European security strategy

European security strategy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European security strategy


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

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European security strategy

Document or Iniciative

A secure Europe in a better world – European security strategy . Brussels, 12 December 2003 [Not published in the Official Journal].


The European security strategy was drawn up under the authority of the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and adopted by the Brussels European Council of 12 and 13 December 2003. It identifies the global challenges and key threats to the security of the Union and clarifies its strategic objectives in dealing with them, such as building security in the EU’s neighbourhood and promoting an international order based on effective multilateralism. It also assesses the policy implications that these objectives have for Europe.

The security environment: global challenges and key threats

In the context of ever-increasing globalisation, the internal and external aspects of security are inextricably linked. Flows of trade and investment, the development of technology and the spread of democracy have brought prosperity and freedom to many people, while others have perceived globalisation as a cause of frustration and injustice. In much of the developing world, poverty and diseases such as AIDS give rise to security concerns, and in many cases economic failure is linked to political problems and violent conflict. Security is a precondition for development. Competition for natural resources is likely to create further turbulence. Energy dependence is a special concern for Europe.

The security strategy identifies three key threats facing Europe:

  • Terrorism. Concerted European action against terrorism is indispensable. Terrorism puts lives at risk and seeks to undermine the openness and tolerance of our societies. It arises out of complex causes, including the pressures of modernisation, cultural, social and political crises, and the alienation of young people living in foreign societies.
  • Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is potentially the greatest threat to our security. International treaty régimes and export control arrangements have slowed the spread of WMD, but we are entering a new and dangerous period. Advances in the biological sciences may increase the potency of biological weapons. The most frightening scenario is one in which terrorist groups acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this event, a small group would be able to inflict damage on a scale previously possible only for States and armies.
  • Regional conflicts. These can have a direct or indirect impact on European interests, regardless of their geographical location. They pose a threat to minorities, fundamental freedoms and human rights. They can lead to extremism and terrorism and provoke state failure.
  • State failure. Civil conflict and bad governance – corruption, abuse of power, weak institutions and lack of accountability – corrode States from within. This can lead to a collapse of state institutions. Afghanistan under the Taliban is a well-known example. State failure is an alarming phenomenon that undermines global governance and adds to regional instability.
  • Organised crime. Europe is a prime target for organised crime, which has an important external dimension, namely trafficking in drugs, women, children and arms, which does not stop at the Union’s borders. Such criminal activity is often associated with weak or failing states. For example, revenues from drugs have helped to undermine state structures in several drug-producing countries. Organised crime can have links with terrorism. In extreme cases, it can come to dominate the State.

The European Union’s strategic objectives

To defend its security and promote its values, the European Union pursues three strategic objectives:

  • Addressing the threats. The Union continues to take steps to tackle the key threats. It responded after 11 September with measures that included the adoption of the European Arrest Warrant and steps against terrorist financing. The Union continues to pursue its policies against arms proliferation, in part by strengthening international treaties and their verification provisions. It has intervened to help deal with regional conflicts and to put failed States back on their feet. Restoring good government promotes democracy and is a way of tackling organised crime. Until the end of the Cold War, our traditional concept of self-defence was based on the threat of invasion. With the new threats, however, the first line of defence will often be abroad. We should be ready to act before a crisis occurs. Today, each threat requires a combination of responses, which the Union is particularly well equipped to provide.
  • Building security in its neighbourhood. It is in the Union’s interest that countries on our borders are well governed. Our task is to promote a ring of well-governed countries to the east of the European Union and on the shores of the Mediterranean with whom we can enjoy close and cooperative relations. Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority. Without this, there will be little chance of dealing with other problems in the Middle East.
  • Developing an international order based on effective multilateralism. Our security and prosperity increasingly depend on an effective multilateral system. The Union aims to develop a stronger international society, well-functioning international institutions – such as the United Nations, whose Charter constitutes the fundamental framework for international relations – and a rule-based international order. The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic States. EU policies are aimed at bringing this about.

Policy implications for Europe

The European Union has made progress towards a coherent foreign policy and effective crisis management. However, according to the security strategy, the Union must:

  • be more active in pursuing its strategic objectives. Active policies are needed to counter the new threats. The Union needs to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid and, when necessary, robust intervention. A more active EU taking on greater responsibilities will also carry greater political weight.
  • increase its capabilities. Steps such as the creation of a European defence agency take us in the direction of a more capable Europe. The armies of the Union’s Member States must be transformed into more flexible and more mobile forces to enable them to address the new threats. The Union also needs more capacity to bring all necessary civilian resources to bear in crises and post-crisis situations. In addition, the Union must go further in combining the diplomatic capabilities of its Member States with those of the EU.
  • pursue coherent policies. The challenge is to bring together the different tools and capabilities of EU policy, such as European assistance programmes, the European Development Fund and the Member States’ military and civilian capabilities. The Union must pursue coherent policies. Diplomatic efforts and development, trade and environmental policies should follow the same agenda.
  • work with its partners. As things stand now, neither the Union nor any Member State is alone capable of addressing the threats we are faced with. Multilateral cooperation and bilateral partnerships with key actors are a priority and a necessity. The transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable. However, the EU must also work for closer relations with partners such as Russia, Japan, China, Canada and India.

The European Union: a global player

The violence of the two world wars that marked the first half of the twentieth century has given way to a period of peace, stability and prosperity unprecedented in European history. The creation of the European Union has been central to this development. European countries are now committed to dealing peacefully with disputes and to cooperating through common institutions.

The United States has played a critical role in European integration and European security, especially through NATO. Now that the Cold War is over, it has become the single dominant military power. However, no country is able to tackle today’s complex problems on its own. As a union of 27 states with a total population of over 500 million, the EU has inevitably become a global player. It should therefore be ready to share in the responsibility for creating global security and building a better world.

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