Center for Strategic Decision Research


The Nature of Security, Public Opinion and EU Planning

Mr. Jean-Arthur Régibeau
Diplomatic Advisor to the Belgian Defense Minister


I would like to refer to several points that were made by candidate country representatives, including President Adamkus. They concern the nature of security, public opinion, and EU planning. It seems clear that security is not solely a military issue. Minister Scharping made this point, and we can only agree. Also, achieving security is not a question of having either NATO or EU membership. To me these two organizations have never been alternatives: memberships in NATO and the EU are complementary. Even in the security field, the organizations' purposes are not exactly the same, and candidate countries should remember this. Security in the EU is gained by integrating economically, culturally, and politically. EU member-states simply do not even think about waging war against each other, which is different from collective defense. In this way, the EU is not simply about prosperity, but also about security for our continent. 

One speaker mentioned that Europeans have a tendency toward appeasement in international politics. Personally I find this statement a bit shocking, because that is certainly not the way we look at it. Our views may diverge from the American view concerning the means to be used, but I do not think that there are so many differences as to the objectives. 


I would also like to refer to the points made about public opinion. As an assistant to a minister, I feel that we can never forget about public opinion; if we do, we will pay the price in the next election. This is particularly true regarding security because, politically speaking, a majority of 50 +1 is not nearly enough. You need to have a much broader consensus when you speak about the future of your nation, your society, and institutions such as NATO and the EU. You need to convince the people. 

I would also like to make special reference to the media, particularly newspapers. Too often during the Belgian presidency of the EU, journalists made mistakes, not because they wanted to mislead people but because they did not make the effort to learn the facts. I am not speaking here about papers such as Le Monde or the Financial Times because very few mistakes are made in those papers, but about other large-circulation papers. Since more voters tend to read papers such as Bild Zeitung rather than the Financial Times, we need to find a way to convince people that security is indeed worth the effort, and not by including just a few words in the paper, but through a large effort throughout Europe. Ministers must discuss ways of addressing public opinion not through propaganda but by getting information across. Later, if journalists or the general public disagree with the facts or want to express different views, that can be handled as a separate issue. 


Finally, I would like to touch on what we have been trying to do at the EU level. Minister Scharping and General Schuwirth already mentioned the development of the ESDP, and I would like to link this point to the war on terrorism. We already know fairly well the kinds of means we need for each force that would be dealing with peacekeeping and peace enforcement issues. But what we need to design now, at the European level, is the process for putting that in place. Reference has already been made to the Headline Goal and the Capabilities Action Plan. 

At the political level, we are thinking about creative financing. It is well known that budgets are always constrained, mainly because Europeans are not willing to spend much more on security or defense issues, so we are looking for possible creative financing solutions. One prospect is working with international organizations such as OCCAR or through private sector institutions. It is also essential, a point that has been mentioned, that we all work at the European level to spend our money more efficiently and buy together. Such action would not only improve our capabilities but convince our voters that we are serious about doing something. 


As we think about terrorism, it seems that we do not yet have a clear concept. Exactly what does terrorism mean, and, in the current context, what does war actually mean? Reference is often made to non-proliferation, but this is hardly a new concept. Reference is also made to missile defense, but this is a term that was born out of the Cold War. What is new is that small terrorist groups have very strong weapons at their disposal, and this can lead to very dangerous and destabilizing crises. It seems to me that even the U.S. does not yet have a clear answer to that, let alone the EU, and that the proper answer does not just involve the military or the defense ministry, but also interior ministries, justice departments, and finance ministers. Along with the right answer we also need to convince the public of the need to work together and to provide the necessary resources for the fight. 





















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