The Common European Policy on Security and Defense: Some Considerations Relating to Its Constitutional Identity

6 Colum. J. Eur. L. 275 (2000)

Asteris Pliakos. Associate Professor of European Law, Athens University of Economics and Business. Jean Monnet Professor of European Law.

No issue is of greater importance to the European Union in the opening decades of the twenty-first century than whether and how European political unity will be attained. After years of deepening the integration process, the EU continues to face a series of fundamental challenges that require novel political solutions. In the wake of politically highly sensitive events, above all the Balkan War, the EU has demonstrated obvious ineffectiveness as a unified political actor in the world arena. There is broad agreement among commentators that the EU must not only improve its present system of political governance but overhaul it as well. True, a new system requires either new political institutions or, more important, a new political will capable of forging a more effective constitutional framework. But the war in Kosovo has heralded a new era. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott recently observed, Europeans are “determined never again to feel quite so dominated by the U.S. as they were during Kosovo.

The EU cannot survive if it does not assume the heavy responsibilities for its own defense or does not perform the tasks for which it came into existence. Indeed, few would disagree that the process of European integration was conceived mainly as a mechanism for achieving lasting peace and security. In order to accomplish this objective, the EU needs a genuine Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP), the creation of which has always been considered a challenge of paramount importance for Member States. Only a CFSP that merits its name will enable the EU to begin thinking seriously about its role as a guardian of order and peace in the international arena.

Probably not since the end of World War II has there been as intense a feeling in Europe that Member States should work together in order to create their own autonomous military force. Britain and France have succeeded in convincing all Member States, including the neutral States, to acquire a meaningful security identity corresponding to the EU’s economic power. According to a statement issued by the Helsinki European Council in December of 1999, “The European Council underlines its determination to develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises.”

Obviously, the decision to work toward achieving an independent security identity cannot be analyzed under the heading of “security” alone. Other concepts and objectives are just as important to this goal: for example, the development of a constitutional framework. As history teaches, an effective and credible military force is indispensable to state sovereignty. As a result, apart from contributing to the creation of a CFSP, a European military force is of incomparable importance to achieving modem   European sovereignty. Indeed, the history of modem  states teaches that the pursuit of better defense and security has led states to form coalitions, unions, and even federations. For the formation of federal states in particular it is necessary to transfer governmental authority over currency, foreign policy and defense to a central body. As a consequence, given that a European monetary union already exists, the CFSP takes on a crucial political and constitutional role. From this point of view, especially today when a greater convergence of the economic interests of Member States exists in the critical area of military defense, the attempted autonomy of the EU from the NATO – and, further, the U.S. – should foster new initiatives to further the EU’s integration.

This new political reality raises important questions of principle. There is no doubt that the conclusions of the Helsinki European Council entail the confrontation of numerous additional legal and institutional issues relating to the distinction between the competencies of the EU and Member States. Such issues include, for example, increased options for differentiated integration and methods for making the EU more efficient, democratic and transparent.

The aim of this article is to stimulate reflection on a number of fundamental reforms the Treaty on European Union (TEU) requires in order to deal effectively with both its new as well as original objectives.