A European Security Doctrine to Match America | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.12.2003
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A European Security Doctrine to Match America

Just how big a role will Europe fill on the world stage? A new European security doctrine attempts to answer that question and forge unity where there has been dissent.


Europe's new security doctrine: The first line of defense is abroad.

As the clock ticks on Brussels' finalization of the EU constitution this week amid wrangling over controversial vote-sharing agreements, the European Council will be looking at ironing out several other important issues before the end of the week. One of these includes the European Security Doctrine -- a paper laying out European strategy on conflict prevention, drawn up by Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief.

Spurred on by divisions over U.S. policy in Iraq, European diplomats began working on the document early this year that would present the world a security strategy based on principles of multilateralism and greater action on the world stage.

But as with the draft constitution for a EU that will expand to 25 members in May, the security doctrine has been a matter of heated internal debate recently. The chief sticking point in the document is a clause on when and how the EU will intervene in conflicts of the future. The opponents divide along familiar lines.

Great Britain led some EU countries in advocating U.S.-style pre-emptive approach to conflicts that would approve a military strike in order to deter enemies.

A matter of wording

Germany and France, the two main European opponents of the war in Iraq, were able to shoot down the clause in negotiations since the first draft was completed.

The document now suggests the EU engage in "preventive" not "pre-emptive" intervention in global conflicts. The wording change is a clear rebuff of the Bush administration's pledge, in their 2002 National Security Strategy, to use "pre-emptive" force.

"There is a fundamental difference between 'pre-emption' and 'prevention,'" George Schöpflin, professor of political science at London University told the Financial Times. "This is about the Europeans saying they are not going down the U.S. road."

A foreign policy of EU strengths

The document cuts to the heart of the problems the EU has faced in developing a coherent security and foreign policy.

Polen heißt EU Willkommen

Alek, left, and Paulina hold EU and Polish flags as they sit in a window in the southern Polish town of Prudnik.

As the Union stands before an expansion to the east and south that will increase its population to 450 million, disputes remain on how to lend some of that weight to a global foreign policy. In the paper presented to ministers in June of this year, Union diplomats agree that the EU's should utilize a mutifaceted approach in tackling conflicts.

The 25-member bloc's combined diplomatic, economic, military and political power means it is "particularly well-equipped to respond to such multi-faceted situations," according to the document.

EU military dreaming

The deployment of an EU police force in the Balkans and EU troops taking over a security mission in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from NATO last year are evidence of the Union's readiness to step-up internationally, argues the paper.

But the EU's continued military reliance on NATO and inability to unify or build up its military capabilities have harmed its ability to forge a policy that carries weight against the United States in questions like Iraq. The doctrine argues for a more active approach in pooling military resources and a troop force that would allow it "early and … robust intervention."

The possibility of that happening say observers rests mostly on the shoulders of Great Britain, France and Germany, who recently agreed the EU should have its own military planning abilities outside of NATO. The three also showed in recent weeks in Iran how the EU's "preventive" strategy might work. The foreign ministers of the three countries were able to dissuade Iran from covering up its nuclear program and urged it to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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