A new European security environment

By Erika Brady
posted on March 10, 2014 in Security/Intelligence

Writer Erika Brady considers how the confluence of history and technology has changed the European security environment, and calls for a multi-faceted response at the EU level

The security challenges Europe faces in the 21st century, including cyber-security, piracy and terrorism, are clearly  formidable and complicated. But they are also rooted in our history They originate in the 20th century or even beyond. Colonialism, two World Wars and the Cold War have all laid the groundwork for many issues, and the challenges in the Middle East are just one example (albeit a large one) of bad decisions made by European and other Western nations in the past and recent decades.  It is not enough to say that Europe will never again be colonial aggressors, and that we are now on a path towards peace. Unfortunately, it is too late to withdraw delicately from history.

At the same time, the question arises as to whether or not Europe is equipped to deal with these challenges. While piracy is certainly not a new phenomenon, and terrorism has been in existence arguably since the 19th century, cyber security is a new threat that needs new methods of reaction. Terrorism itself, while it has been around for a while, has only been identified as a (poorly) defined topic which warrants its own field of research since the 1960s. Yet both piracy and terrorism are prevalent and substantial threats to European societies and have developed and used new technologies available to them. For this reason, cyber security is a significant issue which, aside from being  a threat all of its own, is indeed a threatening tool used by others.

The discussions which took place at the European Council session in December last year set the tone for Europe’s response. The Common Security and Defence Policy will now focus until June 2015 on a comprehensive maritime security strategy, rapid response and support to the development of capacity building among Europe’s partners.

These aims will require effective deployment of armed forces but the tools at our fingertips must be updated at the same time as our strategies. On 20 February 2014,  EU defence ministers met at their first working session since December, and engaged in issues such as research and development, technology and the use of SMEs among others as sources of support of the European defence strategy.

Europe must incorporate the best of both worlds, and use updated and flexible approaches to deal with these new challenges. This is not necessarily a new approach, as flexible and multifaceted responses have always been appropriate, but is highly relevant in our current security climate.

Certainly the new challenges faced by Europe are reminiscent of previous threats to security, but they also have a new aspect. Modernity has brought new technology with it, and it would be foolhardy to assume that one method or another on its own can effectively answer these concerns. Only through communication, open minds and a willingness to use the strengths of all personnel and agencies involved in the security of Europe will we truly be able to defend our liberties. A multi-faceted approach, supported by the EU, is the only way forward in these complicated times.