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Samuel Beckett’s European Army

Wait

Courtesy of John Keogh/Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 16 December 2016.

Explaining EU defense policy is not easy. But poor communication by the Brussels-based institutions plays into the hands of Euroskeptics and can damage public trust in union policies. In particular, there is no more misleading or damaging phrase than “European army.”

Federalist politicians, like European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, often declare their support for this idea. But like Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, they will wait for an eternity before an EU army becomes a reality.

There can be no European army without a European state. And a federal superstate is not in the cards. Those who propose a Euro-army may think that they are furthering their federalist fantasies, but it is not a credible solution to today’s security challenges. If anything, it is easily perceived as either an evil plot or a useless distraction—or both.

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Defence Policy in the European Union: Multi-Speed Security?

Courtesy Tilemahos Efthimiadis/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) on 14 November 2016.

EU Member States are unlikely to reach consensus on comprehensive reform of Common Security and Defence Policy soon. What may follow will be attempts to establish a European “defence core.” That, however, would threaten NATO adaptation to the new security challenges and undermine the coherence of the EU itself. It is Poland’s interest to avoid such a scenario in favour of inclusiveness in defence cooperation in the EU. The country should also seek to confirm a balanced approach to European defence industry policy.

The future of defence cooperation within the European Union returned to the political agenda in Europe with implementation of the European Global Strategy (EGS), which aims to reinforce Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). At the same time, some Member States have proposed the establishment of a European “defence core.” Since it is unlikely that the EU will agree on comprehensive reform of CSDP within the EGS implementation, the Member States that call for a rapid deepening of defence integration in Europe will try to pursue their agenda in an exclusive grouping. These states argue that such a step is a proper political reaction to the EU and Brexit crises, as well as the correct operational answer to the security crisis in the Union’s southern neighbourhood. But in this scenario, Poland and other likeminded EU countries that support a pragmatic vision of CSDP and seek added-value through EU-developed military capabilities may be forced out of the main vehicle of defence cooperation in Europe.

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Seven Worrying Trends in the European Refugee Crisis

Sea Storm, Blue Moon

Courtesy stainedglassartist/Flickr

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 October 2016.

EU leaders could soon come to regret having crossed their fingers and moved the refugee crisis off the urgent pile in their in-tray.

As part of his final UN General Assembly, President Obama hosted a leaders’ summit on refugees. In his speech he termed the global refugee crisis one of ‘the most urgent tests of our time’. But the list of commitments coming out of the summit did not live up to this description. The Bratislava EU summit earlier this month barely touched on refugee issues among the list of priorities to address, and there seems to be a general sense that Europe has more or less weathered the refugee storm that appeared so threatening in 2015.

There is some truth to this – for now. The number of sea crossings to the EU in the first nine months of 2016 was indeed down, at around 300,000, compared to 520,000 in 2015. But despite this there are a number of worrying trends that EU leaders would be foolish to ignore.

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An EU HQ? Let Them At It

EU Flags

Courtesy European Parliament/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on 11 October 2016.

The debate about the EU military headquarters is not as vacuous as some of its British critics claim, although it has undoubtedly been given a new lease of life by the Brexit vote. Still, the UK would be well-advised to drop its vociferous opposition to the scheme, even if it continues to entertain doubts about its viability.

During her recent visit to the UK, Germany Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen asked the British not to block EU efforts to build deeper security and defence cooperation. Her comments followed British criticism of Franco-German plans to build an EU headquarters and suggestions that London might block such a measure, as long as it remained in the EU.

There is a whole bundle of post-Brexit vote politics at play here, for which the HQ issue has become something of a lightning rod. The 27 other EU governments are keen to show some unity and that the bloc remains relevant for their citizens, especially for their security. Plus, although it is not entirely fair to blame the UK for the EU’s lack of progress on military matters, cheerleaders for EU defence policy – and not only in Berlin and Paris – have seized on the Brexit vote as a golden opportunity to relaunch that policy.

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The UK Government’s Brexit Strategy: What We Know So Far

Brexit, the painting

Courtesy Shakespearesmonkey/Flickr

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 6 September 2016.

Theresa May seems to be looking for a compromise around freedom of movement in order to retain access to the Single Market.

It has been a long summer for those of us wondering what exactly Brexit is going to mean in practice. Since the initial commotion over the appointments of Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary) David Davis (Brexit negotiations) and Liam Fox (International Trade) subsided, there has been an eerie quiet over the summer break about what the UK’s strategy would be for the forthcoming negotiations.

Beyond Prime Minister Theresa May’s mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, a drip feed of economic information showing that the anticipated post-Brexit crash in consumer confidence has not – for now – emerged, and speculation about whether May’s summer holidays in Switzerland were in part spent studying the EFTA model, there has been precious little actual information.

The past few days have felt like something of a watershed – a genuine start of term – with Theresa May’s visit to the G20 meeting in China, and the House of Commons debate on a petition for a second referendum forcing the government to unveil a little of what they are thinking. So what do we know now that we didn’t before?

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