The security of the European Union is undoubtedly threatened, both by external and internal factors. The European project, unprecedented in its ability to bring and maintain peace and prosperity on the continent, is being questioned. In this context, an integrated and credible approach to the Union’s foreign and security policy and its communication among the citizens is imperative. A strong European External Action Service working closely with the other European institutions is the key to exercising a coherent and decisive role on the global stage by the European Union. This dynamic and ever-changing global environment presents both unprecedented opportunities and threats. As we have all seen in recent years, the health crisis generated by the emergence of pandemics is a rare factor but with high disruptive potential, requiring a quick, integrated, and decisive action to mitigate their negative effects. To be able to correctly evaluate the Union’s action possibilities as well as the tools it needs to maximise the identified potential, it is necessary to accurately analyse the main elements that constitute it as well as the factors that influence its evolution. In support of this objective, I will present a SWOT analysis of the current security situation.
joint planning and operationalisation programs of military forces
great economic power
most members are part of NATO
extended diplomatic structure
trust of internal and external partners
well-defined European External Action Service
recognised civil power
divergent interests of Union members
the predisposition of some members to unilaterally conclude agreements with external actors
difficulties in obtaining the necessary consensus for major foreign policy decisions
reduced ability to transmit messages with a “single voice”
limited powers of the High Representative regarding the external representation of the Union
insufficient jointly coordinated military force
strategic actor with global projection and regional reaction capacity
involvement in the resolution of current and emerging conflicts
active participation in the development process of countries with emerging economies
intensifying the use of monetary resources in support of diplomatic actions in neighbouring countries
strengthening the civilian power of the Union
the development of military capabilities
the gradual development of increased action and decision-making capacity for the European External Action Service
the global phenomenon of migration
cyber security threats
health crisis situations generated by the emergence of pandemics
Russia’s regional interests in the eastern neighbourhood
China’s economic and military rise
latent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa
the war between Russia and Ukraine
Carefully analysing the picture composed of threats to the security of the Union as well as the elements that can generate opportunities in terms of foreign policy, we note the existence of a situation that can be seen equally from two different but not divergent perspectives. On the one hand, the history of the formation of the Union, in general, and the development of the Foreign Policy, in particular, put the prospects of its evolution under a conservative filter. Thus, viewed from this angle, the opportunity to strengthen the position of the Union in the sphere of foreign policy will have as its central element and the main driving force the component of Soft Power in the key to the consensus among the members. This path is one already used and perfected over decades of the Union’s evolution. At the same time, this approach reduces the risk of major disruptions and internal crises generated by too sudden a change. The disadvantage of this course of action lies in the possibility that other global actors will act much faster and take positions before the Union has the capacity to act or even react in the context of accelerated dynamics of the global power ecosystem and decisively tilt the balance in their favour. This may seem improbable from the perspective of current predictions. However, an increasingly dominant characteristic of the current environment should not be lost sight of, namely its dynamism at an accelerated and increasingly unpredictable pace. Thus, the Union’s ability to correctly forecast and act on strategies built based on predictions would be severely affected. In the absence of fast action unitary ability, the EU may become unable to act quickly and effectively in this ever-changing environment, raising the risk that vulnerabilities would be multiplied in intensity, which could cause a chain reaction of internal instability and a greatly reduced capacity for external action.
In this context of high dynamism, a better capacity of the Union to act as a unitary actor on the international stage would lead to the exponential growth of the effect of its strengths in terms of being able to capitalise on existing and very importantly, emerging opportunities. In an increasingly connected era where the optimal time for action and especially for reaction is significantly reduced, the question arises whether the risks of an approach oriented towards maximising the potential are compensated by the increased value obtained in case of success. Of course, these risks are not negligible. In the specific case of this issue regarding the EU, we can identify a series of risks, some of them major. The first and with the greatest disruptive potential is that of the destabilisation of internal cohesion because of the divergent external ambitions of the member states. There is a possibility that some members of the Union may perceive the advantages of joint action as insufficient or as factors that minimise their own interest. This could generate opposition among member states and implicitly a weakening of the internal mechanisms, which could in turn lead to difficulty or in the worst case the blocking of initiatives and future plans of the Union. An approach that is not in tune with the established mode of operation of the Union also presents the intrinsic risk of a failure of a new configuration which could reverberate through many internal structures and would automatically generate the need to direct resources towards their stabilisation. Apart from these risks, we can also identify the risk that an overly ambitious foreign policy will lead to the neglect of the interests of a member state to the point where it follows the path of renouncing the idea of the European Union project in its entirety. Assuming, however, that these risks would be mitigated, the possibility of a strong and proactive Union with a common voice and a unique capacity for external action opens. This approach would lead the EU on a path of prosperity in terms of the aspiration towards the idea of having its place secured in the triad of dominant world powers using mainly soft power means and at the same time remaining a predominantly civilian power but with significant military capabilities. This approach would necessarily mean the development of a European External Action Service capable of rapid decision-making and extensive action led by a High Representative with similar but not identical duties to those of a Foreign Minister of a sovereign state.
The current situation of the war in the immediate vicinity of the European Union demands the need for an extremely carefully constructed Security Strategy, which takes into account the foreign policy aspirations of the member states, and which contributes decisively to the defence capacity of the Union. From the author’s point of view, the watchword of this strategy will necessarily be unity.