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The European Security Strategy – 2003 Version

Approved by the Brussels European Council on December 12, 2003.

NB: The terms placed in quotations have been chosen to illustrate the strengths of the strategy


Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure, or so free. The violence of the first half of the twentieth century gave way to a period of peace and stability unprecedented in European history.

The creation of the European Union was the essential factor in this development. It has transformed the relations between our States, as well as the lives of our citizens. European countries are committed to settling disputes peacefully and cooperating through common institutions. During this period, the progressive extension of the rule of law and democracy transformed authoritarian regimes into secure, stable and vibrant democracies. Successive enlargements make the project of a united and peaceful continent a reality.

The United States has played a key role in European integration and security, notably through NATO. The end of the Cold War left the United States in a dominant position as a military player.

No country, however, is in a position to face the complex problems of our time alone.

Europe continues to face security threats and challenges. The outbreak of the conflict in the Balkans has reminded us that war has not disappeared from our continent. Over the past decade, no region of the world has been spared from armed conflict. Most of these conflicts have been within states rather than between states, and most casualties have been civilians.

As a union of twenty-five states, with a population exceeding 450 million people and an output representing a quarter of the world's gross national product (GNP), and with a wide range of instruments at its disposal, the European Union constitutes inevitably a global player. Over the past ten years, European forces have been deployed abroad, in countries as far away as Afghanistan, East Timor or the Democratic Republic of Congo. The growing convergence of European interests and the strengthening of solidarity within the EU make Europe a more credible and effective actor.

Europe must be ready to assume its share of the responsibility for international security and for building a better world.


World challenges

The post-Cold War environment is characterized by increasingly open borders, where internal and external aspects of security are inextricably linked. Trade and investment flows, the development of technology and the advancement of democracy have brought freedom and prosperity to many people. Others saw globalization as an element of frustration and injustice. Moreover, these developments have increased the room for maneuver available to non-state groups to play a role in international affairs. And they have increased Europe's dependence, and hence vulnerability, on interconnected infrastructure, including transport, energy and information.

Since 1990, wars have claimed the lives of nearly four million people, 90% of them civilians. More than eighteen million people around the world have left their homes or countries as a result of conflict.

In most developing countries, poverty and disease cause untold suffering and are the source of particularly pressing security problems. Nearly three billion people, or half of the world's population, live on less than two euros a day. Forty-five million people die each year from hunger and malnutrition. AIDS is now one of the most devastating pandemics in human history and contributes to the breakdown of societies. New diseases can spread rapidly and become global threats. Sub-Saharan Africa is poorer today than it was ten years ago. In many cases, economic failure is linked to political problems and violent conflicts.

Security is a necessary condition for development.

Not only do conflicts destroy infrastructure, including social infrastructure, but they also encourage crime, deter investment and make normal economic activity impossible. A number of countries and regions are caught in a cycle of conflict, insecurity and poverty.

Competition for natural resources, especially water, which will be aggravated by global warming in the coming decades, will probably be a source of additional unrest and migratory movements in different regions of the world.

Energy dependence is a particular source of concern for Europe. Europe is the world's largest importer of oil and gas. Its imports now account for around 50% of energy consumption. This figure will increase to 70% in 2030. Most imports of energy products come from the Gulf, Russia and North Africa.

Main threats

A large-scale aggression against one of the Member States is currently unlikely. On the other hand, Europe faces new threats, which are more varied, less visible and less predictable.

Terrorisme : terrorism endangers lives, entails enormous costs, aims to undermine the openness and tolerance of our societies and constitutes a growing strategic threat for the whole of Europe. Increasingly, terrorist movements have significant resources, communicate through electronic networks and are willing to use unlimited violence to cause massive casualties.

The most recent wave of terrorism is global in character and linked to violent religious extremism. The causes are complex and relate in particular to the pressures exerted by modernization, cultural, social and political crises and the alienation of young people living in foreign societies. This phenomenon is also part of our own society.

Europe is both a target and a base of operation for these terrorists: European countries are targets and they have been attacked. Logistic bases for Al-Qaeda cells have been discovered in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Spain and Belgium. Concerted European action is essential.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction potentially poses the greatest threat to our security. International treaty regimes and export control arrangements have slowed the proliferation of WMD and their delivery systems. However, we are now entering a new and dangerous period, where we are likely to see a WMD race, particularly in the Middle East. Advances in the biological sciences may, in years to come, increase the potency of biological weapons; attacks with chemical and radiological materials are also a serious possibility. The proliferation of ballistic technology adds an additional element of instability that could place Europe at heightened risk.

