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The European Union As A Military Power Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5546 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Matter of security in Europe and security of Europe has always been at stake. According to Hanspeter Neuhold “security is the preservation or protection of essential values overtime, now and in the future He stresses that no total security is possible, but rather what matters is an effectiveness of protection of values. Systems established in Europe so far are serving to the aim of “effectiveness for now and in the future” [2] . Yet, varying conceptualization of EU as a power can be met in ongoing discussions among scholars and experts.

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Besides defining EU as a normative and civilian power, in conceptualization of the EU’s role in the international arena certain experts also argue that the EU is a military power. [3] For instance Hedley Bull referring to the debate on civilian vs. military power dismissed the idea of civilian power, naming it as a contradiction in terms. He argues that the capabilities of powers in the international system are rather defined by their military resources. His vision of the Community is that to become more self-sufficient in defense and security, among other things, it needs to improve its conventional forces. [4] However, others believe that although the military capabilities of the EU are increasing, the role of the EU in the international arena can hardly be identified as a military power. The formulation of norms and objectives of a ‘civilian’ power are accompanied by cooperation in the military area and a step-by-step strengthening of the military (defense) capabilities of the EU. [5] Yet, whether and to what extent the Union will use its military capacities to defend and promote its civilian and normative objectives need to be discussed in the light of the provision of the respective framework and institutions.

This paper attempts to add a point of view in the discussion of the definition “EU as a military power”. It has an aim to look at the development of the EU’s military capabilities and their functional purpose in order to present author’s standpoint on the issue at stake. The author believes that in order to define the presence of military power in EU one has to analyze the nature of its military capabilities and their applications. It is also believed that up-to-date conceptualization of the term “military power” has not been well developed by scholars of the field and hence suggests theoretical vagueness in the definition itself.

First section of the paper will look at the origins of formation of the EU’s military capabilities in order to define the original nature of the EU military capabilities. Second chapter scrutinizes the political path of development of CFSP in the light of formation of the EU’s military forces. Going beyond analysis of historical and political developments, third section of the paper tries to define current features of the EU that largely influence the security and defense policies lead and accordingly the use of military forces by the EU. In the conclusion the author proposes a conditional response to the main questions of the paper – is EU a military power?

Section I

Political path of development of European Defense Policy

One of the websites providing the viewpoint of scholars and politicians on the EU’s role in the world provided that the Union has been called an emerging superpower by many academics. ‘Scholars and academics like T.R. Reid, Andrew Reding, Mark Leonard, Jeremy Rifkin, John McCormick, and some politicians like Romano Prodi and Tony Blair either believe that the EU is, or will become, a superpower in the 21st century. According to David Miliband, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, however, “the EU is not and never will be a superpower” according to David Miliband”‘. [6] Lacking a unified foreign policy and with an inability to project military power worldwide, the EU lacks “the substance of superpower,” who by definition have “first of all military reach and possess the capacity to arrive quickly anywhere with troops that can impose their government’s will.’ [7] 

Theoretical conceptualization of the EU’s role in the international arena offered by scholars proposes three main dimensions: EU as normative power, EU as civilian power and EU is military power. From the first glance of debates and argument suggested one can assume that EU is largely defined as a normative power – the force that is able to promote transformation of norms in the international system. Second popular definition in the debates is EU as civilian power – the power that has rather civilian means and economic weight in the international arena and may influence the course of development by this means. This way EU as a military power stands on the third place in row of these three definitions, though it should to be recognized that in the debate of recent years this third definition was placed more often in the centre of discussions. Hedley Bull, François Duchêne, Kenneth Twitchett, Hanns Maull, Karen Smith and Ian Manners are some of prominent authors involved in this debate.

