Conference Agenda

Panel 804: Strategic development in EU defence
Wednesday, 08/Sept/2021:
11:30am - 1:00pm

Session Chair: André Barrinha, University of Bath
Discussant: Eva Michaels, Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI)


A Strategic Compass for European Defence: Towards Which Action Does It Point?

Sven Biscop

Egmont Institute & Ghent University, Belgium

In the fall of 2020, the EU Member States completed the first step of the “Strategic Compass” that they had decided to draft for their Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) earlier that year: an analysis of Europe’s threat environment. At the end of the year, discussions began about the politically much more sensitive core of the “Compass”: what does the EU intend to do about these threats? The issues at stake have been organised into four “baskets”: crisis management, resilience, partnerships, and capabilities. This paper intends to take stock of the debate, and provide recommendations for the “Strategic Compass” that Member States plan to adopt at the end of the French Presidency, in June 2022. The paper will argue that in order to help the CSDP progress, the “Strategic Compass” must be as concrete as possible: it ought to define the EU’s role as a security actor; identify for the next five years which ongoing operations must be continued, adapted or halted, and which scenarios would require which new operations; and link this assessment to capability targets and ongoing work in the context of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

Understanding the Ambition in the Strategic Compass: a Case for Optimism at Last?

Simon Sweeney1, Neil Winn2

1The University Of York, United Kingdom; 2The University of Leeds, United Kingdom

The quest for substance, capability, and strategic autonomy goes on – or does it? This paper speculates on whether the Strategic Compass, due in 2022, will explain the scope and limits of CSDP ambition. Is CSDP for territorial defence and strategic autonomy, or for crisis management and soft security concerns, border management, cyber security?

If the former, we anticipate more arguments over member states’ political will and preparedness to contribute capability through PESCO, common procurement, and investment in capability enablers. The signs are inauspicious: we may expect familiar complaints about no common strategic culture, and EU intrusion into NATO’s sphere of competence.

If instead the focus of CSDP is as a primarily civilian crisis management instrument operational in the EU Neighbourhood, with some military involvement, including training and security sector reform (SSR), while also engaging with Area of Freedom, Security and Justice interests regarding migration, then capability and member state contributions, will still provoke argument.

An optimistic interpretation is that the Strategic Compass might edge CSDP towards greater clarity and coherence: that would be a welcome improvement, but obviously no game-changer towards EU or European (EU+UK) strategic autonomy.

The Discreet yet Growing Role of the European Union in the Field of Collective Defence: an Emergent or a Deliberate Strategy?

Elie Perot

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium

Unlike NATO, the EU is generally viewed as having little to do with the collective defence of the European continent. Yet a series of gradual changes over the last decade have enabled the Union to progressively carve out a role for itself in this domain. This article assesses both the nature of this evolution and its underlying intentionality, asking in particular whether it has been the product of an emergent or deliberate strategy. In this perspective, three phases can be schematically distinguished: firstly, a genesis jointly marked by the formal incorporation of collective defence into the Union’s mandate via the Lisbon Treaty and the denial in practice of this innovation – until France invoked the EU collective defence clause (Art.42.7 TEU) for the first time in 2015; secondly, a phase of indirect growth through new initiatives on military mobility and hybrid threats; and thirdly, a new phase characterized by the direct recognition of the EU’s collective defence potential, at least in some member states, in reaction to international challenges. This article concludes, therefore, that the EU’s quiet but growing role in collective defence, while always a mixture of emergent and deliberate strategy, is becoming increasingly conscious and thus harder to ignore.