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Explaining European Security and Defence Policy Since St Malo: Bureaucratic Politics and the Lack of Grand Strategy

Simon Sweeney

European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) - renamed Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) by the Lisbon Treaty - has been marked by ambitious rhetoric but modest achievement. It has contributed an emergent European strategic culture underpinned by a comprehensive approach to security. While focused on conflict prevention and civilian crisis management, ESDP/CSDP has failed to deliver the capability and actorness consistently demanded by Grand Strategists. This paper argues that a Grand Strategy approach cannot work in a field that has been captured by bureaucratic politics: a lowest common denominator and issue-by-issue approach to policy formation and implementation. While the defence component signalled at St Malo has been marginalised, the initiative demonstrates a pragmatic pursuit of what is possible given member state constraints in an era of financial austerity and sensitivity around sovereignty. Bureaucratic politics, consistent with state transformation, may however represent a long term incrementalist and gradual development not only of strategic actorness but also integration. The paper further argues that the bureaucratic politics explanation of ESDP/CSDP is more credible that the proffered alternatives of Europeanisation, social constructivism or intergovernmentalism. Instead ESDP/CSDP reflects bureaucratic politics consistent with Brusselsization.

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