia, Bosnia, Indonesia, Congo, etc.)

THEEuropean Defense Agency was created (July 2004) with the mission of developing industrial cooperation and strengthening the capacities of the various Member States. It anticipates the provisions of the future treaty (Constitution or Treaty of Lisbon). A European Union military headquarters was set up, equipped in 2007 with an operations centre. And a crisis management headquarters, the Center for Planning and Conduct of Civilian Operations (CPCC), was created in 2008.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).