The ‘Arab spring’, the EU, Libya and R2P: A test- (ing) case?

Since the end of the colonial era the institutionalisation of EU policy as
regards the countries of the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean
– be it through traditional Association Agreements, the Barcelona process
or, latterly, through the Mediterranean and Neighbourhood policies – has
essentially had a single red line running through it. This was the choice
between fostering democracy and buying security. Of course it was never
promoted as such and the choice was never absolute because the two facets
are complimentary to some extent. Nevertheless, the elevation of the security
prerogative for Europe – in terms of access to resources, immigration control
and latterly, the fight against Islamic radicalism and terrorism – has generally
superseded the desire to help facilitate the emergence of fully democratic
regimes in North Africa and in the Middle East51
51A detailed study of the EU’s institutional interaction with the Southern and Eastern
shore of the Mediterranean is not practical to undertake within the time and resource
constraints of the current paper. As however the Libya case study included in the last
section of the current paper illustrates, this institutional relationship has been a primary
factor – for good or ill – in the evolving relationship between the EU and its southern
neighbours, and something which, since the beginning of 2011, the dramatically unfolding
of the events of the ‘Arab spring’ have increasingly questioned. A certain level of scepticism
towards these various instruments in not however completely new, see, Fröhlich S (2007),
The European Neighbourhood Policy: An Adequate Instrument for Democratisation? in
Varwick J and Lang K O (eds) European Neighbourhood Policy – Challenges for the EUPolicy
Towards the New Neighbours (Opladen and Farmington Hills: Barbara Budrich
Publishers) and Bicchi F (2010), The Impact of the ENP on EU-North Africa Relations:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, in Whitman R G and Wolff S (eds) The European
Neighbourhood Policy in Perspective – Context, Implementation and Impact (Basingstoke:
Palgrave MacMillan). On the Mediterranean Union see Liberti F (2008), The European

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Such introspection and ‘Eurocentrism’ is not of course completely beyond
comprehension. The struggle for ‘energy security’ is now a major foreign
policy focus, while the fear of Islamic radicalism and terrorism – and thus
the willingness to ‘turn a blind eye’ to authoritarian regimes who claimed
that they were the only bulwark against such an outcome – was a judgement
that was tested as early as 1992 with the coup in Algeria in the face of the
impending victory of the FIS in national elections. The potential impact of
the immigration/refugee issue has moreover been starkly highlighted by the
current crisis in Libya with increasing numbers of ‘boat people’ seeking to
make the journey from North Africa to ‘Europe’, principally via the islands
of Malta and Lampedusa52
It is in this context that initial French reactions to the emerging ‘Arab
spring’ movement promoting change, greater openness and democratisation
in Tunisia53 should perhaps be understood. As the initial protests were met
with violence by Tunisian security forces, French ministers proceeded to make
a number of comments unequivocally favouring the Ben Ali regime. While
human rights groups condemned a series of murders carried out by Tunisian
police, the French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, said French police
would lend their own ‘savoir faire’54 on dealing with civil disturbances to
Union and the South Mediterranean Partners: L’Union pour la Méditerranée, a French
Attempt to refocus the EU Engagement Towards the South in Delcour L and Tulmets E
(eds), Pioneer Europe: Testing EU Foreign Policy in the Neighbourhood (Munich: Nomos).
52The ramifications of the Libyan conflict on illegal immigration to the EU have been significant
both in terms of raw numbers and in terms of percentage casualties. Simon Tisdall
in The Guardian (11/5/2011) ‘Helping Libya’s refugees is the better way to beat Gaddafi’,
conservatively suggests that some 10% of those trying to reach Europe die in the process
– 1.200 out of 12.000 in the period from the beginning of March and mid-May 2011. He
also suggests that Gaddafi’s forces may be forcibly expelling sub-Saharan migrant workers
to remind Europe of the consequences of regime change. Pre-conflict it was undoubtedly
the case that Italy and France in particular had sought to ‘engage’ Gaddafi in relation to
Libya’s perceived role as the gateway between Europe and the flow of economic migrants
from central Africa. See, for instance, ‘Libya is bigger issue for EU than US’ downloadable
In terms of internal EU ramifications the entire edifice of visa-free Schengen
has been threatened in a war of words primarily between Italy and France but spilling
over across the entire Schengen area; see The Telegraph (11/5/2011), ‘Denmark announces
decision to reintroduce border controls ahead of Schengen meeting’, John Lichfield The Independent
(19/4/2011) ‘EU border deal under threat over Italy’s migrant burden’, Burno
Waterfield The Telegraph (22/4/2011) ‘France threatens to ‘suspend’ the Schengen Treaty’
and finally, Michael Day The Independent (14/5/2011) ‘Flood of North African refugees
to Italy ends EU passport-free travel.’
53Interestingly, Robert Fisk dates the beginning of the ‘Arab spring’ to Lebanon 2005
and to the civil society reaction to the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and
the demand for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. See, Fisk R (15/4/2011)
The Independent ‘The Arab awakening began not in Tunisia this year, but in Lebanon in
54Naturally there was a explosion of anger at such comments and at those of AlliotMarie
in particular, see (11/1/2011) ‘MAM propose le savoir-faire français à
la police tunisienne’. Alliot-Marie was subsequently replaced as Foreign Minister by Alain

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help Ben Ali’s forces maintain order. The French culture minister, Frédéric
Mitterrand, said Tunisia was not an ‘unequivocal dictatorship’ and the agriculture
minister, Bruno Le Maire, said Ben Ali had ‘done a lot for his country.’
After Tunisia came Egypt and once again the public relations failures
of French diplomacy were exposed as were the existence of deep personal
links between the French governing class and local political elites – Hosni
Mubarak the Egyptian President who had been seen by France as the major
southern interlocutor for the French President’s ‘pet’ project the Union
of the Mediterranean finally relinquished office on the 11th of February55
The focus of attention quickly then moved to Libya but unlike Tunisia and
Egypt the level of regime-sponsored violence in response to the demands of
the protestors quickly escalated beyond what the international community
deemed ‘acceptable’ and by February 20th ‘protestors’ had become ‘rebels’
nominally in control of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city56. On February
the 22nd Gaddafi made his infamous speech branding the rebel residents of
Benghazi ‘cockroaches’ and ‘rats who did not deserve to live’ and to whom
he would show ‘no mercy’ while going ‘house by house’ to root them out57
By the time this moment arrived the French were in full ‘repair-mode’
in terms of their reputation which had taken a major buffeting over their
ambivalent responses to the Tunisia and Egypt crises and President Sarkozy
was thus determined to be ‘out in front’ of the Libya issue58. Joining him at
the head of the queue was British Prime Minister David Cameron; he had
however reached this point by a similar if rather more circuitous route. The
prevailing sense of the ‘Arab spring’ in the UK had been entirely positive and
55See David Tresilian, ‘Friends in High Places’ in Al-Ahram weekly online (17th-23rd
Feb 2011), downloadable at,
56It should be noted here that Libya – ruled by Gaddafi for 40 years – is a very different
proposition to either Tunisia or Egypt. Libyan society is still effectively based on a ‘tribal’
system while the structures of the Libyan state have been eroded over time in response to
Gaddafi’s political philosophy. See for instance the Newsweek article by Dirk Vanderwalle,
‘After Gaddafi’ (27/2/2011).
57As The Economist (19/5/2011), ‘The lessons of Libya’, notes, this was ‘language
chillingly reminiscent of the broadcasts of Radio Mille Collines, which spurred on the
perpetrators of Rwanda’s genocide in 1994.’
58It is undoubtedly the case that re-election considerations were viewed –
at least by his opponents – as being prominent in Sarkozy’s decision making
process over Libya, see Jonathon Freedland, The Guardian ‘Libya crisis
may save Nicholas Sarkozy from electoral humiliation’ (20/3/2011), downloadable
While the same paper also reported claims from one of Gaddafi’s
sons that Libya had financed Sarkozy’s election campaign and that they now
wanted their money back! See, Ian Black and Kim Willsher, The Guardian,
‘Sarkozy election campaign was funded by Libya – Gaddafi son’ (16/3/2011), downloadable

