CUPRINS nr. 125


Concepte europene

European Security and Defence Policy:
constraints, opportunities and prospects


The article considers that the main questions for the future of security and defense in Europe are inextricably linked with the future of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). The main debates on this topic focuses on the balance between these two organizations, arguing even in favor of a desirable and autonomous European security and defense actor, or for an upholding role of NATO as a proven, credible and effective defense and security provider for all of its members. The conclusion is that given the evolutions of the last five years, the European Security Strategy and the provisions of the Constitutional Treaty in the next years we can expect the accent to be on development of military capabilities and of rapid reaction force, and on strengthening the EU capacity to be more pro-active and not re-active. The relation between the EU and NATO will be based on complementary developments of “mirror” projects like NATO Response Force – EU Battle Groups or Prague Capabilities Commitment – European Capabilities Action Plan.


The main questions for the future of security and defence in Europe are inextricably linked with the future of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). Indeed, the debates on this topic put the central stress on the balance between these two organizations, arguing even in favour of a desirable and autonomous European security and defence actor (Cameron 2003), or for an upholding role of NATO as a proven, credible and effective defence and security provider for all of its members (McCalla 1996). Between these two opposite visions there is the choice for a consolidated transatlantic relationship highlighting the NATO-EU relationship (Cornish 2004).

Taking into account the subject’s sensitivity, the European decision-makers are delaying the teleological answers, looking rather at the means. They prefer to advance in building an ESDP without having a clear destination in mind. When pointing out the lack of clear target, I refer to the absence of a commonly agreed and publicly expressed aim. Of course, individually, the member states might have specific and well defined objectives at this point. For instance, France wishes a strong autonomous “l’Europe puissance”, within which France holds a tough position, in other words a strong France in a strong Europe (Blunden 2000). The implication is that ESDP is an incremental project (Keane 2005) open to any finality which allow for different opinions.

The thorniest problem for the future of ESDP is the diversity of national preferences and especially those of the big players, France, Germany and United Kingdom, among others. As highlighted above, the relationship with NATO and within NATO concerning the role of US as a leading force, is differently reflected into the national preferences determining a diversity of approaches and finally a strategic ambiguity vis-à-vis the future of the ESDP.

The second important challenge is related to the structural dimension of the ESDP, which refers to material factors such as the institutional framework, military capability, research and developments, financial resources.

A third challenge is at the same time an opportunity and rests on the changing nature of security environment. It is a challenge because the European security and defence policy has to prove it is able to address the new security threats by a coherent and appropriate manner. It is a risk because seems to offer more manoeuvre space for the European Union acting on an international stage, than it was possible during the Cold War. Such a new role for the EU is likely to exist since the threats specific to the Cold War have been replaced by new ones, not only military in nature but environmental, economical, societal and political too (Buzan, Weaver & Wilde 1998). These new risks require responses based more on a multilateral approach of security than classical military thinking and the EU is likely to have more such instruments available.

The first part of this paper examines the recent developments in the field of security and defence looking at the key moments and seeking to underlie what the driving forces behind the events were. The second section is concerned with analysing the structural factors which might influence the future development of European security and defence policy. These structural factors are the decision-making dimensions for the EU crises management operations and the capabilities component of the ESDP. The third part scans shortly the Constitutional Treaty’s provisions on foreign, security and defence, contending that the agreement reached by the member states stands for their willingness regarding developments of the CFSP/ESDP., despite the afterwards breakdown of referenda in France and Netherlands, and the subsequent doubts regarding the fate of the document.

A brief looking back on European endeavours for a security and defence policy

There is a general agreement that the Saint Malo British-French Summit, organized in December 1998, has been a historic turning point for European security and defence. Haine (2004) contends that the agreement represented the meeting point of two evolutions, namely the emergence of a new British viewpoint, and the new position of France vis-à-vis NATO, especially because of the good military cooperation in Bosnia. It is believed that the very clear messages from Washington on supporting the developments of European security capacity as the very salvation of NATO and the anticipation of a new crises in Balkans explains the emergences of new British approaches (Howorth 2004a).

The British-French Joint Declaration firstly stated that “the European Union needs to be in a position to play its full role on the international stage” and secondly that “to this end, the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises”. Once Germany, which assumed both the presidency of EU and that of the WEU in the first semester of 1999, has joined the initiative, the ESDP will have been developed significantly. Germany has been much more interested by the development of an institutional structure for ESDP within which its voice could be heard more effectively, than the issue of military capabilities (Howorth 2004a).

