The Militarisation of European Security and Defence Policy -
Unnecessary and/or Inescapable?
The previous part of the essay investigated the
notion of justice between generations (inter- or
intra-generational) within the framework of
libertarian and liberal theories of justice.
Secondly, it established the reflection upon the
issue of justice between generations on the three
principles (social contract, egalitarian and
utilitarian principles) of liberal theory. The third
and last part of the essay focuses on the issue of
just-saving of resources and sheds light on the
principle of utilitarianism concerning the
intergenerational justice. It argues that the
principle of utilitarianism faces severe
difficulties when employed to understand the content
of justice between generations.
Keywords: intergenerational justice, human
rights, libertarianism, liberalism, sustainable
The militarisation of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) became a fact at latest starting with the year 2003 and the launch of the European Security Strategy (ESS). Meanwhile, this militarisation process has been considered a major issue within the larger area of European integration research, especially since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the Iraq-invasion in 2003. The critical points addressing the process of the EU have been numerous and covering different theoretical backgrounds and research areas.
Within the framework of the present study I shall address the critique of the ESDP’s militarisation process, structuring it into five categories. In the first part, I shall assess the critique of the democratic deficit within the ESDP, exposing the contradictions between the legal regulations and the political reality of decision-making within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In part II, I shall evaluate the critiques regarding the normative character of the EU and how this may affect the militarisation process. In part III, I shall consider the financial implications and the occurring problems arising from the evolving militarisation of the ESDP. Part IV will analyse the European militarisation in its relationship to the USA as a military power and the strategy of ‘burden sharing’ versus the alternative of ‘re-balancing’ the superpower US. In part V, I shall approach the critical dimensions of the European identity and the Union’s definition as civilian power, which appears to be in contradiction to the militarisation of the ESDP. Finally, I shall conclude that most critical points may be tackled by fact-based contra-arguments, and that the difficulty does not pertain to the ESDP militarisation, but rather that the very militarisation process of the EU appears to be indispensable, if the EU wants to remain a great power in future world politics, while maintaining a secure environment.
As a methodological approach, each of the sections will start by presenting the critical aspects regarding ESDP militarisation. Therefore, I shall consider the arguments that are addressing the ESDP militarisation, in the sense of undermining the assumed civilian character of this EU integration area. The EU’s applauded identity construction as a civilian power1 is viewed by the critics of ESDP’s ongoing militarisation as fading, the EU thus evolving into a (military) superpower.2 After presenting each of these arguments, I shall proceed with an assessment of the problematic points and argumentative gaps. I shall partially fund my evaluations upon existing documents, as the ‘Call for a Grand Strategy’ by the author of the ESS, Sven Biscop,3 the ‘European Strategic Culture Revisited’,4 as well as upon the studies of Stelios Stavridis that are arguing for an ESDP militarisation.5
1. Militarisation Background
At the end of the 1990’s, the European failure to respond to the crises in the Balkans – a failure that altered EU’s credibility as an international actor and was caused by its military incapability –, the internal conflicts and the inner divergent opinions regarding the Iraq-invasion are to be recognised as triggering events that determined the EU member states to initiate the ESDP.
The EU started at the end of the 1990’s to build military capabilities that further led to the first military missions in EU history.6 The process of militarisation of the ESDP is an ongoing one, in which varying sectors have a different integration level.
It is important to emphasise that the militarisation process of the EU takes a different form compared to the common understanding of the term, as the EU displays a comprehensive understanding of security, funded on the terms of crises management, peace-building and state-building.
2. The Democratic Deficit
The most common critique addressing the militarisation process of the ESDP pertains to the democratic deficit, as this area of the EU has been kept intergovernmental (as opposed to a more communitarian approach), and is coordinated by the 2nd (CFSP) and the 3rd pillar (JHA – Justice and Home Affairs). Due to the strong intergovernmental character of the ESDP, the national parliaments, as well as the European Parliament (EP), have almost no power in the decision-making process.