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while there were numerous ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ in respect of recent
British policy in relation to Libya, not least the release from custody in
Scotland of the ‘Lockerbie bomber’59, Cameron was quick to lend his voice
to that of Sarkozy demanding military action if the slaughter of civilians in
Libya did not stop.
Cameron’s unease over Libya was however based on past not current
misdemeanours, not his own but his Party’s. The British political class –
and the Conservative Party in particular – was scarred by the Bosnia crisis
of the mid-1990s and specifically by the events at Srebrenica, where up to
8.000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered – while ineffectual UN
peacekeepers looked on. At the time the Conservative government and its
leading figures had been firm in their ‘Realist’ stance that engaging in the
civil war in Bosnia was not in the British national interest, a view which, to
be fair, was not hotly disputed by many other governments across Europe.
Only after the horror of Srebrenica was revealed, and the analogies with the
‘final solution’ against the Jews in WW2 drawn, did this position begin to
change. This approach was of course decisively overturned by Labour Prime
Minister Blair’s adoption of an ‘ethical foreign policy’ and subsequently of
the doctrine of ‘Liberal interventionism’ during his three-term premiership.
In their long period out of office the Conservatives drew the appropriate
Even before the infamous Gaddafi broadcast threatening to ‘root out’ his
opponents in Benghazi the ‘spectre of Srebrenica’ was, moreover, evident in
the British public debate on Libya60. There is no doubt then that this was
a significant ‘shapin’ factor in British Libyan policy.
The ‘Arab spring’ pushed a lot of buttons in European foreign policy circles,
as the wave of ‘democratisation’ swept from Tunis to Cairo and onwards
it seemed to vindicate the cautious approach adopted by much of Europe to
the Bush-era’s programme of robustly ‘encouraging’ Middle East democratisation
– specifically in Iraq – which had since become beset with difficulties.
The ‘revolutions’ in Tunis and Cairo seemed however to represent the ultimate
victory of ‘soft power’. The protesters wanted food, jobs and freedom
from oppression from an arbitrary state but they also wanted more ‘abstract’
things like democracy and an ability to more fully participate at all levels in
their society61
The scene was then set. With the EU demanding to play a greater role
59Although technically the responsibility of the devolved Scottish government – because
Scotland has a different legal system from that operative in the rest of the UK – there
was significant disquiet over the circumstances surrounding the release, in May 2009,
of the 1988 bomber of Pan Am flight 103, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. See for
instance, Jason Allardyce ‘Lockerbie bomber set free for oil’ The Sunday Times (30/8/09),
downloadable at,
60See for instance, (15/3/11) ‘Bosnia’s long shadow over British foreign
61Joe Nye intervention into the ‘Arab spring’ debate.

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in global affairs, the Lisbon Treaty changes deployed with a view to enabling
this, a costly new actor – the European External Action Service – headed
by High Representative Baroness Ashton – ready to prove its usefulness and
the EU’s two major military powers Britain and France determined, for
the reasons outlined above, to become ‘engaged’, albeit initially through
the UNSC, a major international crisis on Europe’s doorstep would surely
present an opportunity to see how far the EU had come from the nadir of
Jacques Poo’s ‘this is the hour of Europe’ speech at the outbreak of the
Yugoslav conflict some twenty years before.
In addition, NATO was seen as a potentially problematic vehicle through
which to channel a response to the crisis because of the initial American
approach to the prospect of intervention which – Secretary of State Clinton
apart – was at best ‘lukewarm’, while another NATO member, Turkey, was
engaged in projects of its own and did not, initially, want to be seen to be
party to the use of force against Libya. Using NATO, it argued, would be
‘provocative’ and would send the wrong signals to the region – particularly
after French Interior Minister Claude Gueant characterised the intervention
as ‘a crusade’62
Before any action could be taken however the necessary multilateral blessing
had to be obtained in the form of a UN resolution at the Security Council.
Under combined Anglo-French pressure the Americans had – by March
17th – been persuaded that intervention was necessary and they now increasingly
led the charge for the imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ as one element in
an approach including ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Libyan civilians,
and specifically those in imminent danger in the city of Benghazi, from the
depredations of the loyalist Gaddafi forces poised on the outskirts of that
The tabled resolution (1973) followed on from the 26th February resolution
imposing sanctions on the Libyan regime but went much further in
granting that ‘all necessary measures’ could be taken to protect civilians.
The justificatory norm deployed to legitimate the action was that of the
newly formulated ‘R2P’ (Right to Protect)63 – when a sovereign state fails
to prevent atrocities, foreign governments may intervene to stop them. Euro-
62See, Delphine Strauss on (24/3/2011) ‘Turkey attacks France on Libya crusade’.
In the end Turkey chose to argue for a NATO-led force rather than ad hoc ‘coalition of
the willing’ which France seemed initially to prefer.
63The ‘R2P’ norm was adopted at the UN 2005 World Summit and was an attempt to
‘repackage’ the traditional ‘norm’ of humanitarian intervention which had been deployed,
it is argued in the literature, but subsequently not by the states themselves who claimed
‘self-defence’, on three famous occasions in the 1970s – by India in East Pakistan (1971),
by Vietnam in Kampuchea (1978) and by Tanzania in Uganda (1979). While the backdrop
to each of these interventions was provided by a massive humanitarian catastrophe,
‘power politics’ considerations were the intervening state’s major policy driver in each
case. The humanitarian intervention ‘norm’ was subsequently to become so contested
that it was unusable and as the Cold War intensified in the early 1980s it was dropped.
The wider issue was not to return to international attention until the mid-1990s with

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pean nations were at the heart of a process displaying the merits of ‘effective
multilateralism’ in global politics.
And then came the bombshell. Although resolution 1973 was passed
by the Security Council with veto holders China and Russia only abstaining
along with other influential BRIC members – and fierce protectors of the traditional
norm of the supremacy of ‘state sovereignty’ – they were also joined
by Germany which broke ranks with its EU partners calling into question
Germany’s support for the ‘R2P’ norm, its commitment to ‘effective multilateralism’,
the CFSP’s desire to ‘speak with a common voice’ and indeed the
entire edifice of an EU-based Common Security and Defence Policy. What
prompted such a decision, particularly as German Foreign Sectary, Guido
Westewelle64, had been among the first to show solidarity with those involved
in the ‘Arab spring’ by actually going to Tahrir Square in the centre
of Cairo?
Let us first remind ourselves of the purpose of the CFSP. It is designed
to cover ‘all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union’s
security including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that
might lead to a common defence.’ Surely Libya represented an event the
magnitude of which the EU – particularly given the wider ‘Arab spring’
context – simply could not ignore?
While it is not certain that the EU would have taken the lead role in
‘Europe’ response to the Libyan crisis had Germany not acted as it did in
the UNSC, both Britain and France clearly wanted American participation
in the enforcement of the ‘no-fly zone’ as neither had the capability to quickly
‘shut down’ the Libyan air-defence grid, it is interesting to briefly recall the
pressures being exerted on Germany at this time in order to understand how
their Libya-policy was produced – in the same way as the basic motivations
for French and British policy have also been outlined above.
The motivations for German policy are many and varied. It is undeniable
that, like France and Britain, Germany had significant economic and
business-related ties with Libya65 – Germany gets 11% of its oil from Libya
Rwanda/Srebrenica etc. Libya was the first time that ‘R2P’ had been deployed by the
international community as a whole though in 2008 Russia deployed it as justification
for its conflict with Georgia over the breakaway region of Abkhazia while, again in 2008,
France threatened to deploy it against the government of Myanmar if it continued to
block the outside delivery of aid to the country after the cyclone. For more on R2P see,
64Timothy Garton Ash is particularly scathing of Westerwelle and of the consequences
of German policy more generally. See, (24/3/2011) ‘France
plays hawk, Germany demurs. Libya has exposed Europe’s fault lines’, downloadable
65The EU was hitherto Libya’s largest trade partner taking 70% of its exports.
Libya was Europe’s third largest energy supplier and was becoming increasingly involved
in cooperation over undocumented migration, receiving to this end some
60 million euros in 2010. See, Simon McMahon, ‘Where is Europe on Libya?’