Although the end of Cold War was defined by some scholars as the end of hard power politics in international arena and the end of militarization of the international relations, the reality was different. Militarization of the international relations did not stop after the Cold War and the conflicts emerged in post-Soviet world did not reduce in number. The US, Russia, China had the same level of military budget and increased involvement in conflict zones worldwide. First and second Gulf wars, War in Yugoslavia and brutal conflicts in Africa demanded the same level of military capabilities from the international community. So was the reality in terms of militarization in Europe. The continent, that became stronger and survived from self-destruction after the WW II thanks to the economic integration and strengthening of its potential as a civilian power, had another additional focus in its development in post-Cold War period. Since TEU and Maastricht the course of development of defense and security policies became one of the main priorities. After the war in Yugoslavia that proved inability of Europe to respond to crisis in its territory, this dimension of the EU’s potential building was further strengthened. And this is the reason why today scholars question the civilian nature of the EU and bring a notion on military power in the person of the EU.

From the perspective of theories of international relations the notions of military power are often defined in the realist and neo-realist accounts that were explaining the world of power politics and post WW II realities. However, as Ian Manners mentioned, traditions of “just war” and humanitarian intervention may alter these theoretical foundations in the post-Cold War international system. The same way, the notions of military power may need amendments to their conventional frames. In the scope of understanding of EU’s role in the international arena we would like to refer for the purpose of this paper to the notion of military power that is given by Ian Manners. He argues that normative power should be differentiated from military power by the extent to which conflict conciliation processes are at work, i.e. whether these are through military actions or through changing the structures of conflict. “Empirically, these two approaches can be differentiated in terms of whether conflict is resolved through longer-term conciliation of the parties (i.e. changing the norm of conflict), or through shorter-term intervention in the conflict (i.e. changing the conflict itself).” [8] Hence, given the nature of emergence and currents of EU military capabilities, we assume that defining the military power of the EU in terms of application of is military forces in the conflict reconciliation processes is one of possible ways of looking at the EU’s nature as a possible military power. For developing this understanding it is crucial to see how EU’s military capabilities have been developed and to what end they are aimed to be applied.

Today the political cooperation in the framework of the EU is reflected in Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which covers two main fields of cooperation – foreign policy and security. However, the history of political union in Europe brought to formation of CFSP is much broader. To understand the development of CFSP one can divide the path of European political cooperation into two stages: 1. Stage of initial Political Union: European Defense Community and European Political Community; 2. Stage of foundation of CFSP and its functional mechanism

1. Stage of initial Political Union: European Defense Community and European Political Community

The history of political unification of the community goes back to 50th, when immediately after initiation of the integration process in the framework of ECCS the idea of establishment of European Defense Community (EDC) came to the agenda (1952). In 1952 the Treaty on EDC was concluded. According to number of authors, most interesting part of the EDC was the consent of states to create European army under the control of supranational organization, which meant reducing of sovereignty and independence of the Community members. According to the Treaty EDC “were to be subdivided into homogeneous national units with Community status” [9] . Nevertheless, the role of NATO in this consideration was not excluded and was thought to have key role in providing security and defense in the continent. Yet, the Treaty failed because of the French parliament’s position in 1954. At the same time, this Treaty also entitled the Assembly of ECSC to investigate possibilities for European Political Community. Draft treaty for the foundation of European Political Community (EPC) was elaborated, with the invitation of Council of Ministers by Consultative Assembly, after the Luxemburg decision of September 10, 1952. [10] EPC, designed in the manner of today’s European Union, provided the process of integration with “quasi-constitutional basis” [11] .

Art.5 of the “Draft Treaty embodying the Statute of the European Community” with strict language set that existing institutions “shall constitute a single legal entity”. [12] Being a legal entity means possession of personality. This part of the Statute differentiated EPC from the EU which lacks the legal personality today. [13] The community to be established would deepen the process of integration and meant that the founding idea has been reached. Yet, formal achievement of the goal failed again, due to resistance of France. Nonetheless, since then the idea of political integration was reconsidered for several times. Although in 1960 reconsideration by Fouchet Plan was unsuccessful and had no vivid results, in 1970 as the consequence of the suggestions made by Davignon Committee “the idea was revived in the form of the institutionalized procedure” [14] . These suggestions promoted intensification of cooperation in one of the key fields of political integration, namely foreign affairs. This was the beginning of next stage – European Political Cooperation (EPC).

