Enhancing European Security

Germany’s options for revitalizing the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP)

13/03/2012 | von Patrick Keller, Almut Möller, Svenja Sinjen, Johannes Varwick

Kategorie: Organization of Military Defence, Military Capacity, Security, European Union, Germany, Central Europe, Europe

Currently preoccupied with its ongoing debt crisis, the European Union is paying little attention to its regional security policy. In the future, however, Europe will inevitably have to take an increased share of the responsibility for its own security. When it comes to revitalizing the security debate, Germany needs to take the initiative. And for the German government, this is a task that begins above all at home.

Bundeswehr Flickr Photostream / Rütters, CC BY

Thesis I: "German security policy has a credibility problem. If it is to exercise any influence at all, Germany needs to confront this problem constructively when launching initiatives to strengthen European security and defense policy."

Germany’s abstention from the UN Security Council vote on the intervention in Libya still weighs heavily on its European partners. Germany’s allies have at best professed themselves baffled by the German approach to foreign policy and at worst accused the Germans of abandoning this field of EU policy altogether. In short, Germany is regarded as difficult to read and driven by its own economic interests.

Providing European security and defense policy with a new German impetus is difficult for one simple reason: Europe is in no way waiting for Germany to come up with a credible agenda. If a German initiative is to be credible, it has to take these reservations into account. Germany needs to approach its credibility problem constructively and make it part of any future initiative. For instance, it should be made clear that irrespective of the positions of its EU partners, any German proposal to revitalize the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) must be realizable and financeable by Germany itself in the short term.

Against the background of its decision on Libya, as well as the reform of its armed forces, it seems fundamentally necessary for Germany to better present and explain its role as an active participant in the security-policy field. A Europe-oriented conference held in Berlin could help achieve this goal. It would provide a forum for members of parliament and security experts to discuss the German security-policy debate (in particular the reform of the armed forces, the lessons of Afghanistan and Libya, and the issue of parliamentary prerogative) in a European context. It would also signal that Berlin retains an interest in a security-policy debate within the European context and that Germany is prepared to take an active role in future efforts to bolster Europe’s security and defense capabilities.

Thesis II: "The concept of “more Europe” requires definition in relation to the CSDP. Focusing military capacities is necessary in this context but not sufficient. Without a more closely coordinated Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), it is difficult to see how the CSDP can prove successful in the longer term."

A central aspect of the capacity to act in the security-policy field is the question of military capabilities. However, the connection between deployment-relevant capabilities within member states and the functional capacity of the CSDP is not a mandatory one. Moreover, the CSDP can only function and develop to the extent that the EU as a whole develops more characteristics of a state entity and thus the capacity to operate as a unitary political actor. The CSDP has taken a quantum leap, but it needs to take another one if it is to exploit the full range of possibilities now open to it. In this sense, the debate around the CSDP is closely related to the debate about the future of the European Union itself. Without a more closely coordinated CFSP, it is difficult to see how the CSDP can prove successful. To this extent, the CSDP is merely one aspect of Europe’s relationship with the rest of the world. However, it is an aspect that is becoming increasingly significant due to the fact that any CSDP shortcomings could also have negative repercussions for the CFSP and possibly for the entire process of European integration. Moreover, a shared appreciation of the need for security presupposes a shared understanding of security. For this reason, a common European security strategy should be elaborated and explained to the public in the form of a “White Paper on European Security.”

In this context, Germany should also ensure that topics ranging from visionary plans for a better European division of labor to pragmatic steps toward the establishment of a kind of “European army” remain on the agenda without expecting such measures to be implemented in the short term. The interdependence of EU countries has already reached such a high level that the potential establishment of a future Euro-army could be seen as a logical consequence of the process of European integration.

Thesis III: "Concerted steps outside the framework of the Lisbon Treaty by individual EU countries can help promote a European approach to security and defense policy."

The provisions in the Lisbon Treaty relating to the CSDP offer the possibility of strengthening and further developing EU security policy and its capabilities. In principle, the relevant instruments and legislative scope already exist. The problem is a political one in the sense that there is a lack of will to utilize and further develop these instruments. At present the CSDP has “run out of steam.” The hesitant approach taken by EU members here needs to be seen in the context of the overall state of European policy. Currently, security policy is taking a back seat to economic policy and efforts to save the euro. Approaches to European policy among the governments of the EU’s 27 member states are generally too disparate to allow for a deepening of cooperation within the framework of EU treaties.

