The European Union’s Security Issues

Introduction

Security is a multifaceted concept that can be comprehended in diverse forms, hinging on its objects: the discernment of threats, the preserved values, and the ways through which these values are preserved1. The ongoing change in perception of security threat and the means through which these threats are addressed has contributed to the current studies of security concepts2. Traditionally, security matters mainly focused on safeguarding the territorial integrity of a country against internal and external aggressors. These include external military attacks or internal rebellion that could fragment or threaten the ruling elite. Other issues, for instance, economic matters were given less priority3.

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Global security studies are derived from security debates following the end of the 2nd World War. Initially, these debates were about how to defend a country from external and internal acts of aggression. Security was regarded as a mere slogan, distinguishing it from the earlier thoughts and disciplines of combat and military history4. Most security literature before the 2nd World War was to a large extent characterized by war and military strategies, as well as geopolitics.

They include books written by well-known writers, for example, Richardson, Mahan and Clausewitz among others5. Global security studies as a field evolved through interrelated concepts and theories drawn from a wide range of research programs. It later became an integral part of the field of International Relations6.

After the 2nd World War, there was a conceptual shift to a broader set of political matters, for instance, societal cohesion and the link between combative and non-combative threats and defencelessness. This was attributed to military and ideological threats posed by the Soviet Union during the cold war7. Moving forward from the 70s, the relationship between the world superpowers in terms of nuclear weapons came of age. The pressure was now on broadening the global security plan beyond military and geopolitics. As a result, economic and environmental security was later integrated into the wider security agenda. The global security agenda in the post-cold war era was later expanded to include identity/societal security, human security, and food security among others.

However, some of this literature challenged state-centrism and began focusing on the significance of ideas and culture and other aspects of security8. At the moment, global security studies have expanded into various distinct but interrelated subjects. In addition to conventional military-cantered security studies, other crucial security studies have emerged. They include feminist security studies and post-structuralism, constructivist security studies and many more9. Most contemporary studies on security also focus on terrorism and insurgency following the 9/11 attack and the war in Afghanistan10.

Nonetheless, this essay will explore different premises and concepts and key arguments between different authors and their academic positions to find an answer to our main study question, that is, what is European security? Is it an attempt by the European member states to realize their long-term dream of a centralized Europe with an autonomous military and security strategy? Or is it another attempt by the EU member states to guarantee the continued existence of NATO by tying its combat operations to the nationals and other resources available to the European Union?

The essay will tackle this issue in five chapters. The first chapter will analyze theories and approaches to European security. The second chapter will offer an overview of European security. Chapter three will explore the role of NATO and the EU on European security. Chapter four will explore the evolution of European security and defense policy. Last but not least, the paper will take a look at some critical issues that will shape the future of European security.

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Theories and approaches to European security

European security refers to EU’s initiatives to restore peace and stability among the member states and other areas of interest11. Several kinds of literature unequivocally tried to conceptualize the relationship between the EU and its foreign/defense policies within a theoretical framework. The contribution of these writers reflected historical developments within a specific period. For instance, writers in the 70s and 80s pursued two discrete approaches.

These are neo-realism and neo-functionalism. Neo-realism emphasized the correlation between developments in the European domain and changes in the global system structure12. Classical realists emphasized on the significance of the balance of power in determining the conduct of individual states in global relations. Therefore, European defense and security issues were not tied to the dynamics of regional integration13.

On the contrary, neo-functionalists think that integration is a result of political interest played within global institutions. They argue that members of a particular organization may resolve their discontent in the realization of the agreed joint objective by partnering with another organization. According to the neo-functionalists, a tendency had been created to favor the establishment of joint international policy14.

A considerable amount of literature emerged in the late 80s and early 90s investigating the relationship between the European Union and the common foreign and security policy, reflecting developments in defense and security domain. One school of thought acknowledged the contribution of neo-realism and neo-functionalism approaches. However, it identified several significant drawbacks to both approaches.