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it is claimed – and perhaps there was pressure not to disrupt such a lucrative
market position66 though of course this seems to have been a ‘pressure’
that France and Britain were both able to resist, so perhaps we should look
Dettke is probably closer to the mark when he notes that the Libyan
crisis came to a head during ‘perfect storm’ conditions for the German government
– realisation that the initial measures taken in respect of the European
sovereign debt crisis were unlikely to be enough to save the Euro,
and that German taxpayers would probably once again have to ‘dig deep’
to finance any new proposals, the Japanese tsunami and subsequent nuclear
accident at Fukushima which seemed to decisively turn an already highly
sceptical country against nuclear power, and the fact that the first tranche
of 2011 state elections were about to be run with the junior partner in the
centre-right coalition government – Mr Westerwelle’s own FDP – struggling
to maintain the 5% threshold required for representation in the state legislatures67.
In this situation the German government was paralysed with fear of
its own electorate and the short-term party political consequences of regional
elections were elevated above any notion of defining the ‘national’ interest
never mind the Europe-wide ramifications of an abstention over resolution
Joschka Fischer ridicules Westerwelle and highlights the German government’s
lack of anything resembling a strategic culture when he notes that
‘foreign policy isn’t just about cutting a good figure on the international
stage and otherwise focusing on the next provincial domestic election. It
means taking responsibility for hard strategic choices even when these are
unpopular at home.’68
The implications of the German decision were precipitous. At no point
was the EU even considered to be the lead-partner in the Libyan operation
simply because there was no consensus view of what could, or should,
be done. Disunity in the European position had been obvious since the
EU Foreign Ministers’ Brussels meeting on 22nd February which discussed
sanctions in respect of Libya, with Malta, Italy and Cyprus showing reservations69
while a subsequent emergency summit meeting called by Cameron
and Sarkozy designed to place the threat of the imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’
at the heart of the EU statement of March 11th was decisively rebuffed by
(18/5/2011) Europe on the Strand, an ideas on Europe blog, downloadable at,
66See for example the rather forthright but hardy balanced piece in Black Star
News ‘Quest for economic riches drove Germany’s Libya policy’, downloadable at
67Dettke D (2011) Germany says no again, AICGS Advisor.
68Fischer J (2011) ‘I feel ashamed’ The German
Times for Europe, downloadable at
69See, EUbusiness (23/2/2011) ‘EU nations eye Libya sanctions but Italy, Malta object’.

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Germany and Sweden70. After the meeting, in a joint press conference with
the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, EU President Herman von
Rompuy stated that ‘we don’t live in a colonial era any more where foreign
powers intervene where they like.’71
The result was that by the time resolution 1973 was passed France in particular
argued that precipitate action was required to reduce the potential
of a massacre occurring in Benghazi at the hands of Gaddafi-regime troops.
Sarkozy announced, in the middle of the 19th March Paris meeting of interested
parties, that such action would be taken with French planes already in
the air thus the intervention began on the basis of support from a ‘coalition
of the willing’ – e.g. those willing to enforce UNSC resolution 1973. The EU
was nowhere to be seen as, for operational military reasons, the Americans
took the lead in what was to become known as Operation Odyssey Dawn72
Even when the Americans began to wind down their front-line contribution
to the military effort – Obama faced significant domestic pressure not to
become ‘involved’ in another conflict in the Middle East, with the prevailing
US view being that Libya was primarily a ‘European’ concern – it was
NATO rather than the EU or an ad hoc group of ‘EU member states plus’
that assumed control of the operation.
Criticism of the EU, both internally and externally, was withering. Le
Monde noted:
The European Union has, for its part, failed miserably. ‘Institutional’
Europe has not faced up to the challenge. In the North
African saga it does not exist. It is incapable of agreeing on how
to act, on whether to recognise the Libyan opposition, and most
of all, on the legitimacy of the use of force. The disunity is total
and particularly striking when it is a question of deciding on war
– that is to say when history becomes tragedy and it is necessary
to move from frothy rhetoric about the rights of man. (Le Monde
(31/3/2011) quoted in, and translated by, Menon (2011) ibid.)
EU diplomats were, it seems, even harsher. In what is perhaps the best
quote to date on the consequences of the conflict, with an eye on the growing
row within NATO about how the intervention was going to be run, one EU
70See Nicholas Watt and Ian Traynor, The Guardian (11/3/2011) ‘Libya no-fly zone
setback for David Cameron’.
71See The Times of India (13/3/2011) ‘No military intervention in Libya, says European
Council’, downloadable at
72Operation Odyssey Dawn was the title of the US-led operation in Libya. When NATO
subsequently assumed sole command of the operation on 31/3/2011 the new name given
was Operation Unified Protector. In addition, individual participants in the coalition each
had their own names for their own military contribution operations, such as, for instance,
Operation Ellamy for the UK and Opération Harmattan for France.

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insider dryly noted, ‘the CFSP died in Libya – we just have to pick a sand
due under which we can bury it.’73
The role of EU high representative for Foreign Policy, Baroness Ashton,
and the new European External Action Service (EEAS) that she heads, came
in for a significant amount of criticism from some, for not doing enough, and
from others for seeking to do too much74. It is clear however that Ashton was
hamstrung from the outset as clearly no ‘common’ position emerged between
the member states. While the Lisbon Treaty gives the High Representative
some ‘latitude’ to broker a compromise in such situations what it does not
do is give it the right of initiative over that of individual states.
This point was further emphasised when, at the beginning of April, the
High Representative finally emerged with a plan to deliver humanitarian
assistance to Libya – principally to the city of Misrata. The European Union
Council adopted the decision to launch an EU military operation in support
of humanitarian assistance efforts in Libya. The Council’s decision, known
as EUFOR Libya, established the legal framework for the mission – with
actual operation plans and rules of engagement set to be implemented by UN
request only. But EUFOR Libya remains stillborn. The UN has not called
for the mission to be implemented and EU foreign ministers subsequently
failed on April 12th to approve a basic ‘concept of operation.’75
In reality neither the EU nor NATO is likely to come out of the Libyan
crisis with its reputation enhanced. The EU was simply unable to agree a
compromise between the various competing positions of the member states,
the Lisbon Treaty gave it no additional mechanisms to do so, nor did it enable
the High Representative for Foreign Policy and her European External
Action Service to work in parallel with the member states in order to define
alternative solutions. Ashton was essentially rendered silent by the need to
find a lowest common denominator position among the member states – a
position that did really move much further beyond ‘sanctions’ and eventually
73Alvise Armellini (24/3/2011) ‘Diplomats mourn ‘death’ of EU defence
policy over Libya’ Deutsche Press-Agentur, downloadable at
74See, The Economist (27/5/2011) ‘Low ambition for the High Representative.’ The
point is made here about the differing ways in which the EEAS is viewed by large and
small countries in the EU. ‘For the small countries it is a megaphone, for the large ones,
a limitation.’ See also, Toby Vogel (24/3/2011), ‘Running out of
75Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt blocked the adoption of a proposed operational
plan for the humanitarian mission at the April 12th meeting of EU foreign
ministers. Bildt argued that adopting the plan would send the wrong signal since
the United Nations still had access to the Libyan city of Misrata, which was, at the
time, under heavy siege by Gaddafi loyalist forces. See, Ivy Mungcal, (15/4/2011)
‘EU divided over military mission for Libyan humanitarian response’ downloadable

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settled on humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the often cumbersome process
of ensuring that a consensus position is reached clearly suggests that the
CSDP process is simply not designed for high-intensity interventions where
rapid decision making with ‘real time’ implications is required. The defining
purpose of cooperation in the foreign policy and defence fields remains
internal EU coordination not external problem-solving. The overriding goal
of ‘speaking with one voice’ sometimes means that silence is the only option.
Despite the move towards greater ‘institutionalisation’ in terms of both
foreign and defence policy, and the process of ‘Brusselisation’ that is often
said to accompany it, the member states remain the major players here – for
the smaller states cooperation acts as a megaphone but for the larger states
it is a limitation. Even if it is clear that sub-optimal positions are adopted
for the EU as a whole the domestic imperatives of the major EU states
rather than any conception of the wider ‘European interest’ predominates
– all member states however use and manipulate decision-making processes
at the EU to feedback into the domestic level debate while, at the same
time, citing domestic level concerns as a factor in their foreign policy making
In terms of EU-NATO relations Libya seems to have been very much a
case of ‘business as usual’. In administrative terms, a number of meetings
were held, such as that between the NATO and EU ambassadors in Brussels
on the 6th of May. At Turkey’s stipulation however the meeting was designated
as ‘informal’ and thus no formal decisions could be taken. At the
implementation level the traditional characterisation of NATO-‘hard power
/ EU-‘soft power’ seemed to make a return with the EU confined to imposing
sanctions and contemplating ‘humanitarian relief’ missions. Indeed, as The
Economist succinctly put it: ‘While Britain and France engage Libyan forces
Mrs Ashton engages “civil society” in Benghazi. The big states fly combat
missions; the EU flies the flag.’76

NATO-EU Problems – A relationship ‘on hold’ ?

