There are five key principles driving the EU’s new global security strategy. These could lead to revised thinking about the European Union’s interaction with Russia.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the EU headquarter in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: EPA

On June 28 at the meeting of the European Council, Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for Foreign and Security Policy, presented the new EU global security strategy. This document describes Europe’s vision of the current security environment and how its leaders plan to ensure the efficiency of a common European foreign and security policy.

This new strategy was supposed to demonstrate a comprehensive approach to security threats. In short, it meant to show that the EU “thinks strategically, shares a vision and acts together.” This is in response, of course, to growing criticism over how it has thus far reacted to new security challenges facing Europe.

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In fact, it is not the first security strategy presented by the EU. The previous document, “A Secure Europe in a Better World,” was adopted in 2003 when the Europeans were more optimistic about the integration process and were confident about the advantages of EU membership. It was a time of “peace and stability unprecedented in European history.” At that time, the EU was seen as a key actor that contributed to the creation of “a united and peaceful continent.”

However, the EU’s role is under review today, given the new threats. The Union faces various security challenges like terrorism, hybrid threats, climate change, and energy insecurity. The EU has to deliver specific results and demonstrate its ability to deal with security challenges effectively. The strategy explains principles, top priorities and particular activities to implement EU foreign and security policy. 

Key principles driving the EU security agenda

One of the most important principles of the new strategy is the idea of unity, which implies the necessity to demonstrate a single position on foreign policy issues of the EU member states and institutions. As a matter of fact, European national leaders and the EU officials quite often demonstrate rather different reactions to global issues, depending on various aspects like national interests or history of bilateral relations of their states. As a result, it becomes quite difficult to find a common position on the controversial issues, so it might be problematic to implement the unity principle.

There are three other principles that are supposed to strengthen the EU’s international reputation and position in the world: engagement, responsibility and partnership.

The Engagement principle refers to the necessity to be engaged in global problems solution and to participate in the formation of global norms.

The Responsibility principle means the EU’s commitment to tackle security problems and address their causes within the Union and neighboring regions.

The Partnership principle implies cooperation with international partners, including both states and regional organizations. The EU clearly demonstrates its intention to improve its performance on the international arena, to extend its influence, and to play a greater role in providing and maintaining global security.

The EU’s five security priorities

The strategy determines the five priorities of the EU’s external actions. The first priority, of course, is the EU’s own security. The Europeans should protect themselves, their values and lifestyle. To implement this, it’s the EU’s responsibility to cooperate with its partners, provide a political framework to handle security challenges, and strengthen military capabilities.

Secondly, the EU should ensure state and societal resilience in the neighboring states. At one time, the EU wanted to create a “ring of friends” and an area of “stability and prosperity” in its southern and eastern neighborhood. This meant extending the area of its activities beyond its borders. It is explained by the EU’s fears that instability and violence in neighborhood and surrounding regions can undermine its own security.

Therefore, the EU not only continues its enlargement policy and European neighborhood policy to promote security and democratic transformation among candidate countries and neighbor states, but also has decided to extend similar measures further to Central Asia and even Africa.

Thirdly, the EU’s experience of peacebuilding could be used for the development of an integrated approach to conflicts and crises. It should take into account multiple dimensions of conflicts (including security, economy and governance), several stages of conflict evolution (prevention, resolution, and stabilization), various levels influencing conflicts (local, national, regional, and global), and all parties involved in conflicts.

However, the EU does not have ambitions to solve conflicts on its own. Instead, it accepts the necessity to cooperate with other international actors. In fact, the EU does not have sufficient military capabilities to conduct its operation without support of other international institutions. Implementing its current military and civilian operations, the EU actively cooperates with the UN and NATO.

Fourth, the EU specifies its attitude to different regions (Europe, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, Asia and the Arctic). While it recognizes the fact that each region is unique and should be treated differently, the EU’s major approach is cooperation with regional organizations. In Europe, for example, this means cooperation with the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In the Arctic, however, the primary conduit for cooperation would be the Arctic Council.

The EU also targets major states in each region that influence the regional security order (Russia in Europe, the U.S. and Canada in the Atlantic, China in Asia) and describes the way it plans to deal with these key states.

The EU’s final priority refers to global governance for the 21st century. The EU understands that without efficient global norms it is impossible to ensure its security. The EU determines major principles of global governance like international law, peace and sustainable development. International institutions like the UN and international financial institutions should play a key role in global governance, but when they lack efficiency, they should be reformed.

Read the interview with Andrey Kelin, director of the Department of European Cooperation at Russia’s Foreign Ministry

The EU’s approach to Russia

When it comes to Russia, the EU’s position is rather controversial. On the one hand, it perceives Russia as a “key strategic challenge” in the region because it thinks Russia has violated certain norms (e.g. the territorial integrity of states) that the EU considers the major elements of the European security order. The strategy repeats the EU official position that it cannot accept the current situation in Crimea and Russia’s influence in Eastern Ukraine.

On the other hand, the EU recognizes its interdependence with Russia. Contradictions between the EU and Russia over Ukraine no longer prevent them from cooperation. Instead the new strategy implies that the EU should “engage Russia to discuss disagreements.” They also can cooperate in the areas of common interests. The fact that the EU accepts the possibility of dialogue and cooperation with Russia indicates a serious shift in Europe’s approach to Russia.             

The new strategy potentially demonstrates the growing ambitions of the EU. This is because usually the Union is typically treated as only an economic power, but now it wants to be perceived as a global security actor as well. It aims at increasing its participation in regional and global security, with interests stretching well beyond its geography.

Presenting the strategy, Federica Mogherini stressed that, “A fragile world calls for a more confident and responsible European Union… A Union with the strength to contribute to peace and security in our region and in the whole world.”