It argues that these limitations could be bridged by taking into consideration Moravcsik’s work on interstate institutions. Moravcsik tried to show how an improved realist point of view could explain the EU’s negotiations. His approach confirmed the centrality of power and interest, which was the principal precept of a realist in the earlier period. Moravcsik argued that the interests are not only established through power balance but also the influence of the local stakeholders and politicians15.

Moravcsik’s approaches are anchored in three fundamental ideologies: intergovernmental, mutual bargaining, and firm restrictions on future transfers of autonomy. According to this viewpoint, the principal stakeholders of policy-making are found at the country level, though there are international dynamics in the process16. Fascinatingly, he later amended his approach to giving this important role to institutions rather than individuals17.

Another school of thought emphasized that the dynamics of EU security depended on the negotiation process between, on one hand, NATO and Western Europe and, on the other hand, efforts by the EU member states and the United States to work out a new arrangement on how to share the burden. For this reason, Laird came up with a caucus model to capture a range of bilateral relationships among certain western European countries18. Another school of thought attempted to merge regional integration theory and systems of government. Also, they employed the concept of ‘international presence’ to understand the role of the European Union in the global affairs19.

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Overview of the European security

The turning point of European security began at the end of the 2nd World War. The aftermath of the war left the US and Russia as the leading military powers around the globe, but their style of governance and economy were like chalk and cheese. The United States was a capitalist democracy, while Russia was a communist dictatorship. The two superpowers dreaded each other in all aspects. Also, the 2nd World War left Russia in command of the Eastern bloc, while the allies of the United States controlled the Western bloc20.

The US and the Western allies felt threatened by the communist conquest. As a result, they took the necessary actions and precautions to stop the spread of communism, for instance, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The growing tension and fear between the two sides saw the formation of military alliances. The US-led West grouped to form NATO, while the Russian led East came together under the Warsaw pact.

As a result, by the early 50s Europe was disintegrated into two major power blocs, each side having nuclear warheads. This was subsequently followed by hostility between nations without actually fighting (also known as the cold war)21.

Despite the anxiety and trepidation of nuclear war, the cold war division between the two blocs shockingly stabilized. Numerous steps and programs were undertaken to ease strained relations between states. They included a series of talks which helped to calm down the hostilities and equalize arms numbers. The two German nations entered into talks under the Ostpolitik plan22. Experts argue that the horror of total devastation played a huge role in averting direct military engagement. Luckily, the division between the two blocs ended after the fall of the Soviet Union in 199123.

Following the end of the cold war, European member states signed a treaty (also known as the Maastricht Treaty) which marked the beginning of modern Europe. Under the Maastricht Treaty, EU foreign policies are formulated and implemented under two distinct institutional processes: the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and other external policies managed by the three main EU institutions24. Several treaties have also been signed to enhance the unity and efficiency of the EU’s foreign and security policies, the most recent being the Lisbon treaty. Lisbon treaty was aimed to improve the coordination between the two institutional processes25.

Many authors have written numerous articles on the state of European security. The majority of them tend to put a lot of emphasis on significant decisions26 and specific subjects, for instance, military capacity and transatlantic relations rather than offering a general account of the dynamics behind such initiatives27. However, several writers have tried either to discuss European security as part of the intergovernmental conference agenda to examine the impact of the recent accords on the EU’s evolution or have emphasized the role of bilateral relationships, external influence and the process of the EU integration28.

Professor Howorth argues that the European security policies were shaped by three principal factors: the high level of political goodwill created since the Amsterdam treaty; the reliance of NATO on European military capacity and need to sustain a defense industrial base; and the commitment of the key member states towards security initiatives. He drew attention to the significance of the impact of the Kosovo crisis on these initiatives. The EU member states were perturbed by the fact that they could not get their act together and lacked autonomous military capacity to intervene29.

The role of NATO and the EU on European security

NATO was formed in 1949 after the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty by the United States and 12 EU member states. NATO’s main objective is joint security against external aggressors30. The current membership comprises of 28 EU member states, the United States and Canada, with the newest members being Croatia and Albania. NATO’s budget constitutes more than two-thirds of the global military expenditure31.

