Revision of the European Security Strategy - an opportunity for the EU to adapt to the new security environment

Photo: European External Action Service
01 June 2015

2003: Operation "Iraqi Freedom" is launched in Iraq, the citizens of Latvia and nine other countries decide to join the European Union, the "Rose Revolution" takes place in Georgia, and economic growth is up on the previous year in almost all EU Member States. The European Security Strategy is approved.

2015: The EU now has 28 Member States and these countries are gradually experiencing economic growth after the global economic crisis of 2008. The security situation is unstable in regions both to the South and East of the EU, posing a threat to the Union at large. This is also the year when the European Security Strategy is to be revised. Support for this undertaking was expressed by the national defence ministers at the informal ministerial meeting in Riga in February, and the revision is actively backed by Latvia, which holds the Presidency of the EU Council.

The revision of the strategy is a complex and relatively long process, but recent changes in the security environment make it absolutely necessary. A strategy document is required so that the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) can evolve in line with global events, and now is the time to define the elements to be included in the new strategy.

  • Firstly, looking from the viewpoint of Latvian and other EU Member States’ interests, one of the essential preconditions for the applicability of the strategy is a realistic and objective assessment of the security environment. The strategy must become a focal point from which further EU action in the field of security emanates, and this focal point should certainly receive strong support from the Member States and the relevant EU institutions. Consequently, it is essential to clearly define further EU policy towards Russia and to establish a strategy regarding the ISIL or future instability in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Secondly, the EU's security objectives need to be defined and should be proportionate to budget availability. The strategy should be established on the basis of funding that is already available now (or that is certain to be available in the near future), instead of counting on possible future economic development.
  • Thirdly, looking at the nature of recent threats, it is clear that the new threat can be characterised as a "hybrid" threat that blends conventional and unconventional elements. It may include such instruments as cyber attacks, hostile propaganda and energy supply manipulation in combination with a conventional attack. It should be emphasised that in this event there is a very wide spectrum of threats present and these do not fall solely within the competence of the CSDP. Competence lies both with different configurations of the EU Council and with various Members of the European Commission.

The task of the CSDP now is to raise awareness in other relevant forums that external security has a significant impact on internal security and a firm line cannot therefore be drawn between the two. It is important to promote synergies between the civilian and military sectors which will allow both the more efficient use of resources and also enhance a comprehensive understanding of security issues. The hybrid threat issue is an area in which the EU can do more than NATO, but if the EU will not take on this task then it will be performed by each Member State individually, making the whole process not only more expensive but also less effective.

  • Finally, it should be noted that 22 EU Member States are also members of NATO, which means that their range of resources has to be used to achieve the military objectives of both organisations and they cannot permit any duplication of effort by the two bodies. For this reason, despite the political obstacles, the two organisations should cooperate and coordinate their work at least at a practical level. It is important to remember that collective defence in Europe is NATO's mission, and the EU's contribution must be focused accordingly on security and defence.

If these four principles are observed during the strategy revision process, the strategy will become a CSDP framework document, which both the EU institutions and Member States will then consider as a guide to further development of the EU security and defence dimension. This in turn will provide greater clarity both nationally and at EU and NATO level on the most efficient use of resources to meet security and defence needs.

Edgars Kiukucāns
Official Responsible for EU Affairs