European Defence: Official positions of member-states

To bring clarity let’s look at the history of the problem referring to official sources.

In the article «Shaping of a Common Security and Defense Policy» from 8th of July on the web site of the European External Action Service notes that: «The idea of a common defense policy for Europe dates back to 1948 when the UK, France, and the Benelux signed the Treaty of Brussels.

Following the end of the Cold War and the subsequent conflicts in the Balkans, it became clear that the EU needed to assume its responsibilities in the field of conflict prevention and crisis management. 

The conditions under which military units could be deployed were already agreed by the Western European Union Council in 1992 but the so-called “Petersberg Tasks” where now integrated in the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam. Additionally the post of the “High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy” was created to allow the Union to speak with ‘one face and one voice’ on foreign policy matters.

At the Cologne European Council in 1999, Member States reaffirmed the Union’s willingness to develop capabilities for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces. The key development was the “Berlin Plus agreement” giving the EU, under certain conditions, access to NATO assets and capabilities.

Following the agreement of EU heads of state and government at the Cologne Council that the EU should possess an autonomous military capacity to respond to crises.

The Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009 and was a cornerstone in the development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The CSDP was on the agenda of the December 2013 European Council meeting when the heads of states discussed how to enhance defence capabilities, strengthen the defence industry and improve the effectiveness, visibility and impact of the CSDP. »

It is important to highlight the following phrase, which directly affects the military objectives of the European Union: «The Military Headline Goals (HLGs) are designed to ensure that the EU possesses the military capabilities required to conduct the full range of missions encompassed by the Petersberg tasks. »

Looking into the official point of view shows that despite the above-mentioned documentary evidence positions of member countries on the European Defence are partly different.

One of the groups of the Member States – stands for an independent establishment, pan European defense system, claims to form a unified competitive army (armed forces) and is taking concrete steps to achieve that goal. The favorites in the group are France and Germany.

Initiative what started almost 70 years ago, by the efforts of France and Germany is developing successfully. Creating Eurocorps is a good example of the positive results of mutual cooperation. Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, Romania and Greece also joined this initiative.

A military operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conducted in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1484 of 30 May 2003, and adopted by the EU on 5 June 2003. The mission started on 12 June 2003 ended on 1 September 2003. This was the first time the EU conducted a military operation without NATO assistance. France was the "framework nation" and main contributor of forces. This operation proves that the EU is a strong international competitor in the military area.

Among the countries that support the idea of ​​a common defense policy for Europe Poland's position deserves special attention.

This is what Clara Marina O’Donnell writes about the Polish initiative on this issue in her article «Poland’s U-turn on European Defense: A Missed Opportunity? » published on website of the Centre on the United States and Europe:

«In the last three years, Poland has completely overhauled its approach to transatlantic defense cooperation. For most of the last two decades, the large Central European country’s overarching security priority was to work with the United States and NATO. Warsaw was wary of European defense efforts which excluded Washington. Additionally Poland’s ties with the EU and several of its neighbors – in particular Germany – were marked by mistrust and, at times, open hostility. But since 2009, largely in response to the perceived decline of US attention to European security, Poland has become one of the most vocal advocates of common European Union defense efforts.  In addition, it has striven to work increasingly closely with Germany and to be a leading player within the EU.

But Poland’s efforts to strengthen European military cooperation have been met by limited interest from its EU partners, most of which have a dwindling appetite for defense. These partners may be missing an important opportunity to improve Europe’s fledgling ability to tackle military crises abroad. They also risk making Poland feel so vulnerable that it could create new strains for the EU and the transatlantic alliance. » end of quote.

On the official web site of the Ministry of National Defense Republic of Poland was written that « Poland gets actively involved in the CSDP military operations. We participate in projects dedicated to the development of defense capabilities, contribute forces to Battle groups and the EU operations. We also take part in undertakings which aim at developing CSDP through the optimized use of instruments developed under the Treaty of Lisbon. »

Another group of countries in the official statements do not reject the idea of creating a Europe-wide defense system, but in the meantime preferences are given to NATO by the military security of the country (intervention from the outside). This group of countries does not demonstrate especially interest creating a Europe-wide defense system. A good example of this group of countries is the Republic of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s official web site of Ministry of Defense says:  « The Republic of Bulgaria takes active part in the development of the Common Security and Defense Policy of the European Union and at each stage contributes to the accomplishment of its goals in accordance with the national priorities and abilities, as well as in harmony with the guidelines and requirements the EU sets itself every several years. »

And in the section “Bulgaria in NATO» is written that:  «Bulgarian contribution to the activities of NATO is multifaceted. Bulgaria is actively working to strengthen political dialogue, consultation, and coordination within the Alliance; it contributes to operations and missions of NATO in crisis response and to the development of military capabilities. Bulgaria has consistently promoted NATO's open-door policy, sharing the view that the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective is the most stable guarantee for the establishment of lasting security and prosperity.

Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria does not forget about Russia too. This section also expresses views on the NATO-Russia Council. The official opinion is the following: «Bulgaria supports the development of cooperation between NATO and Russia as essential for the security in the Euro-Atlantic area in two interrelated aspects: that of the political dialogue and that of practical cooperation. The interaction between NATO and Russia in spheres such as combating terrorism, military cooperation and defense reform should be developed on the basis of the understanding of actual mutual benefit.

That is clearly shows that although Bulgaria does not reject the idea of creating a Europe-wide defense system, but at the same time, is not ready to make a full bid on the EU.  We can also add majority of Eastern countries to this group. 

Countries of the third group raise particular interest to the common defense policy: To this group we can include Sweden, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland and Malta which are the only EU states, but are not NATO members.

For example let’s pay attention on Sweden’s position. Historically, Sweden stayed out of NATO in solidarity with its neighbour Finland, which stayed out in order not to antagonize Russia.

On the web site of the independent online newspaper “EUobserver” under the title «Sweden: Who needs NATO, when you have the Lisbon Treaty? » published an interview with the Minister of Defense of Sweden. Where country’s defense minister has said that «Sweden is not in NATO partly because the EU treaty contains its own security guarantee. » Speaking to EUobserver at the Globsec conference in Bratislava in 20 April, 2013, she said: "If you really read it, the Lisbon Treaty says you must support your EU neighbors with all the necessary means."

Referring to Lisbon's article 42.7, she noted: "Since the EU is not a military alliance, it's not like article five , but there is this line which says all EU member states must support any other member state if it's attacked or if it's affected by a natural disaster."

She added: "It's really difficult to think that if one country ... was affected by a catastrophe or an attack, it would not affect all the other EU countries. It would be an act of self-interest to try to stabilize the situation."

The journalist, who interviewed the Minister of Defense on this matter, expresses own opinion as well. He writes «From the point of view of these countries, it is really hard to imagine a scenario in which an EU country might face an attack by conventional forces in current circumstances. »

The statement of this journalist, of course, partly reflects the public opinion on the situation.

The position of official London about the European Defense is clearly described by the journalist Laurent Lagneau in her article from September 14, 2016 on the web site of the independent online newspaper “Zone militaire” (

«For a long time, one have been thinking about the idea of giving the European Union a permanent headquarter in order to planning operations... But up to now, the UK have always been opposed, using irrelevant arguments, the first of which is that such a structure would come in addition to the already existing NATO, and would be likely to bring in unnecessary additional expenditure.

Furthermore, operating such an European defence staff would involve the allocation of military personnel (mostly officers), which means a power struggle between the states concerned.

In July 2011, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, William Hague, got tough and adamant about this potential EU headquarters: "We don't accept now, and we won't accept in the future," he said.

But, since then, the Brexit came at the Agenda... And as the UK is poised to leaving EU, the idea of a permanent headquarters has resurfaced. »

Yes, Brexit shows that discuss such matters with the UK do not make any sense!

It is evident that the EU does not yet have such military capabilities as NATO.

That’s why majority of EU-member countries, which are also NATO members believe that NATO has been tested, it is a reliable partner and can best guarantee the military security of the country and Europe as a whole.

The opinions of officials of the countries are influenced by the geographical location and geopolitical goals, the processes of historical development of the country, and etc.

At this stage of development of the European Union's national interests do not always coincide with the EC.

In these specific cases, national interests predominate over the pan European and everyone is trying to ensure their own interests.

In the future much will depend on the actions of the first group of countries as well as on the official positions of the governing EU institutions.  



Яшар Джафарли,

Студент мaгистратуры 2-го года обучения по специальности «Внешняя и внутренняя безопасность ЕС и международная стабилизация» факультета политологии (Институт политических исследований) Страсбурга Университета, Франция.




1) Web site of the European External Action Service:

ttps:// ;

2) Web site of the Centre on the United States and Europe ;

3) Web site of the Ministry of National Defense Republic of Poland ;

4) Web site of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria ;

5) Web site of the independent online newspaper “EUobserver” ;

6) Web site of the independent online newspaper “Zone militaire” (

Публикувано на 9 Юни 2017 в 13:49 часа от
Яшар Джафарли

Ключови думи:Европейска сигурност

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