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The majority of new members hail from southeast Europe (also referred to as Balkan states). NATO and the EU signed a comprehensive agreement in 2002 under the Berlin Treaty. The accord gave the EU authority to use NATO resources whenever it felt like acting autonomously in global security matters. The agreement gives the EU military wing an additional muscle to tackle both internal and external security and defense matters32.

NATO has been used in major global military and peace operations in the post cold war era. However, the organization never took part in any operation during the cold war period. Several military operations carried out by NATO include Bosnia and Herzegovina operations in 1992, Kosovo intervention in 1999, Afghanistan War following 9/11 attack, Iraq military training mission, anti-piracy campaign along the Gulf of Eden, and the most recently ousting of Muammar Gaddafi33.

The European Union is organized into three branches (also known as pillars): the first branch deals with socioeconomic and green policies: the second branch is responsible for foreign policies and security strategies, and lastly the third branch deals with legal and domestic issues. Initially, security matters were exercised through a link between the second pillar and the Western European Union (WEU). The WEU acted as a link between the European Union and NATO. The WEU was mainly entrusted with the responsibility of providing a forum for dialogue on matters related to security and had no adequate resources to build up command and control capacity34.

Since security matters go beyond military operations and budgeting, the EU plays a major role in security through the first two pillars. The Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties offered new foreign and security policy instruments and political structures35. It also introduced popular voting and constructive non-voting to offer greater flexibility in foreign affairs and security matters. The EU also introduced joint actions among member states to avert or simplify intricate matters, for instance, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, humanitarian assistance, extra-territorial legislation, and deployment of a team of observers in various elections36.

The EU is increasingly becoming an important player in global affairs. The presence of the EU is gradually being integrated into the reality of international politics by scholars and global players. Some experts believe that the EU will play a major role in security matters in the coming years. The recent EU operation in the DRC and war against piracy on the coast of Somalia are examples of how its responsibility for security matters is growing37.

The EU’s focus on global security matters dates back to the early 70s. During this period, Europe had to confront the price shocks in the global petroleum industry and later on the insurgency in Iran. All these incidences helped the EU member countries to acknowledge the need to have an autonomous foreign security policy38. An example of this increasing awareness is the Venice Declaration in the early 80s where the EU made its first contact with the Middle East, calling for the basic fundamental rights, territorial exchange and security in the entire region39. Therefore, war and unrest in the Middle East during the early 70s marked the beginning of the EU’s relations with the region, although it was a humble start with more focus on bilateral trade agreements and limited policy cooperation40.

The new security strategies used by the EU attracted a lot of interest from the region. Also, the growing bad blood between the US and the Arab world drew them closer to the EU. This was facilitated by the massive domestic opposition and criticism of the Middle East governments owing to their overdependence on US military power and protection41. Furthermore, America’s overwhelming support for Israel and war against Iraq has created widespread mistrust in the Arab world. For the Arab nations, it had become a matter of national security to be associated with the US. As a result, the regimes have been doing everything possible to show that they are not dependent on US power.

This has provided the EU with massive opportunity to strengthen its ties with the Middle East region42. Nonetheless, the EU’s participation in the region is still being considered as unsatisfactory. Regardless of this, the EU has continued to engage with the Middle East governments to make sure that there is stability in the region43.

The relationship between NATO and the European Union is significant to European security. After the unsuccessful attempt to develop the European Defence Community (EDC), the wish for European security found expression in Euro groups and other makeshift alliances within NATO44. The end of the Cold War increased the position of NATO in European security. This caused tension between NATO and the Western European Union.

Even though NATO’s strategic plan of 1991 recognized the significance of joint European security and defense policy, the two organizations found it very difficult to work together. The rivalry between them was manifested in 1992 when they both took part in the former Yugoslavia but failed to harmonize their operations. However, in the mid-90s, NATO took over the peacekeeping and enforcement activities45.

