EU Global Strategy: how foreign and security policy can build a stronger Union

It is hard to recall the sentiment that animated the 2003 European Security Strategy opening, “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure, nor so free”[1], thirteen years on.

The world has undergone deep and dramatic changes in just a short span of time, and new challenges have made their appearance in the European Union’s agenda. In fact, the EU itself has changed a lot, it has become more complex and the outcome of the Brexit referendum seems to have put in discussion the very values on which the EU was built.

But it is also true that the EU has more instruments at its disposal today to advance consistent and effective action in safeguarding common European interests than it had in the past. The last one is the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS)[2]. On 28 June 2016, in fact, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini presented a 50+ pages document whose drafting  process included not only EU institutions and national governments, but also international think-tanks and Universities[3]. The Strategy is also the result of the insights emerged at the end of the European Council held on December 2013[4], and of a more explicit request from the same Institution at the end of the meeting held on 26 June 2015[5].

At the beginning, the Strategy includes a reference to the EU’s interests and principles: peace and security, prosperity via an open and fair international economic system, a rule-based international order according what is defined “principled pragmatism”. But the list of EU’s interests is not the main feature in this document, which presents a Strategy claiming to be “global” not only in a geographical sense but because of the wide array of policies and instruments promoted. In fact it “focuses on military capabilities and anti-terrorism as much as on job opportunities, inclusive societies and human rights. It deals with peace-building and the resilience of States and societies, in and around Europe”[6].

Multilateralism seems to be a keyword within the Strategy, with the EU aware that this we are living in is no time for “global policemen or lone warriors”[7]. In fact, the document highlights once again the necessity to invest in relevant partnerships, which means investing in the strength of the EU partners[8], so that international politics can be a win-win game and not a zero-sum one. It also emphasize the opportunity to promote cooperation among and within geopolitical regions, especially between the opposite shores of the Mediterranean Sea and with our Eastern neighbours. Multilateralism also gives the lens for a deepening of the bond with NATO and with the United States, and explains why it is not considered in contradiction with the autonomy the Strategy aims at. This thesis is also confirmed by the fact that on July 8th the EU and NATO signed[9] a Joint Declaration to upgrade their mutual cooperation to a new level in fields like maritime and cyber security or human smuggling[10]. Furthermore, in the words of Federica Mogherini, at the end of Barack Obama’s second mandate the relationship between EU and USA “could not be in a better shape”[11].

So, what path does the European Union mean to take in terms of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)? How does the Union plan to prevent future crises? It seems that the EU has the intention to exploit its own potential and take new responsibilities. The EU is currently in the world’s top 3 economies and is the main trading partner of almost every country in the world[12]. At the same time the Union is the main supplier of aid donations and the main foreign investor in most countries of the world. Despite these remarkable achievements, which truly represent the values inspiring the EU, the deterioration of the surrounding geopolitical environment highlighted the inefficacy of some policies when it comes to security for EU citizens. And not only for them, as EU policymakers had to realize that even in Africa, where they implemented some good tailored and massive projects[13], a true development is only possible when a country’s security situation is stable and legitimate authorities actually rule.

As Federica Mogherini said “the old idea that Europeans are from Venus doesn’t reflect a changing reality. Actually is quite outdated. Our Union is already more than a purely civilian power. The future of our security is one where hard and soft power are much more blended than in the past”[14]. It seems Brussels is finally ready to fill its efficacy gap. Since the day she has been appointed, in fact, the High Representative has shown a true awareness about the increasing demand for EU as a security provider[15]. A better use of EU spending for defence, the empowerment of the Capability Development Plan[16] and a smarter cooperation within the European Defence Agency[17] are just three pillars of the future challenges for the CSDP.

To fill this gap, the Strategy identifies the sectors which really need an investment. First of all the EU (and its Member States) should invest in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, including Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and satellite communications. With respect to counter-terrorism, Member States should implement legislation concerning explosives, firearms and Passenger Name Records (PNRs), and invest in detection capabilities and cross-border tracing of weapons[18]. Furthermore, with regard to high-end military capabilities, Member States need all major equipments to respond to external crises and keep Europe safe. This means having full-spectrum land, air, space and maritime capabilities, including strategic enablers. The Strategy also encourages Member States and EU Institutions to make a full use of the Lisbon Treaty’s potential for more rapid responses in tackling possible crises.

This call to fully exploit the instruments provided by the Lisbon Treaty is important but cannot cover a simple fact: a change of attitude, a more assertive mindset, is needed from both the point of view of the EU Institutions and the Member States in order to anticipate global trends, face crises and solve them[19]. The Strategy itself could appear the umpteenth EU document full of good intentions, vague, with no specific or clear priorities, in the end not taken into consideration and so, ineffective. And that’s not all, because the EU Global Strategy also risks to pass unnoticed by citizens and policymakers alike, if not properly disseminated on a EU scale.

However, the 2016 Strategy is a starting point for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union because it represents a new and positive awareness and sets the path for future developments. In fact, as highlighted by the High Representative, a timetable for the Strategy’s implementation is going to be set, and in one year a first annual report, which could help calibrating a multi-phased implementation process, will be available.


Francesco Angelone

Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)




[1] European Council (2003), “A Secure Europe in a Better World”, European Security Strategy, 12th December. Retrieved from

[2] European Commission (2016), “Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy”, European Union Global Strategy, June. Retrieved form

[3] Experts’ consultation involved several partners like international think-tanks or Universities.

[4] European Council (2013) Meeting Conclusions, EUCO 217/13, Brussels: 20 December 2013, pp. 3-8. Retrieved from:

[5] European Council (2015) Meeting Conclusions, EUCO 22/15, Brussels: 25-26 June 2015, see pp. 5-6.. Retrieved from:: On that date the European Council set the deadline of June 2016 for the submission of the Strategy.

[6] Federica Mogherini’s statement. Retrieved from

[7] Ibidem.

[8] From the speech by the High Representative Federica Mogherini at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC on 21 July 2016. Retrieved from

[9] Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

[10] NATO (2016), “Joint Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”, 8th July. Retrieved from

[11] See footnote 7.

[12] EU position in world trade, retrieved from

[13]The EU emergency trust fund for Africa, retrieved from

[14] See footnote 7.

[15] EEAS (2015, September 18) “Increasing demand for EU as Security Provider” – EU Military Staff interview Federica Mogherini, retrieved from

[16] It is a strategic tool useful for the activities of the European Defence Agency, created in 2008 by the Agency’s Steering Board and subject to revisions and refreshments for better set the approach needed.

[17] The Agency has been created by the European Council in 2004 and works under the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

[18] Page 44 and following of the Strategy.

[19] P. Vimont (2015), “The Path to an Upgraded EU Foreign Policy”, Policy Outlook, Carnegie Europe, June. Internet: