Select Committee on European Union Thirty-First Report

Adapting the EU's approach to today's security challenges—the Review of the 2003 European Security Strategy

CHAPTER 1: The Security Strategy


1.  In December 2003, the Member States of the European Union (EU) agreed a "European Security Strategy" (ESS)[1] in the wake of the divisions among Members caused largely by the invasion of Iraq. Four years later, in December 2007, in the light of the changing international situation, the enlargement of the EU and developments in the EU's own Security and Defence Policy[2], the European Council called on the Secretary General/High Representative, Dr Javier Solana, to review the Strategy, and in particular its implementation. This was to be done in full association with the Commission and in close cooperation with the Member States[3]. Since then, events in Georgia in August 2008 have re-focussed public attention on the question of possible threats to the security of Europe. The outcome of Dr Solana's review will be on the agenda of the European Council in December 2008. Our aim with this report is to contribute to the review process[4].

2.  In this Chapter, we look at the 2003 European Security Strategy, the review process, including its timing, and the different concepts of threat and security. In Chapter 2, we look at how useful the Security Strategy has been. In Chapter 3, we examine some of the issues whose importance has increased or changed since 2003, including climate change, the links between development and security, energy security, the adoption in 2005 of the concept of "Responsibility to Protect" by the UN Reform Summit, and the prospects for multilateral nuclear disarmament. In Chapter 4, we look at developments in the EU's strategic security objectives and lastly, in Chapter 5, we look at implementation issues by examining how far the EU has achieved the aims which were set out in the 2003 Strategy, of becoming more active, coherent and capable.

3.  The 2003 Strategy is in three parts: the first section lists the global challenges, which it describes as interdependence and globalisation, including conflicts, inadequate development, pandemics, global warming and energy dependence. This section also lists a wide range of threats—terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), regional conflicts, state failure and organised crime. A second section outlines the strategic objectives for the European Union (EU) as addressing the threats, building security in the EU's neighbourhood and an international order based on effective multilateralism. In a third section the ESS calls for the EU to be more active, more capable and coherent, without determining how the EU should achieve this. This last point is to be a key focus of the review, with which we deal in Chapter 5.

4.  As can be seen from the above, the Strategy describes broad categories of threat but does not cover every possible security risk or specific threat. We did not therefore attempt to address them all, nor did we seek to make a comprehensive assessment of all the threats and challenges which are covered in the European Security Strategy. Rather, our report focuses on the developments in the European security environment since 2003, especially those of a global and long-term nature. We recognise that some threats and risks, such as electronic attacks, non-military espionage and maritime piracy have become more important since 2003; interestingly, our witnesses did not go into great detail on these or other risks such as a possible meltdown of the world's financial systems, a global pandemic or nuclear accident, perhaps because they are not the focus of the Strategy.

5.  This report was prepared by the European Union Sub-Committee C whose members are listed in Appendix 1. The list of those from whom we took evidence, to whom we are grateful, is listed in Appendix 2.

6.  We make this report to the House for debate.

The 2003 Strategy


7.  The European Security Strategy was presented by Dr Javier Solana to the European Council meeting on 12 December 2003. Its aim was to formulate a European approach to the EU's security, particularly after the divisions caused by the Iraq war, as we have noted. The Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner told us: "It was essential to develop a structure around which EU foreign policy could coalesce, come together … It was essential to develop the EU's ESDP capacities also, both civilian and military" (Q 166). Dan Smith, Secretary-General of International Alert, believed that the Balkans and Kosovo had lain in the background, but what had driven forward the recognition of the need for a strategy were the disputes [about Iraq] in the first half of 2003 and the question of counter-terrorism (Q 7).

8.  Professor Alyson Bailes (University of Iceland) thought the Strategy had been "quite fortunate in its timing because it was the vehicle of a kind of reconciliation, of the EU countries pulling themselves back together after the rifts on Iraq, and that helped to ensure that it would be quite bold and coherent" (Q 126). Robert Cooper, Director-General, Politico-Military Affairs in the Council Secretariat, also believed that the Strategy had had "a political use in the particular situation of the EU in terms of bringing people together at a moment when they were very divided" (Q 246).


