By Javier Solana –MADRID – Global security – a safe and peaceful environment free of conflict – is a
public good. In other words, all of the world’s citizens and countries benefit from
it, regardless of whether they contribute to supplying it. Given this, free riders
(those who enjoy the benefits of the good without investing in its provision) are
likely to be plentiful. But, when it comes to global stability, the world simply
cannot afford a free-riding Europe.
To be sure, given Europe’s violent past, the European Union’s greatest contribution
to international security has been to ensure stability in its own region. Today,
nearly a century after the outbreak of World War I, peace and stability are firmly
entrenched in Europe.
Other regions, however, are volatile and unstable. For example, strategic
tinderboxes like the Middle East and Southeast Asia lack the regional security
structures with which Europe is endowed. The Middle East’s geographic proximity
means that Europe cannot ignore it, while it would be folly to ignore Southeast
Asia’s economic weight.
The EU is the world’s largest economy, with annual GDP of more than €15.5 trillion
($21.3 trillion), and its greatest trading power, accounting for 20% of world trade.
Clearly, the EU should aspire to increase its contribution to global security beyond
maintaining peace among its member states. This is no time for Europe to rest on its
laurels – particularly with the United States moving to extract itself from two wars
and confronting isolationist urges.
Enter this month’s European Council meeting: on December 19-20, heads of state and
government from the EU’s 28 member countries will convene to discuss the Common
Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). Throughout the discussions, a forward-looking,
ambitious vision must be maintained in order to bring a truly global European
security strategy into view. Unfortunately, in national governments and EU
institutions alike, the leadership needed to realize this strategic vision is
The summit will face several hurdles from the outset. For starters, the ongoing
consequences of simultaneous economic, political, and institutional crises continue
to determine the European agenda. Realizing a long-term vision is more difficult
than ever when so many short-term imperatives – reviving growth and employment,
winning elections, and re-engaging a distrustful public amid growing populist
sentiment, to name just a few – materialize simultaneously.
In this environment, deepening Europe’s defense and security integration would
appear to be low on the list of priorities. But the opposite is true: further
development of the CSDP is essential to the survival of the European way of life.
This month’s Council will lay the foundations for the CSDP’s further development by
addressing three main topics: operational efficiency, defense capabilities, and the
state of the European defense industry. If the EU’s defense and security policy is
to be strong, global, and effective, it is imperative to take advantage of both the
specialization and pooling of member states’ technology and resources.
As national budgets shrink under the effects of austerity, the EU should review
member states’ spending on security. It is senseless for each national government to
invest limited resources identically. This moment holds potential: spending cuts
could be transformed into an opportunity to coordinate and integrate Europe’s
defense industry, thus maximizing overall efficiency.
The objective must be to boost European security integration (in its broadest
sense), lifting Europe to the forefront of global security. As member states advance
along this path, propelled forward by technological and operational excellence and
innovation, they will find avenues to eliminate unnecessary spending and optimize
Europe’s defense industry will not be able to make progress without a
well-functioning market – open, transparent, and with equal opportunities for all
European suppliers. Advances in the defense industry lead to significant positive
externalities, such as civil-military synergies and investment in research and
development, which is fundamental to growth, innovation, and future
A critical component in the coordination and proper functioning of Europe’s security
and defense policy is the European Defense Agency. At the upcoming summit, leaders
should reiterate the importance of the EDA, whose budget has remained frozen at the
insistence of certain member states.
It would be irresponsible to treat December’s Council meeting as just another
summit. Europe and an increasingly unstable world need a viable framework for global
security. A fully developed CSDP – itself the cornerstone of further European
integration – must be a fundamental component of such a system.
Javier Solana was EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy,
Secretary-General of NATO, and Foreign Minister of Spain. He is currently
President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and
Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
source : Project Syndicate, 2013