Book Review: European Union Security Dynamics: In the New National Interest

 By Janne Haaland Matlary (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 2009, ISBN 9780230521889, 248 pp., £55.00 hb.)

By K. Kaan Renda | 11 October 2010



The notion of security has changed significantly in the post-Cold war era. Security is not anymore understood in the traditional sense as state-centric and military-oriented. In fact, the concept of security now encompasses different sectors such as economy, society and environment, different actors such as soldiers, terrorist groups, non-governmental organizations and pirates, and wide range of issues such as terrorism, organized crime, disarmament, peacekeeping operations and piracy. Security concerns defined by the bipolar system gave way to the re-nationalization of defence and security policies in the post-Cold war era. As this has been probably the general trend in world politics for the last twenty years, in the course of the development of European security architecture we have witnessed ‘de-territorialization’ and ‘de-nationalization’ of security policies of European states (Matlary 2009:23).

Janne Haaland Matlary, in her book ‘European Union Security Dynamics: In the New National Interest’ explores the development of the security and defence policy in the European Union starting with the assumption that “the national state model of defence in Europe is disappearing” (p.16), because European states no more need mass armies and conventional military power that solely provide territorial defence. Addressing the non-existential threats and wide-ranging risks has become the main priority of European states. Notwithstanding the author’s post-Westphalian understanding of nation-state, her perspective by and large corresponds to the liberal intergovernmentalism approach in European studies. First of all, the unit of her analysis is member states.


The author focuses on the three big players namely, Britain, France and Germany who are considered the main engines of the development of a European security and defence policy. Second, the explanatory variable Matlary applies in her analysis is the national interests. The argument she makes throughout her book is that European states, particularly Britain, France, Germany and Italy have attained so-called new national interests and ‘foreign policy prerogatives’ as a result of the new raison d’etat which helps them maintain their strengths vis-à-vis other actors in the domestic and international arena (p.71). In other words, the European Union Security and Defence Policy has been developed out of economic and strategic necessities of the big three and a half member states rather than neither the aim to balance US power nor the construction of a European security identity through supranational institutionalization. According to Matlary, ESDP is a new and arguably favourable policy domain where the member states can ‘share risk, cost and blame and legitimize the use of force’ in an era that European publics are extremely averse to any kind of use of military force (pp.73-74).


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* Published in the Second Issue of Journal of Global Analysis (JGA).


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