9.  None of our witnesses thought that the document was a strategy in the traditional sense, since it did not contain plans for action, unlike, for example, the June 2008 French Defence White Paper. Robert Cooper was frank: "initially the term 'strategy' was not in the draft … because we did not think this was a strategy" (Q 257). He described it rather as a "conception of security" (Q 256). This description was echoed by Richard Wright, Director for Common Foreign and Security Policy in the External Relations Directorate-General of the Commission, who described the Strategy as "essentially a concept" (Q 196). The ESS was variously described to us by others as: "more of a doctrine or a concept" than what would normally be considered as a strategy (Dan Smith Q 23); and "a necessary crystallisation" of the 21st century security threats (Nick Witney, European Council on Foreign Relations, Q 36).

10.  Professor François Heisbourg (International Institute for Strategic Studies) thought it was "not a strategy; it is a vision. It analyses the world and then goes on to state its vision of the manner in which the EU could present itself within that world … but it is not a strategy in the sense that it says: here are the means towards the end and this is how we are going to deploy those means towards those ends" (Q 130). The then Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy MP, described it to us on 3 July as "a political declaration of intent about what Member States are willing to collectively enter into to support and protect their own and other populations … it is not a legal document so it will always rely on political will ..." (Q 375). The new Minister, the Rt Hon Caroline Flint, MP[5], said it was a "mission statement from which more detailed projects of work and collaborations should follow" and "a guiding tool that we can use to go forward" (Q 400).

11.  The European Security Strategy represents the collective thinking of Member States on the challenges and security threats facing them at the beginning of the 21st century, as perceived in 2003. The ESS is not a strategy in the military sense of prescribing detailed actions and set timelines. However, it does helpfully define a common approach to the main security challenges and sets three important EU security objectives: addressing the threats, building security in the EU's neighbourhood and working with other states and organisations to achieve "effective multilateralism".


12.  One of the main questions which arose during our inquiry was what should be done with the 2003 Strategy in the review. There was high praise for the clarity of the current document. For Dan Smith it was "well written and … a coherent document" (Q 7). For Professor Mary Kaldor (London School of Economics) it was "what the ESDP is about, and … it is pretty good". "It should stand as a statement to which all the Member States have agreed …" (Q 89). Caroline Flint, MP, Minister for Europe, thought "it is quite amazing in terms of the EU to get something as concise but direct" (Q 398). Major-General Messervy-Whiting (Birmingham University) thought that, during the drafting process, the document had "retained some of its elegance and simplicities and succinctness". He attributed this to Member States' not being allowed to have an input at too early a stage (Q 49).

13.  The author, Dr Solana, also thought it was a "non-bureaucratic document, written in a much clearer manner, not with paragraphs coming from different countries …" (Q 218). The fact that it was a straightforward document and was readable had helped different actors within Member States to discuss the issues (Q 242). He intended to continue to work on the review to produce a document that could be read easily. "We should add some new elements, where the document has gaps which are important". However, he added that it had been agreed in the Political and Security Committee (PSC) to "change what is necessary and to add what is necessary, but not to change what is not necessary and leave it as it is as much as possible …" (Q 218).

14.  Lieutenant-General Leakey, Director-General of the EU Military Staff in the Council Secretariat, echoed this fear: "The one thing I am wary of is making it a prescription to cover absolutely everything … it has been described as a Christmas tree [on] which you hang every present …" (Q 307). Dr Giegerich (International Institute of Strategic Studies) also thought that it was "a good idea to maintain a focus [in the ESS] on … key threats rather than produce a laundry list of other issues, not least to preserve consensus". The mandate given to Dr Solana had not spoken about a full revision of the document, and he thought it was unnecessary (Q 90).