Thus, the initial phase of the ESDP has witnessed the creation of required institutional structure to support the development of security and defence policy. Consecutive EU Summits at Cologne, Helsinki, Feira, Nice and Göteborg provided for creating the institutional structure able to support a new policy on conflict prevention and crisis management.

Meanwhile, two targets have been established, a military one, Helsinki Headline Goal 2003, and a non-military one, a commitment for developing a civilian headline goal. The former envisaged the creation of an EU-led Rapid Reaction Force made up of 50-60000 troops, capable of being deployed within 60 days, being sustained for at least one year and focused on the full range of Petersberg Tasks (European Council 1999). The latter envisaged the creation, on a voluntary basis, of a civilian police force of up to 5000 officers, from which 1000 officers deployable in 30 days (European Council 2000).

Both targets have been reached, but in the meantime it has become clear that the quantitative targets alone are not enough to make the ESDP effective (Giegerich & Wallace 2004). It is necessary to have a more qualitative endeavour toward the idea of improving the military and civilian capability required for crises management operations.

The increased convergence of the member states’ positions has been best reflected by the European Union’s ability to deploy military and civilian mission in the Balkans1 and Africa2. Since 2 December 2004, the European Union took over NATO SFOR mission in Bosnia. For the EU, the new “Althea” military mission in Bosnia will be a test for its ability and capability to carry out complex operations, with a large number of troops, around 7000. The complexity is due to the fact that EU mission is carried out with recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, on the basis of ‘Berlin Plus” agreements and it has to coordinate with others presences on the ground, namely with the residual NATO troops and with other EU presences (International Crisis Group 2004).

The structural dimension of the ESDP

For neo-realist school in international relations “the structure of a system changes with changes in the distribution of capabilities across the system’s units” (Waltz 1979: 97). The European Union is a system within which component units and member states, come together with different material resources and strategic preferences in order to achieve common goals. From this perspective the importance of the capabilities has not to be neglected. During the most part of the ‘90s, European Common Foreign and Security Policy failed to address the turmoil in its close neighbourhood because it was unable to mobilise and deploy hard security resources. This happened both because of the divergence of strategic preferences among member states and of the same time, as a consequence of the shortfalls in military capabilities.

Whereas material components represent a pre-condition for future development of the European security and defence, no less is true vis-à-vis the institutional framework and decision-making mechanism. Thus, the next two sub-sections will address the institutional and decision-making process in the case of EU involvement in crises management operations and certain aspects concerning the EU approach on military capabilities.

ESDP institutional framework and decision-making for crises management operations

Given the sensitivity of the security and defence matters for member states, the decision -making process is basically intergovernmental.

The institutional architecture for foreign, security and defence policy was drawn up by the European Council, which, according to Art. 13 of TEU, is responsible for defining the principles and general guidelines of the CFSP and deciding on common strategies; the Council of Ministers, which is the very heart of the CFSP; the Commission, which has a more limited role compared to that under the first pillar; the European Parliament, which has only a consultative role and has to be kept informed by the Council; and finally the member states (Nugent 2003; International Crisis Group 2005).

From the perspective of the ESDP, the Political and Security Committee (national representatives at senior or ambassadorial level and a representative of the Commission), European Union Military Committee (the chiefs of defence) and European Union Military Staff have been articulated within an extended framework composed mainly of the Council for General Affairs and External Relations, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, the High Representative for the CFSP, the General Secretariat of the Council – Directorate General E which include the Committee of Civilian Aspects of Crises Management (CIVCOM), the Policy Unit and the Joint Situation Centre. The creation of EU Civil-Military Cell at NATO Headquarters is underway and will be operational in 2005.

According to Art. 17.2 and Art. 25 consolidated TEU, the ESDP is basically identified with “crises management” which encompasses not only a military dimension but a civilian one (Missiroli 2004). Against this background there are two types of decision-making procedures for EU crises management operations. In the case of a military crises management operation, the decision takes the form of a Council’s Joint Action approved by the General Affairs and External Relation Council (GAERC) and endorsed by the European Council. In the case of civilian crises management, both the Council and the Commission are involved in the decision-making process (Gourlay 2004).

According to the Nice European Council Report on ESDP (2000), in the crisis management mechanism the Political and Security Committee, which may be chaired by the High Representative for CFSP, has a central role to play in the definition of and follow-up to the EU response to a crisis. There are two types of procedure in conducting an EU-led military operation, either autonomously or with recourse to NATO assets with different decision-making mechanisms.