In this light the question was often asked, are NATO and the EU complementary
or competitive institutions? The answer to this question however
presupposes that decisions are taken on a range of much broader issues relating
to the direction and indeed the ultimate destination of the process of
European integration. The problem here, however, is that such a decision
on the finalité of the integration process is something that is likely to ‘break’
rather than ‘make’ the European Union as a global actor.
33Howorth J (2009) ‘NATO and ESDP: Institutional Complexities and Political Realities’
Politique Étrangère (English Edition 4) p.95).

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The NATO-EU relationship is thus to some extent at least ‘on hold’ and
indeed has been since the beginning of the century. In this context we can
identify three problematic dyads, EU-USA, EU-Turkey and UK-France that,
when taken together, go some way to defining the inherent problems in the
NATO-EU relationship.
The EU-USA relationship34 is now, as we have already seen the key factor
in the new European security environment but it is not a simple or straightforward
relationship and is clearly not best served by being conducted within
a wholly institutionalised NATO-EU context. American expectations in respect
of European defence and security policy have changed dramatically
since agreement was reached in 2003 on the so-called ‘Berlin plus’ arrangements.
Indeed, as Toje notes, the Americans now want more not less EU
defence policy35 – a theme to which we shall return in the final section on
the current Libyan crisis.
This aspiration – for more not less European defence – is however easier
to promote than to achieve for a number of reasons. With the exception of
Britain and France the EU countries are generally not equipped – either physically
or psychologically – to play a robust leadership role in defence policy
beyond basic territorial defence. After generations of peace and stability, a
concentration on building the welfare state and the institutions of European
integration, the end of the era of European colonialism, the democratisation
of foreign policy making and the placing of constraints on executive power
to ‘make’ war and peace36 as well as the decline of ‘existential’ threats to
the citizenry, neither states nor societies across most of Europe retain a real
‘martial’ ethic37
In addition, modern European states’ defence budgets are, moreover,
limited and declining further in light of the financial crisis, even in Britain
34The EU has recognised that US-EU relations should be put on a new footing, see
for example, ‘EU wants a new Atlanticism’ (29/3/10) downloadable at
35Toje (2008) ibid.
36Germany’s Basic Law is a good, if historically understandable, example here of the
political and legal constraints imposed on most EU states – or more precisely their national
governments – who simply do not have the ability to take executive decisions on issues of
war and peace beyond the tight multilateral framework of shared institutions that exist
within Europe and at the global level. Germany has increasingly, from a British and French
perspective at least, sought to use this reality to its advantage to increasingly ‘free-ride’ on
the defence contributions of others. This is clearly the case in respect of its vastly inferior
level of defence spending as a percentage of GDP (1.4% as compared to France and the
UK’s 2.5% on average), its contribution to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and, more
immediately, its stance on the Libyan conflict which included its abstention – with China
and Russia – in the UNSC on Resolution 1973 authorising ‘all necessary measures’ to be
taken to protect civilians threatened by the Gaddafi regime.
37See for instance here the rather provocative work by Peter van Ham (2008) The Power
of War: Why Europe Needs It, The Hague: Clingendael Diplomacy Papers No. 19, and
for the other side of the debate, James Sheehan (2007) The Monopoly of Violence: Why
Europeans Hate Going to War, London: Faber and Faber.

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and France. While Britain, France, Germany and Italy were all among the
top ten defence spenders, in cash terms, in 2010, with Britain and France
ranked 3rd and 4th respectively behind the USA and China and with Russia
just behind in 5th place, all four EU countries are nevertheless declining (in
2010) in terms of the percentage of GDP spent on defence, with Britain and
France spending around 2.5% and the rest of the EU countries between 1-
1.8%38. At the same time the new global powers, the BRIC countries, are all
increasing their defence spending as a percentage of GDP – the BRIC powers
are 2nd China, 5th Russia, 9th India and 11th Brazil in the ranking of global
defence spenders.
These economic and social observations are moreover compound by continuing
American-led advances in militarised technology which is helping
shape America’s new military doctrine for the 21st century – often referred
to in shorthand as ‘the revolution in military affairs’ (RMA)39. This has a
number of effects on European-US and EU-NATO relations.
The interoperability of US and European forces is becoming increasingly
difficult, particularly for the smaller European states, thus many are in effect
reduced to the role of ‘political cheerleaders’ for US foreign policy – a role
which many find acutely uncomfortable at times given their own domestic
Many European states are effectively being forced to ‘choose’ between
spending their declining defence budgets on high-end and high-tech war-
fighting capability or low-end peacekeeping and crisis management capabilities.
Both are necessary but what effectively has happened has been a de
facto division which has seen a US-dominated NATO address the former
while the EU is, largely, left with the latter. This is not true for all EU
states but it is the case for most.
This reality sets the parameters for one of the most significant NATO-EU
‘problems’, namely, the existence of parallel sets of capability and equipment
procurement lists. NATO has its Prague Capabilities Commitments (PCC)
while the EU has the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP). The differences
are certainly significant if not massive but competition undoubtedly
weakens defence capability and often it is the case that governments fearful
of domestic level political backlashes against defence spending use the existence
of two competing lists as an argument to comply with neither, fearing
that compliance with one would bring questions about why compliance with
38Figures from SIPRI. Greece, which spends 3.2% of GDP on defence is a well known
exception here.
39Perhaps the most often cited definition is given by Krepinevic A (1994) ‘Cavalry to
Computer: The Pattern of Military Revolutions’, The National Interest, 37, p.30. ‘It is
what occurs when the application of new technologies into a significant number of military
systems combines with innovative operational concepts and organizational adaptation in
a way that fundamentally alters the character and conduct of conflict. It does so by
producing a dramatic increase – often an order of magnitude or greater – in the combat
potential or military effectiveness of armed forces.’

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the other was not forthcoming.
These basic facts make NATO-EU relations quite difficult. American
global priorities are shifting – hence the desire now for more European defence
– and the acceptance of a more ‘independent’ Europe. NATO and the
EU claim to be complementary organisations but in practice their relationship
is increasingly difficult as they compete for resources, capabilities and
The second problematic dyad in the NATO-EU relationship is that of EUTurkey.
Turkey lodged it application for EU membership in 1987 and has
had a structured economic relationship with the EU since the early 1960s.
It has become clear that the EU member states are deeply divided over
Turkish accession. Turkey is however a significant player in NATO and has
the largest military establishment in ‘NATO/EU Europe’. During the 1990s
when a more significant European ‘pole’ for the Atlantic alliance was being
discussed – primarily within the context of the WEU (Western European
Union) – Turkey played an active role in this process but was subsequently
sidelined by the emergence of the EU-centred ESDP.
At the strategic level Turkey is unhappy about potentially diminishing
the tried and tested partnership with the USA and NATO and replacing
it with an untried and in places, sub-optimal, CSDP. In addition, there is
clearly also linkage here between Turkey’s behaviour in NATO and its fraught
path towards EU accession which it sees as being blocked, politically, by
France and Germany. Moreover, the accession of a divided Cyprus to the
EU in 2004 further angered Ankara.
Finally, it is also clear that since the late 1990s Turkey has enjoyed
something of a strategic renaissance that has seen its geopolitical status
change from ‘forgotten Cold War outpost’ to ‘major regional power’ in the
greater Middle East and Central Asia. Indeed, as we will see in the following
section, although the Turkish model of ‘Islamic democracy’ may be welcomed
by the west as a useful template for the countries of North Africa and the
Middle East currently caught up in the so-called ‘Arab spring’, Turkey itself
is no longer necessarily wedded to the Eurocentric ‘script’ in terms of the
teleological development of the European ‘space’ moving towards a zone of
perpetual peace and social, political and economic integration – based on
Eurocentric principles alone. With significant ‘soft power resources’ of its
own across the region – particularly in terms of popular culture – Turkey is
already effectively promoting an alternative ‘vision’ of the region to that of
the EU in a similar manner to that promoted by Russia since the emergence
of Putin41
40In 2005, because neither could agree about suitable roles, both the EU and NATO
ended up sending entirely separate missions to Darfur in the Sudan creating massive
duplication and redundancy in terms of resource provision and ultimately wasting a lot of
41This point is particularly well made by Krastev I et al. in their monograph for

