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Qualified majority voting in foreign and security policy: Pros and Cons

19-01-2021

In her first State of the Union speech, and in the section of the speech most applauded by the European Parliament, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the use of qualified majority voting (QMV) in areas such as sanctions and human rights. The crises and security challenges accumulating in and around the European Union have added to the urgency of having a more effective and rapid decision-making process in areas pertaining to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP ...

In her first State of the Union speech, and in the section of the speech most applauded by the European Parliament, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the use of qualified majority voting (QMV) in areas such as sanctions and human rights. The crises and security challenges accumulating in and around the European Union have added to the urgency of having a more effective and rapid decision-making process in areas pertaining to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The core encumbrance against unanimous EU agreement on foreign policy is argued to be the absence of a common strategic culture among EU Member States. The Lisbon Treaty's architects have equipped the EU Treaties with 'passerelle clauses' – provisions usually aimed at modifying the decision-making of the Council of the EU. The passerelle clause for CFSP is Article 31(3) of the Treaty on European Union, which empowers the European Council to, by unanimous agreement, allow the Council of the EU to take decisions by QMV in some areas of the CFSP. Another option is an emergency brake – cancelling a vote for vital reasons of national policy – while constructive abstention is an option which allows a Member State to abstain from a unanimous vote without blocking it. Since 2016, the EU has witnessed growing momentum to shape its identity as a security provider and peace promoter. From 2020 and until 2022, it is undertaking a strategic reflection process taking the form of a 'strategic compass', whereby the threats, challenges and objectives for the Union in security and defence will be better defined. It is in this context that the debate about QMV in foreign and security policy has resurfaced and continues to be the subject of policy discussions. Nevertheless, recent efforts to innovate in the EU’s methods for adopting sanctions in the field of human rights abuses (the European Magnitsky Act) have been unsuccessful in their attempt to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting.

Implementation of the common security and defence policy

13-01-2021

The main avenue through which the European Union (EU) contributes to strengthening international peace and security is its common security and defence policy (CSDP). Enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, this policy is the main framework through which EU Member States take joint action on security and defence matters. The European Parliament is set to vote on the annual CSDP report covering 2020 during the January 2021 plenary session.

The main avenue through which the European Union (EU) contributes to strengthening international peace and security is its common security and defence policy (CSDP). Enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, this policy is the main framework through which EU Member States take joint action on security and defence matters. The European Parliament is set to vote on the annual CSDP report covering 2020 during the January 2021 plenary session.

Implementation and governance of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)

14-10-2020

Established in 2017, PESCO is a Treaty-based military and defence cooperation mechanism involving 25 EU Member States. It aims to be a key vehicle for increasing the European Union’s ability to take more responsibility for its security by reducing defence industrial fragmentation and increasing its capacity for crisis management through collaborative projects. As PESCO has been undergoing a strategic review in the course of 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on a draft recommendation on ...

Established in 2017, PESCO is a Treaty-based military and defence cooperation mechanism involving 25 EU Member States. It aims to be a key vehicle for increasing the European Union’s ability to take more responsibility for its security by reducing defence industrial fragmentation and increasing its capacity for crisis management through collaborative projects. As PESCO has been undergoing a strategic review in the course of 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on a draft recommendation on the implementation and governance of PESCO during the October II plenary session.

Understanding EU-NATO cooperation: Theory and practice

08-10-2020

The European Union and NATO have gone through the most acute strategic challenges of the Euro-Atlantic space together. Their history of cooperation is long and has seen both ups and downs. Already in 1949, the two defence players in western Europe, NATO and the Western Union (later the Western European Union), had begun to interact. In the 1990s, as the shift from nuclear deterrence to crisis management took place, the EU and NATO began to cooperate on operations, particularly in the Balkans. In ...

The European Union and NATO have gone through the most acute strategic challenges of the Euro-Atlantic space together. Their history of cooperation is long and has seen both ups and downs. Already in 1949, the two defence players in western Europe, NATO and the Western Union (later the Western European Union), had begun to interact. In the 1990s, as the shift from nuclear deterrence to crisis management took place, the EU and NATO began to cooperate on operations, particularly in the Balkans. In the early 2000s, the two cemented a strategic partnership based on mutually reinforcing cooperation, with crisis management at its heart. One concrete example is the EU's Operation Althea, still ongoing today, which the EU took over from NATO in 2004 and conducted while also making use of NATO assets. The dynamic of cooperation has intensified in the face of new threats ranging from terrorism to climate change to hybrid warfare. Each of these challenges shares one feature: they are common to both the EU and NATO. This realisation has given political impetus to formalise the current level of cooperation, through a joint declaration and concrete follow-up actions. In practice, this means joint training and exercises on matters ranging from cyber defence to hybrid warfare. There is also close coordination on foreign policy issues, including on 5G and cooperation with China, with the aim of crafting a solid joint approach. While the coronavirus pandemic has tested the resilience of EU-NATO cooperation, being met with coordination and a robust crisis response, questions nevertheless remain regarding the way forward for EU-NATO cooperation. For instance, the need to clarify the relationship between the EU and NATO's mutual defence clauses has become apparent. The materialisation of EU ambitions for strategic sovereignty, not least through multiple defence cooperation initiatives, will also present a test to the resilience of EU-NATO cooperation.