One of the most relevant studies upon the democratic deficit of the ESDP is ‘Challenges of Democratic Oversight of EU Security Policies’ by Giovanna Bono,7 in which the author is formulating three pertinent points. Firstly, the legal form of ESDP (2nd and 3rd pillar) appears to be in contradiction to the political form, a cross-pillarisation, accentuated by the ‘widening of the security agenda’ and by the inclusion of additional sectors into the ESDP integration area. The second point of Bono’s critique is the extensive use of flexibility mechanisms within the ESPD, such as the introduction of the Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) and the establishment of ad-hoc coalitions in the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) (leading to the shaping of the ESDP decisions by the larger states and to the risk of a division between the EU member states). The third critical point raised by Bono concerning the ESDP’s democratic deficit is the restricted role of parliaments, citizens and judicial review.
According to Bono, the above mentioned instruments that lead to a democratic deficit within the ESDP are accentuated by an increased resort to secrecy and urgency procedures, contributing to the shrinking control of the EP, and to significant changes of national and European laws in the area of criminal offences (in the aftermath of 9/11). These practices also have an impact upon the new doctrines on the use of force, such as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’. All over, these instruments are being considered by Bono as challenging the constitutional Westphalian tradition.
The critique of the democratic deficit is the one most predominantly discussed within ESDP literature and represents, in my opinion, the strongest argument. The critique focuses upon the fact that the democratic deficit is undermining the conception of the EU as a civilian power.8 On the other hand, the strong multi-level control of the ESDP is considered by the critics as positive, in the sense of hindering the militarisation process of the ESDP. When taking into account on a comparative basis the national parliamentarian control of the EU member states, it becomes clear that many EU countries (such as France, UK) do not necessary need a parliamentarian approval for the deployment of troops.9 Thus, the strong parliamentarian control of the security and defence areas is not always viewed as indispensable on national level. In addition, practices like cross-pillarisation, flexibility mechanisms, urgency and secrecy procedures or the QMV are commonly used for increasing efficiency within the ESDP. The use of such instruments may lead to the encouragement and the support of autonomous decision-making inside the ESDP, that is dominated up to this point in time by two opposite camps: on the one side the member states favouring the US foreign policy and, on the other side, those opposing it. Thus, the major problem essentially remains the construction of a common EU foreign and security policy.
The most famous critique addressing the normativity gap of the ESDP is formulated by Merlingen.10 His main argument refers to the emerging contradiction between the EU’s claim of promoting human agency (fundamental civil, political and economic rights) throughout its missions, on one hand, and the reality of the CFSP developing a ‘self-styled’ mission for humanity, which envisions the empowerment of relationships marked by violence, by the technologisation of politics and by administrative arbitrariness, on the other hand.11 The concept of ‘Normative Power Europe’12 is disregarding the EU’s foreign policy strategy.13 Its outcome turns out to be the ‘otherness’ of the politics and of citizens subjected to the ESDP missions, by discounting their right to participate in state-building and by imposing EU measures of peace-building upon them.
The most relevant question we need to ask in this context is whether the normative element is an essential feature of a civilian power. According to Duchêne, the EU/EC represents a civilian power, defined by its civilian means (economic) and civilian ends (cooperation, integration).14 Consequentially, normativity is not necessary a feature of the EU as a civilian power.
Merlingen stresses the ambiguous and contingent character of norms that are culturally defined and cannot have a universal character, holding against the ESDP politics the imposition of EU norms through its launched missions.15 His argument is that the EU artificially builds an own normativity, diffusing its specific norms. There is, however, an argumentative gap: the constructed normativity, characteristic for the EU, as stated in the ESS,16 is extended through civilian means. Following, the militarisation of the ESDP has no linkage to its (non)existing normativity – normativity represents a purpose of ESDP activity and the means of this strategy are mostly civilian ones.
4. The Financial Aspect
The considerable necessary financial investment in the ESDP militarisation is another factor that has been formulated as an argument against this process. The ESPD militarisation is mainly funded on the ideal of a unified, common security policy of the EU member states. As there have been often found duplications of military capabilities in different EU states, the EU Council has decided in the year 2004 to establish the European Defence Agency (EDA), with the purpose of promoting armament cooperation.17
In an often-cited study, Mette Eilstrupp-Sangiovanni has been arguing that due to the existing disagreement between the EU members upon the topic of defence priorities, it would be useless to invest in joint capabilities. Moreover, the necessary funds for such an action do not even exist, as most member states have a very low spending on military costs (mostly up to 2% of the GDP).
Nevertheless, it is to be acknowledged that the establishment of the EDA has to be viewed as an advance in defence matters. Even if the EU member states’ military spending is relatively low, this is only the case in comparison to the USA military spending.18 Yet, the observed slow militarisation may solely be regarded as favourable, considering the EDA’s contribution to the reduction of double military capabilities in the European region, where an internal war is extremely unlikely.
