The Ambiguous Ambition
The Development of the EU Security Architecture


Paper presented at the colloquium The EC/EU: A World Security Actor? An Assessment after 50 Years of the External Actions of the EC/EU,

Paris, EU Institute for Security Studies, 15 September 2006


Sven Biscop[1]





In the few years since its inception following the 1998 Franco-British Saint-Mâlo Summit, the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), the military arm of the EU, has progressed enormously, certainly when compared with the preceding 50 years. A whole new politico-military dimension has been added to the EU.[2]


The Petersberg Tasks, already incorporated into the Treaties at Amsterdam in 1997, define what the EU can do: peacekeeping, peace enforcement or crisis management, and humanitarian and rescue operations – in other words, everything but collective defence. The original Headline Goal (HG), adopted in Helsinki in 1999, and the subsequent HG 2010, adopted in Brussels in 2004, define how the EU will accomplish that: which types and quantities of capabilities are needed within the overall objective of acquiring the ability to deploy 60,000 troops within 30 to 60 days and sustain that for a year. New bodies have been created to guide and monitor capability development and to advise on and run operations: at the decision-making level, the Military Committee (EUMC); within the Council Secretariat-General, the Situation Centre and the Military Staff (EUMS), which includes the Civilian-Military Cell, the core of an operational headquarters; and directly responsible to the High Representative, the European Defence Agency (EDA). In mid-2006, no less than 11 EU operations were ongoing involving about 8000 troops and 500 civilians. If other operations in which EU Member States participate are counted as well (national, NATO, UN and ad hoc coalitions) the total of Member States’ armed forces that is constantly deployed stands at between 50 and 60,000.[3] With over two million men and women in uniform and a defence budget of over 200 billion euro, the EU if taken as a block is a global military power, second only to the US.


Yet the huge gap between these impressive overall figures and the numbers actually deployed indicates that in spite of ESDP’s rapid development all is not well. Out of two million, only about 10% or 200,000 are estimated to be deployable as frontline forces – exactly the same estimate as in 1998. Since because of the need for rotation only one third of those can be deployed at anyone time, the 50 to 60,000 currently deployed thus also seems to be the maximum that the EU Member States can deploy. Yet quantitatively ESDP is still geared to this number, which back in 1999 was decided upon only because it fitted a ‘typical’ Balkans scenario – ESDP does not have a vision for the total number of two million. The capability-building process of ESDP is thus not linked up with the ambitious objectives of the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS), which clearly puts forward a global role for the EU that obviously requires more deployable forces.[4]


This paper will set out to assess two issues. First, taking into account that it has only been in existence for eight years, is the capability-building process of ESDP sufficient to generate more deployable capabilities in the future? Second and perhaps more importantly, even if more capabilities would be available, would the Member States display the ambition and muster the political will to actually use them, for the full spectrum of Petersberg Tasks, including high-intensity operations? For today, the EU’s ambition to be a global security actor seems ambiguous at best.



A Fragmented Defence Effort


The answer to the first question is that in the field of ESDP until today the EU does not operate as a block – nor is it the aim of ESDP in its present shape to alter that.


Capability-building in ESDP is a fundamentally bottom-up process. On the basis of the list of capabilities required to achieve the HG (the Helsinki Headline Goal Catalogue or HHC), Member States are requested to declare on a voluntary basis which capabilities they are willing to make available to the EU; their replies are listed in the Helsinki Force Catalogue (HFC). This is indeed no more than a catalogue: for each Member State it lists types and quantities of capabilities, but it does not identify specific units; hence there is no permanent link between the different national capabilities listed, such as combined training and manoeuvres, apart from the fact itself that they are on the list. Only for actual operations, participation in which is decided individually by each Member State on a case-by-case basis, are specific units identified; availability is thus not automatic. Far from a ‘European army’, however defined, there is only an assumption of availability of national capabilities. True, many Member States participate in one or more of the numerous multinational frameworks, such as the Eurocorps, which often have declared their availability to the EU. But in reality most of those are just ‘catalogues’ as well, with limited integration of the participating national capabilities and usually only a small permanent staff element.[5]


