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The EU Global Strategy for a Shared EU Security Policy


In 2016, the European Union (EU) introduced a new EU Global Strategy (EUGS) for its region that outlined plans and principles for security and foreign policy. This document showed the shift in the EU’s stance towards local and international interests, placing the EU in the context of several crises and arguing for more substantial hard power. Thus, the targets for the countries inside and outside the Union changed for the organization. One of the key terms used in this strategy is ‘resilience’ to which the EU often returns, putting its importance in the future of the world above other approaches to security and growth.

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Some critics investigated the impact of the EUGS on the EU itself as well as other countries, considering the most pressing issues of Brexit and the refugee crisis. In this paper, I will present how the transition of the EU towards the EUGS reflects its arising concerns about internal security and creates different goals for security policy. I will also argue that the idea of resilience while allowing the EU to pay attention to domestic solutions continues to influence other countries.

Moving from the ESS to the EUGS

It is essential to compare the previous version of the EU’s security policy to the most recent 2016 document to show how the priorities of the organization have changed. In 2003, the European Security Strategy (ESS) was adopted by the European Council to address the questions about internal and foreign policy. The document’s core values, however, became obsolete in the next decade as the world encountered several crises, including the refugee crisis and climate change. Moreover, people saw major shifts in political relations, such as Brexit and Russia’s annexation of Crimea (Smith, 2017). Therefore, the European Union Global Strategy (EUGS) was developed, acknowledging these problems, which explains its new core values. First of all, the focus became a ‘middle ground between overambitious liberal peace-building and under-ambitious stability’ (Tocci, 2017, pp. 71). This position was named ‘resilience’, and the EU vowed to use it when dealing with its member states as well as other countries.

Second, the EU changed its view on security from an entity that protects its values to a more person-centred approach. This is explained in the EUGS by the fact that Europe, similar to other regions, has been affected by many crises over the last decade. The new strategy emphasises the need to protect its citizens but argues that the interconnectedness of the world has led to all problems becoming linked to each other (Mälksoo, 2016). As a result, a collective approach to foreign policy is vital for the EU’s internal affairs. Furthermore, this combination of tumultuous conditions led the EU to reject the previous desire to export their model, seeking ‘reciprocal inspiration’ instead (European Union Global Strategy, 2016, p. 32). A more pragmatic view of collaboration emerges, replacing multilateralism with global governance.

Analysing these changes, one can see that the EU’s goals of 2003 differ from those in 2016 due to the changing political environment and global and regional crises. The entity is now more interested in increasing its resilience against adverse events, stating that the focus on protecting its citizens should become the primary target for the region. Nevertheless, it does not completely shy away from international cooperation, emphasising the role of global governance in times when one country’s problems affect its neighbours the rest of the world.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the EUGS

The focus on internal security discussed above can be interpreted as the EUGS setting clear boundaries for which goals are essential to the creation of policy. Nevertheless, some scholars, including Smith (2017) and Biscop (2016), argue that the lack of prioritisation of the objectives is limited in the strategy which may present problems when devising new policy. For instance, the EU sees the participation in conflicts outside its borders as a part of security policy. However, it is unclear what should be more critical at the moment and which of the goals – resilience, cooperation or others – are to be pursued first. Moreover, the strategy does not assess the problems that the external context presents, although the document shows that these issues are important to resolve as they affect the internal peace of the EU members (Barbé and Morillas, 2019). Thus, one cannot design policy if it does not sufficiently represent the state of external actors and their place in local affairs.

The EUGS is a strategy for a vast number of countries, and its global and general nature means that it is unable to set specific goals or present activities that would transparently show their objectives. Smith (2017) notes that this can be seen as a major flaw in the strategy’s effectiveness. Actions and specific operations may be challenging to include in such a broad explanation of the EU’s plan. Nonetheless, Smith (2017) argues that the entity could discuss resources and instruments that could be helpful for the member countries and the EU as a whole to pursue the established goals. For example, the documents mention that specific time frames are to be set to achieve goals, but actors, possible approaches, and tools are not listed or assessed.