15.  Robert Cooper told us that he was not in favour of rewriting the document (Q 289). His guess was that there would be a document "which will in a kind of nuanced direction change one or two parts" (Q 250). Dan Smith, on the other hand, thought that the analytical section was interesting and important and many parts of it were valid, "but there is a case for re-writing now" because of what was absent from the document and changes in the world and the nature of armed conflict (Q 9). There was "still a need for clarity about how to play off these different issues, how to understand the relationships between these different kinds of threats, where to put the emphasis in terms of the importance of multilateralism". He saw continuing worth in a renewed political declaration and thought it did not matter if it did not go into detail about action (Q 23). Professor Bailes, on the other hand, thought that one should not hope for too much from the review, nor should one "sink energies into it, particularly political energies or efforts for compromise, which are so much more needed on the real life agenda of the European Union at the moment" (Q 127).

16.  The Minister for Europe, Caroline Flint MP told us that work was on track to complete the review of the European Security Strategy at the December European Council. The process would be similar to that in 2003, with the High Representative, Javier Solana, drafting the document in informal consultation with the Member States. It was expected that the review would conclude that the 2003 Strategy had "stood the test of time", although it was important that it take into account factors such as climate change and the numerous European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) missions that have been deployed since 2003. However, she did not specify what the form the outcome of the review would take (Q 398).

17.  One possible outcome of the review is that the European Council decides to amend the 2003 Strategy. Alternatively, the European Council could leave the Strategy untouched and adopt an outcome document, such as a Declaration, concluding the review, which would highlight developments since 2003 and other important factors.

18.  The 2003 European Security Strategy is a clearly drafted and concise document. We attach importance to any revised Strategy not being significantly longer. In consultation with its EU partners, we believe that the Government should seek a limited number of changes to the 2003 European Security Strategy, in order to introduce or strengthen references to climate change, the links between security and development, energy security, human security and the responsibility to protect, and multilateral nuclear disarmament. Other issues, including implementation and operational lessons, could be covered in a separate document to be appended to the revised Strategy.

The Review


19.  During our evidence sessions different concepts of threat and security emerged. These ranged from the traditional definition of hard security, or military defence, to broader concepts which have evolved as a result of globalisation, which often leads to challenges which need to be met with methods other than military force. We discuss these in detail in Chapter 3.

20.  Defence against armed attack from a hostile power outside the state is the traditional definition of security. Despite concerns about the potential acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by states such as Iran, Europeans have recently become used to the absence of a major military threat from outside. This has been largely thanks to NATO[6], the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the Cold War. However, the Russian intervention in Georgia in August 2008 has reminded Europeans that military threats in its neighbourhood do still exist.

21.  NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has recently mentioned the review of the European Security Strategy in the context of NATO's own review processes[7]. These include the drafting of a declaration on the security of the alliance, to be adopted by the NATO summit in Strasburg/Kehl in April 2009, which should pave the way for a more fundamental assessment of NATO's strategic approach and concept in the period 2010-2011. For the EU and NATO to really complement each other, he said, their strategy documents should also be convergent or even mirror each other. Echoing this point, Mr Andrew Mathewson of the Ministry of Defence said that ensuring maximum coherence between the European Security Strategy and any revision of the NATO strategic concept would be "very important". He added that there was a minor issue of timing since the reviews were not taking place at the same time, but that it would be important to make sure that the documents adopted by both the EU and NATO were cross-referring and coherent in the way they described security challenges and responses (Q 155).

22.  Professor Heisbourg focussed on what he believed was an essential point of a security strategy in a changed and globalised world. He believed that the EU should think "much more about defence and security … in a manner which does embrace the concerns of our citizens, that is homeland defence, homeland security, European and national defence." The omission of these points from the ESS had, he thought, been a great weakness in the 2003 document (Q 137).

23.  Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner told us in Brussels that "the core analysis of the 2003 Security Strategy remains clearly valid, it is terrorism and non-proliferation. They are key threats to our security and … will remain so for a long time to come, unfortunately," though she recognised that "the risks and threats to global security, and also the security of our own citizens, have evolved. What we see on the global scene is much broader …" (Q 165).