Obviously, the comparison between the two catalogues, HHC and HFC, leads to the identification of a number of shortfalls at the aggregate level of the EU25, listed and assessed twice yearly in the Capability Improvement Chart; these concern areas such as strategic air- and sealift, deployable force headquarters, and advanced command, control, communications and intelligence. In order to fill those capability gaps, ESDP again appeals to the Member State initiative. Under the 2001 European Capability Action Plan (ECAP) initially 19 ‘panels’ of experts, with at least one lead nation each, were to propose solutions to remedy the shortfalls. In 2003, because of the limited progress, these were transformed into 15 ‘project groups’, each with one Member State in the lead, which were to focus on the implementation of concrete projects.


The centre of gravity thus clearly lies in the Member States, which decide in which capabilities their national armed forces are to invest or to disinvest. The bottom-up nature of the process and the resulting lack of coordination are the cause of the lack of progress in addressing the shortfalls, which the move from ECAP panels to project groups has not been able to remedy. The first Capability Improvement Chart for 2006 lists only 7 out of 44 listed shortfalls as solved and 5 where the situation has improved; of the remaining 32 shortfalls, 20 are considered as ‘significant in the assessment of capability’.[6] The fact is that an individual Member State is not motivated to procure additional capabilities in order to meet a specific shortfall and create sufficient capacity at the EU-level if it already is capable in that particular field, or to procure a larger quantity than is necessary to meet its national needs if it is not, which given the strained defence budgets usually implies investing less or not at all in another field. The reason is that it cannot be certain that such an investment would be recompensed by other Member States’ investments in other fields or, if it would, that the resulting capabilities would be available for the operations in which it would participate itself. Consequently, most Member States continue to maintain a wide range of national capabilities in army, navy and air force. National thinking still dominates defence spending.


The overall result is one of fragmentation, duplication and very low cost-effectiveness. Because with the exception of France and the UK the national scale of each Member State is limited, and because the defence budgets of all are under heavy pressure, only limited quantities of each capability can be maintained, resulting in what Pilegaard has tellingly dubbed ‘mini-mass armies’.[7] Each small-scale frontline capability needs supporting services and many of the overhead costs are fixed: whether a Member State operates 1 or 100 tanks or fighters – in both cases a base is needed, personnel must be recruited and trained, supplies bought, and the paperwork done… If only 10% of Member States’ armed forces are deployable as frontline troops, it is because small-scale capabilities cannot man a full rotation cycle if full units (battalions, squadrons) are deployed and will afterwards be out of the loop for a longer time or alternatively will only deploy sub-units in very limited numbers. Too large a share of personnel is devoted to overhead and supporting services that are unnecessarily duplicated within the EU – the true duplication debate. The budgets that are absorbed by those unnecessary duplications cannot be spent on the ongoing transformation from territorial defence to expeditionary warfare, which requires investment in equipment, recruitment, and training and manoeuvres – needs that are reflected in the capability shortfalls. And as Member States continue to think in terms of national needs and prestige, when they do invest it is often in capabilities of which at the EU-level there already is a surplus or which are less useful for the new tasks of expeditionary warfare, such as frigates and submarines, rather than in areas where shortfalls exist. In the same logic, for the greater part R&T and procurement budgets are spent on national programmes, often favouring the national defence industry and ignoring duplications with other initiatives.[8] Thus even the budget that is being invested is not all well spent. Another impediment is that a number of Member States among them still maintain more than 400,000 conscripts, which in many cases cannot be deployed but absorb a large part of their defence budgets nonetheless; Germany is the typical case. Moving to professional armies is urgent. As a result of this combination of factors, transformation is only incremental and has to be spread over many years while without more coordination, although a lot of money is spent, there is no guarantee that by 2010, when the updated HG has to be achieved, the current shortfalls will have been resolved.