In the first case, intense consultations are conducted at all levels in the pre-operational phase, Military Staff prepare the list of options for EU-led military operation and this list is amended and approved by the Military Committee and submitted to PSC, which selects the best option. The third countries which want to participate in an EU-led military mission, after preliminary consultations, commit their contributions at a Force Generation Conference. The next step is the formal launching of the operation and the creation of the Committee of Contributors where all problems during the operation are discussed (Gourlay 2004). The operational planning phase refers to the requirement for an EU strategic level headquarters.

In the second case, the framework for cooperation is encompassed by the so-called “Berlin Plus” arrangements concluded in December 2002. The NATO infrastructure is made available for EU-led operation when the Alliance as a whole is not involved. Four major features characterize this package, namely the EU should have access to NATO operational planning, this should be based on the presupposition of availability of NATO capabilities and common assets, it should have access to NATO European command options, including Deputy Supreme Allied Command Europe (DSACEUR) for undertaking EU missions, and NATO defence planning system should incorporate availability of forces for EU operations (International Crisis Group 2005). The operational planning, in this case, is conducted at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE, the Operation Commander is D-SACEUR, who reports during the operation to the EU Military Committee. The Political and Security Committee exercises the political control and strategic direction under the responsibility of the Council (Gourlay 2004).

From the perspective of an autonomous EU-led Civilian Crises Management, the method is quite similar but with a more prominent role for the European Commission and with the longer-term peace-building efforts (reconstruction, institution-building and conflict-sensitive development assistance) being conducted under the first-pillar.

The “closer cooperation” represents a particular innovation formalized by the Treaty of Amsterdam under Title VII, which creates a window of opportunity for the systematic use of differentiation as an instrument for deepening the integration in certain areas (International Crisis Group 2005). Despite the fact that Treaty of Nice extended the closer cooperation mechanism to the field of CFSP, except for matters having military or defence implication, the joint French-German-United Kingdom initiative to create some rapid reaction forces for crisis management operations represented a real transposition of this principle. The EU’s “battle groups” initiative has been included latter on the new Headline Goal 2010.

The capabilities: progresses and shortfalls, what is next?

The capabilities represent the critical link between policy process inputs and the outputs, since resources could be converted into usable policy tools (White 2004).Since the ESDP’s inception in 1999, the issue of capabilities has been one of the most important and this fact is proved by the launch of the Capabilities Commitment Conference, on 20 November 2000. Whereas the quantitative target set up in Helsinki Forces Catalogue was a manageable task for EU members, the qualitative aspects were more challenging. No less than 38 shortfalls have been identified in Helsinki Progress Catalogue, of which 21 were “significant” (Schmitt 2004; International Crisis Group 2005). Strategic airlift and sealift, command and control and intelligence have been identified as areas which, on the basis of practical experiences of EU member states military participation in crisis management operations, require rapid improvement in order to make the political commitments effective (Giegerich & Wallace 2004).

In order to address these problems, the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) was created at the first Capabilities Improvement Conference on November 2001. This was guided by four principles, namely the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of European efforts in the field of defence, voluntary national contributions, intra-EU member states coordination as well as EU-NATO, public support (Schmitt 2004).

Despite the fact that in 2003 the EU military capabilities have been declared operational across the full range of Petersberg Tasks, some remaining shortfalls could limit and constrain the operational capacity to undertake crisis management operation at full scale (International Crisis Group 2005). The most important shortfalls concern deployability, mobility, sustainability, effective engagement and command, control, communication, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (Schimtt 2004).

Two further measures have been taken in order to address these problems, specifically the revision of Helsinki Headline Goal with a new horizon 2010 considered acceptable in order to obtain the capacity to carry out Petersberg Tasks in all circumstances, and the creation of European Defence Agency. Meanwhile, the European Council endorsed the European Security Strategy which, for the first time, shaped the EU’s vision and attitude as an international player on security and defence matters. Alongside “effective multilateralism” the Strategy refers to the “preventive engagement”, which deals with instability and includes rapid deployment of troops and policing operations (Haine 2004)

Against this background, the setting up of European Defence Agency, under the Council’s authority, has been perceived as a way of addressing the structural problems by a new top-down approach and by promoting coherence in place of fragmentation. Moreover, the Agency is included in the Constitutional Treaty, stressing its importance in this way. The major functions of the European Defence Agency concern defence capabilities development, armaments co-operation, the European defence technological and industrial base and defence equipment market, research and technology (Council of Ministers 2004a).