The scariest scenario is when we see terrorist groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction. In this hypothesis, a small group would be able to inflict damage on a scale that, until recently, could only have been envisaged for states or armies.

Regional conflicts : Issues such as those in Kashmir, the Great Lakes region and the Korean Peninsula have a direct and indirect impact on European interests, as do conflicts closer to home, especially in the Middle East. Violent or "frozen" conflicts, which also persist on our borders, threaten regional stability. They cause loss of human life and destroy social and physical infrastructure; they pose a threat to minorities, fundamental freedoms and human rights. Conflicts can lead to extremism and terrorism and lead to state failure; they make the bed of organized crime. Regional insecurity can increase demand for WMD. The most concrete way of dealing with new threats, which are often difficult to apprehend, will sometimes be to tackle the older problems of regional conflicts.

Failing States : Bad governance – corruption, abuse of power, weak institutions and lack of accountability – and civil strife eat away at states from within. In some cases, this situation almost led to the collapse of state institutions. Somalia, Liberia and Taliban Afghanistan are the best known recent examples. State collapse may be associated with obvious threats, such as organized crime or terrorism. State failure is an alarming phenomenon that undermines global governance and adds to regional instability.

Organized crime : Europe is a prime target for organized crime. This internal threat to our security has an important external dimension: cross-border drug trafficking, trafficking in women, illegal immigration and arms trafficking represent a large part of the activities of criminal groups. Organized crime may have links to terrorism.

These criminal activities are often associated with weak or failing states. Revenue from drug trafficking has contributed to the weakening of state structures in several producing countries. Those drawn from the trade in precious stones, timber and small arms fuel conflicts in other parts of the world. All of these activities undermine the rule of law and even the social order. In extreme cases, organized crime can go so far as to dominate the state. 90% of the heroin sold in Europe comes from poppies grown in Afghanistan, where the drug trade is used to finance private armies. Most of this heroin is channeled through Balkan criminal networks which, in addition, exploit 200 of the 000 women victims of the sex trade worldwide. The rise of maritime piracy, which constitutes a new dimension of organized crime, will deserve greater attention.

The fact is that the combination of all these elements – terrorism firmly committed to using maximum violence, access to weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, the weakening of the state system and the privatization of force – could expose us to an extremely serious threat.


We live in a world that offers more promising prospects, but which also brings greater threats than those we have known so far. It is our action that will partly determine the future. We must both think globally and act locally. To defend its security and promote its values, the EU has set itself three strategic objectives:

Dealing with Threats

The European Union is actively engaged in the fight against the main threats.

- It reacted after 11/XNUMX with measures, including the adoption of the European arrest warrant, initiatives against the financing of terrorism and a mutual legal assistance agreement with the United States. The EU continues to develop its cooperation in this area and to improve its defences.

- For many years, it has pursued a policy of combating the proliferation of armaments. The Union has just approved a new action program which includes measures to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency, measures to strengthen export controls, measures to combat illegal shipments and illicit acquisitions. The EU is committed to achieving universal adherence to multilateral treaty regimes, and to strengthening treaties and their verification provisions.

- The European Union and the Member States have intervened to help resolve regional conflicts and to restore failed states, notably in the Balkans, Afghanistan and the DRC. Restoring good governance in the Balkans, promoting democracy and enabling authorities in the region to tackle organized crime are some of the most effective ways to combat this scourge within the EU itself. .

In the age of globalization, distant threats can be as worrisome as closer ones.

Nuclear activities in North Korea, nuclear risks in South Asia and proliferation in the Middle East are all sources of concern for Europe.

Terrorists and criminals are now able to operate worldwide: their activities in Central Asia or South-East Asia can pose a threat to European countries or their nationals. On the other hand, due to global communication, Europeans are increasingly aware of regional conflicts or humanitarian tragedies occurring all over the world.

Our traditional concept of self-defense (until the Cold War and throughout its duration) was based on the threat of invasion. Faced with new threats, the first line of defense will often be abroad. New threats are dynamic. Proliferation risks increase over time; if nothing is done against them, the terrorist networks will become even more dangerous. State failure and organized crime spread if left unchecked, as we have seen in West Africa. This means that we must be ready to act before a crisis occurs. It is never too early to prevent conflicts and threats.

