Ref. Ares(2017)3084405 - 20/06/2017
Ref. Ares(2018)543999 - 30/01/2018
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
WHOSE SECURITY? WHOSE DEFENCE?
COMECE contribution to the reflection process on the future of European
security and defence
Security has become a major concern for people
in Europe and worldwide. Unceasing
violent conflicts, not least in Europe´s neighbourhood, the perception of pressing flows of
migrants and refugees, the repeated terror attacks – these are some of the major challenges
that contribute to feelings of unease and fear
in the public opinion.
Moreover, a sense of safety
is also negatively affected by a variety of threats fed by growing
economic inequality, the lack of future prospects and perceived social injustice or
environmental degradation. Digitalisation and globalistion are bringing numerous
opportunities but they are also opening up vulnerabilities that do not know territorial
boundaries. By eroding trust and predictability
, Brexit and the first decisions of the new U.S.
administration have led to a change in the geopolitical balance.
Europe is confronted with multifaceted internal and external threats.
In order to achieve
its strategic objectives
to provide prosperity and sustainable peace, the European Union
should become a stronger global actor
. The main challenge is now to focus
more on the
security needs of the people
and to counter these challenges primarily at the point of
2. Recent developments in European security and defence
One year ago, the EU High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission,
Federica Mogherini, presented the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy
28 Heads of State and Government. COMECE actively contributed to the drafting process of the Global Strategy with its “Peace
report”. After the presentation of the EU strategy, COMECE welcomed its global
and its focus on an integral approach
with human security
being important pillars. COMECE encouraged the process leading
to a better articulation between a diplomatic and a defence
approach. In this respect, the
Global Strategy defines as priorities for EU’s External Action security and defence, the
strengthening of resilience, the pursuit of an integrated approach, the promotion of regional
cooperation and of effective global governance.
Despite the initial concerns about a lacking ownership
of the EU Global Strategy by the
Member States, the following months have shown quite significant steps in its further
elaboration and implementation.
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Even though the Global Strategy defines five – interlinked and mutually reinforcing -
priorities for EU´s External Action, the pace and the level of (financial) commitment indicate
a strong emphasis on security and defence
in the past twelve months.
In the autumn 2016, the EU presented the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence
setting out a new level of ambition 1
and respective actions. We took note of the first steps in
this regard, aiming at the enhancement of the EU crisis response mechanisms, deepening the
cooperation between Member States as well as joint development of some defence
capabilities. The European Commission complemented these proposals through the European
Defence Action Plan by envisaging financial incentives2 for collaborative defence research
and fostering European defence industry
and procurement. A list of actions
also been proposed to implement the EU-NATO Joint Declaration
in areas, such as hybrid
threats, cyber defence or maritime security. The EU Heads of State and Government 4
as the European Parliament5
have repeatedly encouraged further progress in the
implementation of these proposals. The recently published Reflection Paper of the European Commission on the future of
European defence as part of the “White Paper process” presents three possible scenarios.
These range from cooperation to a common European Security and Defence with a certain
level of integration of national defence markets and military forces. The Commission stresses
the primary competence of the Member States
to decide on the degree of the EU defence
integration. It nevertheless makes a strong appeal for deepening the European dimension of
the security and defence policy on the basis of strategic, political and, above all, economic
considerations in order to avoid duplications and make defence spending more efficient.
These efforts to enforce European security and defence policies have been complemented by
steps to implement the other priority areas of EU External Action as defined by the Global
Strategy. Only recently, and after some delay, the EU presented its Communication on a
strategic approach to resilience in its External Action. Moreover, the structures of the
European External Action Service have been adapted6
to better implement the EU´s
integrated, comprehensive approach.
In addition, the EU Global Strategy has become a point of reference for EU´s external actions.
Thus, a number of EU initiatives have been presented in the context of the implementation of
the Global Strategy, such as the new European Consensus on Development,
the EU Trust Fund
for Colombia or the EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations.
According to the EU Implementation Plan, the new level of ambition is threefold: 1) respond to
external conflicts and crisis; 2) build capacities of partners; 3) protect the EU and its citizens.
