The Solana Report – an official view on a future Foreign and Security policy
As mentioned before, progress has been made in recent years to arrive at a Common Foreign and Security Policy. In December 2003, Javier Solana, the EU minister of Foreign Affairs launched an important document on European Security Strategy under the heading: “A secure Europe in a better world“. This first effort to define a European Security Strategy constitutes a long overdue start to arrive at a well-coordinated, comprehensive external policy. It contains several elements of a new comprehensive security concept. Yet, it is not free from certain ambivalence. Already in its introduction, the Report strikes a keynote: “The end of the Cold War has left the United States in a dominant position as a military actor. However, no single country is able to tackle today’s complex problems on its own” . A realistic assessment and at the same time an unmistakable warning not to be tempted by unilateralism!
Europe’s security in a worldwide context
The title of the Report suggests already that it seeks to situate Europe’s security in a worldwide context. In line with this sensible approach opens it with a brief sketch of some global challenges, such as poverty, hunger, and spreading of disease in the developing world. It also acknowledges that these problems give rise to pressing security concerns. The Solana paper even states categorically that: “internal and external aspects of security are indissolubly linked” and “Europe should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world.” Therefore, it comes as a surprise that the Report falls short in drawing the conclusions from this analysis by not including these same urgent world problems in the subsequent enumeration of ‘Key Threats’. The list remains limited to WMD, terrorism, regional conflicts, failed states, and organised crime. An inventory, which more or less corresponds with the narrow agenda of the US administration. A disappointing development, which is clearly a step backwards from earlier EU statements, which were more inclusive.
This omission to include major global challenges among the ‘Key Threats’ is of critical importance as it obscures the urgency for a far greater effort to deal effectively with these pressing problems. The impression, that the Solana paper is too much focussed on the military aspects, is supported by the repeated assertion: “Security is a precondition for development” . Obviously, a half-truth as there can be no question of true security without a just and sustainable development!
Responsibility for global security
If Europe really wants “to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world”, it should be prepared to implement its commitment to a culture of non-violence, based on a new comprehensive concept of security. Only then, there will be – in our interdependent, highly vulnerable world – a chance to deal effectively with the major threats to human security! There is definitely some truth in the statement that: “The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic states. Spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are certainly important for strengthening the international order…”
However, all of this will be to no avail if the prosperous countries in the North do not demonstrate a greater willingness to take appropriate actions themselves. Here, a revision of several EU policies, particularly in the field of trade and agriculture, makes eminent sense. This would also be more in line with the realistic assessment in the Report that: “In contrast to the massive visible threat in the Cold War, none of the new threats is purely military; nor can any be tackled by purely military means. Each requires a mixture of instruments. Proliferation may be contained through export controls and attacked through political, economic and other pressures while the underlying political causes are also tackled.
Dealing with terrorism may require a mixture of intelligence, police, judicial, military and other means…The EU is particularly well equipped to respond to such multi-faceted situations”.
Notwithstanding this level headed recognition of the complexity of issues and the limitations of military power, there is a little phrase, which opens the door for preventive military adventures. In the section on Strategic Objectives we read, after a reference to the traditional concept of self-defence: “With the new threats, the first line of defence will be often abroad. The new threats are dynamic”. Is this an endorsement of the Bush Doctrine? If so, how does this relate to the implicit rejection of the unilateral approach in the section on An International Order based on Effective Multilateralism? The report notes also that: “we are committed to upholding and developing International Law. The fundamental framework for international relations is the United Nations Charter. The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Strengthening the UN, equipping it to fulfil its responsibilities and to act effectively, is a European priority.”
The Solana Report on EU-USA relations
In an interesting paragraph about the relations with the USA, we read: “The transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable. Acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world. Our aim should be an effective and balanced partnership with the USA.” Indeed, there can be no doubt that the EU, together with the USA could be a formidable force for good in the world. If we would join forces to meet the major global challenges, we could – in fact – contribute to a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world order. Yet, as indicated before, I have some doubts whether this could be achieved in the context of NATO. The predominant position of the USA and the actual American Security Strategy does not favour such a perspective. Hence the earlier suggestion to create a bilateral High Level Group!
European vital interests
One of the priorities for the EU is the development of good relations with the neighbouring countries of the enlarged EU. This is clearly recognized in the Solana paper: “Our task is to promote a ring of well governed countries to the East of the European Union and on the borders of the Mediterranean with whom we can enjoy close and cooperative relations”. The Report draws from this sensible assessment the conclusion that the resolution of the Arab/Israeli conflict should be a strategic priority for Europe. The same could be said about our relations with our Eastern Neighbours. Here again actions should be avoided which may lead to distrust and estrangement.
A narrow military perspective overlooking other urgent global challenges
The concluding section on policy implications is rather meagre as it appears to look at the world primarily from a military perspective and falls short to deal with other urgent global challenges: “We need to be able to act before countries around us deteriorate, when signs of proliferation are detected, and before humanitarian emergencies arise. Preventive engagement can avoid problems that are more serious in the future. A European Union, which takes greater responsibility and which is more active will be one which carries greater political weight.” Certainly, the EU needs to be more active, more capable, and more coherent. However, this should apply to the full spectrum of global challenges, not just to the military threats. After all what was said at an earlier stage about major global challenges and the limited use of military means one would rather expect to see a number of policy recommendations for a much wider agenda. Conflict prevention and threat prevention should be seen in this wider context!
There is certainly a need to transform our militaries into more flexible, mobile forces in order to enable them to address the new threats. However – as stated before – this should not be achieved by making more funds available for defence but by greater cooperation and rationalization. In this connection the fundamental question must be raised whether the huge military forces, with their ultra-modern expensive equipment, are not more designed for meeting requirements of a major war than for dealing with actual military challenges. But how realistic is this approach in view of the apocalyptic potential of modern weapons and the extreme vulnerability of modern society? Should the EU therefore not come out much stronger for a comprehensive concept of peace and security, offering a greater chance on survival?
Secondly – directly related to the previous point – is the urgent need to reconsider present priorities in spending in the light of the actual global challenges. Worldwide military expenditures have reached astronomical proportions while only a fraction of this amount is spent on major global challenges. The EU could effectively contribute to a better world if it would muster the vision and courage to revise present priorities in spending.
In final analysis, it could be said that the Solana report – notwithstanding its incontestable merits – suffers from a certain ambivalence. It definitely provides refreshing insights for a constructive EU policy but at the same time, it cannot be denied that it contains also some elements based on a concept of security, which belongs to the past.
Some of the weak points in the Report are:
- Global threats are identified but not incorporated in the ‘Key Threats’.
- In spite of the recognition that global threats to security require a multifaceted way of handling, it highlights a military approach.
- It opens the door to unilateral military action despite the emphasis on a multilateral approach through the UN.
- It neglects the urgency for a substantial increase in efforts of conflict prevention in the broadest sense notwithstanding the recognition of the importance of the use of non-military means.
The great merit of the Solana Report is that it provides a first sketch of a European Foreign and Security Policy, reflecting a sense for a new comprehensive security concept in a multi-polar world. From its concluding observations emerges a deep awareness of Europe’s potential and vocation:
“An active and capable European Union would make an impact on a global scale. In doing so it would contribute to an effective multilateral system leading to a fairer, safer and more united world.”
Hence the relevance of reflecting on the next steps on the road of the EU towards a better world!