The EU as a New Form of Political Authority: The Example of the Common Security and Defence Policy




This article puts forward the argument that the EU should be understood not as a nation-state in the making but as a new type of polity that could offer a model of global governance. It uses the example of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to illustrate the argument. It suggests that CSDP is designed to make a contribution to global security rather than to protect borders using military force, as in the case of classic nation-states. It proposes that CSDP should be explicitly based on the concept of human security and should acquire human security capabilities that include both military and civilians operating according to human security principles in a way that is more like law enforcement than fighting wars. To achieve this, the CSDP would require stronger political backing and this would mean increasing the representativeness and accountability of the EU. By the same token, an effective CSDP would increase the legitimacy of the EU.

Policy Implications

  •  The EU should explicitly adopt the concept of human security as a basis for external security policy both at the level of high and low politics.
  •  CSDP should be greatly strengthened with more resources devoted to the kind of military and civilian capabilities required for human security missions.
  •  New mechanisms, including perhaps a pan-European election for a single president of the Commission and Council should be introduced in order to increase the accountability and deliberative engagement of the Union.

There is general agreement that Europe has to go forwards or it will go backwards. Saving the euro is critical not just for Europe but for the global financial system. Failure to save the euro could plunge Europe into a new Dark Ages characterised by economic depression, xenophobia and pervasive violence, with ripple effects on the rest of the world.

There is also a widespread consensus that to save the euro Europe has to go forwards, although there is some disagreement about what this means. For some, like Angela Merkel, going forwards means tighter rules about the size of budget deficits and more effective mechanisms to ensure compliance. For others, going forwards means the creation of Eurobonds, a European fiscal mechanism, common banking supervision and, above all, a unified and accountable political leadership. At the same time, few people think that either of these options is possible. The first requires drastic austerity on the part of indebted countries that may actually reduce revenue and make deficits worse – not to mention the human cost. Yet there are concerns that the second would imply a further loss of national sovereignty and that the EU might become a new superpower. Within national capitals, politicians have for so long blamed Europe for difficult decisions that they feel unable to mobilise political support for any new steps towards integration.

There is currently much handwringing about the decline of Europe. It is true that the rapid growth of China and India has shifted the economic centre of gravity (Quah, 2011). Nevertheless, Europe remains the biggest economic bloc and a continuing source of economic, cultural and political innovation. But its economic weight is not matched by an ability to act politically because of the widespread reluctance to further the European political project.

In this article, I argue that fears about Europe becoming a superpower and overriding national sovereignty are unfounded because the EU is a new non-state form of political authority, a new type of polity that could offer a model for global governance. Going forward is, therefore, not just critical for Europe but it could also contribute to the development of new political mechanisms capable of addressing the global challenges of our time. Europeans invented the nation-state model – a model that had huge advantages in terms of economic development but that also culminated in two world wars and the Holocaust. The EU has been developed through trial and error in reaction to that experience.

In developing this argument, I use the example of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), formerly the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), as an illustration, albeit a crucial illustration. I have chosen this example partly because security is at the heart of political authority and partly because it is the case I know best. I will argue that CSDP does represent, in Jolyon Howarth’s words ‘a radically new discourse’ (Whitman, 2011, p. 12) but it is constrained by many factors, not least the lack of politics at a European level. I will conclude by suggesting that we need an elected president who could oversee the CSDP and by the same token an effective CSDP that could help to legitimise European political leadership.

The EU as a model for global governance

In a celebrated article in 2002 Ian Manners described the EU as a normative power (Manners, 2002). This term seemed to contain three meanings. Firstly, the EU is a normative actor, acting in global affairs in support of norms rather than interests. Secondly, the EU relies, in Manners (2011) words, on ideational power, what Joseph Nye calls soft power rather than material (economic) or physical (military) power. Thirdly, and intriguingly, it refers to ‘the ability to define what is ‘normal’ in international relations (Manners, 2002, p. 253). I suggest that it is this third aspect that has most relevance in understanding the significance of the EU’s role in global affairs.

