Why do we need a document on a European Security Strategy?
EU’s 28 member states have a 100.000 km coastline along two oceans and four seas. The seas are Europe’s lifeblood and the EU’s maritime regions account for more than 40% of its GDP. Europe EEZ covers 14 million km², much more if we count the member states’ overseas territories not involved in the European Union. 90 % of EU trade with the world and 41% of its internal trade transit by sea.
Blue growth is not a fancy. It’s a reality. We all know the importance of maritime transport for international trade, of offshore oil and gas production, of fishing industry, of cruise ship industry, of sea wind farms. We will see the development of biotechnologies and cosmetics from sea micro elements or seaweed, of seabed mineral resources and, we can imagine, of sea based towns. Due to climate change we will see an extension of the maritime domain in the Arctic Ocean with new traffic routes opening. Europe economy will rely more and more on the seas. For all these reasons, the EU has a true interest in a secure maritime environment that allows the freedom of the seas and a peaceful exploitation of the ocean’s riches.
Europe has implemented an Integrated Maritime Policy aiming at a more collaborative decision-making approach among the MSs and the administrations and to ensure ocean sustainability. This document is excellent and must be used as a cornerstone for the EU diplomacy on maritime affairs.
Until the emergence of maritime terrorism and the resurgence of high profile piracy, many states and the shipping community were relatively content with the sea remaining an essentially ungoverned space. But, with the development of new activities at sea, rogue states and non-state actors are exploiting maritime domain vulnerabilities with illegal trafficking, piracy and terrorism. Countering these threats, as done in the Horn of Africa, has become a priority for the EU. Although technology is now enabling surveillance and monitoring of that space, effective governance depends on cooperative information sharing and coordinated enforcement by different assets and capabilities, which has yet to develop in the EU and more widely. Enabling that development requires a strategy analysing the maritime environment, identifying the strategic objectives and how they might be achieved.
In April 2010, a Council of Defence Ministers invited the High Representative to undertake work to develop such a document. It seems that the EU wants to work out a design for an EMSS by the end of this year.
Two existing documents may be the basis of the EMSS:- The European Security Strategy, and- The Integrated Maritime PolicyThe ESS“A Secure Europe in a Better World”, subtitled “European Security Strategy” (ESS) was approved in 2003 and reviewed in a “Progress Report” in 2008. The document provides a conceptual basis for European security across the spectrum of human activity. The challenges, risks, threats, objectives and policies are addressed in isolation from their environment. There is no discussion of whether challenges should be met, or threats contained, by land or by sea or by purely political action. Piracy is singled out albeit only under the generic heading of organised crime. If you permit, I will make three observations:1/ it is worth noting that the European Security Strategy was developed before the Lisbon Treaty had been agreed. The treaty advocates further coordination and cooperation between the Member States (MS), the European Agencies and Third Countries. The Lisbon Treaty gives clear guidance on how to act to prevent the terrorist threat on MSs’ territory. Article 222 of the Treaty also cites natural or man–made disasters as a situation justifying a MS’ request for assistance.2/ the maritime environment’s distinct characteristics, however, deserve separate treatment within the generic approach of the European Strategy. The maritime space beyond the Territorial Waters (TTW), Antarctica and outer space, are mankind’s only remaining commons. In the Ocean, governance stems from a few formal documents, mostly based on the Montego Bay United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its various subsequent interpretations, which constitute the only legal reference for regulating activity there.3/ the EMSS, like the ESS, is not a Strategy in the classical sense, because it does not relate means directly to political ends. Nor does it ascribe priorities to challenges, risks and threats, nor identify obstacles or antagonists in examining possible response options. Some crucial elements of a conventional strategy are therefore missing. Even if they were intended as such, neither the EMSS nor the ESS can be considered a strategy in the strict sense, because in the EU the decision to employ military or constabulary force, and control it once the decision has been taken, belongs not to the EU per se but to the MS. The EU does not possess a commonly owned command structure, except ad hoc ones created for overseas operations on a case-by-case basis, although it does have two sources of strategic military advice, namely the EU Military Committee (EUMC) and the EU Military Staff (EUMS). In strategic terms this implies also that in order to avoid any perceived linkage between single states’ interests and EU response (apart from simple defence), any action taken must be internationally concerted.
The Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), issued in 2007, includes an impressive programme of work on several issues: transport without barriers, strategy for maritime research, maritime surveillance network, maritime spatial planning, strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change on coastal regions, reduction of carbon and pollution by shipping, elimination of pirate fishing, labour law for the shipping and fishing sector, network of maritime clusters. While the majority of these issues are of commercial or scientific interest, a few fall within the realm of security (e.g. surveillance) or are clearly affected by it. Together with the fact that security per se is not one of the objectives of the IMP, this underlines the fundamental truth that security, besides constituting a government’ first duty towards its citizens, also affects their economy and wellbeing. Rising insurance premiums, having to resort to lengthy detours, having to procure protection equipment and the depletion of marine resources are among the first negative economic consequences of poor maritime security.A comprehensive approach of Maritime SecurityAlthough the ESS takes a generic approach and omits specific mention of the maritime environment, it nonetheless contains important indications of EU aims and objectives, which are useful in developing follow-on strategies focused on specific domains. The ESS’ first strategic objective is Addressing the Threats; as crises develop far away from the EU and then hit EU countries hard if not properly addressed, two approaches are considered:1/ the line of defence will often be abroad which means that the EU maritime borders will be sometimes on the shore of foreign countries and that the EU should be ready to act before a crisis occurs. Prevention is paramount!2/ the new threats are not exclusively military; nor can they be tackled by purely military means as mentioned by the High Representative at the Munich Security Conference.
The second strategic objective of the ESS is Building Security in our Neighbourhood. It is impossible to widen the area of stability in the Balkans, in the Southern Caucasus, in the Mediterranean or to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, as the ESS commendably intends to do, by acting only on land. The Mediterranean and Black Seas must become stable environments, where any attempt to undermine legal and peaceful trade, or to carry out hostile and illegal actions or over-exploitation of resources, should be identified and countered promptly. The 2008 Progress Report reflects this concept in a more encompassing manner, by alluding to Building Stability in Europe and Beyond. This is quite appropriate from a maritime perspective, since geographical immediacy loses much of its meaning when we consider the impact on maritime commerce of instabilities in places even far away.
The third strategic objective of the ESS is Achieving an International Order based on Effective Multilateralism. Collaboration with third parties in building maritime situational awareness and controlling the sea is therefore paramount, and depend on establishing mutual trust and confidence, a pre-requisite for any multilateral endeavour. This applies in particular to the sea basins those parties share, where information exchange will be critical for the common good.
As old as war itself is the recognition that other tools besides military force have to be employed in order to achieve victory sooner and with fewer risks and costs, or, even better, to avert armed conflict. Diplomacy, economics, strategic communication and many other methods must be used in a coordinated manner together with the measured application of force to impose one’s will over the enemy’s in a confrontation. This conceptual approach to confrontation becomes even starker when the opposition itself takes a multifaceted form, a common occurrence in XXI century conflicts. Challenges, risks and threats to European society manifest themselves in a variety of ways, most of which are not military and have therefore to be met in a similar, if not necessarily symmetric, fashion. Confrontation today stems from non- state actors more often than traditional states, who usually prefer to employ proxies or some other indirect means when challenging other states. Asymmetry and outsourcing are therefore the common characteristics of the wide variety of perils that threaten our society.
The maritime world is particularly vulnerable to the application of various pressures, because nations depend on the ships providing Europe’s energy, industry and food needs, which are susceptible to many kinds of disruption, military as well as economic, political et al. Moreover, maritime policy has always been an integral part of foreign policy, because merchant ships and fishermen routinely and lawfully ply their trade in distant waters. This implies that the European External Action Service (EEAS) has to be directly involved in related maritime issues.A comprehensive approach is therefore inherent in any maritime security strategy as pointed out by Deputy Ana Gomes in her report. Civilian agencies, whether created solely for navigational safety, or for the wider protection of European citizens under any of the several headings of security, must be organised and prepared to co-ordinate their efforts with those of defence for the ultimate protection of Europe’s way of life and prosperity. Conversely, the defence community should also be prepared to assist civilian security agencies when the action required is properly under civilian leadership. This EMSS is necessarily based, therefore, upon a comprehensive approach to security.Last but not least and intrinsically linked to IMP is the protection of the maritime domain itself. A number of initiatives has been undertaken by the EU to safeguard the maritime environment through its Agencies, such as EMSA and CFCA, but such efforts cannot achieve success solely through coordinated surveillance and enforcement limited to the EU specific sovereign sea areas, unless a deliberate approach is taken to safeguard the entire sea basins surrounding Europe. Additional civilian capabilities, like the scientific ones, better able to comprehend the status and evolution of the maritime environment, need to be integrated at the operational level, as so far they have mainly supported the EU decision-making process at the policy level. The ability to forecast and deal with natural maritime disasters, like tsunamis and typhoons, must also be included within the panoply of EU’s activities in this area. Therefore protecting the environment must be added to the ESS objectives list, mentioned above.ConclusionTo summarise, in terms of strategic objectives, an EU maritime strategy should:- Ensure stability and security- Address the threats, natural or manmade- Protect the environment- Contribute to a better worldThe first priority, therefore, should be to develop partnership and cooperation among as many actors as possible, so that any action will have a clear multinational and legitimizing imprint.