Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 9 News List

EU defense policy is a success, but can be even better

The EU’s deployment of peacekeepers and mediators around the world has made its mark, but budget and strategy concerns remain

By Javier Solana

2009 is a landmark year for the EU’s role in the world. It marks 10 years of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), during which the EU became a global provider of security, making a real difference to people’s lives all over the world. At the same time, we are on the threshold of a new era, when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force and provides fresh impetus for our external action.

In 10 years, we have deployed 20 operations on three continents to help prevent violence, restore peace and rebuild after a conflict. From Kabul to Pristina, from Ramallah to Kinshasa, the EU is monitoring borders, overseeing peace agreements, training police forces, building up criminal justice systems and protecting shipping from pirate attacks. Thanks to our achievements, we are receiving more and more calls to help in a crisis or after a war. We have the credibility, the values and the will to do this.

The EU was ahead of its time in 1999. The comprehensive, multi-faceted nature of our approach was novel. And the EU remains the only organization that can call on a full panoply of instruments and resources that complement the traditional foreign policy tools of its member states, both to pre-empt or prevent a crisis and to restore peace and rebuild institutions after a conflict.

This is where the EU’s unique added value lies. We combine humanitarian aid and support for institution-building and good governance with crisis management capacities, technical and financial assistance, and political dialogue and mediation. The EU’s joint civilian-military approach makes us flexible and able to offer tailor-made solutions to complex problems. Today’s conflicts demonstrate more clearly than ever that a military solution is neither the sole nor the best option, particularly during the stabilization of a crisis — a truth President Barack Obama has also emphasized.

The ESDP first cut its teeth in the Balkans. When the Yugoslav wars broke out in the 1990s we watched as our neighborhood burned because we had no means of responding to the crisis. We learned our lesson and organized ourselves, acquiring a set of capabilities coupled with decision-making procedures and a security doctrine.

In 2003, we prevented a fresh outbreak of hostilities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through our diplomatic efforts and then deployed Operation Concordia. In 2004, Operation Althea took over from the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Today, we are still deeply engaged in the Balkans, fighting organized crime and building up the institutions of law and order. For example, EULEX Kosovo is the largest EU mission to date, with some 2,000 staff, working in the police and judicial system and in mobile customs teams.

The EU’s crisis-management and peace-building activities are not restricted to its backyard. We have made a real difference in Africa, helping, for example, to provide a secure environment for elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and protecting refugees and aid workers from the fallout of the Darfur crisis.

Last year, we mounted EUNAVFOR, our first naval operation, to combat piracy off Somalian waters. Who would have guessed 10 years ago that the EU would one day lead a taskforce of 13 frigates in the Indian Ocean that would cut the success rate of pirate attacks by half?

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