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A strategy does not make spring!

A strategy is like a parade, it's beautiful, but it only lasts for a parade (credit: MOD UK)
A strategy is like a parade, it's beautiful, but it only lasts for a parade (credit: MOD UK)

(BRUSSELS2) The Europeans endorsed, last Friday (26 June), the preparation of a new security strategy that Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU, should present in one year, at the European summit in June 2016.

strategic thinking

To believe, however, that strategic thinking will make it possible to crystallize a new European will and the alpha and omega of a new European policy by the sheer weight of the verb, seems an illusory gamble. Put nearly a year to write this strategy, it's good, it's beautiful. The debates will certainly be interesting and captivating. This will occupy a lot of people, researchers, diplomats, to place here a paragraph on strategic autonomy, the other on the issue of the Arctic or the China Sea, the third on hybrid warfare and cyberattacks... But, concretely in the face of the challenges and threats of the moment, it is a bit unrealistic. It's a bit as if, in the face of a fire, the firefighter wondered if we shouldn't think better about the design of the houses or the layout of the extinguishers 😉 This is all the more so as the usefulness of the strategy in the progress of European actions has been, for the moment, quite limited...

A strategy has never allowed or authorized anything.

In the ten years that the Solana strategy has existed, no one has ever really referred to the strategy to launch or not to launch an operation or a mission carried out under the CSDP or to ratify a European decision in terms of security. Some successes have been achieved with a real action strategy: against piracy and, more generally, in the Horn of Africa. But let's be honest. It was only after the practice that came the theorizing with the global approach. And not the reverse. On the other hand, resounding failures have occurred when there was, on paper at least, a strategy. It was enough to refer to it, to apply it. But we did nothing. The most striking example is the Sahel and Mali or Libya.

A strategy for what?

There can only be strategic thinking if, structurally, there is a common vision. And this one cannot be created at 28, even with the best pen in the world. Negotiating a strategy at 28 implies putting everything into it: the pacifist or neutralist vision of some, realistic and committed of others, a little military, development, humanitarian, good feeling and realism, etc. In other words, words that reassure, are consensual and will resemble already existing documents, simply updated. With the risk that they will be exceeded within 2 or 3 years, at the rate at which the evolution of the crises is going.

A regular review by Heads of State and Government?

At the rate of the evolution of threats, the best strategy would rather be to see and regularly review at the highest European level, at the level of Heads of State and Government, the inventory of threats, the security environment, and the neighborhood. This regular "strategic review" was, moreover, wisely provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon. It has never been applied. It's time to bring it up to date.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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).