Ironically, the continued maintenance of ‘mini-mass armies’ that is the cause of this fragmentation rests on a false premise, for it creates only the illusion of independence. In reality, no Member State has the capacity to mount any sizeable operation on its own, except for France and the UK, and even they need others’ assistance in specific fields. As good as all operations undertaken by Member States are combined, i.e. multinational operations to which different States contribute different capabilities and which therefore require a great deal of coordination. The need to abandon the bottom-up approach in which the initiative is left almost exclusively to the Member States is self-evident.



Increasing Coordination in Capability-Building


This is where the new European Defence Agency (EDA), created by Council Joint Action of 12 July 2004, has to play its part. The EDA uniquely combines four functions in as many directorates: capabilities development, armaments cooperation, industry and market, and research and technology.


In the EDA, which has taken over 8 of the ECAP project groups,[9] there now is a European – as opposed to national – actor that can take the initiative and propose concrete solutions for specific EU-level capability shortfalls. Decision-making power remains with the Member States, therefore it is up to the EDA to present as attractive a proposal as possible to convince Member States to harmonize requirements and agree on specific solutions for the capability shortfalls and then to sign up to specific multinational programmes. Its combination of four functions allows the EDA to take a long-term perspective and initiate things far upstream, in the R&T phase, potentially generating maximal effectiveness. The development of the Airbus transport aircraft (A400M), which predates the creation of the EDA, can serve as an example of a successful project: 6 Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK), plus 3 non-EU States (Malaysia, Turkey and South Africa), have agreed to acquire a total of 192 aircraft. Multinationalisation allows to reduce overhead and unit cost and significantly increases interoperability between the participating States – all on the condition that these refrain from adding too many national specifications to their part of the order. Following the informal European Council meeting at Hampton Court in October 2005, the EDA has identified a much reduced set of priorities – as compared to the 15 ECAP project groups – on which the Capabilities Directorate will next formulate proposals: command, control and communication, strategic airlift, and air-to-air refuelling. The Armaments Directorate focuses on the field of armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs).


In view of its very young existence, it is far too early to judge the EDA already, although it can certainly be said that in the short time since it has become operational it has established itself as a key actor in the minds of all concerned. The first experiences demonstrate however that it remains difficult to persuade Member States to commit to necessary but expensive measures. Hopeful results have been achieved in the field of command, control and communications, which could lead to two concrete projects: on Software Defined Radio (SDR), where the hope is to acquire a capability by ‘piggy-backing’ harmonized national requirements on civilian development, and on a Theatre Imagery Exploitation System (TIES), which could analyse imagery from a variety of sources (Unmanned Air Vehicles, reconnaissance aircraft etc.).[10] These are useful, but relatively small-scale projects. Member States are very reluctant however to consider the much larger investment required for strategic transport and air-to-air refuelling, while the hoped for short-term switch to one cooperative AFV programme to replace existing national initiatives proved impossible and had to be replaced by a longer-term focus on identifying technologies for the next-generation of AFVs.


The EDA faces the same challenge that NATO has faced for a long time: how to ensure that Member States in their national decision-making effectively take into account the guidelines developed at the ‘supranational’ level? That the EDA Steering Board consists of the Defence Ministers – incidentally, the only formal EU forum where they meet – in itself is no guarantee. In practice, most decisions are still taken on the basis of national considerations, which in many cases equal budgetary considerations. Furthermore, even when Member States do sign up to multinational projects, such as the A400M, many of the negative effects of the small-scale ‘mini-mass armies’ remain if the acquired capability is afterwards again hacked into separate national pieces. If the cost-effectiveness of European defence spending is to be optimized, something more is necessary – the EU25 must really start to operate as a block.



Top-Down Coordination Beyond the Headline Goal


Operating as a block means shifting the focus from the national to the European level: the objective should be to have full military capacity at the aggregate level of the EU25 rather than at the level of each individual Member State. It also requires widening the focus of ESDP: from the numbers required for the HG to the total of two million troops; only by starting from the complete military potential can maximum cost-effectiveness be achieved.