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These historical and strategic factors provide the essential backdrop to
the NATO-CSDP problem expressed in the context of the EU-Turkey dyad.
Fuelled by these concerns Turkey has sought, from before the conclusion
of the ‘Berlin plus agreements’ to the present time (including the current
NATO-led operation in Libya), to stifle all possibilities for cooperation on a
practical level between the EU and NATO. It is for this reason that NATOCSDP
cooperation is confined to Operation Althea in Bosnia and why NATOESDP
discussions on Kosovo and Afghanistan were not possible. Turkey
effectively blocked the signing of the Berlin plus agreement for over two
years and a compromise was only reached when Cyprus and Malta were
excluded from the deal – on the basis that they were not members of NATO’s
Partnership for Peace (PfP) arrangements and thus, Turkey argued, sensitive
information could thus not be shared with these countries42
In retaliation, Cyprus has been known to block EU business, for instance
Turkey’s participation in the EDA (European Armaments Agency)
or prospective EU-NATO cooperation in respect of counter-terrorism, on
the grounds that Turkey is not currently in compliance with its obligations
under the terms of the current accession negotiations process to open its
ports to Cypriot-flagged vessels43
Armed effectively with vetoes then, Turkey – in NATO but not in the EU –
and Cyprus – in the EU but not in NATO – can stifle any initiative for greater
CSDP-NATO cooperation should they decide that a tactical advantage will
accrue to them in their wider struggles over the status of the Northern Cyprus
territory and Turkish EU accession – the generally poor state of CSDPNATO
cooperation is effectively ‘collateral damage’ here44. Nevertheless,
the European Council for Foreign Relations (2010) The Spectre of a Multipolar Europe
(London: ECFR). Here they posit the notion that: ‘The European Union has spent much
of the last decade defending a European order that no longer functions, while hoping for
a global order that will probably never come [. . . ] The EU’s ‘unipolar moment’ is over.
In the 1990s, the EU’s grand hope was that American hard power would underpin the
spread of European soft power and the integration of all Europe’s powers into a liberal
order – embodied in NATO and the EU – in which the rule of law, pooled sovereignty
and interdependence would gradually replace military conflict, the balance of power and
spheres of influence. However, the prospects for this unipolar multilateral European order
are fading’ (p.1). Their thesis is that what is actually happening now in Europe is the
mutual pursuit of at least three separate models of European development, the EU ‘model’
as described above, a Russian model under Putin and a Turkish model – all with rather
different views on the future architecture of European security.
42See for instance the briefing paper produced by Paul Cornish for the European Parliament,
‘EU and NATO: Co-operation or Competition? PE 348.586 (October 2006), p.10.
Note also that Malta rejoined the PfP programme in 2008 and thus is now no longer an
obstacle to NATO-ESDP cooperation.
43See J Howorth (2009) Ibid, p.97.
44The Turkish side of the dispute is given by Sinan Ulgen (undated), The Evolving
EU, NATO, and Turkey Relationship: Implications for Transatlantic Security
( Ulgen
uses this opportunity to shift much of the blame for the ongoing problematic nature

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the gnawing fact remains – and is alluded to across the literature – that the
‘Turkey/Cyprus problem’ has, to a certain extent, become a rather ‘useful’
distraction from the reality that both the EU and NATO need to address
a number of internal and external issues which have hitherto escaped real
discussion, namely, the continuing expansion of missions for NATO and its
attempt to move into ‘soft security’ and the continuing lack of real collective
‘political will’ in the EU to pay the costs of its expressed desire for ‘global
The third and final problematic dyad in NATO-CSDP relations is that
between Britain and France the countries which have historically represented
the two main strands of thought on Europe’s possible institutional futures
in terms of security architecture45. Although France engaged in the 1998
‘rapprochement’ with Britain at St Malo – which, as we have seen, led eventually
to the setting up of the ESDP – and, in 2010, agreed both to rejoin
NATO’s military command after 43 years in semi-isolation while also signing
a 50-year Defence Treaty with the UK, covering a number of force capability
questions and nuclear weapons testing cooperation46, it is clear that significant
differences remain between British and French views in respect of the
future development of the European defence and security architecture.
The reason for this is that while there is a basic acceptance in both
London and Paris that ‘things cannot go on as before’ given the changes
taking place in Washington and in the way the Americans view the newly
emerging multipolar world of the 21st century, the rapprochement that has
taken place, since 1998, between Britain and France is decidedly pragmatic
and is based primarily on necessity rather than on a broader shared vision
of the future – welcome to the entente frugale, indeed.
Britain understands that retaining an American commitment to European
defence means that there is a pressing need to create a stronger European
‘pole’ to the Atlantic alliance – and that, institutionally, this can only
mean a stronger EU defence component in the context of European security
– hence the original British acceptance of what was to become the ESDP
at St Malo. While for France, reintegration into NATO was seen as a price
of NATO-EU/CSDP relations onto Cyprus.
45The basic history of this divergence of views – between Atlanticism and Europeanism
– is well know and does not warrant repeating at length here. See for instance the chapters
on Britain and France, both written by Jolyon Howorth, in Howorth J and Menon A (eds)
(1997) The European Union and National Defence Policy (London: Routledge). A useful
run through of the history of European views in general, and British and French views
in particular to European defence cooperation and the link to European integration is
provided again by the same author in Howorth J (2007) Security and Defence Policy in
the European Union (London: Routledge), pp.146-60. See also Lindley-French J (2010)
Britain and France: A Dialogue of Decline – Anglo-French Defence Cooperation and implications
for the European and Euro-Atlantic Security and Defence Relationships (London:
Chatham House).
46In addition to the Lindley-French reference above see also, Gomis B (2011) FrancoBritish
Defence and Security Treaties: Entente while it lasts? London: Chatham House.

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worth paying to retain the US commitment to Europe – now that even the
Gaullist rhetoric of ‘independence’ from US foreign policy has been dropped.
Similarly, bilateral defence cooperation between the two is equally pragmatic47
given the ferocious nature of the current round of defence cuts in
both countries necessitated by the economic recession in Europe precipitated
by the global financial crisis. Differences between the two have narrowed dramatically
in terms of capability requirements and ‘hardware’ while even in
the field of threat perceptions and broader defence doctrine48 similarities are
emerging. This is not however to suggest that broad foreign policy goals –
particularly over the finalité of European integration – are shared between
Britain and France.
Two issues are particularly illustrative here. On the British side the suggestion
that it was possible to view Anglo-French defence cooperation in the
context of the provisions of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO),
as outlined in the Lisbon Treaty, was quickly squashed49. With the coming
to power of the new British coalition government opinions have, if anything,
hardened against any notion of an institutionalised Defence Europe outlined
at St Malo with even the EDA (European Defence Agency) looked at suspiciously
as an ‘agent’ of the European Commission50
On the French side, despite NATO reintegration and the understanding
that the EU and NATO must work together to keep the Americans ‘engaged’
in European defence, the feeling remains that the current French approach
will not survive the current President as attitudes in the French Socialist
Party and even in the Quai d’Orsay are critical of elements of the Sarkozy
approach. Moreover, the narrow view that NATO should primarily remain
a ‘collective defence’ organisation based on ‘Article 5’ (collective self-defence
provision) and the attempts to block the NATO’s development towards it
adopting a more comprehensive approach to security (l’Approche Globale),
sometimes also equated with the term ‘reverse Petersburg’ – where not only
would NATO lend assets and capabilities to the EU for operations that it was
47This was very much how it was viewed in the UK press, see for instance the
piece in the generally Europhile Guardian (2/11/2010) ‘Anglo-French defence deal
is a triumph of pragmatism over ideology’ by Richard Norton-Taylor, downloadable
48See Bickerton C (2010) ‘Oh bugger, they’re in the tent’: British responses to French
reintegration into NATO, European Security, 19(1). In particular Bickerton relates that:
‘According to a specialist in European defence issues, the British were regularly consulted
and asked for advice in the course of the drafting of the 2008 White Paper’ (interview
with Bickerton, 4/12/09), p.117.
49‘The November 2010 Anglo-French summit in London resulted in agreement on bilateral
defence collaboration, but did not place this in the wider context of the CSDP’.
Menon A (2011), European Defence Policy from Lisbon to Libya, Survival, 53(3) p.88.
50Liam Fox, ‘The EU should only act when NATO cannot’, 11
February 2010, at

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not itself engaged in, but conceivably, the EU would then also lend NATO
its civilian crisis-management assets etc., in places like Afghanistan – mirrors
current British concerns over the EU as a defence actor.
As such then while grand statements of collaboration in respect of NATOEU
relations have been made, with some useful cooperation in the Balkans
initially taking place, and while the basic problems preventing the emergence
of a better NATO-EU relationship have been identified and are now
recognised by everybody concerned, the basic geo-strategic, administrative
and political problems remain and while some may be amenable to solution
– Britain and France agree on the need to maintain a US commitment to
European defence and security and the poor current state of European defence
budgets – others such as the Turkey-Cyprus issue and the ‘strategic’
differences between Britain and France over European defence and the EU’s
role seem altogether more intractable.

