Common Security and Defence Policy: strategic aspects


The Declaration of St Malo of 1998 gave the green light for developing the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).  The EU needed to have the necessary military resources at its disposal to underpin a credible Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).  Belgium has always added to this that alongside US military power a sound CSDP forms the second basic pillar of a strong NATO, thus contributing to a balanced dialogue within the Trans-Atlantic partnership.  

Partly thanks to the European Security Strategy of December 2003, the CSDP was placed in a wider context. Belgium agrees with the view that the deployment of military resources of the CSDP is only one option in the range of instruments at the EU’s disposal for its foreign policy. It is precisely through this diversified approach that the EU is better equipped than, for instance, NATO to tackle the consecutive stages in a crisis management process (from prevention to stabilisation and reconstruction).

The Treaty of Amsterdam, which entered into force on 1 May 1999, aims to further develop the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the gradual development of a common defence policy. The Common Security and Defence Policy requires that the EU can act independently. To this end, the Member States need to make military personnel, police, judges, etc. available for military and civilian missions. At the same time, the EU needs to develop adapted decision making procedures to make missions possible.

At the European Councils of Cologne and Helsinki (1999), the Fifteen decided to set up a rapid intervention force which could swiftly mobilise 60,000 men to stay in the field for one year. This intervention force must be able to carry out all so-called Petersberg tasks:

  • humanitarian and rescue tasks;
  • peace-keeping tasks;
  • tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.

The European Council of Feira (June 2000) further decided to establish a police force for international missions. In the second half of 2001, under the Belgian Presidency, the Union completed the structures and procedures of the CSDP. At the European Council of Laken, the Union declared that it was operational and ready for crisis management tasks. 

Military and civilian

In the meantime, the military CSDP has gradually reached a level of cooperation and integration which only five years ago was difficult to imagine: its own capacity for planning and conducting operations, multinational Battlegroups, a fund to finance joint costs of operations, a European Defence Agency and a European Security and Defence College. Belgium and the other participants in the defence summit of 29 April 2003 gave impetus to a development which strongly boosted the CSDP within a short space of time. 

This turn of events has gone hand in hand with a growing awareness that with military means alone the EU could do little to tackle the new threats of terrorism, organised crime and weapons of mass destruction. This is why in security matters there has also been an increasing focus on deploying civilian resources (police, civil protection, judges, customs officials) in crisis management. Finally, use is also made of other EU instruments such as diplomacy, immigration policy, fight against organised crime, trade and development policy, etc.