Formalization of EPC was realized by signature of Single European Act in 1986 in Luxembourg, art. 30 of which obliges states to inform and consult each other on foreign policy matters. [15] This was the first serious step towards the formalization of the EPC. In general, the Single European Act made EPC part of the integration, resulting in revival of political integration in very soft manner and including it at later stages into the Treaty of Maastricht under the title of Common Foreign and Security Policy. This way political cooperation was broadened with security issues and hence majority of decisions were possible in this field as well.

To sum up this brief account, we can conclude that that the ancestors of CFSP were EDC, EPC and political cooperation. Two draft Treaties, respectively, on EDC and EPC, contained the part of legal history of CFSP. In the field of legalization a breakthrough took place in July 1987 with Single European Act entering into force.

One interesting point in this process is that EDC was talking about the “army” and putting the Treaty itself under the jurisdiction of ECJ. Yet, it could not be done 40 years later by CFSP.

Section II

CFSP & ERRF – a new phase towards political union or a path of being a military power?

2. Stage of foundation of CFSP and its functional mechanism

Second phase started with making special emphasis on foreign policy development and closer cooperation in this field during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations. Consequently, in the Treaty of European Union (TEU) the CFSP was included as the second pillar of the EU. TEU called for member states to consult “on any matter of foreign and security policy of general interest in order to determine a common approach” and provided that “Member states shall ensure, through the convergence of their actions, that the Union is able to assert its interests and values on the international scene.” [16] Moreover, the Maastricht Treaty made provisions for using the Western European Union (WEU) as the military arm of the EU’s new Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and declared that the CFSP would include the “eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defense” (Article J.4.1). [17] However, after the inclusion of CFSP into the TEU for some time there was a “period of silence” and no actions in practice were taken, though Europe was witnessing conflicts in its territories and its neighborhood. The main message was that the CFSP was established to address the issues of security on the whole continent. Yet, in the “period of silence” the general goals set in Petersberg in 1992 were not much realized in practice. During the time from 1992 to 1998 the whole process was characterized with “inaction”. Then the central question of debates suggested that though the name given to it was common security and foreign policy, the issue causing problems was defense. But, in this light there was and still is an existing guarantor of defense in Europe – NATO.

Article 24 (ex article 11 of TEU) of the consolidated version of TEU addressing defense implications of CFSP mentions that CFSP “shall include … the progressive framing of defense policy, which might led to common defense”. [18] . Yet the TEU in another paragraph provides that “the policy of the Union in accordance with this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defense realized in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defense policy established within that framework.” [19] This paragraph of the TEU illustrates that the document recognizes and to the extent states priority of NATO over CFSP in providing defense and security in Europe.

Nonetheless, it was believed that to defend Europe through CFSP required formation of military forces. At the same time, although “(1) humanitarian and rescue tasks; (2) peacekeeping tasks; (3) tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking” were defined as the tasks for military troops by Petersberg Tasks [20] , TEU did not have a specific provision on formation of possible armed forces of the Union. Hence, the only instrument was summits of heads of states that could be concluded with decisive and concrete declaration on this matter and so provide steps forward in this direction.

In the result of lengthy debates on granting Europe autonomy in the military and defense matters, in 1998 heads of states of Britain and France met in St-Malo. This summit can be outlined as one of those that played a decisive role in drawing the principles of future activities under Title V of TEU. As the result of the British-French Summit, well known St-Malo declaration was adopted. This declaration recognized “.the capacity of autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces …” and stated that military forces should be “… supported by a strong and competitive European defense industry and technology”. [21] But this proposed autonomy was rather restricted by the power of NATO. Declaration also provided: “… Europe can make its voice heard in world affairs, while acting in conformity with our respective obligations in NATO …” [22] This became another statement providing that NATO would have priority in maintaining security and leading defense policy in the continent.

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On the other hand, circumstantial factors have been significantly influencing the path of development of the EU’s own military capabilities. Particularly the war in Yugoslavia became one of the key influencing factors. After the so called humanitarian intervention was realized in Yugoslavia by NATO forces, Europe, facing its own inability to take action for conflict prevention in its territory, started elaborations on possible implementation of Petersberg tasks and particularly principles of St-Malo Declaration. We may assume that in this elaborations NATO was perceived by the EU as a competitor, although its role in providing European security has been central for more then 50 years. Nonetheless, it was definitive that CSFP could not take the place of NATO in the matters on its competence.

