A scientific article by Nikolay Kisyov, a student at Rakovski National Defense College, specialty „National security and Defense“

Abstract: The goal of this article is to describe security and defense policies in the EU, identify key issues in cooperation between the EU and NATO, analyze their prospects for development, and summarize key areas of cooperation between both organizations. The scientific article is based on publicly available information from the official websites of international organizations and research papers from scientific and political institutes.  The summary will focus on prospects for cooperation and will consist of a structured opinion about the future advancement of these relations.

Key notions:: EU, NATO, areas of cooperation, crisis management, defense policy, burden sharing, driving factors.

Agenda development

This part will describe key steps in forming the Common Security and Defense Policy of the EU. The Maastricht Treaty from 1992 put forward some new perspectives for integration in the area of security. At this moment, the European leaders started planning the transition from coordination of foreign and security policy to common instruments for implementation. For this purpose, there were introduced two new forms of interaction – common positions and joint governmental activities (in the form of humanitarian missions and military operations in third countries). The states remained at full disposal over their sovereignty in the security and defense spheres but they agreed not to take any unilateral activities, which could potentially contradict the Union’s interests and weaken its consolidation.

The Agreement from Amsterdam (1997) makes border control more powerful on a European level. Outer borders’ control was strengthened. According to the Agreement, each country with an outer border was obliged to protect and control a piece of the common outer border.

In 1998, the UK makes the first step in forming this policy. In this regard, England not only agrees with the policy but also becomes the initiator of this. The official signing of the proposed decisions for the first step was in 1999. The newly formed Military Headquarters of the EU progressively becomes a broad system of structures for planning, information sharing, communication, and logistics. One of the biggest achievements of the EU, in this regard, consists in creating the fully independent Centre for Military Operations Management – the Civil-Military Cell.

European forces are located in some of the most difficult conditions for conducting missions all over the world. This is in respect of such factors as climate, terrain, infrastructure, political stability, and health hazards. The EU has taken the responsibility to participate in crisis resolution, state rebuilding, humanitarian aids, and interventions, upholding democratic transitions and institutionalizing the democratic procedures in post-authoritarian societies.

Bulgaria actively takes part in developing and furthering the CSDP and on each stage has its contribution in implementing the policy’s goals, according to its national interests and in compliance with the Union’s directions and requirements, set up on a several-years-basis.

The Lisbon Treaty (2007) makes the defense architecture of Europe actual and reinforces its defensive identity. Since 2004, the European Defense Agency has begun functioning. It is responsible for the enhancement of military cooperation between the states and for stimulating the elaboration and supplying new military technologies.

The institutional framework of the CSDP

Depicting the institutional arrangement of CSDP requires mentioning the basic functions of key decision-making actors in the political system of the EU. The Common Security and Defense Policy /CSDP/ of the EU has mainly intergovernmental features, unlike the monetary policy, which is more „federalized“ and supranational. The institutional framework for CSDP is characterized by broad and strict functional delegation.

The core Union’s competency in CSDP includes the gradual formulation of the common defense policy, which may develop to the Common Defense. Crisis response management on the European scope includes proliferation activities, humanitarian and evacuating missions; technical help; conflict prevention missions, Peace-support operations, and Peace-building missions.

One of the most significant organizations responsible for implementing CSDP is the European Council. Concerning this policy, the Council conducts functions for political and budgetary auditing and through its counseling mechanisms takes a significant part in forming the CSDP.

The Policy and Security Committee is another vital structure, which works perpetually and implements the CSDP. The Committee monitors the international environment for arising risks, uncertainties, and direct threats. The Committee takes a vital part in defining and surveillance of EU’s reactions to global and regional crises.

The Military Committee is in charge of all military consultations between member states in the sphere of conflict prevention and crisis management. The President of the Committee is appointed by the Council of the EU. It consists of defense ministers from the member states. The Committee implements military leadership over all military activities in the framework of the CSDP.