The question of whether EU member states would further agree upon constructing a capable and effective military power is, in my opinion, not so much a problem of funding, but rather a matter of their willingness. Assuming that a European strategic culture will be emerging, due to the ESS politics and to the ESDP missions’ achievements,19 and that EU members will acknowledge the very need for an EU military capability (considering its failures in the 1990’s in the Balkan conflicts), then the financial aspect will seize to represent a difficulty. In this case, the EU will have the opportunity of becoming a power identifying itself, at least to a certain degree, with essential civilian means and ends. Hence, the US GDP investment in military capabilities would not be referred to as a valid comparison.
5. ESDP and EU’s Relationships with the USA
The relationship with the USA is considered to be a major priority in the context of the EU-stated security cooperation, as part of the ESS.20 Meanwhile, this topic has also been problematical in the framework of a possible militarising evolution of the ESDP.21 Two different positions have been assumed concerning the EU’s relationship with the USA: either as a burden-sharer, a major ally (the USA, the new member states of the EU and, to a certain degree, the UK being in favour of this perspecyive), or as a re-balancer of the USA in an international bipolar system (standpoint of France and, to a certain degree, Germany).
Either way, ESDP militarisation has been acknowledged by some critics as not being a valid solution. If it is to enhance interoperability and Transatlantic burden sharing, the lack of a ‘common voice’ of the CFSP is again interfering.22 Moreover, facts are pertaining to the progressive distancing of the ESDP project from the NATO purposes. When considering the second alternative, the EU as a civilian counter-balancer to the US military superpower, this may lead to a concurrent situation in which the EU would be strongly disadvantaged, due to its limited military spending and its emphasis on civilian means. Furthermore, such an alternative could hardly be considered as likely, taking into account the pro-US position of some of the EU member states. The counter-balancing of the US may have as consequence the endangering of the project of an ‘ever closer Union’.23
Nevertheless, functional armed forces, capable of burden sharing, as well as of counter-balancing by concentrating on state-building, are adding credibility to an international actor.24 Especially in the context of the Kosovo-related military operations, Washington has been repeatedly calling and later supporting the development of European armed forces.25 As history has shown, the EU needs military capability,26 and the pure existence of such forces does not imply the disregarding of the civilian means and ends of the Union. Moreover, it would be rather unrealistic to consider the creation of EU military capability as a threat to the US hegemony, since no member state has ever formulated such intentions. The foreign and security priorities of the EU and the US will remain different – it will be up to the ESDP to transform them into complementary ones.
The debate concerning the EU’s identity on international level is strongly linked to the ESDP and to the way in which the EU ought to develop a strategic culture. Remaining in the framework of the critiques addressed to the ESDP’s militarisation, the major point formulated against this process consists in the civilian identity of the Union, an identity that might get lost through the prioritisation of military means of intervention.27
One complex and very accurate assessment of the European civilian versus military identity comes from Stelios Stavridis.28 He argues that the EU needs to move from a civilian power ‘by default’, to a civilian power ‘by design’ – civilian power means nothing if it only relies on non-military means.29 What matters is the output, the promotion of human rights and democracy. The main question therefore, is if there can truly exist a ‘Civilian Power Europe’ without its military means.30
In his paper from 2004, Stavridis analysed the four main identities that have been associated with the EU: the EU as a global actor (1); as a civilian/soft power (2); as a military power (3); or as a civilising actor (4). He concluded that from different perspectives, the Union could be viewed as a global actor (considering its missions on several continents), as a civilising actor (normatively), as a military actor (due to the military missions) and, above all, as a civilian power ‘by design’.
Following, the argument is that the type of power the EU is holding, if military or not, does not account for how it is used. As long as the EU’s goals are civilian ones (as stated in the ESS), having access to military capability would be an advantage, as more influence and perhaps more bargaining power may be achieved. Whether the EU integration process is desirable or not is debatable, but the militarisation, as Stavridis argues, alike the TEU or the widening of the membership, is a process that pushes European integration forward.31
The establishment of the ESDP and the ongoing process of militarisation have been approached within literature from various perspectives. The most relevant elements that have been fostering the militarising process (the ESS, the successful ESDP missions and the TEU) have been contributing to a vision of an established and effective EU military force of the future. Whether there is a contradiction in terms between the civilian identity of the EU and the militarising of the ESDP remains open to further discussion.