One of the first steps forward in this path was Cologne Summit in June of 1999. Cologne European Council in its ‘Declaration on strengthening the common European policy on security and defense’ decided that ‘to this end, the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises’. [23] Moreover, decision of the Summit gave a mandate to European Council to strengthen the CFSP. In its ‘Declaration on strengthening the common European policy on security and defense’, the Cologne European Council agreed to transfer from Western European Union (WEU) to the European Union (EU) the responsibility of decision-making and the capacity for action in the area of the ‘Petersberg tasks’. [24] Underlying the need for military forces, Cologne Declaration also identified main features of future activities as “deployability, sustainability, interoperability, flexibility and mobility” [25] .

Yet two aspects of the overall message of the Declaration were particularly significant for the issue of our discussion. Firstly, it did not necessarily specify military forces as “a common army” of the Union as it is conventionally understood. Secondly, it determined that “the Atlantic Alliance remains as a foundation of the collective defense of its members”, thus excluding determination of NATO as a foundation of collective defense of Europe. By this point the EU has shaped its attitude to NATO in terms of using its military capabilities, declaring that communities’ defense is not provided by NATO, which ensures rather defense of its members. Cologne in the result became one of the key EU council meetings that according to Bono Giovanno was “an expression of desire of the EU to develop military and civilian capabilities to project its power regionally and globally, potentially autonomous from NATO” [26] .

Next important shaping Summit was the Helsinki Council of 10-11 December 1999. By its declaration the Helsinki Council agreed that the objective for the Union was to have an autonomous capacity to take decisions, and where NATO as a whole is not engaged to launch EU-led military operations in response to international crisis. [27] It introduced Political and Security Committee as an institution. Moreover, it created Military Committee as a supporting unit for Political and Security Council. Also it was in Helsinki that the post of High Representative for CFSP had been introduced. Furthermore, if in St-Malo and Cologne the intention of capable military forces were resolved with final documents, Helsinki meeting drew schema for the military forces including contingent, size and minimum period of sustainability naming it European Rapid Reaction Forces. [28] Generally, it was concluded that the formation of forces will need to be accomplished in 2003. This way, Cologne and Helsinki Conclusions laid first stones to the foundation of ESDP and to the formation of European Military Forces.

Yet, although commitment on establishment of ERRF and ESDP was clearly made in the results of St-Malo, Cologne and Helsinki, the autonomy of the EU military capability could not be fully established. Already in one of the next meetings in Feira in June 2000 it was again declared that Council should establish a framework of cooperation with NATO. Feira Declaration mentioned that, “Council has identified the principles on the basis which consultation and cooperation with NATO should be developed” [29] . This was certainly connected to the fact that EU members had already military commitments as NATO members with the organization that is supposed to provide European defense.

However, in general, the processes outlined above through the row of summits illustrate that EU was determined to take measures for implementation of Petersberg tasks and to form the autonomous military forces to respond to emergency and crisis situations in its territory and neighborhood. So, at later stages in the framework of Capabilities Commitment Conference (CCC) the EU identified details of functional mechanism of its military forces, where the clear picture of ERRF had been drawn. On 20-21 November at CCC in Brussels, states agreed to 100 000 persons and approximately 400 combat aircraft and 100 vessels, though the question was still whether this was a “real army” of the Union. [30] 

Interestingly enough answer to this question was given in European Council in Nice in December 2000. Declaration of this meeting declared that “… the European Union will be able to carry out the full range of Petersberg tasks” which “… does not involve the establishment of European army”. [31] Thus, it was announced that the EU military forces are not an army, but rather an “ad hoc forces” that are aimed to address concrete missions and respond to crisis situations. Firstly “ad hoc” forces were established and brought in action in 2003, when NATO forces were replaced by ERRF in Macedonia, which became the first military deployment of EU forces. [32] 

Further development in establishment of EU military forces was formation of Battle Groups based on the adopted headline goals 2010 in 2004. The decision taken created the EU Battle Groups whose duty was to provide rapid reaction in emergency situations within 5 days and to complete missions of at least 30 days with a maximum number of 1,500 men. [33] It is argued that the need is defined by Union’s willingness to lead more than one crisis management operation simultaneously. In the result Battle Groups became an additional part of the EU military forces, but did not still transfer the EU military capabilities into EU’s army.

