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Research Report

The EU’s joined-up approach to security: Between robust external action and co-ordinated compromise

Peter van Ham
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2016
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 31

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-2)

    In April 2015, the European Commission published “The European Agenda on Security”, setting out how the European Union (EU) could support member states in dealing more effectively with the wide array of security challenges they currently face.¹ In this Agenda, the Commission suggests maximising the benefits of existing EU instruments and measures, calling for a “more joined-up inter-agency and cross-sectorial approach.”² The Commission proposed launching a reflection on how to maximise the contributions of all relevant EU agencies and member states through better co-ordination, “comprehensive programming, careful planning and targeting of resources.” The Commission’s “European Agenda on Migration” (published in...

  4. (pp. 3-4)

    Over past decades, efforts have been made to overcome the drawbacks of a government system based on single-purpose organisations (which specialise), and to ensure co-operation and co-ordination as well as effectiveness and efficiency. A wide variety of labels has been used to describe these efforts, ranging from Whole-Of-Government, holistic government, networked government and connected government. All these approaches share the aim of working across organisational boundaries to enable effective and efficient policy development, implementation and policy delivery.⁷ International Organisations (IOs) such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have adopted comparable approaches, such as the “Comprehensive and...

  5. (pp. 5-8)

    The EU’s predicament in trying to achieve a joined-up approach to security is complex and intransigent, which makes it necessary to unscramble the structural obstacles it faces. There are three layers of problems for the EU: (1) the practical fragmentation of authority and capabilities, involving EU institutions, member states and third parties (2) the political challenge of linking the EU’s internal and external security problems and (3) the atmospheric backdrop of the EU’s current efforts to co-ordinate policies, ranging from rising Euro-scepticism to the return of geopolitics.

    Layer one consists of the most obvious practical fragmentation between a scattered field...

  6. (pp. 9-13)

    The Commission’s ambitious “European Agenda on Migration” (May 2015) suggests that “[n]o Member State can effectively address migration alone. It is clear that we need a new, more European approach. This requires using all policies and tools at our disposal – combining internal and external policies to best effect.” The Agenda on Migration also argues that “[a]ll actors: Member States, EU institutions, International Organisations, civil society, local authorities and third countries need to work together to make a common European migration policy a reality.”24 This concise (16-page) document offers a clear overview of which actors are involved in managing migration...

  7. (pp. 14-20)

    In general, policy coherence is achieved by (1) setting policy objectives (2) actual policy co-ordination through maximising synergies and minimising incoherence among all actors and (3) monitoring, analysing and reporting in order to generate “lessons learned” and provide an evidence base for accountability. This is the general modus operandi of any joined-up approach to any possible policy area. Within this context (particularly in the EU), there is a trend to depoliticise the policy process by applying standardised methods aimed at identifying a so-called “logically correct solution”.37 This also allows for careful planning, for example by ensuring that through a multi-year...

  8. (pp. 21-23)

    Since much of the EU’s current drive to “join up” its foreign and security policies repeats the well-known call for “more” and “better” co-ordination, it is important to find the right balance between ambition, policy innovation and realism. The gap between what can and what should be achieved needs to be bridgeable. The best approach to remain grounded in reality is to learn from past efforts to co-ordinate policies. Two “models” present themselves. First, the EU’s very own Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), which officially aims to “avoid contradictions and build synergies between different EU policies” in the area of...

  9. (pp. 24-27)

    The call for a joined-up approach to security within Europe is likely to resonate for years within EU institutions and national capitals. Co-operating and striving for coherence and effectiveness is the obvious preferred option for all actors involved. The EU’s ongoing migration crisis may galvanise the process towards better policy co-ordination, since the EU (and most member states) acknowledge that conflict, migration and poverty are often linked. As a result, different policy areas (trade, development, security and politics) have to be addressed comprehensively. On the EU level, this implies that policy coherence on a range of other issues (from human...