An important development in 2004 has been the new “battle groups” project initiated by France, Germany and United Kingdom as part of rapid reaction mechanism and contributing to the implementation of European Security Strategy. The project envisages the creation of thirteen battle groups with full operational capability from 2007 which are to be deployable more rapidly and for shorter periods than the long-planned European Rapid Reaction Force. Larger member states will generally contribute their own battle groups3, while smaller members are expected to create common groups4 (Council of Ministers 2004b). This initiative is particulary important because imposes higher standards of interoperability, combat support and combat service support elements, strategic lift capabilities and logistic. All of these represents key challenges and criteria for participation to permanent structured cooperation introduced by the Constitutional Treaty.

Whereas the capabilities shortfalls is a structural concern for ESDP, the level of national defence budgets and the effectiveness of defence expenditures represent a structural obstacle for bridging the capabilities gap. In other words, the EU member states have to spend more money and more wisely in order to solve the problem of capabilities shortfalls.

According to data provided by the International Institute for Security Studies (The Military Balance) and used by Schmitt (2005), the total defence budget of EU-25 was 186.28 bn. US$ in 2004 whilst that of the United States was 460.50 bn US$ which is more than twice as much on defence as all EU member states. The distribution of defence expenditure among EU-25 is polarized between four big defence budgets, which count for 136,2 bn. US$ (United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy) and the rest, with a small group having intermediate size defence budget, namely Spain, Netherlands and Sweden (between 8 and 5,9 bn. US$). One interesting observation rests on the fact that the difference between EU-15 and EU-25 is insignificant because the total defence budget of the ten new members is around 10 bn. US$, only 5,8% of the EU-15 budget (Schmitt 2005). Notwithstanding, this is a separate discussion, it is worth noting that despite the reduced add values in financial terms, the new members brings a lot in terms of strategic preference, namely a pro-atlantic vision which will certainly weight the balance concerning the future shape of ESDP (International Crisis Group 2005; Longhurst & Zaborowski 2004) .

As Schmitt remarked (2005) the level of defence budget per se is not sufficient to have a clear image of the gap between the US and the EU. The share of investments in research and development represents around 9 bn. US$ of EU-15, whilst that of US is roughly 40 bn. US$ (Schmitt 2004, citing International Institute for Security Studies data from 2002). 

These figures illustrate not only the important gap between the US and the EU in terms of resources allocated for defence projects but, more importantly, the gap between the EU’s self-imposed level of ambition concerning the capabilities and the resources available. Taking into consideration the EU’s member states reluctance to increase the budgetary expenditure for defence, especially against the background of restriction imposed by the Stability and Growth Pact, the most appropriate way in which the problem might be solved, rests on wiser spending of the existing money. At this point, the new European Defence Agency might help the EU to improve both the quality and quantity of its capabilities and it could prove to be a catalyst for a common defence and foreign policy (International Crisis Group 2005).

The Constitutional Treaty: a step further?

The aim of this section is to scan the security and defence provisions of the Constitutional Treaty, arguing that the merely fact that member states have agreed the text is a success per se from the perspective of an enhanced role of the ESDP. During the writing moment of this paper, the unfavourable results of French and Dutch referenda make uncertain any prospects for the future of the Treaty. However, it is possible that some clauses, including some of those on security and defence, to be later valorised From this point of view, this part might has a practical utility.

Coming back to the topic, the background for the discussion about the future of European security in defence was given by the deeply transatlantic and intra-European rifts, as regards the United States’ (and United Kingdom) military intervention in Iraq and this was reflected acutely during the last part of the European Convention and Italian Intergovernmental Conference. No less important was the fact that at the apex of the crises France, Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg have proposed the creation of a European Security and Defence Union and the establishment of a autonomous EU headquarters at Tervuren, near Brussels. This initiative amplified further the tensions already existing among European member states.

At this moment, a discussion about the Constitutional Treaty (CT) from the perspective of foreign, security and defence policy means a discussion on the visions shaped in the text. I wrote “visions” and not “vision” due to the ambiguity that veils some elements and which one might calls “constructive ambiguity” (Heisbourg 2000b).

The final shape of the CT from the perspective of foreign, security and defence policy could be seen as integration through flexibility (Cremona 2003; Howorth 2004b). Integration because the elimination of the pillar structure, the incorporation of policy under the same rubric, in Title V, Part III, “Union External Action” and also the integration of that action itself into the overall perspective of the Union’s objectives (Cremona 2003). Flexibility because the new instruments included into the CT such as “permanent structured cooperation” will help to ensure avoiding the fact that no “multi-speed Europe”, no “variable geometry” and no “Europe a la carte” would be brought to life by the Constitutional Treaty (Howorth 2004b).