EU defence and security: the institutional set up post-Lisbon

Before briefly outlining the post-Lisbon institutional set up in respect of EU foreign policy and defence cooperation it is perhaps necessary to reiterate the key point here in respect of ‘EU behaviour’ in the context of NATO, the EU states do not act – or even attempt to act – as a combined grouping of coun-tries in this multilateral forum. When NATO-wide issues are discussed there is no pre-meeting of an ‘EU caucus’ which defines an ‘EU-view’ and adopts a settled position to be taken into the discussion with the non-EU members of NATO – primarily, the USA, Canada and Turkey15. The EU Commission, moreover, has only a very constrained role to play in foreign and security policy beyond facilitating CFSP actions which require EC ‘tools’ (e.g. in respect of sanctions, trade or development-related financing) – again unlike the situation in respect of the WTO for instance where the Commission has the sole right of initiative in terms of setting policy agendas.



In terms of EU foreign policy making more broadly however, as Keukeleire
and MacNaughton (2008: 110) note:
Although on paper the 2nd pillar would seem to be the locus for EU
foreign policy, in practice the greater availability of instruments
and useful budget lines in the 1st pillar, and the relative autonomy
of the Commission in implementing EC policies and budgets,
means that the 1st pillar is more involved in foreign policy making
than one would expect from a purely institutional standpoint.
The CFSP is not really a ‘common’ policy – in the sense that was to
emerge more generally in connection with the Maastricht Treaty reforms –
at all, but rather a ‘co-ordination mechanism’ which sees input from both
the Member States and Community institutions. Moreover, the Member
States pursue their own national foreign policies in parallel and maintain
control over the fiscal, diplomatic and military resources that can potentially
be accessed by the EU. This generally precludes the EU from acting
in a consistent and predictable manner with other international actors16
Under Maastricht’s pillared structure arrangement, the CFSP remained intergovernmental
in nature and thus institutionally and structurally different
to the ‘communitised’ External Relations element of EU ‘foreign policy’17
In this context Gegout provides a useful typology of ‘CFSP issues’ thus
clarifying the different kinds of ‘foreign policy’ produced by the EU:
• Exclusively CFSP issues, such as declarations, common positions, joint
actions and common strategies [Declaratory Policy];
15This point is, for instance, made by Hanna Ojanen (2011), The EU as a security actor:
in and with the UN and NATO (p.72) in Blavoukos S and Bourantonis D (eds) The EU
Presence in International Organizations (London: Routledge). See also, Tomas Valasek
(2007) The Roadmap to better EU-NATO relations (Centre for European Reform briefing
note) p.5: ‘If the EU insisted on having its own personality in NATO before Europe could
truly speak with one voice, it would only frustrate the Americans and discourage them
from taking NATO seriously.”
16Toje A (2010) The European Union as a Small Power – After the Post-Cold War
(Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan) p.16
17It is important to note here that the totality of EU ‘foreign policy’ in the broad sense
cannot however be restricted to the CFSP as this is to give it far too narrow a focus.
Indeed, throughout the 1990s, after the setback to a more ambitious policy approach in
Yugoslavia, the EU Commission sought to develop its own ‘communitised’ foreign policy
dynamic in relation to trade policy, development co-operation, various association agreements
and enlargement etc., see Keukeleire and MacNaughton (2008) p.12.

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• Mixed CFSP-EC issues, namely CFSP issues requiring EC decisions in
order to be implemented [‘Soft power’ issues];
• ESDP issues, relating purely to defence and security policy [‘Hard’
It must nevertheless be reiterated once again here that the foreign and
security policy of the EU is not a substitute for national foreign and defence
policies but rather an addition to them. This reality is enshrined in relation
to EU competences and the conferral of powers. The EU can only act within
the limits of the powers conferred on it by the member states in the treaties.
Competences not conferred thus remain with the member states.
As Keukeleire and MacNaughton (2008: 99) again note, this principle is
crucial to understanding the nature of the EU’s foreign policy. It
implies that the Union has no general legal basis authorising it to
act vis-a-vis the external environment. Hence when we evaluate
the EU’s foreign policy, we should never expect the EU to have
an exclusive or all encompassing foreign policy. In fact, given its
institutional competences, the expectation should rather be that
the EU would not act in certain aspects of foreign, security and
defence policy.
The Common Security and Defence Policy was clearly a major element
in the Reform Treaty process, well over one third of the changes made to the
treaties related in one way or another to this particular policy area while the
reform process as a whole was billed as making the EU ‘a more effective global
actor’. As such, the Lisbon Reform Treaty sought to introduce a number of
quite significant changes to the way in which foreign policy operated in an
EU context, namely;
• the dismantling of the pillar system and the drawing together of all of
the Union’s external activity under one treaty title (Title V)19;
• the Union as a whole, not just the EC was granted ‘legal personality’;
• the creation of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security
Policy (combining the posts of Representative for CFSP and Commissioner
for External Relations) heading up the new External Action
18Gegout C (2010) European Foreign and Security Policy: States, Power, Institutions
and American Hegemony (Toronto: University of Toronto Press) p.10.
19The de facto distinction between pillars one and two nevertheless remains in respect
of external relations on the one hand and foreign and defence policy on the other as issues
pertaining to the former are discussed within the context of the Treaty on the Functioning
of the EU (TFEU) while the latter is discussed on the basis of the Treaty on European
Union (TEU). See, Gegout, ibid, footnote 1 p.199.

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• the creation of a new post of European Council President;
• the significant enhancement of the original ‘Petersburg Tasks’20, the
creation of a new ‘EU solidarity clause’ and the setting up of the European
Defence Agency (dealing with military equipment procurement
issues); –
• added joint disarmament, post-conflict stabilisation and the ‘fight against
terrorism’ to its original list of tasks, thus expanding the original ‘Petersburg’
• the possibility of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).
The focus here on humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks
and crisis management up to and including peace-making by the original
WEU declaration reflects not only the prevailing European security situation
in 1992 but also an appreciation of the primacy of NATO in institutional
terms and of the history of EU competences in the foreign policy field
– relating specifically to the ‘civilian power’ tradition. As such, while all
aspects of defence and security were to be discussed within this framework
it was clear that traditional territorial defence would remain in the purview
of NATO while ‘new security agenda’ issues in keeping with the pervasive
de-territorialisation and de-nationalisation of defence were adopted by the
WEU/EU. This position was further strengthened after the EU enlargement
of 1995 which saw Austria, Sweden and Finland join the EU, indeed Sweden
and Finland in particular were to play a key role in the promotion, adoption
and development of the EU’s civilian crisis management potentials alongside
those of military crisis management stressed since the original formulation of
the Petersburg tasks21. Notwithstanding these advances however, EU foreign
and security policy and the defence provisions which form a part of that of
policy area remain resolutely intergovernmental, indeed as Toje notes: ‘Although
certainly an achievement, the treaty is a far cry from making the EU
into a ‘single state with one army, one constitution and one foreign policy’
as called for by Joschka Fisher in 1998’22
20The original ‘Petersberg tasks’ formed an integral part of the European security and
defence policy (ESDP). They were explicitly included in the Treaty on European Union
(Article 17) and cover various actions associated with humanitarian and rescue tasks,
peacekeeping and crisis management/peacemaking. These tasks were set out in the Petersberg
Declaration adopted at the Ministerial Council of the Western European Union
(WEU) in June 1992. Here, the WEU Member States declared their readiness to make
available to the WEU, but also to NATO and the European Union, military units from
the whole spectrum of their conventional armed forces.
21Sweden and Finland advocated the inclusion of the Petersberg crisis management tasks
(humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping, crisis management and peace-making) into
the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, favouring a strengthened independent European ability to act
in these areas. See, for example, Toumioja E and Lindh A (30/4/2000) ‘Katastrofhjalpen
duger inte’ Dagens Nyheter.
22Toje (2010), ibid p.22.

