The EU Common Security and Defence Policy

09.02.2015. 14:15

The EU's present day role in the solution of global security issues has increased both in quality and in quantity, as the EU engages in conflict solving outside the union's territory. The EU has been engaged in more than 20 missions and operations using both civilian and military means and capabilities. However, Europe faces complex and asymmetrical threats, problems and new challenges which to a certain extent have been affected by the increasing globalization, the conflicts that have broken out in the EU's neighbouring countries, and the existence of a number of unstable and weak countries.

Security environment today is changing and Europe should be ready to face new challenges. This is also demonstrated by the new Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy which was adopted by the European Commission on 11-12 December 2008. The report’s goal is based in the best practice of the earlier security strategy. This report reflects the need to implement a more co-ordinated security and defence policy; a greater involvement in the regions neighbouring the EU; a greater emphasis on the development of crisis management and military competence, and an effective use thereof; multilateral approach within the EU co-operation with such global partners as NATO, the UN, and the OSCE, as well as the importance of transatlantic co-operation. The EU has evaluated and defined the new security-related challenges: the impact of climate change on security, capacity building in cybersecurity, energy security, etc.

Another significant challenge regarding the development of the European Security and Defence Policy is change effected by The Treaty of Lisbon. Since 1 December 2009 when The Treaty of Lisbon (hereinafter Treaty) entered into force [1] the security and defence policy has been remodelled into the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The aim of the Treaty is to promote a more co-ordinated and coherent EU external action, as well as to overcome the current obstacles related to the formation of new military capabilities, and to develop a more effective mechanism towards the compatibility of hard power and soft power instruments.

As to date, the CSDP will remain as an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). During a gradual development of the EU Common Defence Policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy will be implemented in a form of intergovernmental co-operation. During the missions outside the EU, the EU will still be able to use the civilian and military resources provided by the Member States in order to ensure peace keeping operations, to prevent conflicts, and to consolidate the international security in line with the UN principles.


Main Changes Regarding CSDP

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton chairs the EU Member States Foreign Ministers Meetings in the framework of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council, and she is a Vice President of the European Commission concerning the foreign issues. At the same time the High Representative is a chairperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The EEAS assists the High Representative in fulfilment of the CFSP/CSDP functions. The High Representative is in charge of the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, the EU Military Staff, the EU Situation Centre, the relationships with the third countries and international organizations, the preparations regarding the CFSP budget, and the leadership of the Instrument for Stability.

The Council of the European Union gathers for meeting in several configurations depending on the issues to be discussed. The General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council are permanent formats [2], but the European Councils decides on other formats by qualified majority voting (QMV). The CSDP issues are discussed during the Foreign Affairs Council where the EU Member States are represented at the level of foreign ministers.

The rotating presidency chairs the Working Party of the Foreign Relations Counsellors (RELEX), but an elected chairperson is in charge of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC), and the representative (also acting chairperson of the group) appointed by the EU High Representative is in charge of the following working parties: PSC, EUMC, PMG, and CIVCOM.

The Treaty of Lisbon has introduced a number of fundamental changes regarding the CSDP:

  1. Expands on the whole the EU's military (Petersberg) tasks and the existing EU measures in the field of the CSDP, including also the following: common disarmament operations; military consulting and assistance assignments; combat missions for the crisis management; peace-restoring and stabilization after a conflict has been resolved.
  2. Enacts the Mutual Assistance Clause by assigning a mutual assistance obligation in the event of an armed offence, like Article 5 of The North Atlantic Treaty (Treaty of Washington). The clause, however, provides a reservation indicating that this obligation does not concern “specific features” of the security and defence policy of some Member States and emphasising the relationships between NATO Member Countries as the Alliance will continue to function as grounds and a forum for implementing collective defence.
  3. Introduces a new EU Solidarity Clause (in the event of a terrorist attack).
  4. Provides for a possibility to form groups of interested and military capable Member States in the framework of the CSDP which should integrate and involve less interested and capable Member States in joint initiatives. Specific member states may:
    • undertake the fulfilment of some tasks on behalf of the whole EU (deep co-operation), for instance, France, assumed the peacekeeping operation in Congo.
    • co-operate in the development of military capabilities, by creating permanent structured co-operation in defence field, for instance, through co-operation in the arms procurement, participation in the European Defence Agency projects in order to promote the harmonization of the EU military capabilities or, for example, in the framework of the EU Battlegroups, and on other occasion.
  5. Incorporates the European Defence Agency within the legal framework of the CSDP, and for the first time includes it under the Treaty. The Agency was established on 1 July 2004.
  6. Provides for a fast access to the EU budget in case of urgent need to finance the CSDP initiatives, and for the establishment of a new start-up fund for implementing the CSDP initiatives that will be supported from Member State contributions.