The debate about norms versus interests is paralleled by the debate about geopolitics versus cosmopolitanism or, in international relations’ terms, realism versus idealism. It can be illustrated by the debate about humanitarian intervention in the aftermath of the Cold War, that is to say, whether it is legitimate to use military force to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing or the massive violations of human rights in other countries. Those who oppose humanitarian intervention on the left argue that concern about humanitarian issues is not motivated by universal values but is instead a way to legitimise geopolitical interests (Chomsky, 1999). This is an empirical claim about the way that great powers behave. Those who oppose humanitarian intervention on the right make a normative claim that states ought to act in the national interest and that they should not interfere in the affairs of other countries unless it can fulfil some geopolitical goal. This was the opinion underpinning the advertisement signed by a group of well-known realists opposing the intervention in Iraq (even though this cannot be categorised as a humanitarian intervention) on the grounds that this intervention did not serve the national interest (New York Times, 2002). What the debate illustrates is the difficulty of distinguishing norms from interests since interests are always framed in terms of norms. Thus, the dominant US foreign policy narrative is expressed in terms of a moral story about the USA as a global policeman acting in support of freedom on the American model. Foreign policy may or may not be shaped by interests but those interests are given meaning in terms of what is widely viewed as good or evil. The question is therefore not norms versus interests but the way norms are defined.

Both the USA and the EU share a commitment to democracy and human rights. Where the EU differs from the USA in terms of norms is in its overriding commitment to peace and the spread of international law. This difference derives from different historical experiences. For the USA the victory in World War II was a foundational moment ushering in a golden age of American hegemony aimed, at least in theory, at the spread of democracy and prosperity. According to this view of the world, military power is an important instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights. For most members of the EU, World War II is remembered with shame and horror. The founders of the EU were primarily concerned with the construction of a multilateral system that could prevent war, genocide and imperialism in the future. Hence the interest of the EU is framed in terms of preventing war and fostering interdependence and, as I shall argue, the dominant foreign policy narrative is cosmopolitan rather than geopolitical.

There is a parallel here with the behaviour of what Asle Toje calls small powers. Small powers do not have the capabilities of great powers but are nevertheless ‘system-influencing’ powers. Because they lack the capabilities of great powers they define their interest in terms of international norms. Or to put it another way, since they could never win in a war with a great power, their interest is the prevention of war. Hence, small powers contribute disproportionately to the construction of international institutions, to peace building and global development; they favour the strengthening of international law. The EU acts in a similar way, not so much because of a lack of capability but because ‘of fears of Westphalian sovereignty and balance of power and of the consequences they had for European stability prior to 1945’ (Toje, 2011, p. 55). In other words, if US interests are expressed in normative terms, the EU promotion of norms is seen as being in the EU interest.

A similar and related difficulty arises with the definition of normative power as communicative power (Habermas, 1983) or soft power (Nye, 2004) or power over opinion (Carr, 1939). Both economic and military powers are forms of communication. ‘Is not war’ wrote Clausewitz ‘merely another kind of writing and language for political thoughts?’ (Clausewitz, 1997, p. 358). The perception of American military power stems largely from the memory of the American victory in 1945. The huge military arsenal serves to remind us of that victory; it is meant as a signal. The concept of deterrence is a communicative concept. The actual use of military power in Vietnam, for example, or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, has hugely dented the perception of military strength and done great damage to the reputation on which American power rests.

Those who oppose the acquisition of military capabilities by the EU fear that the EU will become a superpower according to the American model. This presupposes that military power consists of the type of capabilities possessed by the USA, designed for fighting a war against other states. But, as I shall elaborate in the next section, there is a role for military capabilities in enforcing peace and upholding human rights that is very different from classic war. In other words the issue is not military versus communicative power, even though there is a shift in the balance between coercive and persuasive instruments, but what kind of power, that is to say, what is being communicated through the use of military tools.