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While Verola similarly notes:
The CFSP provisions do not limit the competences of the member
states in foreign policy matters. They do not grant the power
of initiative to the European Commission and do not affect the
specific nature of the common and security policy of the member
It thus seems clear that the traditional difference between the ‘community
method’ of pillar one and the intergovernmentalism of pillar two remains
though a significant body of opinion suggests that this should be seen more
as a continuum than as a dividing line. ‘Both formally and in practice pillars
and methods are blurred’ argue Keukeleire and MacNaughton (2008: 66).
This relates in particular to the general academic discussion – concerning
EU policy across the board – of the dual processes of ‘Europeanisation’ and
‘Brusselisation’. In response to the demands being placed upon it significant
changes have occurred in recent years over the way in which the EU treats
the issues of defence and security. Where once, for example, the subject of
European defence was ‘taboo’ and thus specifically avoided by the EU in
order not to jeopardise the integrity of the Atlantic alliance24 with the USA
it is now actively pursued in order to maintain the residual Atlantic alliance
and to help retain some level of American troop commitment to European

Ends and Beginnings – From post-Cold War to (post) post-Cold War Since the end of the Cold War

Since the end of the Cold War the ‘institutional debate’ on European security
has sotto voce concerned the issue of whether, eventually, the European
Union would coalesce into a sufficiently strong and stable political actor
such that it would replace NATO as the preeminent European security institution.
This discussion has been mirrored by a series of much broader
politico-ideological debates over US ‘decline’ and ‘the rise of Europe’ in the
21st century7
In the aftermath of the Greek bail-out in March 2010 the way in which the decisions
were taken and the implications for Europe-wide economic management led to a major
discussion over the likely increasing dominance of Germany in the future integration process.
See for example, Paul Taylor (26/3/2010), ‘Euro zone deal points to a more German
Europe’, Reuters.
7On the former, see for example Kagan R (2002) Of Paradise and Power: America
and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Knopf), Nye J S (2004) Soft Power:
The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs), Vedrine H (2007)
History Strikes Back – How States, nations and conflicts are shaping the 21st century
(Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press), Darwin J (2007) After Tamerlane: The
Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (London: Penguin), Kagan R (2008) The

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The end of the Cold War utterly transformed Europe and the limits of the
European project. After the integration ‘hiatus’ of the 1980s steady progress
was made throughout the 1990s and after the turn of the century in each
of the four main realms of integration, economic/monetary, citizens/social
Europe, foreign policy and enlargement. On a more general level, however,
the slow if perpetual change in the nature of the state saw, in Bobbit’s terms8
a metamorphosis from the nation-state dominated system of the 19th and
20th centuries to the market state system of the 21st century. This created a
very different world to that which had existed pre-1989 and threw up many
novel problems.
The end of the Soviet Union saw the end of the ‘existential’ nuclear
threat, but in its place emerged a host of second order conflicts and disputes
previously suppressed by the Cold War system of international relations –
religious, sectarian, nationalist, ethnic, socio-cultural, economic and environmental
which quickly became ‘securitised’ in the context of the so-called
‘new security agenda’9
. Europe was thus now surrounded by potential ‘instability’
from the Balkans to North Africa, the Middle East/Central Asia
and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. The existential but effectively ‘managed’
danger of the Cold War had been replaced by a series of lower level
but completely unmanaged threats to peace and general security in Europe.
Crucially however this was a world in which the EU was expected to
increase its influence. The EU was viewed as a rising power – economically
and, increasingly also it seemed, politically – with a bright future in which
it was well placed to exploit the changing nature of international relations
after 1989. The end of the existential ‘threat’ of nuclear war and the subsequent
de-nationalisation and de-territorialisation of security helped shift the
Return of History and the End of Dreams (London: Atlantic Books) and Chua A (2009)
Day of Empire – How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance, and how they fall (New
York: First Anchor Books). On the latter, see also Reid T R (2004) The United States of
Europe (London: Penguin), Rifkin J (2004) The European Dream – How Europe’s vision of
the future is quietly eclipsing the American Dream (Cambridge: Polity Press), McCormick
J The European Superpower (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan), Leonard M (2005) Why
Europe will run the 21st Century (London: Harper Collins), Cooper R (2007) The Breaking
of Nations – Order and Chaos in the 21st Century (London: Atlantic Books) and Youngs
R (2010) Europe’s Decline and Fall – The Struggle against Global Irrelevance (London:
Profile Books).
8For an exposition of the theory that changes in the nature of the state bring about,
in a progressive cyclical manner, changes in the nature of the international system they
constitute, see Bobbit P (2002) The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History
(London: Penguin). The changing nature of the state in globalisation is a huge topic,
other labels for the new state form include the ubiquitous neo-liberal state and the ‘service’
state. See, Laffan, Brigid, R. O’Donnell and M Smith (2000) Europe’s experimental
union: Rethinking integration (London: Routledge).
9The two ‘classic’ works in this field are Buzan B (1991) People, States and Fear: An
Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era (Hemel Hempstead:
Harvester Wheatsheaf) and Ole Weaver et al. (1993) Identity, Migration and the new
Security Agenda in Europe (London: Pinter Publishers).

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focus away from the state and towards the multilateral level thus providing
‘space’ for a functional security policy based not on defence of the motherland
but on rather less tangible issues such as human rights and individual
security10. The object, in terms of the development of the EU’s ‘human security
paradigm’ was not to seek ‘victory’ in the traditional sense but instead
to facilitate the possibility of allowing ‘politics’ to reassert itself in a conflict
situation. The EU, with its traditional concentration on a multilateral approach
to international problems, reflecting its own internal structures and
mechanisms designed to promote consultation and compromise combined
with its traditional ‘civilian power’ heritage in respect of foreign policy thus
seemed to ‘fit the bill’ perfectly as an emerging post Cold War security actor.
This cosy vision was rather quickly exposed however as untenable by
the emerging conflicts across Yugoslavia where the EU suffered grievously
from believing too much in its own rhetoric and, ultimately, in its inability
to back up its words with tangible force11
In terms of EU foreign policy in particular Keukeleire and MacNaughton
(2008) neatly summarise the areas of tension arising at the end of the Cold
War by identifying the four binary choices which functioned as the ‘historically
embedded’ primary concerns in the European security field up to
1989. They were the choices between European integration and Atlantic
solidarity, civilian power and military power, intergovernmentalism and the
‘Community Method’ and external objectives and inter-related integration
and identity objectives. During the Cold War clear choices were made in
respect of the Atlantic solidarity, civilian power, intergovernmentalism and
integration and identity objectives12, these traditional choices were however
to come under serious pressure during the post-Cold War era.
While the purpose of this paper is not to give an historical account of
the metamorphosis of European security provision over the last twenty years
it is nevertheless important to make the point that the optimistic vision of
a Europe released from the bonds of the Cold War to help fashion the postCold
War world in its own institutional/multilateral image has not come to
pass. Indeed, as Toje noted in the shadow of the outbreak of armed conflict
10See Haaland-Matlary J (2009) European Union Security Dynamics: In the New National
Interest (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan) p.23.
11For a contemporary account of the crisis see Smith C J (1996) ‘Conflict in the Balkans
and the possibility of a European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy’, International
Relations, XIII(2).
12Keukeleire S and MacNaughton J (2008) The Foreign Policy of the European Union
(Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan). Perhaps the most significant impact of the end of
the Cold War was however that the collapse of the Soviet Union brought an end to the
notion that the European Union could become a traditional state – even a federal one –
requiring the setting of a hard boundary to the east and the permanent exclusion of Russia
from the EU. Subsequent CEE entry into the EU in 2004 thus fundamentally changed the
integration calculus. This point is made by Jean-Marie Gueherro (1993: 77) in La Fin de
la démocratie (Paris, Flammarion) quoted in Majone G (2009a) Europe as the Would-be
World Power – The EU at Fifty (Cambridge: CUP).