EU cyber sanctions: Moving beyond words

25-09-2020

The EU recognises that cybersecurity and cyber-defence are critical for its prosperity, security and global ambitions. Offensive cyber-attacks by malicious actors show no sign of slowing down (not even during the coronavirus pandemic) and thus require concrete dissuasive measures. In July 2020, the EU Member States decided for the first time to use the 'teeth' rooted in the EU cyber-diplomacy framework and to 'bite cyber perpetrators back' by placing sanctions on them. This precedent has helped reinforce ...

The EU recognises that cybersecurity and cyber-defence are critical for its prosperity, security and global ambitions. Offensive cyber-attacks by malicious actors show no sign of slowing down (not even during the coronavirus pandemic) and thus require concrete dissuasive measures. In July 2020, the EU Member States decided for the first time to use the 'teeth' rooted in the EU cyber-diplomacy framework and to 'bite cyber perpetrators back' by placing sanctions on them. This precedent has helped reinforce the EU's cyber policy action.

Disruption by technology: Impacts on politics, economics and society

21-09-2020

Technological development has long been considered as a disruptive force, provoking change at many levels, from the routine daily activities of individuals to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This analysis examines disruption caused by technologies in a series of key areas of politics, economics and society. It focuses on seven fields: the economic system, the military and defence, democratic debates and the 'infosphere', social norms, values and identities, international relations ...

Technological development has long been considered as a disruptive force, provoking change at many levels, from the routine daily activities of individuals to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This analysis examines disruption caused by technologies in a series of key areas of politics, economics and society. It focuses on seven fields: the economic system, the military and defence, democratic debates and the 'infosphere', social norms, values and identities, international relations, and the legal and regulatory system. It also presents surveillance as an example of how technological disruption across these domains can converge to propel other phenomena. The key disruptive force of 2020 is non-technological, namely coronavirus. The pandemic is used here as an opportunity to examine how technological disruption interacts with other forms of disruption.

PESCO: Ahead of the strategic review

16-09-2020

Permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) was launched in December 2017 with the participation of 25 EU Member States. It operates on the basis of concrete projects and binding commitments, several of which are geared towards strengthening the EU defence sector. PESCO members are committed to increasing national defence budgets and defence investment expenditure, and to investing more in defence research and technology. In addition, they have pledged to develop and provide 'strategically relevant' ...

Permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) was launched in December 2017 with the participation of 25 EU Member States. It operates on the basis of concrete projects and binding commitments, several of which are geared towards strengthening the EU defence sector. PESCO members are committed to increasing national defence budgets and defence investment expenditure, and to investing more in defence research and technology. In addition, they have pledged to develop and provide 'strategically relevant' defence capabilities and to act jointly and make use of the financial and practical support provided by the European Defence Fund. Finally, they are committed to contributing to projects that boost the European defence industry and the European defence technological and industrial base. Discussions on long-awaited rules on third-country participation in PESCO projects are ongoing in September 2020. A strategic review of PESCO should take place by the end of 2020. The review will assess PESCO's strengths and weaknesses and it is expected to provide new information aimed at improving the implementation and development of new EU defence capabilities and capacities through PESCO. Critics argue that the end goal of PESCO projects has still to be contextualised within the wider debate on an EU strategic culture and a concrete vision about the ambition of EU security and defence policy. They also emphasise the need to align PESCO priorities with those identified by parallel EU defence initiatives, as well as with the capability needs of the EU. The European Parliament is expected to vote on a resolution on PESCO in October 2020.

NATO’s response in the fight against coronavirus

10-06-2020

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) might not be the first organisation that comes to mind for fighting pandemics. As the coronavirus crisis hit the world indiscriminately, NATO was fast to react, and used all the instruments in its toolbox to assist Allied countries and partners. From coordinating the transport of medicines and supplies, to launching scientific programmes to study the virus, NATO has again proven its value in times of crisis. Close European Union (EU) and NATO coordination ...