Unlike the massive and visible threat of the Cold War era, none of the new threats is purely military and cannot be countered by purely military means. To each one must oppose a combination of means of action. Proliferation can be controlled through export controls and countered through political, economic and other pressures, as long as its underlying political causes are also addressed. Dealing with terrorism sometimes requires a combination of intelligence and police, judicial, military and other resources. In failed states, military instruments may be needed to restore order, and humanitarian means to address the immediate crisis. While regional conflicts call for political solutions, military means and effective police may be needed in the post-conflict phase. Economic instruments enable reconstruction and civilian crisis management helps restore civilian government. The European Union is particularly well equipped to respond to such multifaceted situations.

Building safety in our neighborhood

Even in the era of globalization, geography remains important. It is in Europe's interest that the countries on its borders are well governed. Neighbors engaged in violent conflict, weak states where organized crime is rampant, failing societies or explosive population growth at Europe's borders are all problems for her.

If it increases our security, the integration of the accession states will also have the effect of bringing the EU closer to troubled areas. Our task must be to promote, in the East of the European Union and on the borders of the Mediterranean basin, a group of well-governed countries with which we can have close relations, based on cooperation.

The Balkans is the region that best illustrates the importance of this element. Thanks to our concerted efforts with the United States, Russia, NATO and other international partners, the stability of the region is no longer threatened by the outbreak of a major conflict. It is on the consolidation of our achievements in this region that the credibility of our foreign policy depends. The European perspective is a strategic objective as well as an incentive for reform.

It is not in our interest for enlargement to create new dividing lines in Europe.

We must extend to our eastern neighbors the benefits of economic and political cooperation while tackling the political problems facing these countries. We should now take a greater and more active interest in the problems of the South Caucasus, which in due course will also be a neighboring region.

The settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority for Europe. Without such a settlement, there will be little chance of solving the other problems of the Middle East. The European Union must remain committed and ready to devote resources to this problem until it is solved. The solution based on the coexistence of two states – which Europe has long supported – is now widely accepted. Its implementation will require joint and concerted efforts on the part of the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia, as well as of the countries of the region, but also and above all of the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. themselves.

Generally speaking, the Mediterranean area continues to face serious problems of economic stagnation, social tensions and unresolved conflicts. The interests of the European Union require a continued commitment to the Mediterranean partners through more effective cooperation in the fields of economy, security and culture, within the framework of the Barcelona process. A broader engagement with the Arab world should also be considered.

An international order based on effective multilateralism

In a world where threats, markets and media are global, our security and prosperity increasingly depend on the existence of an effective multilateral system.

We aim to build a stronger international society, well-functioning international institutions and an international order based on a set of rules.

We are committed to defending and developing international law. International relations have as their fundamental framework the Charter of the United Nations. The primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security rests with the United Nations Security Council. One of Europe's priorities is to strengthen the United Nations organization, by providing it with the necessary means so that it can assume its responsibilities and carry out effective action.

We want international organizations, regimes and treaties to play their part in addressing threats to international peace and security. We must therefore be ready to act when their rules are not respected.

Key institutions of the international system, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have gained new members. China has acceded to the WTO and Russia is currently negotiating its accession. One of our objectives should be to encourage a greater number of memberships in these institutions while maintaining their high standards.

Transatlantic relations constitute one of the essential elements of the international system, not only with regard to our bilateral interests, but also because they strengthen the international community as a whole. NATO is an important expression of this relationship.

Regional organizations also strengthen global governance. For the European Union, the strength and effectiveness of the OSCE and the Council of Europe are of particular importance. Other regional organizations such as ASEAN, MERCOSUR and the African Union are making important contributions to a more orderly world.

One of the conditions of a rules-based international order is that the law evolves in response to new developments such as proliferation, terrorism and global warming. It is in our interest to continue to develop existing institutions such as the World Trade Organization and to support new ones such as the International Criminal Court. Our own experience in Europe shows that security can be enhanced by confidence-building measures and the establishment of arms control systems. Such instruments can also make an important contribution to security and stability in our neighborhood and beyond.

The quality of international society depends on the quality of the governments that are its foundations. The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic states. Spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, fighting corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights: these are the best ways to strengthen the international order. .

Trade policies and development policies can be powerful tools for promoting reform. As the world's largest contributors of official aid and the largest commercial entity, the European Union and its Member States are well placed to pursue these objectives.

Contributing to better governance through aid programs, conditionality and targeted trade measures remains one of the important aspects of our policy, which we need to strengthen. A world that is believed to offer justice to all and to everyone a chance will be safer for the European Union and for its citizens.

A number of countries have placed themselves outside the international society. Some chose isolation; others persist in violating international standards. It is desirable that these countries join the international community, and the EU should be ready to provide assistance to this end. Those who refuse to do so should understand that there is a price to pay, especially in their relations with the European Union.


