Reasons for the Current Failure of the European Union as an International Security Actor

  • Natividad Fernández Sola
Part of the Global Power Shift book series (GLOBAL)


Even if the Lisbon Treaty tried to boost the EU’s international tools as a security actor, the outcome of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is discouraging: from the Libya crisis to the problems of agreeing on the European Defense Agency (EDA) budget, from a continuous lack of technical and operational capabilities to the role played individually by some member states (member states). Instead of promoting an active and strong international actor, we face the apparent decline of an international security actor in the making.

The thesis of this research is that there are two groups of negative variables: the lack of resources and the confusion concerning a vision about the exact position for the EU in the international arena. This paper will focus on the lack of institutional, economic, political and strategic resources.

The framework for our analysis is the international paradigm change and the upheaval in the distribution of global power. The Union finds itself bewildered and unable to take a position on the axis of world power, or stakes in the field of global dominance. Instead, member states show their reluctance to increase resources for the EU—or a disoriented CDSP. Yet, strengthening the CSDP would be a necessary approach for the EU to adapt to the current international environment, utilizing its specific civilian and military capacities to address its myriad security concerns.

Evaluating the outcome of the Common Security and Defence Policy today can be discouraging, as the results are not the ones intended by the reforms introduced in the Treaty of Lisbon (Howorth 2007): disappointments span from the Libya crisis to the problems of agreeing on the EDA budget, and from a continuous lack of capabilities to the role played individually by some member states (Lancaster agreement, Franco-German axis, national business with defence industry). In fact, only one new EU operation has been deployed since 2009 (with two ready for launch), compared with twenty-three from 2003 to 2008. In sum, instead of promoting an active and strong international actor, we face the apparent decline of an international security actor in the making.

Our analytic approach, more than strictly theoretical, will be political and strategic. As the logical consequence of exogenous forces, most notably the diminishing relative military significance attached by the United States (US) to European security, the CSDP should be promoted as a way for European countries to improve their own security—and then their power, and as a way to adapt to the current international environment, so different from the one existing when the CSDP started. Today it seems clear from the facts described below, as well as the economic weakness of member states, that the defense of Europe needs a European defense, the CSDP (Perruche 2012). If CFSP changes its aims, ambitions and capabilities, it will imply a change in the European Security Strategy too.

If there is a possibility to escape from the grim situation described, it should start by a clear analysis of the negative variables influencing the EU’s current defense position. A critical assessment of the achievements and the current weaknesses should be the starting point to overcome the paralysis. According to our thesis, we can summarize these negative variables in two groups: the lack of resources, and the confusion concerning the exact position the EU should strive for in international arena.


Member State Crisis Management Defense Policy Lisbon Treaty European Security 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs State University - Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussia
  2. 2.International Law and International RelationsUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain

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