A parallel argument can be made with respect to economic power. In the first two decades after World War II the US used its massive economic power to spread markets and prosperity through insistence on an open international trading system and through generous aid. As the USA began to lose it competitive edge it increasingly began to act unilaterally, sucking in resources from the rest of the world through growing indebtedness made possible by the privileged role of the dollar. Thus, most of the world now considers that American economic power is used for the sole benefit of Americans, whereas earlier it was perceived as a contribution to global development, especially in Europe, the recipient of Marshall aid.

So what distinguishes the EU from traditional great powers is not norms versus interests nor hard versus soft power, rather, it is the nature of its political authority and how this influences the way in which interests are framed or the use of hard power. Manners calls the EU a hybrid polity. It is a new form of regional governance designed not to displace the nation-state but to constrain its dangerous tendencies for both economic and military unilateralism; it adds a new layer of political authority rather than establishing a new pole of political authority. It is a multilateral institution but goes beyond internationalism (between states) and possesses an element of supranationalism (beyond states). This new form of authority necessarily acts in support of the spread of similar types of authority and therefore its self-identification is expressed in idealist more than realist terms. It has an interest in preventing wars and strengthening international law as well as human rights. And it promotes values that are cosmopolitan (relating to individuals), as Sjursen (2006) argues, as well as multilateral (relating to states). This type of authority also depends more on economic and communicative tools than on military capabilities because its interest is in dampening down and preventing violence rather than winning, although this does not mean that military capabilities are irrelevant. As Manners puts it:

‘The idea of ‘pooling sovereignty’, the importance of a transnational European Parliament, the requirements of democratic conditionality, and the pursuit of human rights, such as the abolition of the death penalty, are not just ‘interesting’ features, they are constitutive norms of a polity, which is different to existing states and international relations. Thus the different existence, the different norms, and the different policies the EU pursues are really part of redefining what can be ‘normal’ in international relations’ (Manners, 2002, p. 253).

The role of CSDP

From the beginning of the European project there was a tension between the conception of the EU as a future superpower, a bigger nation-state, able to challenge American hegemony, and the conception of the EU as a new type of global actor. That tension centred around the acquisition of military capabilities. The proposal to create a European defence community in 1954 was defeated by a combination of those who wanted to preserve the nation-state and those who opposed militarism. This unholy alliance between old-fashioned nationalists and anti-war activists has been reproduced in recent years in the French and Dutch Noes in the referendum on a European Constitution, which was viewed by those on the left who opposed the Constitution as too militaristic (as well as too neoliberal).

The ESDP, now the CSDP, has been in existence since 2003. It was proposed at the Anglo-French summit in St Malo in 1998, during the Kosovo crisis, when the British withdrew their opposition to the acquisition of military capabilities by the EU in frustration at American unwillingness to commit ground troops. From its inception, the ESDP was different in kind from a classic national security strategy. It was confined to the so-called St Petersburg tasks – humanitarian and rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management – as opposed to classic territorial defence, which was seen as the preserve of NATO and of individual nation-states. The European Security Strategy of December 2003 emphasised the multilateral approach of the EU and insisted that in ‘contrast to the visible threats of the Cold War, none of the new threats are purely military; nor can any be tackled by purely military means’ (European Security Strategy, 2003, p. 7). Since its inception, ESDP has involved military-civilian cooperation; it established a military-civilian planning cell and it has pioneered civilian crisis management.