Some of these new changes introduced by the Treaty are already a part of the CSDP practices, but there still remain a number of outstanding issues to be discussed both among the Member States, at the EU institutions, and during informal meetings.

Therefore, the presidencies of Hungary and Poland in 2011 have issued their reflection papers regarding the CSDP aspects within The Treaty of Lisbon, which update the aforementioned issues.

It should be borne in mind that the shared EU ambition and achievements in the implementation of the common security and defence policy have been brought in line with the member states' interests, wishes, and aspirations to maintain their independency in this politically sensitive area. The Treaty of Lisbon raises the CSDP to a priority level and introduces some innovations that presumably might facilitate the development of the EU military capability and form the EU Common Defence in the future; nevertheless, the greatest impact on the CSDP development will be made by the member state upcoming decisions on practical implementation of the new CSDP instruments, and also by the changes that will be topical after the European External Action Service has been formed.


Interests of Latvia

Latvia continues its engagement in the development of the EU Security and Defence Policy by actively participating in the elaboration of the Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy. Latvia is convinced that the EU at this moment should concentrate more on its strategic interests and new types of threats, and devote special attention to raising the implementation effectiveness of the security strategy.

The improvement of the EU and NATO relations and a deepening of strategic partnership in all levels - political and expert’s as well is a priority for Latvia.

Operation experience in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Somalia proves that the comprehensive approach and civil-military synergy, whereas the EU and NATO work together, is the way to succeed in conflict resolution and to achieve the highest level of security in the field. 

The broadening agendas of both organisations and growing operational demand determine the need for joint solutions and the harmonisation of efforts, especially, in the area of building and developing capabilities, their mutual complementarity and potential deployment in international operations within the same territory.

Both organizations need to achieve necessary and effective consultation, co-operation and transparency in order to identify areas of common interest as well.

It is vital to continue the improvement of the EU civilian capabilities in correspondence with the Civilian Headline Goal and the formation of a joint EU-level civilian expert training.

Another topical issue is a more effective use of the EU Battle Groups [3] as these Battle Groups have never been activated nor involved in operations. From 1 January to 30 June 2010, for the first time in the history of the Latvian Armed Forces, the Latvian troops were on duty within the EU Battle Group. Alongside with Germany, Slovakia, and Lithuania, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Platoon, the Military Police Section, the HQ officers and the National Support Elements represented Latvia in a Polish-led Battle Group.

In the nearest future, the CSDP development will be directly linked to the Member States' forthcoming decisions on the practical implementation of the CSDP instruments that have been incorporated within the Treaty of Lisbon, as well as to the current changes following the establishment of the EEAS. Nevertheless, the implementation of the new CSDP initiatives can be carried out only when the Member States have discussed these issues and agreed upon their aims and added value.


The participation in the EU missions and operations is of considerable importance to Latvia:

During 2011, Latvia continues to participate with its staff in the following EU missions: the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX KOSOVO) with one expert (a border guard officer-dog handler); the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia with two civilian experts (one from the State Police and one from the State Border Guard). The Latvian observers have also been placed in Gori, near South Ossetia.

Latvia also participates with two police officers in the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan). In spring 2010 in Riga, Latvia also held a training course in the field of criminal investigation for police officers and a prosecutor from the Faryab Province in Afghanistan.

In addition, Latvia supports the implementation of the EU Naval Operation – EU NAVFOR ATALANTA and the expected extension of its mandate until 2012. According to the ATHENA mechanism, Latvia gives financial contribution to the budgets of operations without deploying its military contingent. This is also the case with Latvia's participation in the EU military mission for training the Somali Security Forces (EUTM Somalia) and contributing the joint budget of the EU military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, EUFOR ALTHEA.


References and additional information


Provisional organization structure for EAAS:

CFSP Overview - ;

The European Defence Agency:

    • [1] The Treaty was signed on 13 December, 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009. The Treaty of Lisbon amends but does not replace The Treaty on European Union and The Treaty establishing the European Community

    • [2] The Treaty of Lisbon divides the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council into two separate councils.

  • [3] The initial EU Battlegroups were committed in 2004, following the Battlegroup Concept endorsed by the EU Military Committee. The document proposed a number of multinational military units reinforced with support elements deployable on the ground within 10 days. A battlegroup consists of 1 500 personnel. It is considered to be the smallest self-sufficient military unit that can be deployed and sustained in a theatre of operation.