Center for Strategic Decision Research


Confronting the EU's New Threats: The Global Approach to Crises

Lieutenant General Jean-Paul Perruche
Director General of the European Union Military Staff

Lieutenant General Jean-Paul Perruche
As Dr. Javier Solana has stated, “...the union of 25 states with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world’s gross national inevitably a global player. It should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world.” 


The subject of my presentation was inspired by the European security strategy that was proposed by Dr. Javier Solana and approved by the European Council in December of 2003. But I would like to begin by highlighting what in my view is the most important statement in this document: “As the union of 25 states with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world’s gross national product, the European Union is inevitably a global player. It should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world.” 

The document this statement is part of identifies the potential key threats to global security: Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure, and organized crime. These threats are more diverse and more complex if dematerialized, and they take advantage of the increasing vulnerability of our developing societies. 


Terrorism is difficult to define. Its definition has become blurred as its roots and actions have diversified. Except for the fact that it always destroys, terrorism in Kosovo is different from terrorism in Chechnya, which is different from terrorism in Iraq. The definition of terrorism depends on perspective, and this can be an advantage to terrorists. It also is indistinct because it rests on diverse peoples, localities, modes of action, and objectives. 

There is similar uncertainly regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While some monitoring of the development of nuclear weapons is being carried out, not as much is being done on the development of chemical and biological weapons. 

As far as failed states and regional conflicts are concerned, they are a very destabilizing phenomenon for world security, and pave the way for organized crime and terrorism. The link between criminal mafia activity and weak or failed states is now clear. To confront these new security challenges, the structured, well-equipped armed forces in our developed societies are being reinforced. We need them to properly protect and defend both our citizens at home and our nationals abroad, as well as to handle underhanded and unexpected attacks against our people and our armed forces that may take place anywhere in the world. 


Our security challenges are worrisome to the EU. Our organization is being confronted with these risks at a time when its common foreign and security policy is still developing. So we must maintain and enhance our solidarity as we enlarge with new member-states and continue to clarify our political vision. In addition, because instability can have a direct impact on the European Union in the areas of migration, proliferation of harmful networks, and the spread of terrorist organizations in developing areas, we must use all the capabilities at our disposal and adopt a global approach. 

The adaptation of our military personnel has already begun: We have adjusted our training operations and increased the ability of our military forces to work with other cultures. Our personnel now have many civilian partners—diplomats, analysts, police officers, technicians, financiers, academics, humanitarians, and others—with whom they work daily. Moreover, as part of expert teams, our military personnel often help bridge the gap between very different cultures. 

In specific terms, the Union’s military staff is preparing in 2004 to incorporate a civil-military planning unit that will enable all personnel, who have different backgrounds and have been trained differently, to work within the same structure and share their respective experience as early in the planning process as possible. In the future this unit should be able to generate an EU operational center, which we are currently working on, to plan and conduct an autonomous operation if other options with NATO or national operation headquarters do not materialize. 

Thus a true civil-military synergy at the operational level is coming into being. But the same synergy is also needed to deal with threat assessment, analysis, understanding of world events, and coordination of EU external actions. We expect this to come from the future constitution for Europe. Under such an authority, a European action service could be developed, including a council general and staff, civilian and military members, and national diplomatic corps. Such an operation could help to significantly improve the way we work together to prevent a crisis and enable us to acquire the capability to deal appropriately with information as well as make appropriate decisions in relation to the complex and multifaceted threats facing us today. 

The Union is currently studying the formation of integrated Rapid Reaction Force groups to complement this global approach and to take account of the new nature of threats. Such forces would have their own means of naval or air deployment that could be activated in a few days for an operation without recourse to NATO, and would complement NATO intervention. Discussions are currently underway regarding the range of possible missions, in particular under the United Nations mandate, the involvement of the various member-states, training and certification of forces, and the possible relationship with NATO response forces, which would draw on the same reservoir of rapidly deployable national forces. The military forces made available to the Union by the member-states would be mobile, agile, and rapidly deployable in accordance with interoperability and sustainability standards. 

The practical Rapid Reaction Force endeavor is part of a wider program of improving and making adjustments to European capabilities. As part of that program, the EU is envisaging introducing quality criteria to its operations. 

With regard to the fight against terrorism, following the events of March 11, we appointed a coordinator, Mr. Gijsde Vries, to improve EU efficiency in that area and to take advantage of all available tools, including ESDP and its military capabilities. The effort toward improving military capabilities is part of a continuing process of adjusting and developing defense capabilities, including research techniques, acquisition and purchasing procedures, and armaments. A team that includes EU military staff is currently working on organizational and operational details. 


With a better understanding of the new threats and with the institutional means to respond to them, which we continue to adapt, we must now build our capability for military action if we are to be a credible European security and defense means and strengthen our transatlantic relationship. Our new structure and assets, which are being developed relatively fast, should give us the ability to face new threats and to be a reliable partner of organizations such as NATO, the UN, and even the United States.


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