24.  Dan Smith believed that the nature of war was changing with the emergence of non-state wars rather than inter-state wars. Some armed conflicts were also appearing where "political purposes intersect with pure criminality." He wondered whether "some of the driving forces behind armed conflict in terms of a marginalisation of people which makes it possible to mobilise them in conflict, are now going to be mobilised … more in terms of gangs and crime rather than political movements and war … there is a shift happening in the nature of armed conflict worldwide" (Q 9).

25.  Nick Witney (European Council on Foreign Relations) referred to the security threats that Europe should be concerned about as "not invasion but all these more amorphous threats from the dark side of globalisation" (Q 36). In recent years there had been an increasingly widespread understanding that defence issues needed to be seen as part of a much broader spectrum of security concerns. "Military power per se is not often, perhaps never, the answer to a particular situation and most crises and areas of instability need to be addressed with a variety of tools" (Q 39). He warned, however, of shifting the debate too far away from matters of hard power and military matters. Concentration on energy security, for example, was more a matter of the organisation of the internal gas market in Europe than something to be considered in conventional security terms. There was a danger in spreading the term security too far. Climate change, however, was one of the drivers of conflict and instability. Richard Wright, CFSP Director in Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner's office, told us that, in the initial discussion with Member States, there had been a "general consensus" that the concepts in the original Security Strategy needed to be enlarged. He did not think there would be any disagreement on energy security, and probably food security, but it remained to be seen how far out the frontiers would be pushed (Q 196).

26.  Dan Smith warned of the danger of spreading the net too widely. The strategy document should not become "a major academic disquisition on absolutely everything …" (Q 13). This view was supported by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner who thought that: "we should not develop a concept of security that is so wide that it embraces the whole of the EU's external action" (Q 165). However, the definition of today's threats and challenges had to be broader than it had been in 2003. There was also a clearer understanding that threats and risks could not be properly addressed if their underlying causes were not equally addressed (Q 166).

Human security

27.  The term "human security" was raised in the evidence we took. The concept was strongly endorsed by Professor Kaldor for whom it was "an easy way to make it clear to people that what Europe does, which is sometimes called the Petersberg[8] tasks or contribution to crisis management, is very different from what a classic nation state does" (Q 89). "… Serious preventative efforts involving dialogue, co-operation, helping to strengthen the law, all the things that are involved in a typical human security approach" were needed for the "conflicts waiting to happen in the Caucasus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Chechnya …" (Q 103). Dr Giegerich (International Institute for Strategic Studies) agreed with the "general assessment of the usefulness and the great promise of human security as an underlying concept". This provided a set of norms as well as operational implications. However, human security was a luxury; the human being would probably lose out against the national level if a state or government had to make a choice, although this was not the situation at present (Q 109).

28.  Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner in Brussels told us that she had personally always taken a human-centred approach "where the citizen is the main focus of concern—if not for the citizens, for whom do we make these policies?" (Q 165). Maciej Popowski, Director for Horizontal Issues in the Development Directorate-General of the Commission, spoke of the security risks and costs of non-achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) "because if we fail to achieve them collectively it might produce devastating results in terms of human security which I think will be the new focus of the revised Security Strategy" (Q 201).

29.  Nick Witney's understanding of the term "human security" was that "to get things right in the societies that you are possibly intervening in" it was necessary to "look at the grass roots and ... address the problems of the individual human beings on the ground". This was the lesson which was being re-learnt in Afghanistan where winning the hearts and minds of people, as well as work with the central government, was needed for a successful outcome (Q 46). Major-General Messervy-Whiting was not comfortable with the term "human security" but thought that "the EU, certainly in some of its smaller, more recent, good governance-type operations—security sector reform and other operations, mainly military in nature—is actually addressing those sorts of issues directly on the ground" (QQ 46, 47).

30.  An important development since 2003 has been the adoption of the concept of the "responsibility to protect" by the UN reform summit in 2005. We discuss this in Chapter 3, paragraphs 93-97.

