Building a European Strategic Culture: The Pursuit for a New Security and Defence Identity of the EU

Main takeaways:  

  • The EU, and its members, share a basic ‘set of beliefs, values and norms towards the use of military force’ with foundations in the EU’s policies and adherence to international law.
  • There is a difference in nature between the Union’s and member states’ strategic culture. Whereas states develop strategic cultures from historical experiences, the EU has had to form its own through policy. It is a political project and so its identity, is more a product of political will than historical experience, demonstrated by the agreed policies.
  • The making of Strategic Compass has been very inclusive process with fruitful contribution of member states and the EU institutions. Member states have been included from the beginning by providing civil and military intelligence data for classified threat analysis that is a basis for further work on Strategic Compass.
  • Strategic Compass will not be an immediate solution for more common strategic culture. It should be considered as a tool that will give clear guidance to member states with regards to so called ‘’four baskets’’: Crisis and conflict management; Capacity building; Resilience and Partners. These baskets are considered to need further development so the EU will have more credible and relevant security and defence.
  • The main objective of the Strategic Compass is to provide political direction for the EU’s security and defence and improve the Union’s operational effectiveness, resilience, capabilities and cooperation with partners.

On 25th May 2021 YPFP Brussels welcomed three knowledgeable speakers to discuss Building a European Strategic Culture. The conversation was moderated by YPFP Security and Defence Officer, Marina Otasevic. The panel was comprised of Joanneke Balfoort, Director of Security and Defence Policy, European External Action Service; Sophia Besch, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for European Reform; and Carl-Johan Lind, Manager for EU Affairs, Saab. The event was organized in partnership with Saab. 

The panelists agreed that the EU is in a search for a new identity in defence and security field. Having in mind the nature of the EU as an organization, it is important to emphasize that security and defence have been always under exclusive competences of the member states. Therefore, any decision in this regard needs to be taken by consensus of every member states. Since member states have different threat perceptions, capability needs and historical experience, sometimes the consensus is difficult to achieve. These differences are the main impetus to have more common strategic culture that would contribute to the Union’s operational effectiveness, resilience, capabilities and cooperation with partners. Improving these elements, the EU will become a more credible and relevant global player with more characteristics of a hard power.

According to them, work on Strategic Compass will result in clear guidance to common security and defence. However, it will not bring immediately common strategic culture since it will depend on recourses and political will to use them to enable the EU to make greater difference in the world.

Written by Marina Otašević, Security and Defence Officer, Security and Defence Program, YPFP Brussels.