Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)


From 1948, when the UK, France, and the Benelux signed the Treaty of Brussels

The agreement included a mutual defence clause laying down the foundations for the creation of the Western European Union (WEU), which remained until the late 1990s, together with NATO, the principal forum for consultation and dialogue on security and defence in Europe.

Following the end of the Cold War and the subsequent conflicts in the Balkans, it became clear that the EU needed to assume its responsibilities in the field of conflict prevention and crisis management. The conditions under which military units could be deployed were already agreed by the WEU Council in 1992 but the so-called “Petersberg Tasks” where now integrated in the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam. In addition, the post of the “High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy” was created to allow the Union to speak with ‘one face and one voice’ on foreign policy matters.

At the Cologne European Council in 1999, Member States reaffirmed the Union’s willingness to develop capabilities for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces. A key development was the “Berlin Plus agreement” giving the EU, under certain conditions, access to NATO assets and capabilities.

In 2003 the former High Representative Javier Solana was tasked by the Member States to develop a Security Strategy for Europe. The document entitled ‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’, analysed for the first time the EU’s security environment and identified key security challenges and subsequent political implications for the EU. The implementation of the document was revised in 2008.

The Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009 and was a cornerstone in the development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The treaty includes both a mutual assistance and a solidarity clause and allowed for the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) under the authority of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/ Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP). The two distinct functions of the post give the HR/VP the possibility to bring all the necessary EU assets together and to apply a "comprehensive approach" to EU crisis management.

Since the creation in March 2002 of the European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Council Joint Action, some 30 civilian and military missions and operations have been launched under the CSDP. The EU is constantly improving its crisis management capabilities. Headline Goals, both civilian as well as military, have been defined and adapted to match the changing security environment.

The "Global Strategy for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy" presented by former HR/VP Mogherini in June 2016 laid the foundation to develop CSDP further. A comprehensive package of measures in the areas of security and defence was defined at the end of 2016. It consists of three major pillars: new political goals and ambitions for Europeans to take more responsibility for their own security and defence; new financial tools to help Member States and the European defence industry to develop defence capabilities ("European Defence Action Plan") and a set of concrete actions as follow up to the EU-NATO Joint Declaration which identified areas of cooperation. Implementation of the three elements is ongoing and will boost security of the Union and its citizens.


The Western European Union

The Western European Union (WEU) was a defensive alliance composed of ten Member States: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The primary purpose of the organisation was to offer mutual military assistance in case of external aggression and it provided a strong basis for the development of European defence cooperation.

The foundations of the WEU were laid by the Treaty on Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence signed in 1948 by the UK, France, and the Benelux countries, known as the Brussels Treaty. The Treaty attempted to turn European ideals into reality, envisioning a collective self-defence effort to keep the continent safe following the devastation of the Second World War.


The Petersberg Tasks

The Petersberg tasks formed an integral part of the then European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) - now Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) - and defined the spectrum of military actions/functions that the European Union can undertake in its crisis management operations.

The Petersberg tasks were first agreed upon at the June 1992 Western European Union (WEU) Council of Ministers near Bonn, Germany. Article II.4 of the subsequent ministerial declaration outlined the following three purposes for which military units could be deployed:

- humanitarian and rescue tasks;

- peacekeeping tasks;

- tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.


The Treaty of Amsterdam

The Treaty of Amsterdam was adopted by EU Member States in June 1997 and entered into force in May 1999. The Treaty codified a number of new structures and tasks for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and, although it did not create a common defence policy, it did increase responsibilities in the realms of peacekeeping and humanitarian work i.a. by creating closer links with the WEU.

