From EUFOR Libya to Operation Sophia: UN-authorization and the EU as Security Actor

Trineke Palm

The deployment of military means under EU-flag has fueled a debate about the character of the EU as an international (security) actor: does the EU's use of military force point at a development towards a realist power, a risk-averse liberal power, or it is it informed by the logic of a normative power? Whereas research has focused on the justification, policy-embeddedness and the parliamentary oversight of those operations, relative little attention has been paid to the external political authorization of EU-military operations (i.e. the role of the UN as legitimating EU action). Hence, this paper aims to assess: To what extent and how do CSDP-operation rely on UN-authorization, and what does this say about the evolving character of the EU as an international security actor?First, the paper discusses the notion of a UN-mandate as a valid proxy for a normative power. It argues that for a normative power UN-authorization raises notable dilemmas. While authorization is central to the legitimation of operations, it may also be used strategically/instrumentally, covering up for inaction. Second, the paper examines the role of the UN in legitimating CSDP operations, in the recent cases of EUFOR Libya and Operation Sophia, to reflect upon the character of the EU as an international security actor.

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