The European Defence Fund foresees dedicating
€90 Mio. until 2020 to defence research. After
2020, the EU Commission intends to propose a dedicated defence research programme with a
budget of €500 Mio. per year. Moreover, with regard to joint development and acquisition of
defence capabilities, the EU wants to offer co-financing with €500 Mio. until 2020, and with €1 bn.
per year after 2020.
As examples of possible defence research and technology development projects to be supported by
the European Defence Fund, the European Commission mentions inter alia
systems, satellite communication, but also drones and robotics.
Cf. the Bratislava Summit in September 2016, the European Council in December 2016 or the Rome
Declaration adopted in March 2017.
Cf. the European Parliament resolution
of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union
or the resolution of 23 November 2016 on the implementation of CSDP.
Most notably, the division “PRISM“ has been created that aims to combine efforts of early warning,
peacebuilding, security sector reform, stabilisation, crisis response and mediation.
link to page 3 link to page 3 link to page 3 link to page 3 3. Strengthening whose security? Fostering whose defence?
a) Human security and sustainable peace
Over the last months, the European Union has made several commitments and taken some
concrete steps in view of strengthening security and defence. From a Church perspective, the
evaluation of these efforts should primarily focus on enhancing the security of people,
rather than the security of states or the interest of businesses.
Security is essential since it protects human dignity
. True security can exist only in
. In the understanding of the Church ,7
peace is more than the absence of
war and violence. It above all requires the establishment of an order which is based on
, on integral human development
, on respect for fundamental human rights
on the care of creation
If not focusing on human security
, including the enforcement of human rights and the rule
of law, merely technical security measures may allow or even lead to a new conflict .8
b) Clear strategic objectives
The efforts to strengthen European security and defence, combined with concrete steps for
their implementation, need to be based on clear long-term strategic objectives
and short-term measures of a tactical nature
can provide only limited results
and they do
not address the root causes
of crises and conflicts.
The setting of strategic objectives at the European level first of all requires a clear definition
of national foreign policy objectives
of the Member States. It also requires a shared
analysis of security threats
and challenges, as well as opportunities
for a common
A prerequisite for this process is a shared political will
and the awareness of a common
. As long as these elements, along with sufficient trust
Member States and European institutions are not given, progress in fostering European
security and defence will be limited.
This process requires deep commitment
to enter into a substantial dialogue with all the
. It should not
be hijacked by the urgency to show quick
, however often only
. The EU’s new level of ambition as defined in the Implementation Plan on Security and
Defence constitutes a good basis for a further specification of EU’s strategic goals. The
objective to “protect the Union and its citizens
” would, in particular, require further reference
to the specific types of threats and risks
that the Union and its citizens may face. Only
then it will be possible to define and develop the capabilities and actions
to these challenges.
Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 494.
Cf. Conference of European Justice & Peace Commissions, Build bridges of justice rather than walls of
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The European Commission has made an appeal for fostering European cooperation in the
area of defence-related research
as well as defence industry and procurement
Efforts aiming to make the defence spending more efficient
, to avoid unnecessary
and save costs 9
deserve further careful consideration. These proposals and
initiatives are to be measured to what extent they serve the security of the people
contribute to sustainable peace
Pope Francis recently recalled
that “it is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate
peace, and at the same time, promote or permit the arms trade. Is this […] a war to solve problems
or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade and so that the merchants of death
In this respect, more effective and coherent regulatory frameworks for arms export
should be developed at the European level. Moreover, when intensifying defence
cooperation among Member States, particular attention should be paid to ensure that this
does not reinforce an arms race
in Europe and globally.
A long-term disarmament strategy
, including nuclear disarmament, should be integrated
within the European security strategy with a view to gradually developing alternative
The allocation of resources to promote defence research and technology
with the requirements of proportionality
Whereas it is of key importance to
develop adequate means to address pertinent security challenges and new vulnerabilities, in
particular in the cyber realm, the EU spending on defence research and technology should
fully respect the international obligations
of the EU and Member States.