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between Russia and Georgia:
For nearly two decades our times were designated as an appendix
– the ‘post-Cold War’ era. Many thought that we were venturing
towards a global society based on shared ideals and regulated by
supranational institutions. A world where ‘soft power’ and international
inclinations would be more important than interests
and power resources. There are signs that we are moving in the
opposite direction. Toje A (2008) The EU, NATO and European
Defence – A slow train coming, Occasional Paper no74 European
Institute for Security Studies, p.8.
The world changed again. A reliance on Atlanticism was not enough and
the Europeanisation – to some extent at least – of security and defence provision
became necessary; but just as the European Union had put in place the
mechanisms to give procedural and institutional clarity to its civilian power
posture or ‘corporate image’ the disadvantages of using this approach alone
became apparent; in response to the problems associated with political splits
over the Iraq War the Constitutional Treaty and the subsequent Lisbon Reform
Treaty compromise saw the end of the pillared arrangement used since
Maastricht with a consolidation, if not a true ‘communitisation’, of foreign
and security policy structures replacing existing ad hoc arrangements; and fi-
nally, real effort was made to ensure that the EU had a discernable impact on
actual foreign policy issues rather than simply being used to buttress internal
European coordination thus attempting to address the eternal questions
over ‘actorness’ and the ‘capabilities/expectation gap’.
The exact date of the end of the post-Cold War remains a matter of
some conjecture but the effect of a raft of global developments such as the
wars in former Yugoslavia, 9/11 and the European response to them, the
subsequent prosecution of the ‘War against Terror’, the rise of the BRICS –
and of China in particular – and the global (though predominantly western)
financial crisis of 2007 have all impacted significantly on both the ‘settled
view’ of European security outlined by Keukeleire and MacNaughton (2008)
above and on the optimistic post-Cold War visions of Europe’s new place in
the world forwarded in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.
While the debate about US decline remains ongoing it is increasingly
clear that expectations in respect of the emergence of a stronger European
political actor have not been fulfilled. Yes, much of the EU now uses the Euro
and yes, the EU now has a Common Foreign and Security Policy, its own
diplomatic service and the possibility to generate, sustain and direct smallscale
operations with military forces13 in the context of a Common Security
13For information on all such EU operations up to 2007 see the short monograph by
Bastian Giegerich (2008) European Military Crisis Management: Connecting ambition
with reality (IISS: Adelphi Paper 397) and, for a more detailed analysis, Merlingen M

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and Defence Policy but while the tools may be theoretically ‘available’ the
political consensus and consent to use them often is not14. The EU has not
‘filled the gap’ and the bi-polar ‘west’, the notion at the heart of much of the
debate in this field since the beginning of the 1990s, has failed to materialise.
The post-Cold War notion of the EU as a ‘rising’ power of significant
economic importance and with major roles to play in both international
norm generation and in peace and stability operations, both globally and
regionally, is clearly reflected by Javier Solana in relation to the European
Security Strategy:
As the EU grows to encompass 25 countries with some 450 million
inhabitants producing one quarter of the world’s GDP, we
have a duty to assume our responsibilities on the world stage. As
a global actor the Union must now face up to its responsibility for
global security. Solana J (2003) ‘The EU Security Strategy: Implications
for Europe’s role in a Changing World’ EUHR Speech,
Berlin 12 November.
Clearly such claims now look rather shallow. The EU is increasingly
viewed by third parties as a declining economic force in relative terms, norm
generation through ‘soft power’ has proved difficult, the EU countries have
found it difficult to maintain the notion that their ‘postmodern’ continent can
be isolated from the chaos of the world outside and EU military operations
have failed to really break the mould of previous policy actions.
It is then in this light that the current EU-NATO ‘relationship’ should
thus be viewed. Particularly in the way that it sheds light on both internal
European developments and on the way in which the emerging European
construction is viewed and understood by other non-EU actors.

Starting points: The basic arithmetic

Questions over the nature of the relationship between NATO and the EU
are, at one and the same time, both entirely straightforward and intensely
complicated to answer. They are straightforward because in a legalistic or
institutional sense the relationship is clearly defined – indeed, institutionally,
the EU does not have a relationship at all with NATO, the ESDP1
(in terms
of its actors and institutions) does. Complications however emerge because,
clearly, the formal relationship represents only a small element in the totality
of relations between the two organisations. The problem however is
that the informal relationship is both predicated on the history of, and provides
a running commentary to, the development of the wider trans-Atlantic
relationship in general since 1945 and on the changing nature of current
American foreign policy (specifically its focus on Europe) in particular.
In addition, while the NATO press office would doubtless immediately
direct enquiries towards a bland statement outlining its track record of, and
desire to continue, working together with the EU across a number of fields
in the pursuit of ‘effective multilateralism’2
it would be somewhat disingenuous
to label this a fully operationalised ‘institutional view’ as NATO is an
international organisation which ultimately reflects the views (plural) of its
constituent member states3
The situation is, moreover, complicated further by the fact that the membership
lists of NATO and the EU seem initially so similar with 78% of EU
members also belonging to NATO while 75% of NATO members belong to
the EU. The problem is that while this sounds encouraging and conducive to
the development of a stable and shared institutional view the reality is rather
1Since Lisbon the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) has been re-christened
the CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) as such, this title will be used unless a
clear historical reference is being made to the pre-Lisbon ESDP.
2The notion of ‘effective multilateralism’ emerged into the political discourse of European
foreign policy around 2003 and was used by Javier Solana as a cornerstone of the
first European Security Strategy, A Secure Europe in a better World (European Council:
2003). See also Gowan R (2008) ‘The European Security Strategy’s global objective: Effective
Multilateralism’ in Biscop S and Andersson J J (eds), The European Union Security
Strategy – Forging a Global Europe (London: Routledge).
3Such statements can be found in ‘NATO-EU: a strategic partnership’ on
the NATO website at:
and in ‘EU-NATO: The framework for permanent relations’ on the ESDP website

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less clear cut as the differences between the two organisation’s membership
lists remain more important than the similarities4
. To put it bluntly, one
body contains the globe’s only true ‘superpower’ and the other does not.
Similarly, one body is strictly intergovernmental in character relying on consensus
to create policy while the other is a much less traditional structure
where consensus remains important but where it is not the only mode of
decision making and where cross-sector bargaining is often utilised5
To complicate things further, if further complication was required, the accession
candidates to each body are unlikely to help simplify the institutional
picture to any great extent. While most of those European countries that
are currently NATO but not EU members are likely to seek EU membership
in the future those that are EU members but not NATO members are all, for
various reasons, unlikely to want to join NATO. This leaves NATO’s main
player, the USA, outside the EU and a group of, for want of a better label,
‘former neutrals’ in the EU who are unlikely ever to join NATO. When we
throw Turkey and its never-ending EU accession process into this mix, we
can see that NATO and EU membership is not about to coalesce, in terms of
major players at least, anytime soon. Furthermore, it is now also clear that
the prevailing post-Cold War ‘conveyer-belt model’ of NATO accession leading
eventually to EU accession; a model which portrayed NATO and the EU
as two sides of the same ‘grand institutional design’ for European security,
is now seriously under threat. In terms of EU accession, only the current
Nordic non-members are likely to be allowed to accede anytime soon with the
countries of the Western Balkans acceding only in the medium term at best
while fundamentally important political obstacles remain in respect of any
serious consideration of Turkish membership. In part because of the slowing
of the EU accession ‘conveyor-belt’ future NATO accession also seems likely
to be confined to the countries of the Western Balkans and is likely to definitively
exclude the expansion into the Black Sea and Caucuses areas which
was once perhaps envisaged.
4Thirty two European countries (plus the USA and Canada) are members of either
the EU or NATO. Twenty one are members of both organisations: Belgium, Bulgaria,
the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia,
Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia,
Spain and the UK. Five European countries (plus the USA and Canada) are members of
NATO but not of the EU: Albania, Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Turkey – all five are
likely or potential future EU members. Six European countries are EU members but not
NATO members: Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden – with NATO
membership rated as ‘rather unlikely’ for the foreseeable future in any of them.
5See for instance the edited work by Evans P B, Jacobsen H K and Putnam R D
(1993) International Bargaining and Domestic Politics: Double-Edged Diplomacy (Berkeley:
University of California Press) and particularly Putnam’s chapter in this volume,
‘Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games’. In the literature on
the EU and NATO, Janne Haaland Matlary (2009) leans heavily on the work of Putnam
in his book European Security Dynamics: In the new national interest (Basingstoke:
Palgrave MacMillan).

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Notwithstanding the importance of the issues alluded to above – US-EU
relations, the lack of a firm institutional relationship between NATO and
the EU and the problems associated with the differing current and future
membership rosters of the two bodies, the issue of economics must also be
considered here. The specific impact of the financial crisis and the tensions
it brings in respect of European defence spending will be discussed below
however the impact of the sovereign debt crisis in the Euro-zone and its
impact on European integration more generally remains a major factor in
the broader trans-Atlantic relationship because it will define the nature of
the integration process for a generation to come6
Together these meta-issues – US foreign policy and the changing nature
of the US commitment to Europe and European integration and enlargement
– define the boundaries within which the emerging institutional relationship
between NATO and the EU is and will be shaped. Historically they have
been separate but interrelated processes with the Europeans being very keen
to encourage and bolster the US commitment to European defence and security
while the Americans were cognisant of Europe’s centrality to their
own defence. Such traditionally accepted understandings are however now
increasingly coming under threat. Europe is no longer the locus of US security
while the Europeans seem either unable or unwilling to either pay to
retain a full-scale US commitment to Europe or to pay to adequately replace