Nonetheless, following the establishment of ERRF and Battle groups the ESDP missions deployed after 2004 became illustration of the EU’s ability to accommodate the goals defined in the TEU (under Petersberg Tasks) and take quick actions in response to emergency situation in the high military level. As former EU HR for the Common Security and Foreign Policy Javier Solana underlined in one of his remarks by above-mentioned actions “the EU has proved the credibility of its military capability on the ground in Africa, in Congo and Chad and now is proving it everyday in the difficult waters off Somalia.” [34] 

Thus, we can assume that, all in all crisis management operations, originally described as one of the areas covered by the Petersberg Tasks, have been identified in the result of dynamic and stable cooperation since 1998 as the area in which the EU military forces found their main occupation and effective usage. Originally described in Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, crisis management mandate was confirmed in the Treaty of Nice (2000), elaborated later in rather wider detail in the European Strategy Security (ESS) in 2003 and, finally, recognized in the Lisbon Treaty (2007). [35] 

Two general conclusions can be drawn based on the above outlined process of formation of the EU’s military capabilities.

Firstly, formation of EU CFSP and its own military forces (ERRF and Battle Groups) have been successful due to stable and structured cooperation intensified in 1998 that, at the same time, have had influence of certain circumstantial factors triggered by the realities of post-Cold War international system.

Secondly, in the process of establishment of EU military capabilities NATO has still been viewed as a strong competitor that made the Union to form its own potential taking always into account the presence of already existing military alliance. This way, the process of formation of EU’s military capabilities has been accompanied by certain institutional and political restrictions that have shaped the CFSP and its up-to-date functional mechanism (ESDP).

Section III

Purpose, unanimity and global dimension of the EU security policies

If the above brought paragraphs demonstrate that in the result of stabile and structure cooperation the path towards strengthening political union ended in the direction of establishing own military forces of the Union, thus making the EU stronger in terms of common policy in security and defense dimensions, the question that occurs is whether this development sufficient for defining the EU as a military power.

There is no doubt that the emergence of ERRF as a functional mechanism of EU common security and defense policy significantly extended the political competence of the EU as a Union of states. Yet it could not provide the EU with full capacity of being unitary actor in terms of its defense policy and military capacities.

Several aspects deserve particular attention in developing further discussion about the role of military capabilities of the EU in the conceptualization of the Union as military power.

Firstly, the purpose of established military forces, namely ERRF should be scrutinized in order to define the EU’s competence as an actor both internal and external, as in theoretical terms military power is and instrument for internal and external policies. European Security Strategy identifies the general reason for establishment of ERRF and Battle groups. It declares: “Our traditional concept of self- defense – up to and including the Cold War – was based on the threat of invasion. With the new threats, the first line of defense will often be abroad. The new threats are dynamic”. [36] Furthermore, the field of application of ERRF and Battle Groups was defined in the framework of Petersberg Tasks that include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and combat forces in crisis management. Moreover, if we look at the overview of ESDP missions we can see that objectives of the military forces are formed on a case by case basis depending on an operations and missions abroad. For instance, the EU military missions (apart from civilian ESDP missions) have largely peace-enforcement and peacekeeping mandates and are used most of the time as an instrument of quick response to humanitarian emergencies. Majority of missions in Africa for instance aimed at peace building and peace enforcement by use of military capabilities of the EU.

Secondly, the EU in becoming power and launching missions depends on member-states willingness and policy priorities. It has been not once mentioned by various authors that CFSP and defense policy has a distinctive feature in comparison to Union’s policies in economic and social field that have greater unanimity. It is largely argued that another fact that, for now, impedes the effectiveness of the CFSP is the unwillingness of the me


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