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The Implementation Plan on Security and Defence (IPSD) which accompanies the EUGS demonstrates some aims that the EU hopes to achieve with the new strategy. According to Mogherini (2017, p. 1), the core tasks include ‘responding to external conflicts’, ‘building the [partners’] capacities’ and protecting the EU ‘through external action’. In this case, the ideology of resilience is apparent – the crises are considered and dealt with as they appear and the external action is seen as the extension of the EU’s core interest in internal security. The addition of the IPSD to the global strategy creates some benefits for the new document as it shows some concrete goals for the EU members to pursue. It further emphasises the need to preserve internal peace and explains why external action is necessary for the region.

Nonetheless, it still fails at addressing the issues that surround the military capabilities and the economic stability of the region. Most importantly, as Biscop (2016) notes, the lack of acknowledgement of Brexit and its impact on the EU’s security resources can significantly weaken the strategy and impact its implementation in practice. The process of Brexit is still unfinished, and such a major change in political and economic relations is bound to affect the resources available to the EU. Thus, it is unclear how the EUGS can be used as a foundation for the region’s security policy if it lacks understanding of whether the UK is included in its plans.

Another point of debate in the EUGS’ effectiveness as the basis for security policy is the exploration of the term resilience and the objectives that this core value produces. As noted above, the EUGS frequently uses the idea of resilience to explain its position. It is a change from the promotion of democracy, but it still presents some challenges for addressing the source of the problem for many communities, including the EU. For instance, by increasing the resilience of a certain state or promoting the preparedness for crises, the EU may overlook problems that are related to human rights and domestic or global inequality.

Using the strategy’s assumption that the state of external actors influences the prosperity and security of the EU members, one can argue that this position endangers the EU’s core value of equality. An example of this position negatively affecting other countries is investigated by Anholt and Sinatti (2020), who show that building resilience in Jordan and Lebanon may threaten the security of Europe rather than improving it. The EU assists these states in their interaction with refugees, and the authors argue that this action can be interpreted as refugee containment, thus creating a foundation for political unrest. In the end, the core strategy of the EUGS may be a threat to the region’s security.


The European Union Global Strategy, unveiled by the EU in 2016, made significant changes to its view of security and foreign policy in comparison to the 2003 ESS. The optimistic democratisation was replaced with resilience, and global governance became the goal instead of multilateralism. The addition of the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence allowed the EU to outline some general objectives for country members. Nevertheless, the strategy still lacks information that could lead to a better, more transparent policy based on a thorough investigation of available resources and instruments. Such vagueness results in the EU overlooking major issues and potentially exposing the EU members to future threats.

Reference List

  1. Anholt, R. and Sinatti, G. (2020) ‘Under the guise of resilience: the EU approach to migration and forced displacement in Jordan and Lebanon’, Contemporary Security Policy, 41(2), pp. 311-335.
  2. Barbé, E. and Morillas, P. (2019) ‘The EU global strategy: the dynamics of a more politicized and politically integrated foreign policy’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 32(6), pp. 753-770.
  3. Biscop, S. (2016) ‘The EU global strategy: Realpolitik with European characteristics’, Might and Right in World Politics, pp. 91-100.
  4. Mälksoo, M. (2016) ‘From the ESS to the EU Global Strategy: external policy, internal purpose’, Contemporary Security Policy, 37(3), pp. 374-388.
  5. Smith, K.E. (2017) ‘A European Union global strategy for a changing world?’, International Politics, 54(4), pp. 503-518.
  6. Tocci, N. (2017) Framing the EU global strategy. a stronger Europe in a fragile World. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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"The EU Global Strategy for a Shared EU Security Policy." StudyCorgi, 10 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "The EU Global Strategy for a Shared EU Security Policy." January 10, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "The EU Global Strategy for a Shared EU Security Policy." January 10, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "The EU Global Strategy for a Shared EU Security Policy." January 10, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The EU Global Strategy for a Shared EU Security Policy'. 10 January.

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