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) might not be the first organisation that comes to mind for fighting pandemics. As the coronavirus crisis hit the world indiscriminately, NATO was fast to react, and used all the instruments in its toolbox to assist Allied countries and partners. From coordinating the transport of medicines and supplies, to launching scientific programmes to study the virus, NATO has again proven its value in times of crisis. Close European Union (EU) and NATO coordination during the crisis was equally helpful in ensuring a coherent, civil-military approach.

Understanding the EU's approach to cyber diplomacy and cyber defence

28-05-2020

Despite its expertise in cyber public awareness campaigns, research and development, and educational programmes, the EU is still subject to constant cyber attacks. The EU's response to a sophisticated cyber threat spectrum is comprehensive, but perhaps the most European aspect of its toolbox is cyber diplomacy. Cyber diplomacy aims to secure multilateral agreements on cyber norms, responsible state and non-state behaviour in cyberspace, and effective global digital governance. The goal is to create ...

Despite its expertise in cyber public awareness campaigns, research and development, and educational programmes, the EU is still subject to constant cyber attacks. The EU's response to a sophisticated cyber threat spectrum is comprehensive, but perhaps the most European aspect of its toolbox is cyber diplomacy. Cyber diplomacy aims to secure multilateral agreements on cyber norms, responsible state and non-state behaviour in cyberspace, and effective global digital governance. The goal is to create an open, free, stable and secure cyberspace anchored in international law through alliances between like-minded countries, organisations, the private sector, civil society and experts. Cyber diplomacy coexists with its sister strands of cyber defence, cyber deterrence and cybersecurity. Offensive cyber actors are growing in diversity, sophistication and number. Disruptive technologies powered by machine-learning and artificial intelligence pose both risks and opportunities for cyber defences: while attacks are likely to increase in complexity and make attribution ever more problematic, responses and defences will equally become more robust. Burning issues demanding the international community's attention include an emerging digital arms race and the need to regulate dual-use export control regimes and clarify the rules of engagement in cyber warfare. Multilateral cyber initiatives are abundant, but they are developing simultaneously with a growing push for sovereignty in the digital realm. The race for cyber superiority, if left unchecked, could develop into a greater security paradox. The EU's cyber diplomacy toolbox and its bi- and multilateral engagements are already contributing to a safer and more principled cyberspace. Its effectiveness however hinges on genuine European and global cooperation for the common cyber good. Ultimately, the EU's ambition to become more capable, by becoming 'strategically autonomous' or 'technologically sovereign', also rests on credible cyber defence and diplomacy.

The role of armed forces in the fight against coronavirus

28-04-2020

While armed forces may find it difficult to distance themselves from what is perceived as their primary mission, the coronavirus pandemic largely challenges society's vision of their role. This has been showcased through the vital contributions of the military to civilian authorities' responses to contain and stop the spread of coronavirus. Exchanging guns for bags of food supplies and disinfectant spray, military personnel have been among the first responders in the coronavirus pandemic. Whether ...

While armed forces may find it difficult to distance themselves from what is perceived as their primary mission, the coronavirus pandemic largely challenges society's vision of their role. This has been showcased through the vital contributions of the military to civilian authorities' responses to contain and stop the spread of coronavirus. Exchanging guns for bags of food supplies and disinfectant spray, military personnel have been among the first responders in the coronavirus pandemic. Whether distributing food, building hospitals or shelters for the homeless, European armed forces were mobilised early. Trained to react quickly in highly dangerous conditions, the military carried out missions of repatriation and evacuation of citizens and transported medical supplies and protective equipment. Almost all European Union (EU) Member States have mobilised their armed forces in one way or another. Discouraging post-crisis economic projections indicate that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will not spare the defence sector, nor will it weaken geopolitical tensions. With resources further under strain, countries' abilities to meet the EU's defence ambitions with the required investments is under question. However, current EU defence initiatives, if appropriately financed, could see the EU being better prepared to face future pandemics among other threats. Examples include various projects under the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) mechanism, as well as the European Defence Fund, whose precursor already envisioned pandemic-relevant projects. While EU missions and operations abroad continue, they too have seen their activities limited. However, this has not stopped the EU from deploying staff to help locals in host countries to tackle the virus. In coordination with the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has also provided vital assistance to Allies and partners. Its disaster relief coordination centre, as well as the strategic lift platform and rapid air mobility mechanism, successfully ensured the swift provision of essential equipment and supplies. Around the world, armed forces have demonstrated their added value by closely assisting authorities and citizens in battling the pandemic.

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