New European Security Strategy

Abstract: The past and ongoing EU security operations give an indication of the geographic area of interest. Overall those operations, prudently realistic in their mission formulation and robust as far as Rules Of Engagement are concerned, can be considered as successful. The absence of the “Operational Command” level is a serious handicap in several domains. The reporting in the media is not enough supportive for the Union and its Security operations. The Headline Goal approach of today does not generate credibility. International EU preparation and training of military Forces has the potential to provide more visibility and credibility. Defence planning in the EU needs to be revisited. The EU is eagerly waiting for a new visionary impulse … with the advent of the terrorist Islamic State and the crises in the Ukraine … in the CSDP?


Somalia 1991 – , Former Yugoslavia 1991 – 1999, Moldova 1992 – (Transnistria), Armenia Azerbaijan 1993- (Nagorno Karabakh), Eritrea Ethiopia 1998 -, Sudan 2003 – , Macedonia 2003 - 2005, Indonesia (Aceh) 2005, Chad 2006 - , Afghanistan 2007 - , Georgia 2008 – (South Ossetia, Abkhazia), Republic of Guinea-Bissau 2009, Libya 2011 - , Egypt 2011 - , Syria 2011 - , Iraq 2011 – , Democratic Republic of Congo 2003, 2012 - , Mali 2012 - , Central African Republic 2014, Ukraine 2014 , Israel Palestine (ongoing).


A long list of countries where events had and have an influence or a perception of influence on the security in the European Union (EU). Many of those events gave rise to an EU intervention by European Military or Security Forces. Today fifteen of those missions have been completed and eighteen are ongoing.

Even without formulating a policy or a strategy the list provides some valuable insights.


As far as geography is concerned the EU shows interest and is willing to intervene from Afghanistan over Central Africa to West Africa; this furthest arc has a length of ten thousand kilometres and a radius of six thousand kilometres from Brussels. A second arc can be perceived from Iraq over the Sahel (Sudan/Chad) to Mali; five thousand kilometres long and a radius of four thousand kilometres from Brussels. The next arc is the one of the Middle East from Armenia over Syria, Israel/Palestine, Egypt to the North African Maghreb region; four thousand kilometres long and a radius of three thousand kilometres from Brussels. And finally the nearest neighbourhood arc from the Ukraine, Moldova to the Balkan region barely two thousand kilometres away from Brussels.

The arcs are interconnected by radial trafficking routes that bring illegally refugees and narcotics to Europe.

The neighbourhood of the EU in these matters seems to be bigger than one would think at a first glance. Insecurity is felt when a vital interest of the EU is threatened. A vital interest can be defined as an interest that, if damaged, influences negatively the quality of life of the Europeans. The EU is a global economic actor, some would say economically a giant. If that economic network is threatened seriously anywhere in the world the EU will have to act, eventually also with military and security forces. So, while it is recognized that an armed violent revolution in the Ukraine is more worrying than one in Afghanistan, strategically it is not wise to limit the thinking to a strictly limited geographic area, to a near or further neighbourhood. The globalisation of the economy entails the globalisation of the area of interest and responsibility. During the cold war the NATO area was limited to the territory of the member states, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean north of the Tropic of Cancer; this limiting made no sense because the Soviet Navy had a global capacity and maritime vital communication lines of the Alliance spanned all oceans, for example naval planning to defend shipping around South Africa was made unnecessary problematic.

Also the principle “obligation to protect” (O2P) knows no geographic boundaries.

This worldwide consideration influences the nature of the EU military and security forces, they should be deployable anywhere and be sustainable there. The same is true for intelligence collecting tools.


As far as the mission formulation of the fifteen completed operations is concerned we find: monitor, implement, stabilize, advice and assist, support, secure, protect as main characteristics.

The missions lasted in general from a couple of months to up to two years. One police mission “monitoring, mentoring, inspecting” in Bosnia Herzegovina is without time limitation (EUPM/BiH), it started in 2003 and is ongoing.

The size of the deployed forces varied from a few tens to several thousand. The largest finished operation was EUFOR Chad/RCA with a deployed military force of three thousand seven hundred and a duration of fifteen months. The mission was to protect civilians and UN personnel and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid . This was not only the largest but also the most multinational operation: sixteen EU member states were present in theatre, the operation commander was an Irish General (Lieutenant General Patrick Nash) and the force commander a French General (Brigadier General Jean-Philippe Ganascia). Remarkable was the positive attitude that the Operation Commander and the Force Commander had towards the “national caveats” that were formulated by the Capitals providing the forces.

These completed EU operations can all be qualified as largely successful.


