Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

The debate on political Europe can, and must, be revived

(B2) At the start of the year, it is useful to return to an option which has often been mentioned, and not really achieved: defense Europe. This is the option that with André Dumoulin, in our work on the CSDP, we defended. For a series of reasons

At the European summit in December 2017 © NGV / B2

A favorable conjunction of the stars

Everything is coming together today in this sense: a context of growing threats to which a single State cannot respond, unstable neighbors, allies (Turkey, USA) with erratic developments, the departure of the United Kingdom. To these external elements, we must add a constellation of leaders favorable to greater integration within the institutions (Juncker, Mogherini, Tajani, Barnier, etc.) as well as in the Member States (Spain, Germany and France in particular).

A logical evolution

Europe needs a defense policy. It is an inescapable fact. The Union has an economic, commercial, monetary and political history. Logic would also dictate that it should assume powers in matters of foreign policy, security and defence. But, this is another unavoidable fact, this policy must be built with the States, in the search for a new balance of sovereignty. The new security risks, the search for collective legitimacy, operational efficiency, the desire to be part of the "circle", are all additional elements that justify the construction of a new common security and defense policy. .

A few principles to keep in mind

If the objective can be easily determined, we must not get lost on side roads or in doctrinal or operational impasses.

First, Europe cannot and does not want to be the policeman of the world, even if it perceives the world through its prism of global approach.

Secondly, the European Union neither forms a United States of Europe nor is it its prelude. The common security and defense policy always works through an architecture where the national sovereignty of the member countries forces intergovernmental management with " a succession of compromises, derogations, exemptions and protocol often leading to paralysis or the lowest common denominator [1]. Nation states remain the yardstick of responsibility. The lives of military and civilian citizens are still at stake in operations and missions.

Thirdly, there is no European army and the European Union " does not seek a new military alliance » [2]. But the web of multi-level interests between European states is such that the principle of all together " in the same boat » or the choice between « save together or fail together remains relevant. The issue of responsible common defense therefore remains an objective that should not be overlooked.

Fourth, Europe is still operating through crises. Sometimes proactive, sometimes simply reactive, the economic situation, external and internal threats, terrorism, uncertain neighborhoods, hybrid wars, and strategic surprise require it to be on permanent watch. Strategies are not enough, the notion of anticipation still needs to be constructed.

Cinquièmement, the hallmark of European external action remains the civilian and the military, separate or intertwined, but always complementary, forming, through its different palettes, the so-called global strategy.

Sixth, on the sidelines of the debate on the sharing of areas or the sharing of tasks and risks, a differentiated sharing on the temporality of the commitments may appear: the countries that enter first, then the others. " The intergovernmental nature of defense decisions poses no problem, as long as the abstentionist sovereignty of some does not curb the interventionist sovereignty of others. » Quite rightly indicates Nicole Gnesotto [3].

seventh, EU-NATO complementarity is obvious. Financial constraints make it necessary to remember this every day. Whatever the modalities – sharing of tasks, areas, risks – the two organizations will have to work in synergy without ulterior motives, and avoiding entering into a logic of competition or competition. The temptation to duplicate is as strong on the NATO side as it is on the European Union side.

Eighth, it is necessary to create capability interdependence. This implies being a producer of security and building a common political vision around external action, while trying to resist those who pull industrial cover towards them.

Ninth, if the common defense policy does not yet exist, nothing prevents us from thinking about security for citizens, a thoughtful organization of borders, a reassessment of the neighborhood policy, a codified and shared solidarity, and to a “deregionalization” of security policies or even to a federalization, for those who want to go further.

tenth, the CSDP is fueled by an addition of variable-geometry cooperation and a flexible organization. The constrained means and the surveillance of the capitals by sectoral, strategic or geographical interests militate in this direction.

Finally, strengthening Europe's political dimension is the real key to establishing this CSDP and seeing it assert itself and consolidate itself. In terms of security and defence, more than in any other field, it is first a question of political will before being a question of financial means. There must be a clear impulse, given from above, which must assert itself clearly and permanently. Otherwise, only the incantation or projects blocked in the long term will remain.

The debate on the political dimension of the EU can and must be revived. The time has come !

Still it is necessary not to be mistaken of vector. A two-speed Europe, in concentric circles, or differentiated, thus appears as the model allowing progress for those who wish it, and not being left aside for all the others. The Lisbon Treaty contains the necessary progress in terms of European defence. The building blocks of real autonomy in matters of security and defense are there.

Complete the PESCO

This was the objective of Permanent Structured Cooperation. What we call PESCO for insiders was to allow a few more determined States to go further at the operational level in terms of capacity, to share and jointly manage certain means, as well as to intervene together, in a more efficient or more robust way, with binding objectives. Its expansion to all members of the Union in a format closer to the youth hostel made it lose its qualities as an avant-garde group. It should therefore be supplemented by reinforced cooperation, and following the best practices, more flexible, à la carte, allowing around the hard core to have a wider constellation. To use a maritime image, this construction is similar to that of a multihull, with a central core which allows you to move forward more quickly and secondary hulls which provide a certain stability and allow navigation even in light winds...

(André Dumoulin & Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Extract from the conclusion of thebook on CSDP

[1] GOLDSCHMIDT Paul N., “How to reform the European Union or squaring the circle”. 27 July 2016, Available on the internet:

[2] SOLANA Javier, Intervention on “The State of the CFSP” at the annual conference of the Institute for Security Studies of the EU, Paris, 1 July 2002.

[3] GNESOTTO Nicole, “European defence: new ideas and old common sense”, Paris, National Defense Review, summer 2013.
(André Dumoulin & Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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