The first step is then to take a political decision on the ambitions of the EU as a security actor, i.e. closing the gap between ESDP and the ESS and translating the political objectives of the latter into quantifiable military objectives for the EU as a whole based on the combined military potential of the 25:

Once the order of magnitude has been decided upon, on that basis a new, longer-term HG – horizon 2030 e.g. – can be defined. Presumably, the total required will be under two million – further downsizing is thus implicit in this scenario.


Within the resulting framework and under the coordination of the EDA, each Member State can contribute according to its possibilities, increasing cost-effectiveness by a much higher degree of specialization and, particularly, pooling than currently. Specialization already is a fact, for although Member States maintain a wide range of national capabilities, many have never had or have abandoned capabilities in specific fields; aircraft carriers and submarines are the obvious examples, but a country like Belgium e.g. has even abandoned all tanks and self-propelled artillery in favour of wheeled armoured vehicles. Further specialization is met with reluctance, because Member States are not willing to give up expertise and tradition and a seat at the decision-making table in fields where they have long had a capability. For reasons of solidarity it should also be avoided that Member States specialize to too large an extent in non-combat capabilities.


Member States can maintain a wider range of capabilities however if they opt for pooling of resources. Rather than continue to organize every capability in small quantities at the national level, groups or clusters of Member States that are active in the same field and share the problem of having a limited scale can create one larger-scale multinational capability instead. Contrary to most of the existing multinational formations, these must be truly integrated capabilities, permanently co-located on a reduced number of bases, and operating as one unit, with single arrangements for training, logistics etc., which allows for a drastic reduction of overhead. The integration of the Belgian and Dutch navies under one operational command, ‘Admiral Benelux’, can serve as an example. Via pooling the percentage of deployable capabilities could be greatly increased within the existing aggregated defence budget of €200 billion thanks to effects of scale and reduction of duplications and overhead. By focussing on the resulting capability clusters, which in turn would focus on the identified shortfalls, the capability gaps would be much more effectively addressed than by the current process with its focus on the national level.


A three-tier set of capabilities would thus emerge:


Pooling is greatly facilitated if Member States operate the same equipment, as will be the case with the A400M, and in turn stimulates harmonization of requirements and armaments cooperation. Supporting capabilities such as airlift lend themselves to pooling more easily, but it applies just as well to front-line capabilities. This is actually demonstrated by the creation of the Battlegroups (BGs). In a departure from the ‘catalogue system’, these 1500-strong multinational rapid reaction formations consist of pre-identified units, including command & control and transport. In order to be able to deploy effectively as one unit, which is essential for the types of high-intensity operations that the BGs are to undertake, the constituent national forces will inevitably have to have combined manoeuvres in the period leading up to the stand-by phase. As a case of pooling at a smaller scale, the BGs have an important exemplary function and could pre-configure larger-scale pooling of front-line capabilities. Pooling need not happen at 25: in most fields a number of clusters of a few Member States each can co-exist, with the composition based on geographical proximity, tradition and shared interests. At the same time the process can remain voluntary; Member States that in a specific field have a sufficient scale at the national level need not be obliged to join in a pooled formation.


The impact of pooling on the transatlantic alliance should be positive. If through pooling more deployable capabilities can be generated, that reinforces both the EU and NATO. Pooling is more likely to succeed though as part of the wider and deeper integration project of the EU than in the fully intergovernmental Alliance. Pooled capabilities can still be deployed for NATO operations in those cases when the EU Member States and the US decide to act jointly. The use of pooled capabilities and the shift of focus from Member States’ to EU participation in a NATO operation would actually fit in with the gradual shift of the centre of gravity from the Alliance as such to its two main constituent pillars, the US and the EU, and the de facto evolution to a two-pillar Alliance, even though the EU is often internally divided.[11] Vice versa however the use of common, i.e. NATO-owned assets for EU operations would be much less certain, as the Berlin Plus mechanism requires a unanimous decision by the North Atlantic Council for every individual operation.


