European Security and Defence Policy – A Response to European Security Ambitions?

  • Radek Khol


The European Union (EU) decided in the late 1990s to become involved in security and defence maters. Many see this as a logical accomplishment of European integration and as a fundamental simplification of the European security architecture where two organizations will play a major role – the EU and NATO. The project of a European security and defence policy as an instrument of the EU to manage crises in its close neighbourhood has become significant thanks to the evaluation of European participation in the Kosovo crisis and, above all, as a result of its performance during the air strike campaign against Yugoslavia. The support rendered by two major European powers – France and Great Britain – was also decisive; on this issue their positions became closer than ever before.
At its meeting in Helsinki the European Council reached agreement on concrete objectives – the establishment of military capabilities which would be prepared for operations by 2003. What is important is not only the reinforcement of European capacities but also their relationship with NATO as well as the exploitation of their existing procedures and structures. Apart from the degree of the interlinking and autonomy of the two organizations in the event of such operations, the question of drawing in NATO allies standing outside the EU is also a sensitive matter. The new dimension of the EU foreign and security policy will have a fundamental long-term influence on the shape of NATO and consequently on Trans-Atlantic relations. The way the US sees the European security and defence policy project is definitely not negligible. For the moment there is a predominant slightly “vigilante” approach, with emphasis on the limits of acceptability for the American side and possible dangers.
The question of financial resources which the improvement of European military capabilities and a certain degree of EU strategic autonomy will require remains a controversial point for the moment. Pressure on increasing defence expenditure, on establishing certain criteria and, at least, on changing the structure of defence expenditure will clash with a policy of budget restrictions. The manner in which major European procurement projects will he interlinked with the restructuring of the European armaments industry will also be a factor that cannot he overlooked.
The danger of unrealistic expectations placed in the European security and defence policy and the need of creating a security awareness among the European public will remain a long-term challenge. Without a definition of European interests and objectives, understandable to the public at large, a backing for EU military operations will be questionable and, in the last resort, the EU cannot avoid it.

Author Biography

Radek Khol



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