The EU and the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Part of the series The European Union in International Affairs pp 48-66

European Union Non-Proliferation Policies Before and After the 2003 Strategy: Continuity and Change

  • Clara Portela
  • , Benjamin Kienzle


At its December 2003 summit, the European Council adopted its first ‘Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)’. This document (for its text see Appendix II of this volume) was released only six months after the European Security Strategy (ESS), also the first of its kind in the history of the EU. Until then, nuclear non-proliferation had been slowly making its way into the EU’s agenda: the EU had taken some steps to combat the spread of nuclear weapons within its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), focusing mainly the universalisation of treaties, transparency in export controls and promoting some regional initiatives. However, these efforts remained dispersed and low-profile and had never been integrated in a co-ordinated strategy. Why did the EU become active in nuclear non-proliferation, and why did it choose to do so at that particular point in time? Most importantly, did the release of a formal strategy introduce a significant upgrade to EU non-proliferation policies?