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Setting Signals for ESDP

Discussing Differentiation and Flexibility. C·A·P Working Paper by Franco Algieri and Janis Emmanouilidis

01.07.2000 · Bertelsmann Forschungsgruppe Politik


European foreign and security policy might reach a decisive breakthrough. Whereas the 1990s were characterised by a rather hesitant search of the European Union (EU) to define its role as a regional and international security actor, at the beginning of the twenty-first century developments are underway which will have a lasting effect on European and international politics in the final outcome. If the Union succeeds in leading the Common European Security and Defence Policy (CESDP), a constitutive part of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), out of the planning stage and putting it into practice, this will have an enduring impact on international politics.

Fundamental decisions concerning the further development of CESDP are deemed necessary. However, it seems most likely that the European Council of Nice in December 2000 will not decide upon any comprehensive changes in the EU Treaty. Nevertheless, far reaching reflections on CFSP which transcend institutional and procedural questions and, in particular, treat the importance of differentiation and flexibility for the future capability of European foreign policy to take action and shape policies seem urgent.

The logic of increasing cooperation in foreign and security policy from the early stages of European Political Cooperation (EPC) in the 1970s to the creation of CFSP at the beginning of the 1990s creates a compulsion from within the system to take action, since foreign and security policy constitutes a basic element of a future Political Union. Due to the shift of power constellations in international politics after 1989/90 and the new potentials for conflict in the vicinity of the (enlarged) EU, an external compulsion to react adequately has arisen, and the Union must address this with suitable institutional, procedural and operative measures. The EU’s limited possibilities in the field of security policy and the need to broaden the Union’s range of influence manifested themselves at the latest during the Kosovo conflict. In addition, the transatlantic and NATO dimension needs to be clarified. The process of role definition concerning the EU and the United States in international politics has not yet been resolved. On the contrary, the concept of transatlantic burden-sharing is looming over the debate without yet having been precisely defined.

In reaction to this many-faceted predicament the EU can either choose the familiar policy of small reform steps or it can follow a more differentiated path towards the finalité of the integration process. As the issue of enlargement is becoming more and more pressing and as the debate concerning the future of European integration is intensifying, it seems important to link this strategic reform debate with the development of CFSP/CESDP. The conventional understanding of the European integration process has to be overcome for assuring the Union’s capability to act, for raising the efficiency of the policy-making process and for promoting the acceptance of European foreign policy amongst EU citizens. Already at this stage, it is no longer adequate to govern the EU along the lines of the Rome Treaties and it will become even more problematic in a Union enlarging to 25 and more member states.

At present, all the different scenarios on the future of the integration process attempt to find new answers to the old twin challenge of enlargement and deepening. In every single one of these scenarios a prominent role was attributed to the issue of differentiated integration. According to the central argument common to all these ideas, a smaller group of member states "staunchly committed to the European ideal" is in a position to push ahead with political integration. Jacques Delors has called for an avantgarde of the six founding EC member states; Helmut Schmidt and Giscard d'Estaing have argued for a core Europe consisting of the Euro-11(12); Jacques Chirac and Alain Juppé and Jacques Toubon support the creation of a pioneer group and Joschka Fischer has called for a centre of gravity without specifying the number of member states participating in such an inner group.

Differentiation and flexibility are one way out of the old dilemma of reconciling widening and deepening of the Union. The main reason for a revision of the current Treaty provisions concerning closer cooperation is based on the worries of the majority of EU governments that the enlargement could block attempts to harmonise policies in areas which have not yet been brought within the Union’s remit. The major question is: Can the integration process be deepened further by adhering to the existing method of integration, or must this method itself be reconsidered? In an attempt to answer this question, the fundamental lack of concrete proposals and concepts needs to be overcome, especially regarding the institutional, procedural and legal implications of closer cooperation in specific policy fields. The potential policy fields subject to closer cooperation which are presently being discussed include justice and home affairs (especially the fight against organised crime), environmental protection, the further development of a European economic and financial policy and, especially, issues related to foreign, security and defence policy (CFSP/CESDP). Furthermore, talking about closer cooperation leads to the term flexibility. Closer cooperation and flexibility are integral parts of differentiated integration. Quite often both terms are used in the debate without clearly distinguishing between their different meanings. This discussion paper attempts to explain how the difference between both terms can be understood and in which way they can be applied. The thoughts that will be developed should be understood as an attempt to sketch out the possibilities of differentiated integration in the sphere of CFSP/CESDP and as such they shall trigger an open and critical debate. (...)

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