Within this study I have assessed the main critical points that have been addressed to the militarisation of the ESDP. I have started with the strongest argument, the democratic deficit of the ESDP, as a threat to the civilian purpose of the EU. The limited parliamentarian control and the introduction of instruments like urgency measures or flexibility mechanisms may cause a lack of transparency and restricted access to the decision-making process. On the other side, considering the intergovernmental character of the ESDP, one has to consider the problematic effectiveness within the security and defence policy, as part of the EU integration process.
Another argument I have been addressing against the militarisation process is the normative character that the EU claims to identify with and its possible neglect within the foreign and security policy pursued by the ESDP. I have been asserting that ’normativity’ is not (necessarily) a characteristic of a civilian power. Apart from that, the EU adheres in its strategy to normativity, as related to the endorsement of human agency, but essentially by civilian means.
Taking into account the financial incapability, I have argued that it is a matter of political will of the member states and, following, the shaping of a common European strategic culture that will be decisive in this matter.
The EU’s specific way of relating to the US as a superpower has also been brought up as a significant argument against the militarisation of the ESDP. Nevertheless, considering the EU-US history, in the context of the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia, it can be viewed as an advantage for both sides that the EU is building up military capabilities. Meanwhile, the matter of European armed forces as a state-building complement to the US military approach depends on how member states’ security policy will jointly shape into a European strategic culture.
Last but not least, I have been assessing the problem of the EU identity as a power in contemporary politics, arguing that ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ do not necessary place themselves in a contradictory relationship, but that the EU needs to evolve into a civilian power ‘by design’, developing military capabilities as a complementary feature.
Considering the critical points brought up in the context of the ESDP militarisation, I finally conclude assessing two points: (1.) it is rather a question of whether ESDP militarisation is necessary, than one of whether this process is a normative one; (2.) the problem of the ESPD militarisation is a matter of how European strategic culture will shape at the confluence of its states’ positions, deciding upon whether the EU will remain a civilian power ‘by default’, or if it will be transcending into one ‘by design’. Different theoretical approaches of International Relations might produce different solutions to these problems. It is thus debatable whether the militarisation process is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In the broad perspective of the evolution of international politics and power relations, what finally needs to be recognised is that the ESDP militarisation does not appear to be an option among others, but rather an inescapable certainty.
François Duchêne, „Europe’s Role in World Peace”, in R. Mayne (coordinator) Europe Tomorrow: Sixteen Europeans Look Ahead
(London: Fontana, 1972);F. Duchêne, „The European Community and the Uncertainties ofInterdependence”, in M. Kohnstamm and W. Hager (coordinators), A Nation Writ Large?
(London: Macmillan, 1973).
Johan Galtung, The European Community: A Superpower in the Making
(London: Allen & Unwin, 1973).
Sven Biscop, „Time for a European Union Grand Strategy”, Egmont Paper
27 (Academia Press, 2009).
In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Congo during 2003, and in Bosnia since December 2004 – see ESDP official website
Giovanna Bono, „Challenges of Democratic Oversight of EU Security Policies”, European Security
15,4(2006): 431 – 449.
Wolfgang Wagner, „The Democratic Control of Military Power Europe”, Journal of European Public Policy
13, 2 (2006): 202.
Wagner, The Democratic, 204-205.
Michael Merlingen, „Everything Is Dangerous: A Critique of ’Normative Power Europe’ ”, Security Dialogue
38, 4 (2007): 435–453.
Merlingen, Everything, 435.
Ian Manners, „European Union ‚Normative Power’ and the Security Challenge”, European Security
Merlingen, Everything, 437.
Duchêne, Europe’s Role, 19.
Merlingen, Everything, 439-450.
European Council, A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy
(2003), available online at
Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, „Why a Common Foreign and Security Policy is Bad for Europe”, Survival
, 4 (2003), 198.
European Council, 2003, 14.
Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Why a Common Foreign.
Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Why a Common Foreign, 199.
Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Why a Common Foreign, 202.
Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Why a Common Foreign.
Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Why a Common Foreign, 200-201.
Stavridis, Why; Stavridis and Sola, Conceptualizing.
IULIA JOJA –
Trainee, European Parliament.