At the time of writing there have been 25 ESDP missions, of which 14 are ongoing. Roughly half of these have been purely civilian, involving monitoring (Aceh and Georgia) or rule of law and policing missions (EU External Action 2012). Where there have been military missions, the military have been used for the protection of civilians as opposed to war-fighting. For example, there have been two military missions to the Democratic Republic of Congo. One, authorised by the UN in 2003, was code-named Artemis and was aimed at stabilising the situation in Bunia and stopping a massacre of civilians. The other was a military operation in 2006 to maintain stability in Kinshasa during the elections. The European forces consulted widely with local citizens and acted robustly to prevent an attack on the opposition, thereby establishing their neutral credentials (Martin, 2010). According to an Oxfam report on the mission to Chad in 2008, the European force ‘has made many civilians feel safer through its activities, which include patrolling known dangerous routes, destroying unexploded ordnance, making contact with local leaders, and positioning itself defensively around civilians during rebel and government fighting’ (Menon, 2009, pp. 229–230).

The human security doctrine

In the Barcelona and Madrid Reports of 2004 and 2009 (Study Group on Europe’s Security Capabilities, 2004; Human Security Study Group, 2007) a study group composed of practitioners and scholars from all over Europe that reported to Javier Solana, the then High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and (in the case of the Madrid Report) to the Finnish Presidency, proposed that the EU should explicitly adopt a human security approach. Instead of military forces on the nation-state model, the EU’s external security capabilities would consist of combined military and civilian forces under a civilian command, designed to contribute to global security and operating according to a set of principles that contrasted with the way classic military forces are used.

The concept of human security was originally put forward by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its Human Development Report of 1994.1 Human security was defined in terms of the security of individuals and the communities in which they live rather than the security of states and borders. However there are widely different variants of what is meant by security. The Barcelona and Madrid reports focused on violent situations, in contrast to the original broad UNDP definition that defined security in terms of all life-threatening harm and emphasised the importance of development as a security strategy. But, in contrast to the narrower Canadian definition that focuses on political violence, they addressed a range of interrelated forms of violence (armed conflict, human rights violations and organised crime) as well as the ways in which these had to be understood in terms of economic and social factors.

What distinguished the study group’s concept from other variants of human security was something specifically European – the notion that internal security is not so very different from external security. For the nation-state, internal security based on the rule of law and policing was sharply differentiated from external security based on the defence of borders and interests using military capabilities. For the EU, security among European states has been achieved through enhanced multilateralism and the extension of cosmopolitan law (international law relating to individuals) and this is what has made it a new type of non-state political entity. Essentially, human security is the outward extension of the EU’s internal method of bringing about peace among European states. It involves enhanced multilateralism and the strengthening of cosmopolitan law. It requires capabilities that are more like domestic emergency services (such as the police, firefighters and health services) than traditional military forces. But some military skills are required, since what is known as robust policing is necessary if the EU is to contribute to the prevention or dampening down of violence in other parts of the world.

It is worth noting here that what is being proposed is a capacity to undertake St Petersberg tasks, including humanitarian intervention. But to carry out those tasks, it is argued, requires a new type of human security capability. To elaborate what such capabilities are supposed to be able to do and to show how different they are from classic military forces, the study group developed six principles of human security. Briefly, these are shown in Box 1.

Table Box 1..   Principles of Human Security
1. The primacy of human rights. In human security operations, the goal is protecting civilians, not defeating an enemy. This means that human rights, including the right to life, education, clean water, and housing must be respected – even in the midst of conflict. It also means that so-called collateral damage is unacceptable. If human rights are not respected, outside interventions can fuel insurgencies as happened in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the reasons that the IRA never grew to be unmanageable was the fact the British government could not bomb Belfast, where British citizens would have been killed in collateral damage.
2. Legitimate political authority. In the long run, human security can only be provided by local authorities whom people trust. In Afghanistan, Western support for the Karzai government, which includes many former warlords and corrupt police, presents perhaps the largest obstacle to human security. The job of outside forces is to create safe spaces where people can freely engage in a political process that can establish legitimate authorities. In other words the aim of human security forces is stabilisation not victory.
3. A bottom-up approach. The population affected by violence and insecurity must be involved in a human security strategy, and yet the international community often operates in protected enclaves without communicating with people. In the end, it is the people who live in areas of insecurity that are the ones who have to solve their problems, together with those from outside who have contributed to making them worse. That is why rather than working solely with international NGOs and exiles, outsiders must engage local experts and civil society groups.
4. Effective multilateralism. If outsiders are to have the consent of the local population, they must also be seen as legitimate. This means operating within the framework of international law, usually under a UN mandate. Security policies cannot be effective if they are spread out among many different agencies, governments and NGOs.
5. Regional focus. Human insecurity has no clear boundaries. It spreads through refugees and through criminal and extremist networks, through economic and environmental calamities. The violence in Afghanistan, for example, cannot be addressed without also involving not only Pakistan but also Iran and Uzbekistan.
6. Clear transparent civilian command. In human security operations, civilians are in command. This means that the military operate in support of law and order and under rules of engagement that are more similar to police work than the rules of armed combat. Everyone needs to know who is in charge and he or she must be able to communicate politically with local people as well as public opinion in the sending countries. (Human Security Study Group (2007)

