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Cesran International

The development of a European Union Security Culture – Wishful Thinking or Reality?

By Paula Sandrin | 01 June 2010

This article attempts to answer the following questions: Does EU have the potential to construct a security culture, with common views about threat identification and the best means to tackle them? Does the EU already possess a security culture? If so, which are its main features?

Most of the literature about the EU strategic culture is pessimistic about the prospects for its development (see for example Rynning 2003, Hyde-Price 2004, Matlary 2006 and Tardy 2007). The Union is still reluctant to contemplate the use of force as a policy option and is incapable of commanding military forces aside from those engaged in peacekeeping and conflict resolution. For the EU to be considered a traditional strategic actor, it must have the willingness and the ability to threaten the use of force through coercive diplomacy and the capacity to actually deploy such force.

It is interesting to observe that, although these authors recognize that the EU has published a European Security Strategy (ESS), which identify threats and responses, developed a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and within that a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), which includes a military capability that has been deployed (i.e. the EU does use force) they do not consider that the EU has a strategic culture, with common views regarding the use of force. Because the use of force by the EU is so limited (in terms of number of personnel deployed, the necessity of approval by International Law, the kind of operations, such as Peace Support Operations, it is involved), they conclude that the EU does not have a strategic culture.

I would argue that the EU does have a strategic culture: it has established which the threats to its security are and which means it is to employ to guarantee it, including military means. The fact that the Union does not engage in coercive diplomacy, does not employ military means to defeat an opposed willpower, and does not see conflicts as zero-sum, does not mean that it is not a strategic actor. It means that it is a different strategic actor. In addition, because the US is usually the referent used to analyze the EU security policies, by comparison the EU is frequently found wanting. It is my view that the EU is not lacking a strategic culture: it has one, but it is obviously different from that of the US.


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* Published in the Second Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).