Center for Strategic Decision Research


The Dynamic Evolution of Post-Cold War European Security Mechanisms

His Excellency Dr. Werner Fasslabend
Minister of Defense of Austria


Since March of 1999, substantial changes in Europe’s security policy have taken place. First, Hungary, our gracious Workshop host, the Czech Republic and Poland joined NATO as fully integrated member-states. Second, at the Washington Summit, the enlarged Alliance adopted a new Strategic Concept with the expressed intention to take on responsibility for crisis management and stabilization beyond its territorial borders. Now, sooner than most observers expected, both the concept and NATO itself have been put to the test: NATO has had to act as a military representative of the community of democratic nations by using military force against a regime whose protracted violence against its own minorities was destabilizing the entire region.

The Alliance eventually proved its critics wrong. Through its actions, there seems now to be a positive future in store for the ethnic Albanian refugees and for stability in the Balkans as well. Additionally, through its decisions at the Cologne Summit, the European Union is taking significant steps towards an effective and credible common security and defense policy.

With all of these changes, a dynamic new dimension in the evolution of post-Cold War European security mechanisms is being added. It is very clear that this process has substantial consequences for all European countries, even for those that have not yet joined or are not willing to join an alliance.

While the process is underway, pressing questions still remain. I would now like to address some of them as the Minister of Defense of a non-aligned country but one that is a member-state of the European Union.


In my opinion, there is no way to foresee a quick, optimistic conclusion to this issue. Time was needed to win the war; even more time will be needed to win the peace that will provide permanent stability. It will take a coordinated and sustained effort by the community of nations to stabilize the region. The goal must be to integrate all the countries in this part of Europe in the transatlantic economic and security network.

There is no question that the first step toward achieving this goal should be a comprehensive stability conference. A broad approach at this time would be useful. But, very clearly, this will not be enough. The particular circumstances in this region will require close attention to detail, something that cannot be met by a broad approach alone. Building democracy, a market economy, and regional cooperation in the area will take time, a coordinated effort by the European Union, and sustained measures.

Taking all of this into account, a common strategy just for the Western Balkans does not seem to be enough. A comprehensive strategy by the transatlantic community including political, economic, and military measures will need to be followed and include all countries of the region. It will also be necessary not only to integrate all the relevant organizations in this process, but to coordinate them properly. This may be a major challenge for the European Union in its present state.


It is obvious that the European Union and, to a certain degree, the United States and EU member-states, wish to be able to take autonomous military action. However, autonomy requires credibility, and credibility demands capacity. All states, big and small, must therefore make contributions, but these states, particularly small states, have needs that must be factored in. Concerning European security, these include:

  • Not allowing a renationalization of European security policy. The conflict in the Balkans has clearly shown the dangers and implications of a traditional security policy focused on perceived unilateral national interests.
  • Establishing a security order that includes the transatlantic partners. This will prevent a renationalization of the security policy as well as strengthen common capacities to act decisively.
  • Establishing a stable European pillar inside the transatlantic partnership in order to take on major tasks and act swiftly and decisively in European matters. To do this will require strengthening the defense capacities of the European nations and reaching a balance between their and their partners’ national security interests. Duplication of assets is not desirable across the whole spectrum of conflict. Moreover, simply adding quantities of national defense capacities will not suffice to meet the future requirements. A genuine and credible European security order will also depend on the quality of these national defense capacities.

In the long run, the European states will need to stress their common values and common interests to improve their ability to take common actions. However, they should not, at the same time, cut or weaken the transatlantic link because common values and common interests exist with their transatlantic partners as well. Furthermore, synchronization between NATO and the European Union regarding European security matters will lead to a number of states belonging to both organizations, which means that their enlargement should be coordinated.


Let me stress that Austria has a genuine interest in a stable strategic region, especially in Central and Southeastern Europe. Therefore it will support all efforts and measures to reach this goal. While we are presently hampered by certain constitutional restrictions, we have begun the process of recognizing the importance of systematic solidarity instead of optional solidarity. I am quite confident that this process will be realized in the foreseeable future by all political powers, and that appropriate political answers will be given.


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