Member States are already very much mutually dependent today – although not all are as yet willing to recognize it. Pooling would therefore only institutionalize – and bring order to – an existing situation. Today, only the largest Member States – basically France and the UK – can mount national operations; to the extent that they wish to maintain nationally organized capabilities they would continue to be able to do so. For all others, their forces would to a much larger extent than today be integrated into multinational frameworks. These multinationals units or part of them could then be deployed as such, for operations under the EU, NATO or UN label, but if Member States so wish national elements could still be temporarily detached as well. Ideally however, whenever the question is raised who will contribute to an operation, the focus should shift from the national to the European level. In the framework of the CFSP, the first question should be: what should the EU do? Only then should be decided which national and multinational capabilities will be deployed to provide an EU-contribution for the specific case at hand, as a stand-alone EU-operation, as an EU-led component of a larger UN force (in view of most Member States’ reluctance to contribute blue helmets to UN-led operations), or as part of a NATO-led operation when the EU and the US decide to act jointly. The existence of several capability clusters in each field would mean that Member States would not necessarily be involved in every single operation. At the same time, if Member States know that their investment in a specific cluster will be met by proportionate contributions by the other participating States, and that thanks to the coordination by the EDA the sum of all clusters will constitute a full capacity at the EU-level, at which level any operation will be considered, they should be less reluctant to orient their investments on the objectives and shortfalls identified by the EU rather than on their national needs.


Military integration thus goes hand in hand with political integration. A political decision on the level of ambition of the EU as a security actor is required as the starting point for top-down coordination of capability-building, and the will to act as EU is required to make the most effective use of the resulting integrated capabilities. In this regard, the EU is singularly lacking however.



High Expectations, Low Ambitions


Reading the introduction to the ESS, the ambitions of the EU seem clear:


As a union of 25 states with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world’s Gross National Product (GNP), and with a wide range of instruments at its disposal, the European Union is inevitably a global player. […] Europe should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world.


But in practice many Member States are much more ambiguous about the role they see for the EU. Often they are not very willing to see the military instrument that ESDP provides it with actually used by the EU.


First, although it plays a global trade, development and diplomatic role, the EU is hardly a world-wide security actor. As shown above, EU Member States are certainly not averse to deploying their forces. Yet the large majority is deployed on the Balkans, in Europe’s backyard where the EU and its Member States logically assume responsibility, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, as a follow-up to the interventions – one rather more controversial than the other – initiated by the US and a number of EU Member States themselves. The number of European troops in sub-Saharan Africa on the contrary is marginal. This contrasts sharply with the importance allocated to the continent in numerous EU strategy documents, from which the EU appears as an actor willing to commit forces to peace support operations in Africa – very much the only actor, apart from the African Union (AU). The UN is therefore likely to appeal to the EU when troops are needed. The example of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shows that in order to maintain its credibility, the EU cannot but except such a request, but has done so rather reluctantly. The January 2006 UN request to make available a deterrent force during the elections in the DRC, a potentially risky operation if disturbances would occur, was certainly not well-received by all Member States. In the end, Germany accepted to lead an operation, EUFOR RDC, which has seen the deployment of somewhat fewer than 1000 troops to Kinshasa, with a further 1500 ‘on call’ in Libreville in Gabon, almost 900 km away. EUFOR RDC is thus of similar size as the 2003 Operation Artemis, but has a much wider mandate: rather than securing just one town and its surroundings, it now has responsibility for all but the RDC’s 4 easternmost provinces – where MONUC, the UN force, is concentrated – an area the size of Western Europe with little or no infrastructure which it cannot seriously hope to cover. In reality therefore, EUFOR RDC looks more like a ‘classic’ evacuation operation, ready to take out European citizens in case of trouble. In view of the responsibilities of the EU as a global actor, future force planning ought to take into account a greater contribution to peace support operations worldwide.


