Foreign Policy Blogs

Talking Defense – Part 3 – A PR coup for the CSDP?


Days prior the Defense december summit (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here), the EU is finally trying to educate European citizens about the Common Security and Defense Policy. In a 10 minutes web documentary accessible on the EEAS website, here, the EU is finally attempting to explain CSDP the way NATO has been promoting its role and missions around the world.


The issues advanced and selected [an emphasis can be made on the selection of issues] in this web-documentary are:

–       the rather successful CSDP mission EU NAVFOR Atalanta off the coast of Somalia

–       EUTM Somalia mission training Somali armed forces

–       The EU’s comprehensive strategic approach

–       EUCAP Nestor mission in order to control the region on the sea and strengthening its legal system

–       The roots of the CSDP

–       The shortage of military capabilities

–       Pooling and sharing

One of the key statements of the documentary, on explaining the origins of the CSDP, claims that “In the aftermaths of the Balkans wars Member States realized the needs for the EU to act as a security provider, laying the foundation for Europe’s Common Security and Defense Policy.” The Balkans, especially the war in Kosovo, forced European powers to realize their inabilities to secure the continent without the US and NATO. Such realization triggered a moment in which Britain and France met in December 1998 in the medieval town of Saint-Malo agreeing on the need to create the European Security and Defense Policy.

“CSDP was born off the frustration” argues Maciej Popwski, Deputy Security General at the EEAS, “we saw that we were not effective enough. At the same time it is our backyard and so it was the realization of the mid-90s.” From the bilateral agreement of 1998, European powers legalized the CSDP through a series of council meeting and its inclusion into the Treaties. By 2003, the CSDP saw its first deployment in the Balkans and Africa.

Even though the documentary is entertaining and well done, it is drawing an inaccurate picture of the CSDP on two dimensions. First, about the success of the CSDP in both civilian and military missions which is very difficult to assess and measure. The specialized academic literature has demonstrated the many shortfalls of CSDP missions. This has been the case in deployed CSDP missions like in Afghanistan. Second, the documentary concludes with a question on the role of the EU as a security provider. Maciej Popwski made the following statement “we will be wherever we will be needed. CSDP is demand driven. […] We just need to make sure that we can use it [CSDP].” Libya, Syria, Mali, and now Central African Republic are direct repudiation of such comment. Ultimately, the documentary tries to give agency to the CSDP without mentioning the role of the Member States in the decision-making process and strategic choices.




Maxime H.A. Larivé

Maxime Larivé holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and European Politics from the University of Miami (USA). He is currently working at the EU Center of Excellence at the University of Miami as a Research Associate. His research focus on the questions of the European Union, foreign policy analysis, security studies, and European security and defense policy. Maxime has published several articles in the Journal of European Security, Perceptions, and European Union Miami Analysis as well as World Politics Review.