Select Committee on European Union Thirty-First Report

CHAPTER 2: The Strategy's Profile and Influence

The Strategy's influence on policy-making

37.  The conclusions of the European Council of December 2007, which mandated the review of the Strategy, stated that "the European Security Strategy adopted in 2003 has proved very useful. It provides the [European] Union with the relevant framework for its external policy …"[10].

38.  Our witnesses were generally in agreement that the Strategy has been used as a point of reference in the European Institutions. Dr Solana, High Representative for CFSP said "the Strategy is a document that has been very useful" (Q 218). Similarly, for Dr Giegerich "the European Security Strategy is almost omnipresent. It is everywhere" (Q 94). A more nuanced view was expressed by Dan Smith of International Alert, who told us that the Strategy had provided some "useful mapping points and reference points for the EU institutions" (Q 1). However, Major-General Messervy-Whiting (Birmingham University) thought that decision-makers in the Council or the Political and Security Committee did not have the Strategy "in their left hand whilst they voted with their right" (Q 36).

39.  Perhaps not surprisingly, within the European institutions, awareness of the Strategy is greatest in the parts of the Council and Commission dealing with security issues. References are not systematically made to the Strategy in documents which have a wider focus than just security or which cover external relations or development issues in general. Examples include the Country Strategy Papers (CSPs), Commission development aid planning documents, and the Annual Policy Strategy, a strategic planning document of the Commission.

40.  Dan Smith thought it possible that the Commission did not feel it had much ownership of the ESS document as it looked like a Council Secretariat document. This would be felt in the Commission's work "where there has been resistance to the bringing in of security notions and this is also a political resistance which has been straightforwardly expressed and argued through in the European Parliament in the process of shaping the financial perspectives for the current period …" (Q 28). However, the ESS had helped to guide the work of the parts of the Commission dealing with security and conflict prevention (Q 28).

41.  Less attention has been paid to the Strategy in the EU Member States, including the UK (Dan Smith Q 1), although the situation varies considerably from country to country. According to Jim Murphy MP, the then Minister for Europe, the UK Government's approach on the other hand was that "…this is a document that we will hope to influence to maximum effect rather than have it influence us, because we would only sign up to that with which we agree" (Q 391). The Government's aim was to ensure that the revised European Security Strategy mirrored very strongly the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) four strategic priorities:

  •   Counter-terrorism and weapons proliferation, and their causes;
  •   Prevent and resolve conflict;
  •   Promote a low carbon, high growth, global economy
  •   Develop effective international institutions, above all the UN and EU

Jim Murphy believed that: "If we can do that, I think we will have achieved what we have sought to achieve". The Government had been successful in translating its priorities into the 2003 European Security Strategy (Q 391). For Nick Witney of the European Council on Foreign Relations, the UK National Security Strategy, which is considerably larger in its ambit, was "surprisingly congruent" with the European Security Strategy, in particular in its analysis of the threats (Q 37).

42.  This attitude contrasts with the approach taken by some of the other EU Member States, where the EU Strategy has had a notable impact on security thinking and strategic planning. In Germany the EU Strategy had been taken as the frame of reference in drafting the national security strategy published this year, and in Austria it had influenced the defence reform documents which were published between 2004 and 2005 (Giegerich, Q 96).

43.  The European Security Strategy is used extensively and influences policy-making in the EU institutions, especially in the parts of the Council and Commission dealing with security issues. To build on this achievement, we would encourage the Council and Commission services to take steps to heighten awareness of the Strategy among staff dealing primarily with other policy areas, especially trade and development, justice and home affairs, energy and the environment. We believe that in future the Commission should make more use of the Strategy as a point of reference in proposals it puts forward, including in its Annual Policy Strategy and, where appropriate, Country Strategy Papers which the Commission drafts as part of its development cooperation policy.

44.  The European Security Strategy represents a common European analysis and Member States should therefore use it as a point of reference although we recognise that it is likely to continue to have a highly varying degree of influence on policy-making in the Member States. We support the Government's efforts to influence the outcome of the current review and encourage them to raise awareness of the Strategy within relevant Departments, including MOD, FCO, DFID and BERR, including through its incorporation into staff training modules.

Is there a need to increase public awareness of the Strategy?

45.  We sought the views of our witnesses about the level of awareness of the European Security Strategy among the general public in the EU and whether more needed to be done to improve it. For Dr Giegerich, the British Government had failed to explain why certain security and defence activities were carried out in cooperation with its European partners under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). This problem also applied to the European Security Strategy. He described the Government's discourse as "rather defensive" and focused on why the ESDP did not undermine NATO, rather than aimed at explaining why it might be useful and helpful to British security policy (Q 97).

46.  Several witnesses thought that, while the public would like to see the EU being active in the field of security, there was little awareness of what the EU was doing in practice. There were few mechanisms by which the public was consulted or informed about these issues. But whereas Professor Heisbourg thought it not a good idea to try to generate public debate on a strategy document, Professor Bailes was of the view that an effort should be made to involve people indirectly by stimulating a debate and consulting non-state actors, such as non-governmental and civil society organisations (Q 154).

47.  Jim Murphy, the then Europe Minister, accepted that the Government should do more to "popularise" the Strategy. This could not be done through a "well-crafted speech" but rather by placing emphasis on how the EU was delivering: "When the European Union is doing remarkable work—and it is remarkable work … in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Palestine and wherever else—we should do more to highlight it. We rightly are fantastically proud of our own forces and our own civilian commitment in these missions, but I think we should be a little more open about the fact that we are only actually able to bring democracy and stability to these countries, or minimise conflict, because we are part of a greater organisation, this great democratic force" (Q 391).

48.  Mr Murphy recognised that one way to improve awareness of the Strategy among security and foreign policy practitioners, as well as the general population, was to engage civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in a dialogue on this topic. He mentioned that the Government recently organised eight seminars on its 'Global Europe' agenda, five or six of which involved British NGOs from a wide range of backgrounds. However, none of the seminars had dealt specifically with the European Security Strategy (QQ 394, 395).

49.  Awareness of the ESS among the general publics in the EU is low and interest is likely to remain at that level unless a conscious effort is made to remedy this and to connect the Strategy to developments which affect citizens' everyday lives. We believe that, once the review has been completed, the European institutions and the governments of Member States should make explaining its relevance an important part of their public diplomacy; and that HMG should do this in the UK. We also recommend that any future review of the Strategy should be preceded by a more systematic consultation of civil society institutions than has been the case on this occasion.

10   European Council Presidency Conclusions, December 2007. Back

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