Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Outlook on potential progress on CSDP under the upcoming trio of Presidencies

On 1 July 2011, Poland will take over the Presidency of the EU from Hungary.Progress in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) will be one of three priority areas of the Polish Presidency. The country’s 6-month Programme mentions “a Secure Europe” as one of three basic priorities that will be addressed in the second half of 2011 in order to bring the EU “on a path to faster economic growth and an enhanced political community.”[1] 

In reaction to the crisis in Libya, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski in late March called for a joint European command which could improve EU crisis response, humanitarian aid and military operations.  In April, Polish Defence Mnister Bogdan Klich named the battle groups and better EU-NATO cooperation as priorities under
CSDP. With regards to the latter, the Minister said that Poland would work towards the signing of “enhanced Berlin Plus Agreements”, that would facilitate EU-NATO relations in joint theatres of operation.[2] These statements are reflected in Poland’s Presidency Programme which mentions strengthening of the military and civilian capabilities of the EU and support for activities “aimed at preserving a direct dialogue between the European Union and NATO” as important elements of the Polish presidency.

Despite the importance of these projects, there is no guarantee that their implementation will remain on the agenda of the relevant EU working groups throughout the eighteen-month trio of presidencies that will start with Poland and also include Denmark and Cyprus. Denmark which does not participate in the preparation and implementation of actions with defence implications, is unlikely to reverse its opt out with regards to the CSDP before it takes over the Presidency on 1 January 2012. As a consequence, there will almost certainly be no initiatives on CSDP under the Danish Presidency. In fact, the defence opt-out means in practice that Denmark renounces its right to exercise the Presidency in fora where defence related questions are primarily
under discussion. Further to this, Denmark cannot be involved in setting the agenda in this area of EU cooperation.[3] With regards to the Cypriot Presidency of the EU, which will begin on 1 July 2012, there is the problem that the lack of formal EU-NATO cooperation on the ground, for example in Afghanistan is the result of a political deadlock in the diplomatic relations between Cyprus, which is a Member of the EU but no member of NATO, and Turkey, which is a member of NATO but no member of the EU. The signing of any new agreement on cooperation between the EU and NATO would require the two countries to put aside their dispute over Cyprus which relates to the partition of the island. At present, this does not seem likely to happen in the near future.

Despite the unlikelihood of new initiatives coming from either the Danish or the Cypriot Presidencies, there is still hope that the Polish projects in the area of CSDP will come to fruition after 2011. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission chairs the Foreign Affairs Council. Equally important, the incumbent of this double-hatted position, currently Catherine Ashton, has a role to ensure the consistency and coordination of the European Union’s external action. To support her in this task, there are now permanent chairs for the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM), which could act to increase continuity of initiatives in the area of CSDP, if the HR/VP and EU Member States place greater focus on CSDP.

As Poland is the one of the three in the next trio with enough weight and drive to make a difference, HR/VP Ashton and her staff in the European External Action Service should closely collaborate with the Polish Presidency in order to come to tangible results over the coming months to further push CSDP initiatives that have stagnated a little in the change-over to the EAS. These results should take the form of agreements on concrete timelines and benchmarks so that in 2012, one year on from the creation of the EAS, the shifts in the EU for CSDP can continue to grow rather than be left by
the wayside.


[2] Europe Diplomacy and Defence No. 407, 14 April 2011.

[3] See Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark website: http://www.um.dk/en/menu/EU/TheDanishOptouts/

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This entry was posted on 01/06/2011 by in Opinions and tagged , , .

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