Second, there still is no consensus on deployment under the EU flag for peace enforcement or crisis management, even though most Member States do put their forces in harm’s way in national, NATO or coalitions-of-the-willing operations. Although legally the Petersberg Tasks include operations at the high end of the spectrum of violence, politically the Member States are still extremely divided over the EU’s level of ambition in this field. British officials don’t hesitate to state e.g. that the BGs will never undertake high-intensity missions, in spite of the fact that they are clearly built for that purpose, but should leave those tasks to NATO. [12] This lack of consensus is indeed very much related to the much deeper divide between ‘Atlanticists’ and ‘Europeanists’ on the degree of autonomy of the EU as an international actor vis-à-vis NATO and the US. As long as in a crisis situation some Member States will look to Washington before taking a position, the EU cannot be a consistently resolute actor. As Member States rest divided, in crisis situations the EU-level is more often than not out of the loop and it is up to the individual Member States to adopt a position. Consequently, even though with Operation Artemis the EU has proven that it can mount high-risk operations if the political will is present, other EU-led operations are mostly low-intensity and often of smaller scale. This has also to do with the fact that the still very young ESDP needs a number of successes to legitimize itself, hence the tendency to select operations with a large chance of success. And perhaps in some capitals the use of force is felt to contradict the soft power image of the EU. To some extent therefore the criticism is justified that the EU takes on important but mostly ‘easy’ operations, in the post-conflict phase, in reaction to a settlement of a conflict. The slow reaction to events in Darfur demonstrates that this criticism can in fact be applied to the international community as a whole. The EU should work proactively towards conflict resolution, through its diplomacy, and when necessary contribute forces in earlier stages of a crisis or conflict. EU policy towards Iran is an example of such a proactive stance; a strong EU participation in an eventual international force in Lebanon would be another.


In the present state of affairs one must question however whether in view of this lack of consensus on EU-led high-intensity operations, all Member States are willing to fully accept the implications of the strong diplomatic support of that same EU for the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) that was endorsed at the UN Millennium+5 Summit in September 2005. R2P implies that if a State is unable or unwilling to protect its own population, or is itself the perpetrator of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity, national sovereignty must give way to a responsibility to protect on the part of the international community. In such cases, the Security Council must mandate intervention, if necessary by military means, which per definition implies high-intensity operations. Following its diplomatic support for the principle, it is to be expected that to implement it the UN will appeal to the EU, and more specifically to the BGs, which are configured for high intensity operations and which the EU has declared will be primarily deployed at the request of the UN. Furthermore, R2P scenarios are probably most likely to occur, again, in Africa. The use of force can be required in other scenarios as well, even though in the framework of the EU’s holistic approach to security it is an instrument of last resort and of course requires a UN mandate. In the event of renewed escalation on the Balkans e.g., a region for which responsibility is progressively being transferred to the EU, one can hardly imagine that the EU would not act, including forcefully if necessary. Further east, in the Caucasus or Central Asia, and in the EU’s southern periphery, peace enforcement is much less likely, in view of the sensitivity of intervening in Russia’s self-declared sphere of interest and in the Arab world respectively, which is not to say that robust peacekeeping is out of the question. Will all Member States readily accept the risks associated with such operations and contribute the forces and command & control capability required?


EU-led operations or visible contributions of integrated multinational capabilities to NATO or UN-operations would be the logical complement of EU diplomacy. But the fact is that because of its many internal divides, most notably on issues of security and defence, the EU all too often does not have a foreign policy. Consequently, contrary to the European focus called for above, in practice the large majority of Member States’ forces are still being deployed in other frameworks. Out of 50 to 60,000 currently deployed, only 8,000 are so under the EU-label. Clearly, the EU is not always first on capitals’ minds when military operations are being considered.