These six principles sharply differentiate the role of human security forces from classic military forces. They are also different from classic peacekeeping, which was mainly supposed to separate the sides in a conflict rather than protect civilians or uphold human rights. Some suggest that concepts of ‘population security’, associated with the new American counter-insurgency doctrine introduced by General Petraeus, are rather similar; but counter-insurgency is a militarily-led (as opposed to civilian-led) doctrine in which population security is a means to an end (defeating enemies) rather than a goal in itself (in which it might be necessary to repel enemies as a means). These human security principles should be viewed as a methodology for cosmopolitan law enforcement.

There is growing agreement, as Alvaro De Vasconcelos, the Director of the EU’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, puts it, that the EU’s ‘security doctrine … is generally considered to place “human security” at its heart’ (de Vasconcelos 2009, p. 17). In the Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy in 2008, the Council of the European Union stated (EU 2008, p. 2):

‘Drawing on a unique range of instruments, the EU already contributes to a more secure world. We have worked to build human security, by reducing poverty and inequality, by promoting good governance and human rights, assisting development and addressing the root causes of conflict and insecurity. Over the last decade, the European Security and Defence Policy, an integral part of our Common Foreign and Security Policy, has grown in experience and capability, with over 20 missions deployed in response to crises, ranging from post-tsunami peace building in Aceh to protecting refugees in Chad. These achievements are the results of a distinctive European approach to foreign and security policy.’ (Italics added).

The example of Libya

The recent Western intervention in Libya can be used to explain what might have been different had the EU rather than NATO taken the lead. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on 17 March 2011, was a huge achievement just in time to prevent Gaddafi’s forces from overrunning the eastern town of Benghazi that pro-democracy protestors had liberated. For the first time, the idea of the ‘responsibility to protect’ moved beyond a Euro-American preserve. It was pushed by the Arab League and both Russia and China abstained. The Resolution called on member states and regional organisations to ‘take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory’ (United Nations Security Council Resolution, 2011). Moreover, Resolution 1973 was preceded by Resolution 1970, which referred Libya to the ICC and imposed sanctions.

However, the means adopted (air strikes) were quite inappropriate for protecting civilians on the ground. Because the USA initially took the lead and subsequently handed over the command to NATO, it was possible to think only in classic military terms. As in Kosovo in 1999 the international community relied entirely on air strikes and essentially became the military arm of the rebels. The air strikes did prevent an attack on Benghazi and helped, after 6 months, to lead to a rebel victory in Tripoli. But air strikes kill not only soldiers but also the very people that are supposed to be protected. Even if the strikes are very precise, there is always some collateral damage especially, since Gaddafi made use of human shields. And military conflict causes suffering. Civilians always get killed in military conflicts. Violent regime change also gives disproportionate political power to those with guns.

A human security approach, as opposed to a war, would have focused on protecting civilians throughout Libya and guaranteeing their right to peaceful protest. The first task should have been to declare Benghazi and the liberated areas a UN protected area or safe haven. Such an approach might have included the establishment of internationally protected zones and efforts to arrest those indicted by the International Criminal Court as well as providing humanitarian corridors.