The Military Secretariat of the EU consists of 200 military servicemen from the member states and is led by a General Director. Under the leadership of the Military Committee, the Military Secretariat supplies EU’s structures with its military experience, monitors potential crises, gives the Situational Centre information, and adopts its analysis.

The European Defense agency enhances the military capabilities of the Union, stimulates cooperation between national armed forces, enhances technological defense infrastructure, and provides proper conditions for forming a competitive arms market in Europe.

Strategic planning and programming in the EU

EU-NATO relations are a theme broadly surveilled by analysts and politicians. In the last two decades, this topic has gathered more and more interest. The big problems of this cooperation are related mainly to broadening the CSDP and burden-sharing in NATO. Some of the factors determining the uncertain future of this cooperation are associated with local crises between the member states (the example here is Turkey and the Cyprus issue).

Why should the EU adopt scenario planning in its defense policy? There are three explanations for that:

 1) the first lies in the widening opportunities in pairing key factors of analysis;

2) secondly, scenario methods help institutions to minimize unwanted behavior of foreign policy elites;

3) lastly, scenarios are vital for bridging the distance between security policy, theory and practice.

Driving factors for cooperation and partnership

The strategic documents of NATO and the EU capture the same or very similar driving factors determining the future. This comes as an evidence for us to conclude that both organizations assess the future challenges with a very close instrumental approach. The two EU-NATO Joint declarations from 2016 and 2018 prove this thesis. What is more, the two alliances have similar geographical coverage. This leads us to the general statement that NATO and the EU have a lot in common as global aims but they achieve this through different instruments. If the EU uses mainly economic and legal instruments, NATO, on the other hand, centers its tools on maintaining and enhancing military capabilities and interoperability between its member states.

It is interesting to note that driving factors of cooperation between the two structures can sometimes produce behavior in them, which is incoherent and incongruous due to their different kind. The best argument here is exemplified if we go back to the instruments described above. Comparable driving factors may provoke an antagonistic reaction by key member states. Here the problem is that both structures have different centers of gravity. In NATO such are the USA. In the EU such are the UK, Germany, and France.

Turkey, being the biggest European Ally in NATO, has rather controversial relations with the EU. Turkey’s policy is an obstacle to NATO-EU relations for a prolonged period. Sporadic predispositions towards Russia, its behavior in Syria and Iraq as well as its efforts to pump out the EU on issues of migration – all these make Turkey’s strategic behavior a matter of special attention.

A strong, consolidating factor for future EU-NATO cooperation may become the behavior of newly accepted member states. They have a strong perception of threat from the East, which combined with their NATO-centric stance / especially Poland and the Baltic States/, can preserve all main centripetal tendencies and render the Alliance with a stronger collective identity. NATO and the EU can obtain a consolidating identity only if they have a common goal, perception for threats, values, and standardization requirements.

One of the dividing issues between NATO and the EU is their different attitude towards the Middle East. If the EU makes common decisions on these issues more easily and with less effort, NATO has a higher degree of non-agreement. It is widely accepted along with the academic fields that the EU more easily reaches agreements among the member states on problems regarding these regions, which seems almost unfeasible for NATO. Some analysts say that this weakness of NATO is a certain sign of future disintegration between the partners. This is the one extreme. On the other one, are located scientists arguing that such inner debates stimulate the institutional and doctrinal evolution in the Alliance.

Taking into account all these factors, it becomes certain that strategic risks and threats/ international status, local conflicts, climate change, demographic transitions, economic crises/ should be taken into account when the common future of EU and NATO is being analyzed.

Burden sharing in the budget area

The Wales Summit / 2014 / set a common goal for the allies to spend at least 2 % of their GDP on defense. The United States urge their partners to maintain stable military expenses and to distribute them more fairly for the European defense. This shows Trump’s statements during the Summits in 2017 and 2018. According to the agreement from Wales, the national governments raise spending to 2 % of GDP and in compliance with the predictions, most of the member states of NATO will have achieved such expenditure by 2024. Predictions show that total defense spending of European NATO countries will show a high boost for the period up to 2024. Currently, the spending ratio between the US and Europe is 25 – 75 %. These figures show that the US have taken on their backs significant amount of military spending in NATO.