Some of the eighteen ongoing EU operations started approximately ten years ago: Althea in Bosnia Herzegovina in 2004, EUBAM Rafah (Gaza) in 2005, EUPOL COPPS Palestine in 2005, EU pol Afghanistan in 2007, EUMM Georgia in 2008. These operations are in support of ongoing international efforts that do, until now, not lead to satisfactory outcomes. Eleven of them are purely civilian police or legal initiatives.

To some EU operations non EU member states participate.

The Operational Commander of Althea in Bosnia Herzegovina is the NATO Deputy Saceur using the Berlin Plus agreement between EU and NATO while for EU NAVFOR Somalia (Atalanta) the United Kingdom Naval Command act as operational Commander and for EUTM Mali and for EUFOR RCA it is France that provides that command level, both using the “Lead Nation Principle”.

These Command arrangements at the operational level are far from optimal. For the “Berlin Plus” solution each time an agreement with NATO is required and as Turkey seems to drift more and more away from the European viewpoints in many areas, this may become problematic. Also the Lead Nation approach has its handicaps: either the Nation concerned rushes ahead of the EU decision making process thus forcing the hand or is late to accept the lead, hindering the correct preparation of the operation. And as the force generation is going on, the Nations providing the forces will want to be correctly represented in that lead nation headquarter. These late arrivals do not guarantee performing HQ planning and optimal operational conduct procedures and, when many nations provide forces, correct representation is not always possible. These command shortcomings have until now not been penalized but if an operation will be going wrong, generating an unacceptable number of casualties, this is the area that will be scrutinized and criticised.

The requirement of an “Operational Headquarter” is in the EU an ongoing debate that for rather symbolic political reasons does not lead to a satisfactory conclusion. The discussion using all the good arguments of quality and efficiency is eventually stopped by a euro critic veto invoking the holy national sovereignty that has to be preserved at all costs even if purely nationally the (military) assets are not available for the setup of a meaningful operation. Also considerations of burden and risk sharing very often ask for a multinational or mutinationalized HQ.


For the mission formulation in the EU, done at the political strategic level of the Political and Security Committee (PSC, COPS in French), based also on the input provided by the EU International Military Staff, it can be seen that the utmost care is being taken not to end up with a “mission impossible” or with a mission that only can be accomplished by others. The characteristics in the mission formulation mentioned above illustrate this. The EU is clearly not in power politics, nothing similar to the “regime change by military operations” as was tempted in Afghanistan and Iraq. Only the mission for EUTM Mali has a comprehensive ambition that eventually will ask far more than a training of the Malian Armed forces; the formulation is: “support Malian efforts to fully restore constitutional and democratic order through the implementation of the road-map adopted on 29 January (2013) by the National Assembly”.

Another important area where the decisions are taken at the political level is the formulation of the Rules Of Engagement (ROE). It may be a surprise but the ROEs for the EU antipiracy operation EU NAVFOR Somalia (Atalanta) are more robust than the ROEs for the NATO operation (Ocean Shield) with the same mission in the same area. The piracy problem in the Indian Ocean motivates also a number of non-EU non-NATO States to participate in naval operations there to counter it. It is understandable that some of them (Russia, China, Iran) are not motivated to participate in a NATO or UK operational headquarter, a resistance that might not be generated against an eventual EU headquarter.


It must be said that he EU has more, more than NATO, levers other than just the military to be used in crises management. Police and law enforcement, justice and legal advice, development aid, economic aid or economic pressure just to name a few. All domains of a society in crises can be influenced by the levers of the EU. This comprehensiveness is a strength of the EU compared to NATO.


The overview of EU past and ongoing security operations paint an overall positive picture, yet this is not the way they are brought to the public in the EU and in the world by the media. The EU definitely has an image problem and this is not just true for security matters. Again and again Capitals and their media do their outmost to blame the EU for all things that go difficult or that go wrong while claiming the credit if something achieves the desired result. The reporting of the handling of the financial crises since 2008 is typical of this phenomena.

The discretion of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the preparation phase of an operation is understandable, but once it has started and certainly when it has been successfully concluded more attention, supportive for the EU, in and from the media has to be sought.


But prior to any Defence or Security operation, it is important for the EU to be seen as capable and credible in these matters.

In 2003 the EU formulated a capability Headline Goal of a deployable sustainable Army Corps of up to fifteen brigades (fifty to sixty thousand persons) supported by appropriate air and naval elements. Looking at the inventory of all the military assets of all the twenty seven (Denmark opts out of the EU in military matters) member States of the Union this goal did not seem to be over ambitious. But apart from formulating the goal nothing was ever been done to make it visible and credible. No big scale exercises bringing even half of it together in one of the larger military training areas in the EU, no command post exercises, testing, at this scale, communication and command facilities. This EU Army Corps was never even been taken into consideration for employment.