31.  Concepts of security range from the traditional defence against armed attack from a hostile power, to more recent concepts, such as human security, which focuses on the individual. Both types of concept are relevant to European security and should be taken into account in the review. The August 2008 conflict in Georgia has, for example, reminded Europeans of the continuing existence of military threats while events in Afghanistan have shown the importance of human security. But we would caution against an approach which extends the concept of human security to almost any form of human activity; and also against any attempt to establish a hierarchy between state security and human security.


32.  We asked our witnesses about the timing of the ESS review and heard differing views. Professor Bailes thought this was not the best time for a review. Like the 2003 Strategy, any review carried out now was bound to be a creature of its time and reflect current concerns (see Chapter 3) (Q 126). It might be cautious because it was being undertaken before the anticipated changes from the Lisbon Treaty, combined with the uncertainty about what would happen to the Treaty after the Irish "No" vote; and because the results of the United States presidential elections would not be fully understood. December 2008 was not the right moment for the EU to "launch the big new idea, particularly on the Euro/Atlantic partnership" before the voice of the new United States President, or perhaps, even the new Russian President, had been fully heard (Q 137).

33.  For Professor Bailes a further problem of timing was that the French had obtained agreement in the EU to a larger review of the EU's future mission and scope to be carried out by a group of "wise persons"[9] after ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. It was not clear what would happen to that review but some nations might want to reserve "some of the meat" for a review taking place outside all the traditional institutions (Q 126).

34.  Professor Heisbourg, on the other hand, had no difficulties with the timing because both US presidential candidates had "gone out of their way to demonstrate their multilateral bona fides" (Q 137). "It would be quite nice to have a thoughtful EU document coming out with … a reasonable and civilised discussion of the relationship between the EU and the US/NATO which I think we can undertake now. We are no longer in 2003". In addition, he thought, one might have to wait longer for the voice of the Russian President. He considered, though, that timing was bad in other respects because of the Irish referendum, but he did not see why the EU should not embark on the review. However, it should not be railroaded through if the scheduled time [of submission to the European Council in December 2008] proved too short. Both Professors Bailes and Heisbourg thought that, in general, regular review processes might usefully be built into the workings of the EU in future (QQ 129, 130). Dr Giegerich also thought that "one might have to think about how one institutionalises a review process for implementation" (Q 90).

35.  We consider that developments in the past five years on the global scene and the events in Georgia in August 2008 make a review timely, while recognising that the December 2008 date for the presentation of the review is too early for the implications for transatlantic relations of the US election to have been absorbed and for the future of the Lisbon Treaty to have been resolved.

36.  The ESS should in future be reviewed on a regular basis, normally every five years.

1   See Appendix No 5. Back

2   European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) Back

3   Council Conclusions website
Dr Solana was asked to examine the implementation of the 2003 European Security Strategy "with a view to proposing elements on how to improve the implementation and, as appropriate, elements to complement it, for adoption by the European Council in December 2008" 

4   The Committee first looked at the European Security Strategy in its 26 October 2004 report-European Union Committee, 31st Report (2003-2004) EU Security Strategy (HL180)-which was published shortly after the Strategy was adopted. Back

5   Caroline Flint MP was appointed Minister for Europe as part of the Government reshuffle at the beginning of October 2008, replacing Jim Murphy MP. Back

6   All EU Member States are members of NATO with the exception of Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden. Back

7   Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the High-level seminar on relations between the EU and NATO, Paris, 7th July 2008. Back

8   The so-called "Petersberg" crisis management tasks were formulated by the Western European Union in 1992 and subsequently incorporated into the EU Treaty as part of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). As stated in article 17(2) of the Treaty on European Union, these tasks include "humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking". Back

9   In order to help the Union anticipate and meet challenges more effectively in the longer term (horizon 2020-2030), at its December 2007 meeting the European Council established an independent Reflection Group. The Group was invited to identify the key issues and developments which the Union is likely to face and to analyse how these might be addressed. It will not cover institutional issues nor the EU's next financial framework, and shall present its report to the June 2010 European Council. Back

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