The European Union's foreign policy has gained in coherence; its crisis management has become more efficient. We have effective instruments in place, as we have demonstrated in the Balkans and beyond. However, if we want our contribution to live up to our potential, we must be more active and more coherent and develop our capacities. We must also work with others.

More active in pursuit of our strategic objectives. This applies to all the crisis management and conflict prevention instruments at our disposal, including political, diplomatic, military and civil, trade and development actions. Active policies are needed to deal with the dynamism of new threats.

We must develop a strategic culture that favors upstream, rapid and, if necessary, robust interventions.

As a Union made up of 25 members, which devotes more than EUR 160 billion to defence, we should be able to carry out several operations simultaneously. We could bring particular added value by designing operations involving both military and civilian capabilities.

The EU should support UN action in response to threats to international peace and security. The EU is determined to strengthen its cooperation with the United Nations in assisting countries emerging from conflict and to provide increased support to the United Nations in short-term crisis management.

We must be able to act before the situation in the countries around us deteriorates, when signs of proliferation are detected, and before humanitarian emergencies arise. A preventive engagement can prevent more serious problems in the future. A European Union which assumes greater responsibilities and which is more active will be a Union which will have more political weight.

Capacity development. A Europe with enhanced capabilities is within our reach, although it will take time to realize our full potential. The actions underway – in particular the creation of a defense agency – are heading in the right direction.

To transform our armies into more flexible and mobile forces and to enable them to face new threats, more resources for defense and a better use of means are necessary.

Systematic use of pooled and shared resources would reduce duplication and overhead and, in the medium term, build capacity.

In almost all major interventions, military effectiveness is followed by civil chaos. We need to build capacities aimed at mobilizing all necessary civilian means in crisis and post-crisis situations.

A stronger diplomatic capacity: we need a system that combines the resources of the Member States and those of the EU institutions. Dealing with problems that have a more distant and foreign origin requires better understanding and better communication.

A common threat assessment is the best basis for joint action. This implies better sharing of intelligence between Member States and with partners.

As we strengthen our capabilities in the various areas concerned, we should think about a wider range of missions. This range could include joint disarmament operations, assistance to third countries in the fight against terrorism and in security reforms. This last aspect should be part of a broader institutional development.

The EU/NATO permanent arrangements, in particular the "Berlin plus" arrangements, strengthen the operational capacity of the EU and set the framework for the strategic partnership between the two organizations in the field of crisis management. They reflect our common determination to face the challenges of the new century.

More consistent. The raison d'être of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defense Policy is that by acting together we are stronger. In recent years we have created a number of different instruments, each of which has its own structure and rationale.

The challenge today is to bring together the various instruments and means: the European aid programs and the European Development Fund, the military and civilian capacities of the Member States and other instruments. All of them can have an impact on our security and that of third countries. Security is the first condition of development.

Diplomatic efforts, development, trade and environmental policies should pursue the same objective. In a crisis situation, nothing replaces unity of command.

In the context of the fight against terrorism and organized crime, it is essential to better coordinate external action and the policies carried out in the field of justice and internal affairs.

Greater coherence must not only be established between EU instruments, it must also encompass the external activities of the different Member States.

Coherent policies are also needed at the regional level, especially when it comes to dealing with conflict. Problems are rarely solved by a single country or without regional support, as experience in the Balkans and West Africa shows in different ways.

Cooperate with our partners. There is virtually no problem that we can solve alone. The threats mentioned above are common threats that we share with all of our closest partners. International cooperation is a necessity. We must pursue our goals both through multilateral cooperation within international organizations and through partnerships with other key players.

The transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable. By acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world.

Our goal should be an effective and balanced partnership with the United States. This is an additional reason for the EU to further strengthen its capacities and its coherence.

We should continue to work for closer relations with Russia, a major element of our security and prosperity. Respect for common values ​​will reinforce progress towards a strategic partnership.

Our history, our geography and our cultural ties connect us with every part of the world: our neighbors in the Middle East, our partners in Africa, Latin America and Asia. These relationships are an important asset that must be exploited. In particular, we should seek strategic partnerships with Japan, China, Canada and India, and with all those who share our goals and values ​​and are prepared to support them.


This world presents new dangers, but it also offers new opportunities. The European Union has the potential to make a major contribution both to combating the threats and to taking advantage of the opportunities that will arise. A dynamic and capable European Union will carry weight on the world stage. It will thus contribute to an effective multilateral system paving the way to a fairer, safer and more united world. »

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