The European security and defence policy (ESDP) aims to allow the Union to develop its civilian and military capacities for crisis management and conflict prevention at international level, thus helping to maintain peace and international security, in accordance with the United Nations Charter." The Petersberg type missions done in association with the WEU were among the first steps taken to increase the voice of Europe on the international scene in the matter of security capabilities. However, they were abandoned or at least left aside due to the increased desire to develop the Union's own military capabilities and to become a relevant partner in insuring world security.
The most important challenge for the European Defence however came once the option of the war in Iraq appeared. In 2003 it was clear that there were different opinions arguing for and against the U.S. led military intervention. In this sense "the Iraq crisis has not only threatened the transatlantic ties but also produced intra-European divisions which have cast doubts over the future CSFP and ESDP of the EU." This turn of events in the international political life drew the attention on the various discussions that had already split the European countries in terms of deciding on common political stands concerning crises in the world.
The constant considerations of aspects such as common foreign policy or European defence has determined member state states to reconsider the traditional disputes related to sovereignty, political control, or the possible relation with NATO and other important actors of the international scene. The impact this evolution had on the member states, as well as on the institution itself is essential to the history of the EU. At the same time however, in order to establish itself as an essential played of the security environment, the European Union, through its ESDP had to take into account the entire array of influences, political and geographical spaces. In this sense, the Mediterranean Partnership, the relation with Russia, the Ukraine and Turkey are essential for the possible positive prospects of the European initiatives.
An important aspect of the conduct of the ESDP in relation to the constraints of the national entities is related to the limited desire of states and the political forces dominant in those states to engage in a political decision process that would suggest even the slightest restriction in the exercise of their sovereign status. Thus, the success of the ESDP implies a process of democratization, more precisely the insurance that decisions are taken in such a manner as to insure the voicing of all opinions. However, "it is not surprising in that democratisation involves the redistribution of influence among actors in every context and thus is bound to generate a degree of resistance and opposition. It would be implausible to suppose that the European Union (EU) should be any different in this respect. In the EU, the prospect of democratisation seems particularly problematic because the main actors threatened by it are precisely those in charge of determining the pace and shape of the Union's institutional change, that is, the governments of the member states." Thus, from this point-of-view, the tensions arising inside the ESPD are justifiable.
On the one hand, there is the issue of France, who is a strong supporter of the ESDP as well as the European Defence Identity. From the time of the Cold War onwards, every president marched on the idea of a distinct European identity from the NATO forces and the decision making process. This was largely because they considered NATO as being an organization clearly dominated by American politics and the boycott the French engaged in the sixties was relevant for their stand. The equipment of the EU with 60,000 military forces following the Helsinki Summit in 1999 can be considered a step in the right direction for the further establishment of a truly powerful European defence.
On the other hand, there is the issue of states such as Great Britain who are widely seen and for the right reason, to be the most important ally of the United States. In this sense, there are indeed matters of concern for the eventual integrated security strategy of the EU given the fact that NATO's presence in Europe and in regard to European affairs and the potential support the organization may insure to its European partners would prove to be dissolute. Thus, the UK especially under the ministry of Tony Blair was relatively reluctant to pledge support full heartily to the European Defence project. The St. Malo Summit which defined the guidelines for the ESDP showed a more consistent British attitude in terms of the ESDP. With that occasion," Blair and Chirac agreed that "the [European] Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises." The general opinion after the Summit was that in fact the two main countries of the European Union in terms of defence disputes sought different goals by applying the same means. Thus, while France tried to follow on its long desire to create a Defence unit for Europe to counter the influence of NATO, the British wanted to establish a force that, although would have an independent direction, it will be used to complete and not replace NATO in Europe.
However, it is clear for the UK as well as for the British political scene that Europe must have an integrated defence identity. Especially following the Iraqi War and the lack of evidence that would have justified the intervention, it became clear for the opposition and Gordon Brown in particular that the future of the British defence must be forged first and foremost inside the European context. Furthermore, the change of Tony Blair brought along a change in perspective, as well, taking into account the fact that although the new Prime Minister has made visits in the U.S., he takes more into account the relationship between European countries as well.
Also, the position of the new member countries is important in determining the eventual outcome of the distribution of power inside the ESDP. Thus, Poland for instance considers that the size and status it enjoys inside the European Union enables it to have a definite stand on its situation and on the decision making process inside the Union. Due to the sovereignty doctrine, this approach is entitled and this is the reason for which especially in the Iraq war situation it chose to view the decision of the U.S. intervention differently.
Similarly, Germany, as one of the most important promoters of the European Defence process considers the importance of the existence of an united vision on defence and security issues. In this sense, during the German Presidency the initiatives promoted by the country tried "to salvage from the wreckage of the constitution (...) the function of the EU's minister for foreign affairs and of a diplomatic service (External Action Service) to support him/her. The UK, even though it is not interested in a further "Europeanization" of its foreign and defence policy, opposes QMV in the CFSP area and sticks to an inter-governmentalist approach, has been supportive of the idea of an EU Foreign Minister (it insists on a name change to which the German presidency agrees) and of an EU External Action Service (which it opposed initially and then accepted under the responsibility of the EFM through the Council. The UK wants to ensure that the EFM would be only bound by Commission procedures where this did not conflict with his or her Council mandate. It is not willing to let the EFM speak through its permanent seat in the UN Security Council" Therefore, while Germany is opened to discussions in terms of common foreign policy, Great Britain for instance is reluctant to give away part of its sovereign right to decide on matters of national concern.
Effects on European countries
The issue of the ESDP is relatively complex because it entangles not only the member countries but also the neighbouring ones, especially Russia, the Ukraine, or Turkey. Also, the European Union also established through the Barcelona Process a new strategic Partnership with Mediterranean countries in order to increase the cooperation and the safety of the borders and of the sea that splits Europe from Africa. This is why it is important to consider each state in particular and assess the impact the establishment and enlargement of the ESDP has on the political decision making process in these countries.
EU relations with Russia
The relations with the Former Soviet space represented an important pivotal point for the development of foreign relations of the EU. This is largely due to the fact that the European Union, until the end of the Cold War relied heavily on the power and influence of the NATO structure and institutional framework for the import of security. However, the…