The US proposed a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) in 1994 to help solve the problem of burden-sharing. This concept took into account both political and military components. From a military perspective, the proposal represented a novel system of coordinating command and control structures within NATO46. However, during 1996 a couple of impediments hindered the progress of the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF).

The main obstacle was defining responsibility between NATO and WEU during the execution process. A breakthrough appeared to be found during the Berlin Summit in 1996 when a proposal was made to create an all-inclusive military force that can work together under the political leadership and plan of a joint security organization. The WEU was to be allowed to use NATO resources. However, the proposal was later dropped due to misunderstandings and wrangles among the principal stakeholders. All in all, NATO remained the major force in European security and defense matters regardless of the introduction of the above concepts47.

Evolution of European security and defense policy

The evolution of the European security strategy took a dramatic change in 1999 during the war in Kosovo. The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) is an essential component of the joint foreign and security strategy. The institutions and systems supporting ESDP have gone through significant reforms since the late 90s. These reforms were based on the fundamental requirement expressed in the British-French summit at St. Malo in 1998. During the summit, a proposal was passed that the EU must have the capability to execute an independent operation backed by a reliable military force under one command. This meant that the European security body had to be given fitting structures and power to decide on its policies48.

The formulation of security and defense policies in Europe is based on an intricate process of decision-making that generally involves far-reaching, institution-based interstate relations. The EU member states are normally involved in policymaking. The final decisions pass through the voting process, hence they are based on the majority rule. For this reason, foreign affairs and security resolutions are shaped by the interaction between the EU and the national governments49.

The European Council (EC) is the highest European body that is responsible for defining security and defense guidelines and principles. To be specific, the EC decides on the general policies and addresses areas of concern for member states. For this reason, most security and defense matters hardly ascend to the highest level of the heads of states unless the deliberations and decisions are of high significance. The EU summit assemblies held between 1999 and 2003 (for instance, Helsinki summit, Nice summit, and Brussels summit) contributed significantly to the establishment of European Security and Defence Policy50.

The approval of the European Security Strategy (ESS) in 2003 was a significant milestone towards the achievement of the common security and defense policy. In 2004, the EC approved a vital document on WEU/NATO relations, envisaging new modus operandi to enhance collaboration between the two organizations. Last but not least, successive European summits held between 2007 and 2008 initiated and concluded the reassessment of the ESS implementation, which involved a specific emphasis on ESDP development. The adoption of the policy document also contributed to the definition of ESDP’s wider political context and setting up of a regional security and defense strategy51.

Critical European Security issues

One of the most critical issues facing European security is military and political policies. Over the recent past, there are several voices, particularly from different sides of the political realm, demanding for a common strategic concept and statutory report on security. They argue that it is the only way through which EU member states can come to a common ground on how to set up a political set of guidelines for defense and security and avert ad-hoc decision-making process that has become a norm52.

On the contrary, some experts argue that such attempts would be impulsive and probably unproductive. According to these experts, member states should be given adequate time to find common ground. Also, neutral states would be particularly hesitant to make their stance known on such sensitive matters53.

They add that another obstacle to this style of the policy-making procedure is the new set of participants in European security. These include influential and very powerful defense ministries and multinational corporations within the technology sectors. These interest groups in collaboration with several EU member states can attempt to sidestep the laid down procedures, thus creating space for lack of democratic accountability54.

In recent times, discussions about uniformity in the EU’s security policies have surfaced again. In particular, these discussions have focused on the dynamics of inter-institutional relations across the EU’s principal security pillars. Different decision-making directives and processes are not only applied among these pillars but also distinct policy domains within each pillar. This can cause a considerable amount of problems during the implementation of the security and defense strategies. Even though several treaties signed by the EU member states entailed measures to enhance cooperation among the EU’s three pillars, the truth is that a significant level of rivalry and incongruence persist55.

Another critical issue that will have a massive impact on European security and defense is the expansion of the EU and NATO. Analysts argue that the EU’s enlargement as proposed in the Nice Treaty will have a considerable impact on the European security policies, both at the functional and geographical levels. At the moment, reflections on the effect of such enlargement are still tentative.