During the cold war, when credibility was the most important aspect of the NATO dissuasion strategy, the Alliance had a cycle of major life exercises every two years and in between command post exercises involving the totality of the NATO command structure and all the Capitals. The purpose of course was training, but also visibility and credibility and the press was often invited and provided with support. The major NATO Operational Commands SACEUR (today Allied Command Operations ACO) and SACLANT (abolished in 2003) together with the NATO HQ in Brussels were responsible for those training events.

The NATO Response Force (NRF), be it in size less than half the intended EU headline Goal 2003 Corps, can be seen today as the equivalent, it has regular life exercises, organized by ACO and has been employed several times be it mainly in humanitarian assistance operations.

As stated before the EU does not have an Operational Command level responsible for this type of training.

The EU battle group concept became the central part of the 2010 Headline Goal. Thirteen EU army battle groups of thousand five hundred persons, less than a brigade, were to be identified two of which have to be on short notice standby for deployment. And while the identification of the battle groups has been successfully completed and the standby rotation is working the EU battle groups have yet to be employed.

This a priory earmarking of deployable armed forces is a difficult approach. When the need of deployment arises the earmarked forces are likely not going to be of the correct size and composition and will probably not be of the right nationalities motivated to share the burden and the risk.

The pooling and sharing initiative may well result in a better possibility for generating the forces required providing the preparation rather than the acquisition is in first instance addressed.

Many EU nations have rapid deployable forces (RDF), deployable within more or less a week after the decision is (nationally) taken. They may be special forces, para- commando units, marines, air transportable units, naval and air elements. Very often the individual States do not have them in size and sufficient numbers to allow for a sustained deployment of let us say a brigade or “battle group” size force. They could be brought together for training purposes. First relatively big scale live exercises could be organized in a military training area in the EU. Command and communication issues could be sorted out as well as other interoperability problems. The decades of NATO experience guarantee that the problems will not be insurmountable. In a second stage a Command Structure is to be created, permanently responsible for the training of those units. This Command structure is to be generated drawing from those national organisations that have now that responsibility. This would provide for a more realistic training with sufficient umpires and eventually a realistic opposing force (In the US Army National Training Centre “Fort Irwin”, in the Mojave Desert, a permanently stationed Cavalry regiment is providing the opposing force. Here the proposition is to use part of the units under training as opposing force for another part also under training). This EU command, responsible for the training of “Rapid Deployable Forces”, could act as Operational Command Authority if and when the EU decides to generate and deploy a military force to a crises area. Very often the first requirement, early in a crisis to prevent escalation, is for RDFs. It is understood that not all rapid deployable army forces would, from the start, participate in this approach; not all air transport assets of the EU participate now in the European Air Transport Command (EATC); that EATC, with its one hundred sixty or so transport aircraft could provide assistance and benefit from eventual out of area training of the EU RDFs. This command and training would provide visibility and credibility to the European CSDP, and have a dissuasive effect. Also, at the political level, the decision to train together should be easier than a decision to operate together.

What is true for RDFs is certainly also true for Naval Forces, all the more so since no European Navy can bring together all the assets of different nature for a realistic multithread training. The Dutch and the Belgian Navies decided to merge their Naval Operational Commands into one and did not fall in the trap of a sterile discussion on national sovereignty. This cooperation evolved into also binational naval operational schools for the instruction of the personnel and also into binational logistics where de maintenance and updates of the Frigates is done in the Netherlands and that of the Mine warfare ships in Belgium.

Surface ships of several European Navies receive, against payment, their safety and basic operational sea training from Flag Officer Sea Training of the UK Royal Navy in Plymouth; it would be a better solution to fully Europeanise this training command.

Russia ordered two Mistral-class helicopter carriers (21.000 tons, length 199 meter, can carry up to 900 soldiers and 18 helicopters) in France for a total of $ 1,6 billion. Powerful instruments for the projection of military power from the sea. The acquisition of those ships, to be delivered end 2014 and 2015 is worrying the Baltic and Black Sea States. Linked to the crises in Eastern Ukraine and the EU economic measures against Russia, it has been suggested for the EU to acquire those ships. If this happens who or what organisation is going to exploit the ships? Again the lack of a EU operational command proves to be a handicap. While the European Defence Agency (EDA) could be seen as useful for the financing of such a transfer it is hardly structured to be responsible for the eventual operation and training of those ships. A parallel with the acquisition and operation/training of the AWACS planes in NATO cannot be drawn.


This brings us to the subject of the acquisition of military and security equipment in the EU.

Article 346 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Directive 2006/81/EC has as a consequence that there is no unified European market in the field of defence and security equipment. That article allows the EU member states, especially the bigger ones are using it that way, to protect their defence industry resulting in too many firms for too small a market. Too many capable shipyards for the building of too few warships, too many firms for not enough fighter airplanes, too many types of armoured fighting vehicles and tanks.