One of the most important new institutional changes of the CT is the Minister for Foreign Affairs accompanied by the EU External Service. The main reason for this Convention’s proposal rests on the desire to reduce the institutional duplication in the field of EU external relations. According to the Treaty of the European Union (consolidated version), the responsibility for external representation of the EU belongs at the same time to the High Representative for the CFSP, to the Commissioner for External Relations and to the EU Presidency. Even within the Commission, the responsibility for external relations were shared among no less than four commissioners, namely enlargement, trade, development and external relations (Menon 2002). The Minister for Foreign Affairs will overtake the responsibilities of the Commissioner for External Relations and the High Representative for the CFSP will be the Vice-president of the Commission and will hold the Council for Foreign Affairs meetings.

The Constitutional Treaty brings some new forms of flexibility, namely the permanent structured cooperation5 that rest on recognition of the different cultures and priorities while allowing a smaller group of willing and able countries to further advance in the developing the ESDP; the mutual defence clause which imposes that if a member states is the victim of armed aggression the other member states shall have the obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power6; and the “solidarity clause” according to which in the case of an terrorist attack or natural or made-man disaster the Union and its member states have to assist the member state which suffered it, in case of request7.

Despite the acute divergence among EU member states during the Constitutional Treaty’s negotiation process, these clauses reflect an increased sense of pragmatism and realism of the member states in relation to the sensitive security and defence area (Menon 2004b). Although these clauses allow different interpretations, the simple fact that their presence on the Treaty was accepted, is a positive indicator for the future prospects of the ESDP.

Another positive indicator, from a semantic point of view, is the fact that the ESDP acronym was replaced, in Art. I-41, by CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy), which implies a return to the stress on commonality (Howorth 2004b. Moreover, in relation with prospects for a common defence, the stresses move on from “might lead to…” under Title V, Art.17 (Treaty of Nice) to “will lead to…” under Title V, Art. I-41(2) of the Constitutional Treaty.

Certainly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization still remain the foundation of collective defence of Alliance’s members, and the mutual defence clause shall not prejudice the specific character of certain member states which, in these cases, are the so-called neutral EU member states, non members of NATO.


As Cooper remarked (2004) five years is a short period taking into consideration the fact that the temporal perspective for defence planners runs into decades. The European Security and Defence Policy is a new brand EU policy but seems that its time has come. All the recent developments reach this conclusion, especially taking into account the fact that all have occurred on short period of time and in certain moments against the background of very unfavourable conditions (for instance the Iraq war).

The European member states have the potential to overpass the divergence. This fact has been proved, for instance, by the successful launch and execution, during the height of the Iraq crises, of the EU missions in Balkans and Congo (Menon 2004), and later, in December 2003, by the endorsement of the first European Security Strategy (Allen & Smith 2004). At the same time, the EU’s leaders failed to reach an agreement on the Constitutional Treaty during the Italian Intergovernmental Conference.

Given the evolutions of the last five years, the European Security Strategy and the provisions of the Constitutional Treaty in the next years we can expect the accent to be on development of military capabilities and of rapid reaction force, and on strengthening the EU capacity to be more pro-active and not re-active. The relation between the EU and NATO will be based on complementary developments of “mirror” projects like NATO Response Force – EU Battle Groups or Praga Capabilities Commitment – European Capabilities Action Plan.

This trend is probable especially thinking about the fact that NATO’s last two enlargements have strengthened the Alliance, the 2004 European Union enlargement has strengthened the transatlantic component of the ESDP and that of 2007 will do the same. A more pro-atlantic accent is likely to characterize the future development of the European Security and Defence Policy in the next years.


1 “Concordia” military mission and “Proxima” police mission in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, EU Police Mission in Bosnia, “Eujust Themis” in Georgia.
2 “Artemis” military mission and EU Police Mission in Congo
3 France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom
4 France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and potentially Spain; France and Belgium; Germany, the Netherlands and Finland; Germany, Austria and Czech Republic; Italy, Hungary and Slovenia; Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal; Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania; Sweden, Finland and including Norway as a third State; and United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
5 Art. I-41(6) and Art. III-312 of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe.
6 Art. I-41(7) of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe.
7 Art. I-43 and Art. III-329 of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe.

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- Asolvent Facultatea de Drept “Simion Barnutiu”, Specializarea Stiinte Politice, Universitatea “Lucian Blaga” Sibiu. Master Relatii Interna-tionale si Integrare Europeana la Scoala Natio­nala de Stiinte Politice si Administrative, Bucuresti. Absolvent Programul Che­vening Fellowship in Studii Europene, la European Research Institute, Universitatea din Birmingham, Marea Britanie.




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