When ESDP was created, in 1998-1999, Member States went ahead with setting up a capability-building process, on which there was a strong consensus that something needed to be done, and consciously avoided the strategic debate, on the conditions for the actual use of those capabilities, out of fear that it would just rekindle the Atlanticist-Europeanist divide and block progress on all fronts. Thus originated a disconnect between the capability-building process and operational capacity of ESDP and the political objectives of the EU. In spite of the adoption of the ESS, that very much still is the case. The political objectives of the ESS have not been translated into corresponding military objectives – quantitatively ESDP is still oriented on the 60,000 of the original 1999 HG, a figure which bears no connection with the ambitions of the ESS. The underlying cause is that in fact Member States remain highly divided over the level of ambition of the EU as a security actor and the desired degree of autonomy vis-à-vis NATO and the US. This divide is the main obstacle for the CFSP/ESDP, most notably with regard to peace enforcement and crisis management. [13] In a vicious perpetuum mobile the EU keeps swinging back and forth between high ambitions, as expressed in the ESS and put into practice with Operation Artemis, and great internal divides, with the result that the EU as such is absent from the debate as during the Iraq. [14]


The result of this inability to choose – for an equal partnership between the US and the EU as a security actor in its own right or for a continued role of policy-taker in NATO – is that all too often it is up to the Member States to wage their separate national policies. Yet, in a globalized world even the largest Member States individually do not carry enough weight to impact on the course of events and safeguard their interests. One can hope that this pragmatic recognition will in the end strengthen the gradual, but real trend towards deeper integration and cause a shift of focus from the national to the EU-level.


Perhaps a core group of like-minded Member States could accelerate this process by a successful demonstration of deeper integration. A core group, building perhaps on an existing multinational formation, could take the lead and pool certain military capabilities into a more permanent and integrated framework. If successful, such military integration could convince more reluctant Member States of the viability of the model. At the same time, the participating States in any core group should share a political outlook on the role of the EU as a security actor in its own right – their pooled capacity would thus be the obvious candidate for the implementation of any operation that the EU would decide upon. And of course if a group of Member States is a priori willing to deploy its capabilities, the chance of such a decision being arrived at substantially increases. A core group willing to shift the focus from the national to the combined level, both in the field of capability-building and operations, could ultimately produce the required shift of mind to the European level.



[1] Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop is a senior research fellow in the Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels and professor of European security at Ghent University.

[2] This paper focuses only on the politico-military or ‘hard’ security dimension of the EU’s much broader, holistic approach; for the sake of brevity, it is referred to as ‘security’ throughout the paper.

[3] Bastian Giegerich and William Wallace, ‘Not Such a Soft Power: The External Deployment of European Forces’. In: Survival, Vol. 46, 2004, No. 2, pp. 163-182.

[4] Sven Biscop, The European Security Strategy – A Global Agenda for Positive Power. Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

[5] The Eurocorps e.g. saw its headquarters, 970 strong and including a multinational support battalion, certified by NATO as a Rapid Deployable Corps HQ; it has been deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan. None of the constituent front-line forces (mostly armoured units) have ever been deployed in a Eurocorps framework however.

[6] Council of the European Union, Capabilities Improvement Chart I/2006,

[7] Jess Pilegaard, ‘The European Security and Defence Policy and the Development of a Security Strategy for Europe’. In: Jess Pilegaard (ed.), The Politics of European Security. Copenhagen, Danish Institute of International Studies, 2004, pp. 11-38.

[8] The simultaneous development of the Eurofighter, Gripen and Rafale is a case in point.

[9] The remaining ones will continue to operate following the ECAP principles and under the guidance of the EUMC.

[10] See: EDA Bulletin, No. 2, July 2006.

[11] Sven Biscop, NATO, ESDP and the Riga Summit: No Transformation Without Re-Equilibration. Egmont Paper No. 11. Brussels, Royal Institute for International Relations, 2006.

[12] Interviews, Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, 11-12 July 2005.

[13] Martha Dassù and Roberto Menotti, ‘Europe and America in the Age of Bush’. In: Survival, Vol. 47, 2005, No. 1, pp. 105–122.

[14] And all the while, for those familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, the blade is getting closer and closer to the soft underbelly of the CFSP…