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No Strategy Lasts Forever: Time for a New European Security Strategy

Sven Biscop

The European Security Strategy (ESS) needs revising. Adopted by the European Council back in 2003, it has lost its flair. That is not a criticism of the ESS, the contents of which remain valid, but an unavoidable reality. After a while, any strategic concept reaches the "best consumed before" date and no longer serves to inspire and, most importantly, to drive policy and action. The 2008 Report on the Implementation of the ESS, being insufficiently concrete and prospective, did not rectify this. The ESS is incomplete as well, so more than reviewing, it needs completing. It operates at the grand strategic level, connecting large means and large ends. On the ends it remains vague however. The ESS mostly gives us a method: the EU deals with foreign policy in a preventive, holistic and multilateral way. In other words, the ESS tells us how to do things, but not really what to do. The choice for this particular method is a crucial strategic decision, but because the EU and the Member States have not translated it into clear priorities, it has not generated sufficient action. Nor has it had a real impact on the development of means and capabilities, on which the ESS remains vague as well. As a debate about a new ESS is beginning in the "Brussels hub", this paper will assess what a review would imply in terms of substance, and through which method it could be achieved.

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