Certain documents are demonstrating the stronger will of Europe to make steps into military integration with NATO. Such documents are issued by the Permanent Structured Cooperation /PESCO/, the European Defense Fund /EDF/, and the Coordinated Annual Review. These attempts comply with the American call for burden-sharing. The key driving factors for responding to this call are related not only to budgetary issues but also to arising threats in the security environment.

One form of military cooperation between NATO and the EU is the work program, introduced by the European Commission, which includes vital military-related matters. Key objectives for the EU, regarding its cooperation in the military sphere and its strategic partnership with NATO, concern strengthening of Europe’s technological and industrial base, huge investment in defense capability projects, and consolidation of the arms market.

The EDF shall make huge investments into scientific and development projects, the level of which now is under the desired and significantly lacking in comparison to other NATO-nations such as the US. Although such initiatives are quite new, we should not overvalue positive tendencies. As a long-term negative factor for implementing these new projects, we should take into account the demographic tendencies of depopulation in Europe as a whole. These negative predictions could lead to a much shorter amount of labor input and higher social welfare spending which will redirect public funds from the security to the social sphere.

Scenarios on the future NATO-EU cooperation

The first two types of scenarios show that if the EU is strong in the military area, NATO would lose some functions and vice versa. These scenarios are related to the problem that there will always be only one stronger partner in the defense field. The other two main scenarios describe a worrying future in which there is constant competition between the two structures in the leading positions in defense policy.

In compliance with those two analytical approaches, NATO and the EU will maintain a misbalance in their cooperation. According to the analysis of the European Commission and the issued White Paper, a definite regress in the CSDP is possible if the Union retains only the leading position in the single market and leaves the defense field. On the other hand, the Commission states that if the integration in Europe proceeds, there could be more „green lights“ in front of CSDP.

The fifth scenario envisages that NATO becomes obsolete, but such predictions are of little probability because currently and in the long-term agenda the Alliance is the only structure, responsible for Europe’s defense. If such a scenario gets more probable, we would see the EU as the basic actor, liable for European security. In my opinion, this could become reality only if the mechanism of strategic partnership within NATO becomes more inadequate to the national interests of the member states.

Another scenario includes a situation in which the EU’s initiatives in defense become more prominent and prospective, but NATO retains its major place in Europe’s defense architecture. In this case, the EU becomes more responsible for security issues but remains a subordinate security body to NATO.

Building partnership between NATO and EU

The shortage of critical capabilities at an EU level is the key obstacle to taking independent action in crisis management operations. This is why the Berlin Plus Agreement came into being. It allows the EU to use NATO capabilities for conducting EU-led missions. The main function of this agreement is to define the framework for NATO-EU cooperation after forming the CSDP.

One of the big problems of Berlin Plus is that it doesn’t strictly regulate mutual relations when both structures are on the same theatre of operations. This is why NATO and the EU should use in such cases more channels for interdepartmental communication to reduce institutional duplication. The lack of communication leads to poor implementation of the decisions made formally between the two actors. The NATO-EU capability group /2003/, The EU Cell at SHAPE, and the Military Staff could improve the development of the partnership.

Concluding remarks – on the perspectives for NATO-EU relations

NATO and the EU face a series of unprecedented security challenges emanating from the South and the East that need to be addressed in a concerted and complementary way that avoids unnecessary duplication. The importance of a strong transatlantic bond, based on our shared values, which enhances our common security and ensures fair and balanced burden-sharing, becomes even more pertinent in this challenging strategic environment. The overall goal of NATO and the EU remains the same: to maintain peace and stability and to promote security for their citizens.

NATO remains the transatlantic framework for strong collective defense and the essential forum for security consultations and decisions among Allies. A stronger, more capable, and better-resourced European defense will contribute to a stronger NATO and welcome the ongoing efforts to develop European defense capabilities.


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