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The European Union’s Security and Defence Policy under the double constraint of transatlantic relations and integration dilemmas

Hajnalka Vincze

A three-level dividing line is to be found at the root of the European foreign, security and defence policy’s deep contradictions. Member States range on one or the other side based upon their position regarding the content of integration, the transatlantic relations and the desirable shape of future international order (including Europe’s place and role within it).

The opposition between ‘Europe-supermarket’ and ‘Europe-power’ conceptions on the content of the integration project is reflected in the field of transatlantic relations by the conflicting visions of allied subordination and of full autonomy. The same clash re-appears when it comes to the evolving world order: opposing those who advocate a single, transatlantic pole and those in favour of an independent Europe-counterweight as a fully-fledged actor in a multipolar international system.

After stating this basic observation, the presentation of the Union’s security and defence policy begins by clarifying some of the – far from innocent – misunderstandings (such as the relation between CFSP and ESDP or ESDI and ESDP). The rather sketchy historical overview makes a sharp distinction between the periods before and after the “pseudo-agreement” in St Malo. The St Malo declaration, focusing on the single consensual point (namely the development of European operational capabilities), has not, however, solved the problem stemming from the fundamental incompatibility of visions concerning the purpose of this capability improvement. For the British, this tangible progress – made possible within the framework of the EU, because expecting more efficiency this way – was meant to ultimately reinforce NATO’s assets and capabilities (and thus make European Allies more valuable for Washington). On the other hand, the French hoped to take a decisive step toward an independent European security and defence policy – and ultimately toward a political Europe as a fully-fledged international actor – by including the military dimension in the scope of the integration. Following this pseudo-agreement in St Malo the building-up of the European Union’s security and defence policy has indeed entered a dynamic phase of development. Nonetheless, it was less because of the two contrasting standpoints having found a pretended common denominator able to federate the rest of the Member States, than rather because it launched a fairly harsh race between the two still antagonistic positions. Whereas the British (with firm American pressures behind them) urged the quickest possible reinforcement of operational capabilities and tried to delay the establishment of institutional structures which would lock them within the EU’s framework; the French, for their part, had reversed priorities. They built on the experience that once an area finds itself – in one way or another – in the attraction field of the integration, it starts to have a dynamic on its own and follows a well-tried path toward institutionalization. Their expectation was, therefore, that by establishing the institutional framework, the autonomy of the soon-to-be-improved capabilities (and with them, the European defence dimension in general) would be assured, and NATO-EU relations can be defined on the basis of cooperation between two independent organizations. Following the overview of EU treaties in the 90’s and European Council meetings from June 1999 to June 2003 (plus the Tervuren mini-summit of April 2003), the conclusion on “Political-substantial dilemmas” draws attention to the two crucial issues. Autonomy and flexibility: all vision of or discussion about European defence is centered on (and stumbles over) these two basic principles.

Full text in Hungarian.

(In: Az EU biztonság- és védelempolitikai dokumentumai vol. 1, ed. L. Póti - T. Péter - H. Vincze, Budapest, 2004)



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