Christos Katsioulis (Program Director, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung)

17.03.2010 - Interview conducted by James Hood

The European Union traditionally avoids security debates. Do you think the Lisbon Treaty will force these types of debates to take place? Do you think the EU will be able to get its conflicting states to work together? Will that in any way diminish their soft power, especially as Europe's traditional role as peace broker?

What the Lisbon Treaty does is applies the institutional arrangement of the European Union to the challenges of 2 or 3 years ago, which is progress if you compare it to the Treaty of Nice which was meant for the challenges of 10 or 12 years ago. These challenges include failing or failed states which need to be dealt with. Therefore the part of the Lisbon Treaty dealing with foreign security policy makes it easier for member states whom are willing and able to deal with these issues on a European level to do that. Right now we have this consensus principle that is a convoy approach - you have to go as fast as the slowest which makes it extremely difficult to be an effective crisis management actor and also a credible one because if the decision to act takes 2-3 months, sometimes things are over, and therefore I thinks it a necessary adaption. In regards to Europe’s role as a peace broker, I do not think we will see such a bigger military role for the European Union. We will see more effective missions, but we won’t have large scale missions like the United States. That is not the aim and there is no political will for that. We should not forget that part of the European Union are the Scandinavian states with a very comprehensive approach for its foreign security policy and Germany with its specific past concerning military means and its many more states which are not prone to act militarily all over the world so I do not think we will see more muscle or the European Union taking over conflicts all over the world but we will have more means to serve as a peace broker. Right now, the European Union can offer carrots but not sticks. You see it in Iran - We offered carrots, the United States, the sticks.

The US has had problems with other nations not pulling their weight. Do you think this issue may be overcome with a common EAS or will there still be constraints over minor concerns about what needs to be done in each theatre?

It is very difficult to answer. I think they can be overcome by institutional arrangements or the EAS. It can be overcome by common units where this absurdity can be discussed before two or more partners. And you can play a real blame and shame game which is necessary and already done by the Americans sometimes, but not enough. You need to expose these caveats publicly to illustrate how ineffective and bizarre the European or multilateral missions are organised. It’s like the anecdote with the German and French soldiers deployed. The Germans were not allowed to drink alcohol during the day, the French could drink wine with lunch. These things make it difficult when you are in a common camp surrounded by enemies, and you have to discuss these little things.

How do you think Lady Ashton will fair in facilitating the EAS and in the best case scenario, will Europe ever create a grand strategy like the American version?

I think we do need something like a grand strategy. For Lady Ashton, in the middle term or short term, to initiate something like a strategy development service, we have the security strategy which is strategy especially because its 16 pages and everybody wins, and on the opposite side we have the operation initiative. There is nothing in between. Therefore, we have made this proposal for a white paper where we tried to break down the ideas of a security strategy into implementation. On the other end of the scale, there is a grand strategy needed. If we want to do something like this we need to discuss opening our principles, our interests, values, and what we want to do on the global scale. I believe that is far beyond the first years of Lady Ashton, but if she can start something like this, I would be happy with the short term. On the other hand, the ideal outcome would be if member states agreed more openly that their role will be diminishing further and further in 10 years. If we want to achieve things in dealing with Russia, China, India or even the US, we need to pull our weight together, otherwise we cannot achieve anything. If Britain still believes that it has a special relationship with the United States, and can make special deals, as does Poland, as does Greece, as do many other countries. You saw the study by Witney and Shapiro where it showed 20 of 27 member states think they have a special relationship with the US. If they agree that they want to achieve something on the global scale and pull their weight, then the job of Lady Ashton will be easier, far easier.