An EU plan for a small ground force to protect humanitarian assistance in Misrata failed to get UN authorisation. The original UN resolution ruled out foreign occupation forces but, as Alvaro de Vasconcelos pointed out, a small force with a strict humanitarian mandate to protect aid and civilians and not to engage in war-fighting is very different from a foreign occupation force (Traynor, 2011). The idea would have been to dampen down violence and create space for a political solution. De Vasconcelos was explicit that the strategy must ‘not be predicated on a military solution, i.e. to help the forces of the National Council of Benghazi to victoriously advance on Tripoli (de Vasconcelos 2011, p. 2).

In such a situation, human security forces should be drawn primarily from African and Arab countries. The point is that the EU approach offers an alternative both to engaging in a war, as happened in Libya, and to doing nothing, which could have been worse, as we are now seeing in Syria. It represents a possible model, not necessarily unique since African Union thinking is developing in a similar direction.


One should not exaggerate the achievements of the CSDP. It is still rather small in scale. The total number of troops currently deployed represents less than a 0.25 per cent of the total armed forces of member states. While European member states account for one quarter of global military spending, a tiny proportion goes towards the CSDP. Most CSDP/ESDP missions lack capabilities. This capability gap is not a gap in sophisticated military equipment but consists of the kinds of capabilities required for this type of mission – helicopters, air transport and satellite-based communications as well as civilian personnel, particularly police and legal experts (Weis, 2009). There are huge problems of coherence, not only with other international agencies, governments and non-governmental organisations but also within the EU family, particularly with the Commission that undertakes many parallel operations. So far, the appointment of Catherine Ashton to take charge of both Commission and Council external policy has not solved the problem.

Most importantly, political backing for EU operations remains weak and divided and, indeed, helps to explain both the shortage of capabilities and the lack of institutional coherence. At a political level, external policy remains the province of nation-states. Despite the Lisbon Treaty, the fact that both Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Herman van Rompuy, the President of the Council, were appointed behind closed doors greatly weakens their perceived autonomy and legitimacy. Even through they may pursue cosmopolitan objectives they remained tied by the intergovernmental process at the political level. This is why there appears to be such a disjuncture between what the EU does at the level of what might be called low politics and what it does at the level of high politics. In terms of high politics, the EU seems to veer between being a normative, civilian or cosmopolitan power, or being a junior partner of the USA or the mouthpiece of individual European powers.

Background studies of individual ESDP missions undertaken for the Madrid Report found that the ESDP operations were often thwarted by high-level politics. This might be for domestic considerations. For example, the mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo was much too short owing to German reluctance to commit forces abroad (Martin, 2010). Or it might be because foreign policy is shaped by other considerations. In the case of Palestine, for example, the European civilian police mission, which was really attempting to support the Palestinian police (as opposed to the various security forces armed by the USA and Iran) in maintaining law and order in the Palestinian territories, or the Rafah mission to help keep open the border with Egypt were frustrated by high-level policies that were aimed more at Israel’s perceived state security (under the influence of the American commitment to the war on terror) than at the human security of Palestinians (and Israelis) (Faber and Kaldor, 2010). In Lebanon a serious problem was the contradiction between overall EU policy (largely aid and individual contributions to the UN mission on the border with Israel), which could be characterised as a contribution to human security, and the policy of France, which has been closely allied to the Lebanese government because of the intimate relationship between former President Chirac and the Hariri ruling family (Kaldor and Schmeder, 2010).

A final question is whether and how much Europe’s distinctive security policy contributes to global security. Can the CSDP make a difference? The Human Security Report 2010 shows that

  •   there has been a dramatic decline in wars between states;
  •   since 2003, what they call civil wars involving at least one state, have declined by 40 per cent;
  •   there has been a decline in one-sided violence by states, such as violence against civilians, but an increase in violence against civilians by non-state actors;
  •   there has been an increase of 119 per cent in small-scale violent conflicts involving non-state actors.