However, even though it is not possible to comprehend the position of the prospective aspirants for EU membership on security and defense matters, their inclusion will lead to reorganization and a rebalancing of popular and marginal views within the Security Council56.

It is obvious that most prospective aspirants from the former Eastern bloc consider EU expansion basically for economic gain and have a tendency to rely on NATO for security. This could mean that in the future European security might be diluted by the alliance between the current member states and the prospective candidates from the East. As a result, a number of the current EU member states have been very eager to introduce new clauses in the existing security and defense policy to ensure future stability57.

Another critical issue is the EU and NATO divergent expansion. The two organizations do not follow similar logic and procedures, although they do have common characteristics. For instance, the EU is funding eastern European states to streamline their security and defense structure, whereas NATO is urging these countries to enhance their military spending. For this reason, the lack of clear and consensual guidelines may cause challenges during the transition process. Therefore, the two processes call for more linkage58.

Also, the disparity between NATO and EU membership means that the Baltic republics are favored for speedy European accession whereas there are some reservations about their admission to NATO. Therefore, it appears that their inclusion will involve some ingenious security assurance. Furthermore, some western European security experts believe the ongoing negotiations between the EU and these countries would have immense security implications59.

Conclusion

Significant steps have been made towards the realization of the long-term dream of a centralized Europe with an autonomous military and security strategy. The long-term objective of enhancing the working relationship between NATO and WEU has also been realized. The establishment of the EU’s military committees and the Rapid Reaction Force has given the EU some military muscle. However, there are several conflicting trends in the process.

Even though the majority of the EU member states approved the setting up of military structure and forces, a common ground has not been reached on how to use them in times of crisis. Also, there are different views on the relationship between NATO and the EU’s military structure. Even though the latter was created to fortify EU’s security, several experts argue that it may end up contributing more to the restructuring of NATO and the creation of makeshift alliances instead of giving EU independent capability.

These conflicting trends are attributable to the nature of the consensus attained during the various negotiation processes. For instance, during the British-French summit at St, Malo in 1998, the objective was to create a military force that can undertake foreign operations.

However, the British government appeared somehow reluctant in embracing the idea of creating a military structure under the second pillar. Also, NATO’s chief of Defence plays a major role in defining the EU’s security and defense policies. All in all, the creation of a military structure and forces is a significant step towards strengthening the EU’s role in regional and global security and defense matters.

The current security strategies used by the EU has attracted a lot of interest from regions perceived to be hostile towards the United States, for instance, the Middle East. The growing bad blood between the US and the Arab world has brought them closer to the EU. EU-Middle East relationship has also been strengthened by the fact that the current US foreign and security policies have received heavy criticism from a section of the EU members. Furthermore, the US overwhelming support for Israel and the anti-terror war in the Middle East has worsened the situation.

