Events & News


The evolution of the EU’s Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

by Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, Director, EU Centre


(Updated 19 April 2013 below: a talk on the CSDP by Michael Matthiessen, EU Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School, NUS, with slides available for download)

The European integration project started in 1950s and is first of all about economics and peace (with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community and then the European Economic Community) even if the treaties go further by talking about “an ever closer union”. This wording hints at an ultimate objective of creating a new political entity drawing the old and established European nation-states into some kind of a new political construct that would break the mould of the political system of nation-states that has dominated the global political development over the last two hundred years.

The European Community has since gone through five major changes of the treaties to adjust to new circumstances. With each treaty changes, integration has deepened. New areas of policies are taken up at the European level on the assumption that common efforts will be more effective than individual national efforts. For the first 30-odd years of the European integration project, the role of the European Community in the global arena was based on an extension of its common policies such as the Common Commercial Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. In the diplomatic, political and security realm, member states of the European Community retain relative autonomy. With the coming into force of the Maastricht Treaty, the erstwhile European Economic Community has been transformed into the European Union (EU), signalling further moves towards an even closer union. The Maastricht Treaty has created a Union with three pillars of policy cooperation – the European Community, Justice and Home Affairs and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

With the Maastricht Treaty, the EU has begun to implement a large number of common policies under the broad remit of human security, ranging from immigration, counter-terrorism and police cooperation, which was beyond the purview of the EU two decades ago. It has also expressed its desire to act as a coherent actor on world stage and raised its foreign and security ambitions with the framing of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as a second pillar of cooperation in the Maastricht Treaty.

The move towards framing a CFSP reflected the realities of a post-Cold War world. During the Cold War decades, the Europeans were under the protective nuclear umbrella of the US, and security and military issues very much come under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With the decline in the salience of nuclear deterrence and the rising importance of economic power, there was a growing desire on the part of some members of the European Community to become more of a global actor. External demands and expectations for the EU to play a more active role in the international system might also have been one of the factors behind the construction of a CFSP.

The crisis in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, however, showed up the weaknesses of a still loosely framed CFSP. Despite its said ambition to act more decisively in its own backyard in the post-Cold war era, the EU was unable to garner a coherent response to the first Balkan war (1992-1995) in Bosnia. The initial euphoria that with the creation of CFSP, the EU should have the ambition to help resolve the crisis in its own backyard fell flat as the war raged on, and it was only with UN intervention back by NATO forces and US diplomacy that the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed bringing the conflict to a pause. Of course, it has also to be remembered that the first Balkan war broke out in the very early days of the Maastricht Treaty and the creation of the CFSP.

The Europeans’ own assessment of the weakness of the CFSP in producing a more coherent and proactive foreign policy led them to introduce some changes when negotiating the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997. The weaknesses identified such as the lack of a focal point, lack of systematic assessment capability and early warning, and lack of visibility led to two reforms, most notably the establishment of the post of High Representative (HR) for CFSP to provide focal point and visibility and the creation of a Policy Planning and Warning Unit to provide risk assessments and early warning and support the work of the HR.

However, there continued to be reluctance amongst some member states in the EU to set up an independent military capability to support CFSP that could be seen to be in competition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

When the second Balkans war broke out in the later part of 1990s in Kosovo and the US had again to intervene on EU’s behalf, the Europeans came to acknowledge the necessity to build an independent military capability. This paved the way for agreement in the EU for the emergence of a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) with the headline goal of being able to deploy a 60,000 strong corps in six weeks and sustain it on the field for a year in support of crisis management, humanitarian missions and peace-keeping operations.

The ESDP renamed Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in the Lisbon Treaty is now an integral part of the EU’s CFSP. The Lisbon Treaty provided new impetus for the development of CSDP, which has become an essential element of the comprehensive approach that the EU takes to achieve its security objectives. It also introduced some institutional changes that could potentially be of great implications for the EU’s global role. Since 2003, a total of 28 EU civilian and military operations have been deployed on three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia) involving more than 80,000 personnel from soldiers to policemen to judges and administrators, and carrying out tasks ranging from classic peacekeeping missions to state building, stabilization and reconstruction efforts.

The EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP) and its relevance in Asia

On 16 April 2013, Michael Matthiessen (EU Visiting Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy) gave a talk at the Lee Kuan Yew School on ‘The EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP) and its relevance in Asia’.

Mr Matthiessen sketched the history of the genesis of the CSDP, starting from the wars during the disintegration of Yugoslavia. He discussed at length the EU’s CSDP missions beyond the European continent – in particular the 2005-06 Aceh Monitoring Mission (in which Singapore also participated) and the ongoing anti-piracy maritime operation off the coast of Somalia.

Mr Matthiessen’s slides for his presentation can be downloaded here (courtesy of Michael Matthiessen and Frederik Dahl Bang).