The Human Security Report attributes the decline of wars and one-sided violence involving states to the spread of global norms and to the greatly enhanced role of UN peacekeeping and peace-building. Undoubtedly, the revolution in communications has been an important factor in explaining growing human rights consciousness. It can also be argued that the EU as well as individual member states have played a significant role both in promoting norms against war and human rights violations and in contributing to UN capabilities. All the same, the trend towards increased low-level non-state conflicts is of considerable concern and likely to become more so as the effects of the economic crisis spread. While the Human Security Report suggests that such conflicts are very localised, they have serious implications for the increase in transnational crime, population displacement or humanitarian need that cannot be ignored. There is a need for global security capabilities that can address this type of conflict and it is for this type of violence that the CSDP has been designed.


I have tried to show that the CSDP represents a distinctive approach to global security that could potentially put into practice the kinds of cosmopolitan norms that a hybrid political entity like the EU could be expected to promote. Such an approach has to be seen as part of a wider transition in economic, social and environmental fields that is necessary to address the multidimensional crisis that the world is currently facing (Held et al., 2010). These changes tend to be blocked at a national level where the policies and ideas that have predominated in the post-war period have been institutionalised. The EU as a new type of political authority has the potential to help guide those changes.

To do so, however, it needs to overcome its lack of internal coherence (among the member states and the different European agencies) and it needs to demonstrate publicly its relevance and responsiveness to European citizens. New mechanisms for deliberation and accountability are required. One proposal is the election of a president of both the Council and the Commission. Through a pan-European election for a single office holder it might be possible to shift discourse from national debates whether to be for or against Europe to a European debate about the kind of polity and the kind of policies that Europeans favour. As there are huge objections to reopening any Lisbon negotiations, how this would be done would be the subject of further discussion. One starting point could be greater public involvement in the process of appointment of the Lisbon officeholders by, for example, organising something like American primary elections to engage citizens in the deliberations leading up to the decision. There is, of course, a risk that such an election would be rather like the European parliamentary elections attracting a low turn-out and low interest. Its significance will depend on the extent to which a broader public debate is generated. There is also a risk that the office of the president would reproduce the trappings of a nation-state or even a super power. The EU perhaps needs to invent some new form of representation and debate.

The CSDP would be enormously enhanced by effective political leadership. By the same token, a legitimate political leadership would depend on an effective CSDP. People trust their institutions if they believe that they keep them safe. Protection is at the heart of the social contract among citizens, that is, it is the basis of political authority. Military forces are no longer symbols of legitimacy as most people are aware of the shortcomings of military power. Certainly, since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the soviet threat, deterrence no longer has the same salience as it had and the actual use of military power, as in Iraq or Afghanistan, has often made things worse. According to opinion polls, over 70 per cent of the European population support the CSDP (de Vasconcelos, 2009). Making it clear that the EU does not have an army in the classic sense, that that the CSDP is based on human rather than national security principles and that human security forces are led by civilians rather than the military, could help, along with different economic policies, to overcome the objections of a sizable portion of the left.

If the EU were seen to make a visible contribution to global security understood as the extension of international law rather than the defence of borders, it would greatly strengthen the EU’s political standing at home and abroad. But that can only happen if something like an elected president is seen to take charge and to pursue a consistent normative politics. In other words, it is possible to envisage an interrelated transition process in which changes in security and politics along with economic changes could set in motion an alternative global dynamic. As a supranational form of regional governance, the EU have the potential both to offer a model of change and to influence other global institutions like the UN.


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     The Human Development Report 1994 (UNDP, 1994, p. 22) argued that the concept of security has ‘for too long been interpreted narrowly: as security of territory from external aggression, or as protection of national interests in foreign policy or as global security from a nuclear holocaust. It has been related more to nation-states than to people’.

Author Information

Mary Kaldor is Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and convenor of the Human Security Study Group which reported to Javier Solana.