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Footnotes

  1. Mitsilegas, V & Molnar, J, The European Union and internal security, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
  2. Ibid.
  3. B, Buzan & Hansen, L, The Evolution of International Security Studies. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  4. Fierke, KM, Critical Approaches to International Security, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2007.
  5. Buzan & Hansen, p. 4.
  6. Marten, K, Enforcing the Peace, New York, Columbia University Press, 2004.
  7. Williams, PD, Security Studies: An Introduction, Oxon, Routledge, 2008.
  8. Marten, p. 214.
  9. Sheehan, M, International Security: An Analytical Survey, London, Lynne Rienner, 2005.
  10. Orbie, J, Europe’s Global Role: External Policies of the European Union, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008.
  11. Shepherd, AJK, “Top-Down or Bottom-Up: is security and defense policy in the EU a question of political will or military capability? European Security, vol.9, no.2. pp. 13-30.
  12. Bono, G, European Security, and Defence Policy: theoretical approaches, the Nice Summit and hot issues, Bradford, UK, Bradford University, 2002.
  13. Waltz, KN, Theory of International Politics, Massachusetts, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1979.
  14. Haas, EP, “Turbulent Fields and the Theory of Regional Integration”, International Organizations, vol. 30, 1976, pp. 173-212.
  15. Moravcsik, A, “Negotiating the Single European Act: national interests and conventional statecraft in the European Community”, International Organizations, vol. 45, no. 1, 1991, pp. 651-688.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Bono, p. 7.
  18. Roger, J, Defining a common defense policy and common defense, in Martin, L & Roper, J, Towards a common defense policy, Paris, Western European Union, 1995.
  19. Hofmann, SC, “Why Institutional Overlap Matters: CSDP in the European Security Architecture”, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 49, no.1, 2011, pp. 101-120.
  20. Young, JW, Cold War Europe 1945-1991: A Political History, London, Arnold, 1996.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Mason, J, The Cold War 1945-1991, London, Routledge, 1996.
  23. Young, p. 10.
  24. Davis-Cross, MK, Security integration in Europe, Ann Arbor, UMP, 2011.
  25. Mix, DE, The European Union: Foreign and Security Policy, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress 7-5700, 2013.
  26. Shepherd, p. 19.
  27. Van Ham, P, “Europe’s common defense policy: implications for the transatlantic relationship”, Security Dialogue, vol. 31, no. 2, 2007, pp. 215-242.
  28. Bono, p. 8.
  29. Howorth, J, Britain, “France and the European Defence Initiative”, Survival, vol. 42, no.2, 2000, pp. 33-55.
  30. M, Webber, M, Croft, S, Turriff & Howorth, J, “One In All In NATO’s Latest enlargement”, International Affairs, vol. 78, 2002, pp. 713-30.
  31. Webber, M (2009) ‘NATO: The United States, Transformation and the War in Afghanistan’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 11, 2009, pp. 46-63.
  32. Sperling, J & Webber, M, “NATO: From Kosovo to Kabul”, International Affairs, vol. 85, no. 3, 2009, pp. 491-511.
  33. Kelley, JR, (2011) ‘Keep calm and carry on: Appraising the Transatlantic Relationship from Iraq to Obama’, European Political Science, vol. 10, no. 1, 2011, pp. 20-26.
  34. Asmus, R, Opening NATO’s Door, New York, Columbia University Press, 2002.
  35. Bono, p. 15.
  36. Ibid.
  37. O, Elgström & Smith, M, The European Union’s Roles in International Politics, Colchester: ECPR Press, 2006.
  38. Muller-Brandeck-Bouquet, G, “The New CFSP & ESDP”, European Foreign Affairs Review (EFAR), vol.7, no.3, 2002, pp. 209-226.
  39. Cottey, A, Security in the new Europe, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  40. Elgström & Smith, p. 56.
  41. Dunn, DH, “‘ Assessing the Debate, Assessing the Damage: Transatlantic Relations after Bush”, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 11, 2009, pp. 4-24.
  42. Balme, R, Europe-Asia Relations, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2008.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Howorth, J, Security and Defence Policy in the European Union, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Howorth, J, Britain, “France and the European Defence Initiative”, Survival, vol. 42, no.2, 2000, pp. 33-55.
  47. Muller-Brandeck-Bouquet, G, “The New CFSP & ESDP”, European Foreign Affairs Review (EFAR), vol.7, no.3, 2002, pp. 209-226.
  48. Howorth, J, Britain, “France and the European Defence Initiative”, Survival, vol. 42, no.2, 2000, pp. 33-55.
  49. Hofmann, SC, “Why Institutional Overlap Matters: CSDP in the European Security Architecture”, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 49, no.1, 2011, pp. 101-120.
  50. Jaeger, T, “Enhanced Cooperation in the Treaty of Nice and Flexibility in the CFSP” European Foreign Affairs Review EFAR, vol.7, no. 3, 2002, pp. 35-45
  51. Howorth, J, Security and Defence Policy in the European Union, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  52. Heisbourg, F, “Europe’s Strategic Ambitions; the limits of ambiguity”, Survival, vol. 42, no. 2, 2001, pp.5-15.
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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 19). The European Union's Security Issues. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-european-unions-security-issues/

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