Furthermore the EU defence industry is handicapped first by a system of national export licences, difficult when a weapon system has components provided by firms of different nations, and second by the fact that the “offset practice” is no longer permitted among States of the EU but still allowed with States from outside the EU.

National independence in matters of defence industry has become unachievable: the guaranteed national market is too small and the research and development ( R&D) costs for most major equipment is far too high. Independence here only makes sense at the European level.

The missions of the EDA is: developing capabilities, promoting R&T, promoting co-operation and “creating a competitive European Defence Equipment Market and strengthening the European Technological and Industrial Base”. The overall annual budget of EDA is approximately thirty million Euro, an insignificant part of the re-equipment budgets of the EU member states, it must be clear that this budget is not sufficient for “developing capabilities”. All the power in this remains in the hands of the member states.

During the Cold War in NATO the defence planning was initiated by the Major NATO Commands based on the reflection: you first figure out what you want to do and then you choose or create the tools to do it. Operational planning, what you want to do with the military, supported the defence planning, the creation of the forces. It must be said that the potential enemy (the Soviet Union) was well defined in quantity and quality and so was the mission (territorial defence). The situation today in the EU is more complex and territorial defence is a greater motivator than out of area security operations; add to this that many EU member states, also member of NATO, look at the latter for territorial defence so it is understandable that defence planning in the EU is not an overwhelming success.

Yet it is recognized and accepted that cooperation in re-equipment is for many if not all EU states the only economically justifiable solution. Many have to or want to replace their fighter aircraft; the price per unit compared with the budget available results in a number of aircraft that is below the critical amount needed to justify all the combat support and combat service support needed for a correct training and employment. A combined international acquisition would be the best solution and that would introduce common instruction and training and common logistic support; the way towards a more efficient common employment.

For this type of international programs national “economic” and “employment” reasons, considerations of acceptable interdependency, perceived loss of sovereignty will complicate the decision-making.


The environment and the climate change, the scarcity of resources and the technology, the demographic evolution and the urbanisation, the globalisation and the quality of international governance, the network and the communications are important drivers of change of the future as we rush into it. Not a single one of those drivers can be meaningfully influenced by a single European Nation, they all require an international approach.

The EU is presented internally and to the outside world as a tension field of the Council versus the Commission and the Parliament, of the Union against the Member States and their Capitals. All too often the EU is pointed at as the scapegoat responsible for difficult unpopular decisions without explaining their necessity. For some political parties in many member states the anti EU agenda is their major reason of being.

Konrad Adenauer (1876 – 1967) , Joseph Bech (1887 – 1975) , Johan Willem Beyen (1897 – 1976) , Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), Alcide de Gasperi (1881 – 1954), Walter Hallstein (1901 – 1982), Sicco Mansholt (1908 – 1995), Jean Monnet (1888 – 1979), Robert Schuman (1886 – 1963), Paul-Henri Spaak (1899 – 1972) , Altiero Spenelli (1907 – 1886), important European politicians seen as the founders of the European Union. The youngest was born one hundred and six years ago. All have experienced the tragedy of war in Europe. They were visionary statesmen that rose above the nitty-gritty of their own national political party, in doing so taking risks with their own political future. They were the builders of European Economic Community (EEC), in their heritage, in 1993 with the treaty of Maastricht, that EEC becomes the EU and in 2002 the Euro is introduced now the currency of eighteen member states.

Now twelve years after the last motivating impulse the EU is waiting for a new acceleration.

A civil war in the Ukraine with overwhelming responsibility of the Russian Putin regime threatening also Moldova and Georgia, a barbaric terrorist Islamic State In Syria/Iraq, civil war in Syria and Libya, for the first time rising defence budgets in a number of EU member states; should, if not for political than at least for efficiency reasons, this new motivating impulse not come in the field of the CSDP?


In the immediate future the EU should go on being involved in security operations as it does at present and as it has done in the recent past. It should take the decisions and create the structures that allows it to do this also autonomously certainly in the neighbourhood that is so much more important for the EU than for the USA and NATO: Maghreb and Sahel.

By pooling and sharing, especially in the preparation of the armed forces, it should augment its efficiency, its credibility and its visibility.

The EU should support clearly the Ukraine and take a firm position rejecting the agitations of the Putin regime there and in the area. In addition to the economic measures this position should also be made clear to Russia and to the outside world by deploying temporarily, on a regular basis, for combined training, armed forces to the Eastern States of the EU: the Baltic States, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and/or Rumania. In doing so the EU would only imitate what Russia says it is doing near the Ukrainian border.

The refugee issue, creating problems all over the Union, should be more firmly addressed by internationally strengthening the outside border control and by European naval humanitarian patrolling in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.


27 August 2014

Willy Herteleer
Admiral (Retd)
Honorary aid to the King
President EURODEFENSE- Belgium