Interpreting Choices in Defence: the CSDP and Britain, France and Germany

Jocelyn Mawdsley

Much analysis of EU defence cooperation has tacitly or overtly assumed a quasi neo-functionalist process of European integration in this field, but recent events, such as the Anglo-French defence agreements, unilateral military operations and the failure of the European Defence agency to make much progress, suggest that there is not much evidence of recent meaningful Europeanisation. This paper, using an interpretivist framework, seeks to suggest that national narratives, about the rationale for European defence cooperation, are both longstanding and unchallenged until the actors are faced with a dilemma and thus are key to understanding contemporary national policy decisions around the CSDP. The paper will look at three case studies, Britain, France and Germany. Using a process tracing methodology, it will draw out how key actors (politicians, officials, military leaders) reacted to the initial dilemma that EU cooperation on defence posed in the 1990s, and how these varying views were then aggregated to form national rationalisations for defence cooperation. It goes on to suggest that recent national defence dilemmas have forced the three to reconsider these narratives and that what has emerged is unhelpful to those who favour a strong CSDP.

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