In view of this overall situation, it is difficult to see why collaborative efforts outside the CSDP framework—for instance the British-French initiative—should not be welcomed or in principle contribute to strengthening Europe’s security and defense policy and capabilities. Furthermore, it is a political reality that the UK, without which a genuinely European contribution to security policy is inconceivable, has at least for the time being decided against a CSDP approach. European cooperation on security and defense should therefore not be limited to the narrow parameters of the CSDP.

Thesis IV: "Improved EU capabilities will not automatically strengthen the European pillar within NATO. The key issue is the way these processes are shaped."

The EU and its member states should work hard to ensure that the United States remains a “European power,” despite the latter’s increased orientation to the Asia-Pacific region. While—necessarily and sensibly—further developing their security-policy role, EU states should ensure they behave in a way that does not further distance the United States from Europe.

In spite of all declarations of political intent, relations between NATO and the European Union have reached an impasse. Germany should show more active support for a “NATO-first-policy,” both conceptually and operatively. In concrete terms, this means comprehending the consolidation of the European pillar within the alliance and the development of an EU security and defense policy as complementary processes. Within this concept, NATO remains the cornerstone of European security and the organization of choice, particularly in the area of collective defense but also in relation to military crisis management.

The question Europeans need to answer is therefore: Are we prepared and in a position to operate within this framework and how does this translate into practice? How can the military contributions of European NATO countries be coupled with parallel developments within the sphere of the CSDP? For example, if a permanent civil-military planning and command capability were developed at a strategic level within the framework of the CSDP, it would have to be firmly and unambiguously tied to the structure of NATO. Pure duplication of CSDP structures without a corresponding link to NATO is the wrong way to go. 

Additionally, in spite of all official announcements and formal arrangements, a debate about the division of labor is urgently required. As a multi-tiered organization, the European Union could develop its focus in areas requiring an approach that extends beyond purely military capabilities. This does not mean that the EU should forego its military dimension in these areas. However, for the foreseeable future, the EU will remain at best a “civilian power with teeth” and should leave deployments requiring escalation dominance and high-intensity combat to a NATO supplemented by a powerful European pillar. The provision of European capabilities under NATO control (or, in more precise terms, contributions by individual European states, if necessary in the form of battle groups or by utilizing the instrument of permanent, structured cooperation) within this framework should be self-evident and actively supported by Germany in material and conceptual terms.

Thesis V: "Pooling and Sharing should not be understood primarily as a cost-saving instrument but rather employed as a means of maintaining and extending European military capabilities. It is only in this way that the CSDP can be effectively strengthened."

The full effect of current budgetary constraints in Europe on security and defense policy will take some years to fully unfold. If present military structures and procurement processes remain unaltered, the pressure to cut costs will inevitably lead to a downsizing of military capabilities. This will place further limitations on the scope available to security and defense policy. On the other hand, given the United States’ relative loss of power, Europeans will be forced to assume an increasing degree of responsibility for combating complex threats. 

As a result, every initiative aiming to strengthen Europe’s security and defense policy needs to focus on the systematic addition of military capabilities that are currently lacking (strategic air transport, strategic intelligence etc.). Against this background, Pooling and Sharing must not be seen primarily as a cost-cutting instrument but rather as one facilitating not only the maintenance but also the extension of Europe’s military capabilities. However, readiness to participate in Pooling and Sharing presupposes the political will to integrate military capabilities. The greater the readiness to integrate, the greater the cost reductions that can be achieved through Pooling and Sharing. The resources freed up in this way can be used for the necessary maintenance and extension of capabilities.

European efforts to pool and share have yet to provide grounds for optimism. Fears of a loss of national sovereignty have proved the biggest obstacle. As long as European nations cannot agree definitively on the question of when and how their armed forces should be deployed (see Libya), little will change in this respect. It is therefore imperative that Germany acts to promote a harmonization of European security and defense policy. Initiatives such as the formulation of a new European security strategy could be conducive to this task because they would at least breathe life into the discourse around security and defense policy at the European level as well as in Germany.

Given the fact that in spite of such initiatives the harmonization of the CSDP will remain a long-term project, Germany should now promote the maintenance and expansion of military capabilities on the basis of so-called “island solutions”—even if this is only the second-best option. This means that Pooling and Sharing should be practiced only with select European partners or only in specific spheres of capability. Experience shows that as a rule, “island solutions” combine both aspects (as seen, for example, in the A400M arrangement and the Joint Defense College of the Baltic States).

Germany would be well advised to take a twin-track approach in this context by offering to act as a lead nation for smaller EU members while also initiating Pooling and Sharing projects with large European nations. The urgent need for capabilities such as unmanned aircraft, missile defense, satellite-based intelligence, and a European cyber defense system—which are cost-intensive and only achievable for large nations acting in concert—already underlines the necessity of cooperation with large strategic actors such as the United Kingdom and France.

