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Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

The EU can no longer afford to keep national vetoes when deciding on EU foreign and security policy if it wants to maintain a leading role in global politics, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said 17 July 2022. Moscow’s war in Ukraine makes unity in Europe ever more urgent and increases pressure for an end to “selfish blockades” of European decisions by individual member states, Scholz said in an article published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. “We simply can no longer afford national vetoes, for example in foreign policy, if we want to continue to be heard in a world of competing great powers,” he said.

Scholz is campaigning for a stronger and “geopolitical European Union” in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a guest contribution for the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung newspaper, the German leader called on the bloc to close its ranks in all areas on which member states have been divided so far, from migration policy to the development of a common European defence. His government would make concrete suggestions “in the coming months” to achieve this, Scholz said. According to the German leader, the EU is a “living antithesis to imperialism and autocracy”, which is why it is a nuisance for rulers like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The European Security Strategy (“A Secure Europe in a Better World”) approved in December 2003, was based on a series of basic premises and went on to identify a series of threats with which Europe was being called upon to confront. Departing from the supposition that no country is capable on its own of dealing with the complex problems of today and that the EU is inevitably a global actor with its population of 450 million and a GDP equal to one quarter of that of the world, various threats to the continent were identified such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed States and organized crime.

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) formerly the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and referred to as CSDP in the Treaty of Lisbon, is an integral part of the CFSP, i.e. an instrument of the Union's foreign policy, and is aimed at maintaining peace, preventing conflict and strengthening international security. According to the Treaty on European Union in force, it includes the gradual definition of a common Union defence policy.

The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 established that by the end of 2003 Member States would have to be in a position to call up military forces of up to a maximum of 50-60,000 men within 60 days, and maintain them for at least one year, as part of voluntary cooperation in EU-led operations. These troops would be used in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions (i.e. the so-called Petersburg missions). In Helsinki it was also decided to set up new political and military bodies and formations within the Council to allow the Union to ensure the political guidance and strategic direction necessary in such operations within a single institutional framework. The December 2000 Nice European Council established the basis for the creation of various structures, including the Political and Security Committee (COPS).

The new “2010 Headline Goals” were set in 2004, aimed at covering the entire spectrum of possible EU crisis management missions in the context of the “amplified” European Security Strategy of 2003. This project was based on a segmented approach, one of which was the creation of the European Defence Agency and Battle Groups (rapid reaction forces of 1500 men deployable within 5 to 10 days for at least 60 days with the goal of confronting contingents for a short period of time or of serving as an “entry force” for broader operations), the development of new maritime capacities and an integrated communications systems, the quantitative and qualitative increase of national armed forces and the development of adequate synergies among armed national forces.

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) — made up of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States — performs a series of functions fundamental for the European Union's system of external relations. It manages the EU's relations with the rest of the world. This includes the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), external economic relations, development and humanitarian aid.Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Affairs Council is chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission.

The Foreign Affairs Council handles the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. According to the Treaty for European Union, it is responsible for drafting the Union’s external policies in keeping with the strategies established by the European Council, and for consistency in the Union’s actions; included in this context are the common security and defence policy, trade issues, development assistance and humanitarian interventions. In order to ensure consistency in all aspects of the Union’s external actions, the meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council are chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy appointed by the President of the Commission.

In addition to this task, the High Representative, which is also the Vice President of the Commission, must also make proposals for the drafting of the common foreign and security policy. In the execution of these tasks, this office avails itself of a European External Action Services department made up of officials from the Secretariat General of the Council and the Commission as well as of personnel seconded from Member State diplomatic services.

From 01 January 2003 to 2015 the EU launched 33 ESDP/CSDP operations (both civilian and military). Mission operated in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In just a few years ESDP has evolved significantly. From its first civilian and military missions launched in 2003 up to the present day, the EU has shown itself to be a protagonist on the international scene. To the possibility of speaking in a single voice on foreign policy it has gradually added a capacity for unified action and intervention in crisis management.

In particular, the number of missions in which the Union is able to use both military and civilian means has been expanded, and the Council has unanimously been given the possibility of entrusting them to a group of Member States (article 44 TEU). The ban on creating strengthened cooperation has been eliminated and the possibility is being considered for Member States desiring to do so to undertake more binding commitments known as “permanent strengthened cooperation”, which is pending a qualified majority decision by the Council. In contrast to the general provisions for strengthened cooperation, the Treaty of Lisbon does not envisage a minimum number of countries participating in these.

Finally, in December 2013, the European Council approved conclusions which outline an ambitious set of initiatives and objectives to further develop CSDP and shape always more integrated defence policies among EU Member States. These are subdivided into three work strands: 1) increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of CSDP; 2) enhancing the developments of capabilities; 3) strengthening Europe’s defence industries. The Heads of State and Government will meet in the June 2015 European Council to discuss again CSDP and assess progress in implementing these three work strands.

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Page last modified: 16-03-2023 18:49:28 ZULU