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Research Report

The Value of Power, the Power of Values:: A Call for an EU Grand Strategy

Sven Biscop ed.
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2009
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 45
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 9-14)

    In its 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) the EU already has a grand strategy – but a partial one. Grand strategy, defined by John Gaddis as “the calculated relationship between means and large ends”, is about defining the long-term overall foreign policy objectives to be achieved and the basic categories of instruments to be applied to that end. It serves as a reference framework for day-to-day policy-making and guides the definition of the means – i.e. the civilian and military capabilities – to be developed. By nature, grand strategy has a broad scope, integrating all external policies, so in EU...

  2. (pp. 15-20)

    The first rule of strategy-making could simply be: know thyself. Seemingly evident, it is actually not that clear which values and interests the EU seeks to safeguard, and which kind of international actor it wants to be.

    The Treaty defines the values on which the EU is based and which it states should also guide its foreign policy. The Lisbon Treaty extends this definition, putting additional emphasis on equality, solidarity and human dignity.⁵ This highlights what is in fact most distinctive about the EU model of society: the combination of democracy, the market economy, and strong state intervention, at Member...

  3. (pp. 21-24)

    The decision which kind of international actor the EU wants to be thus equals the choice for a specific approach, which is based on the promotion of its own model, and which at heart is preventive, holistic, and multilateral. These three principles constitute the how to do things advocated by the ESS and the Implementation Report.

    The first principle is prevention: “This implies that we should be ready to act before a crisis occurs. Conflict prevention and threat prevention cannot start too early”, as the ESS states. A permanent strategy of prevention and stabilisation, addressing the root causes of threats...

  4. (pp. 25-34)

    The whole aim of continuing the review process started in 2008 is to define in more detail the EU’s strategic objectives. Of course, a grand strategy is not an operational document – it will always be a guide for day-to-day policy-making. But the clearer the strategic objectives, the more they will generate purposive action. Therefore, on the basis of its vital interests the EU should identify its specific interests in each of the areas below and set more concrete objectives, for all fields of external action, in order to direct its sub-strategies, policies and actions.

    The ESS is the most...

  5. (pp. 35-36)

    It is not sufficient to have a grand strategy – one must then also apply it. Ultimately, joint action shapes a common strategic culture. Experience with the ESS shows that this requires a institutional follow-up structure, ensuring that a specific body is responsible for monitoring implementation, and setting deadlines for reporting back to the European Council. For lack of it, the ESS, although omnipresent in the public debate, failed to have sufficient impact on actual policy-making: officials habitually referred to it when having to explain to various publics the EU’s role in the world, but did not seem to refer...

  6. (pp. 37-38)

    A grand strategy that translates the values on which the EU’s own social model is based into a proactive and constructive foreign policy, aimed at concrete objectives: on that basis, with the right political leadership, the EU can be a global power. Like other European projects before it – the opening of the borders, the Euro – this too can be an inspiring project, able to generate the support of the public. Documents alone do not change the world – even though academics might sometimes wish otherwise – but it is important to provide a narrative to policy-makers and the...