In addition, new collaborations with the UK and France could decrease the danger of Germany losing its influence on the future shape of the CSDP and leaving the field to these two countries. Finally, collaboration at this level could significantly contribute to a harmonization of the security and defense policies of Europe’s three most important leading nations.      

By contrast, cooperation with small European actors such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic has more of a maintenance function. If Germany offered, for instance, to act as a lead nation for air-forces, smaller nations could reduce their capabilities in this category or even give them up altogether. In such a situation, Germany would have to ensure that its partners actually have access to the capabilities offered by the Pooling and Sharing agreement. Cooperative arrangements of this type could strengthen Germany’s role in shaping European security and defense policy and promote harmonization in this area.

Thesis VI: "The German Parliamentary Participation Act is impeding further integration of the CSDP because it creates uncertainty as to the reliability of Pooling and Sharing arrangements. Although the act is more a symptom than a cause of this uncertainty, it should nevertheless be made more flexible."

German parliamentary prerogative regarding foreign deployments of the German armed forces is entwined in debates that considerably predate the groundbreaking decision handed down by the Federal Constitutional Court on July 12, 1994. Critics justifiably complain that it is impossible to establish credible sharing arrangements with our European partners as long as deployment—even when this is limited to Germany’s partners—is subject to the prerogative of the German parliament. It was not until 2011 that a debate concerning the deployment of AWACS units in Afghanistan provided a concrete example. Defenders of this prerogative point to the fact that the German parliament has never rejected a mandate desired by the government. However, this has done little to alter the perception of our partners—especially their assumption that the prospect of a vote will exert a negative effect on the decision of the executive.

In order to become a reliable, functional, and democratically legitimized participant in the further integration of the CSDP, Germany therefore has to pursue two goals. First, it needs to work toward a sustainable strategy in the field of its foreign and security policy. This has been obvious for some time and can only be achieved in the long term. Important themes in this respect include promoting strategic debate within Germany, improving knowledge of security policy among the public and national elites, and formulating a national security strategy. However, the key issue is the argument about parliamentary prerogative. The purported “unreliability” of the German parliament is in fact merely an expression of the lack of strategic consensus within German politics as a whole.    

Second, the Parliamentary Participation Act requires modification in the short term. If the goal or framework requirements of a deployment demand a rapid launch of operations and the German parliament is unable to make a decision in good time, the government should be authorized to deploy armed forces on a preliminary basis. Such a deployment would have to require consultation between the government, leaders of the various parliamentary groups, and the leaders and chairs of the foreign affairs and defense committees. If the parliament does not approve the deployment within 30 days, then it should be halted immediately. This proposal is designed above all to deal with urgent situations. In view of the need for effective Pooling and Sharing arrangements, a stipulation is also required that extends the 30-day rule to deployments that are agreed unanimously in the European Council and are based on capabilities yielded by sharing arrangements.

Thesis VII: "The role of the European Defense Agency (EDA) should be strengthened. Europe needs an EDA that is genuinely empowered to coordinate procurement planning by EU states if it is to establish Pooling and Sharing arrangements that retain their efficiency in the long term."

The Lisbon Treaty has increased the importance of the European Defense Agency and concretized its tasks. The EDA now has two functions. First it is responsible for identifying the defense capabilities Europe requires. Second, it should work toward ensuring that member states (all EU states except Denmark) coordinate their planning to avoid duplication and achieve synergy effects. It follows that in ideal-typical terms, the EDA constitutes the central coordination point for all Pooling and Sharing measures.                                      

In reality, it has as yet been unable to fulfill this role. National reservations have weighed too heavily to allow for the surrender of authority over decision-making and coordination. Moreover, the political will of the EDA leadership has been too weak to ensure full use of the scope available to it. It has now become obvious that existing initiatives (such as the German-Swedish Ghent Initiative) and various other bilateral measures require a guiding hand if they are to achieve an enduring level of efficiency. For this reason, strengthening the EDA cannot be an end result of further CSDP integration but needs rather to guide this integration step by step.

Germany should therefore throw its weight behind efforts to make meetings of the EDA Steering Committee (the High Representative plus 26 defense ministers) the focal point of future initiatives concerning collective armament and procurement planning.

PATRICK KELLER is coordinator for Foreign and Security Policy at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin.

 ALMUT MÖLLER is director of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Policy Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

SVENJA SINJEN is director of the “Berliner Forum Zukunft” at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

JOHANNES VARWICK is professor of political science at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg.


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