The EU funds
should be prohibited from promoting research in ethically problematic technology
weapons, including lethal autonomous weapons. In this respect, EU Guidelines for defence-
related research and technology
should be developed accordingly. As far as armed drones
are concerned, the EU should lead efforts towards an international agreement ensuring
transparency and accountability in their use.
d) Defence as a global concept embedded in an authentic peace policy
The European Union should avoid
the tendency to overmilitarise
its security policy. The EU
is above all a peace project
achieved through economic integration. It is a unique player
with a wide array of instruments that can be articulated along with the efforts of other
security actors, notably the UN, OSCE and NATO.
Hard security alone cannot comprehensively address the multifaceted security
of today. Thus, besides adequate and proportionate investment
its “strategic autonomy
” in the security and defence domain, the EU should further develop
and invest sufficient resources
in its non-violent pre-emptive peace-building capacities.
This should include measures promoting human, socio-economic and environmental
as well as peace diplomacy
and the political economy of peace
According to estimates,
the lack of cooperation between Member States in security and defence
costs annually between €25-€100 Mio. due to fragmented defence markets and duplications in
In particular, international legal obligations in terms of Human Rights, Humanitarian Law and
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Guided by the premise that “everything is closely interrelated
, the EU should strive to
develop an integral approach
towards an authentic European peace policy
The EU Global Strategy provides with its integrated, comprehensive approach
a good basis
in this respect. The future orientation of European defence
should therefore be
understood as a global concept.
Embedded in an overall people-centered peace policy
security and defence should be effectively linked and integrated with other EU
external and internal policy areas, including development cooperation, climate action, trade,
economic and social polices or the fight against terrorism.
The recent proposals
that aim to incorporate a stronger security dimension into EU
development policies should not, however, undermine the primary goal of development
which is the eradication of poverty. Instead, a stronger development focus
other policy fields, including security and defence policy
. The upcoming
revision of the Athena financing mechanism might constitute a good opportunity in this
A more coherent and better coordinated interaction between civilian, military,
development and humanitarian actors
would be needed at all stages of the conflict cycle.
At the EU level, this will above all require that the responsibilities between various
institutional actors, and structural divisions between political guidance and financial
resources be better coordinated. Moreover, the EU should consider establishing a structure
to genuinely implement the integrated approach
. Such a structure should combine the
capacity of strategic foresight, political analysis, planning and conduct.
The strengthening of resilience
which has been defined as another priority for EU’s external
action might also constitute a helpful tool in implementing defence as a global concept. If
resilience is primarily understood as a people-centred and context-specific approach, it might
re-inforce EU’s peace-building actions by creating effective synergies between different
and by bringing together different types of actors at and across different
, for instance civil/military, state/non-state actors, including civil society and
Cf. Pope Francis, the Encyclical Laudato Si’
(2015), Chapter IV.
Cf. most notably the proposal of the European Commission of 5 July 2016 to amend the Instrument
contributing to stability and peace in order to allow the provision of non-lethal equipment to
military forces of third countries.
13 Cf. COMECE, Justice and Peace Europe, and Pax Christi International, Fostering resilience for
sustainable peace (2017).
The current reflection on security and defence is timely and needed. The efforts to strengthen
European security and defence should not be detached from the overall policy framework and
geopolitical context. A narrow understanding of security and defence can provide only a
to the variety of threats
faced by the people
in Europe and worldwide
today. In order to address these challenges effectively and comprehensively
, the future
European security and defence
should, in particular:
be based on clear strategic objectives
be oriented towards human security
and sustainable peace
protection of people
be understood as a global concept
embedded in an authentic European peace
The Secretariat of COMECE, 19 June 2017
The Commission of the Bishops‘ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) brings
together the Bishop delegates from Bishops´ Conferences of the 28 Member States. For
more than thirty years now, COMECE has been closely involved in the process of European
integration and sharing its reflections with EU institutions. COMECE is the Catholic
Church partner of EU institutions in the Dialogue foreseen by Article 17(3) of the Treaty on
the Functioning of the European Union. Its permanent General Secretariat, based in Brussels,
analyses EU policies on a day-by-day basis, striving to bring the specific contribution of the
Catholic Church into the European debate.
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