The end of the Cold War and the subsequent conflicts in the Balkans provided the impetus for Member States to strengthen the EU’s CFSP. The Treaty of Amsterdam raised the EU’s foreign policy profile through the creation of the post of High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. The official mandate of the post was: ‘[to contribute] to the formulation, preparation and implementation of policy decisions, and, when appropriate and acting on behalf of the Council at the request of the Presidency, through conducting political dialogue with third parties.’ (TEU Art. 26). Javier Solana of Spain, until then NATO’s Secretary-General, was appointed High Representative at the Cologne Summit in 1999, and served in this capacity from 1999 to 2009. The Treaty of Lisbon expanded the post to High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and combined it with the post of Vice-President of the European Commission.

The Treaty of Amsterdam also indicated the possibility of developing a future common defence policy for the EU. The inclusion of what would eventually become the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) under the CFSP was designed to enable the Union to adopt a coherent approach when addressing security challenges. The treaty subsequently states: ‘The common foreign and security policy shall include all questions relating to the security of the Union, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy […] which might lead to a common defence, should the European Council so decide’ (TEU Art.17).

In addition to the above, the Treaty also defined the range of military tasks – as incorporated from the WEU’s Petersberg tasks - which the EU could undertake, namely humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks involving combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking (Art. 17).


The Cologne European Council

At the June 1999 European Council meeting in Cologne (Germany), EU heads of state and government agreed that ‘the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO.’ The agreement was preceded by a bilateral meeting between then President Jacques Chirac of France and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in Saint-Malo (France), in December 1998. The resulting declaration indicated for the first time a Franco-British consensus on the evolution of a defence component for the European Union: its wording constituted the basis for the agreement at EU level in Cologne.

In the recognition that the evolution of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was a prerequisite for the Union to play a full role on the international stage, EU Member States agreed in Cologne on the necessity to put in place institutional arrangements for the analysis, planning and conduct of military operations.


The Berlin Plus agreement

The Berlin Plus agreement refers to a comprehensive package of arrangements finalised in early 2003 between the EU and the NATO that allows the EU to make use of NATO assets and capabilities for EU-led crisis management operations.

The creation in 1999 of what would later become the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) reinforced the need to establish a formal agreement between the EU and NATO, building on the previous arrangements between the Western European Union (WEU) and the Alliance inaugurated in Berlin in 1996. Overlapping memberships and concerns over the duplication of assets and capabilities required both partners to agree on modalities for crisis management operations. Improving the working partnership between the two institutions remains vital to ensure effective consultation, cooperation and transparency in crisis management and peace-building operations.

This framework for EU-NATO permanent relations was concluded in March 2003, building on the conclusions of NATO’s Washington Summit in 1999, the European Council in Nice in December 2000 and the EU-NATO joint declaration of 16 December 2002.

The conclusion of the Berlin Plus agreement facilitated the launch of the EU’s first-ever military operation, Operation Concordia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in December 2003. EUFOR Althea, the military operation launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004, was the second military CSDP operation carried out within the wider framework of Berlin Plus.


European Security Strategy

The European Security Strategy (ESS), adopted by the European Council on 12-13 December 2003, provides the conceptual framework for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including what would later become the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The split between EU Member States over the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 highlighted the need for a common strategic vision to enhance internal cohesion at EU level. Member states thus tasked the then High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, to draft such a strategy.

Titled ‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’, the ESS is a brief but comprehensive document which analyses and defines for the first time the EU’s security environment, identifying key security challenges and subsequent political implications for the EU.

In this framework, the ESS singles out five key threats:

- Terrorism

- Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

- Regional conflicts

- State failure

- Organised crime.

The ESS also calls for preventive engagement to avoid new conflicts/crises. Building security in the EU’s neighbourhood (Balkans, Southern Caucasus, and the Mediterranean) is prioritised as is the goal of strengthening the international rules-based order through effective multilateralism. Furthermore, the ESS explicitly acknowledges the interdependence of various global security challenges, i.a. by linking security and development issues and highlighting the possible interplay between key threats.

Finally, the ESS addresses the political implications of the new security environment. It states that the EU needs to be more active, more coherent and more capable. The importance of international cooperation and EU partnerships is also emphasised by claiming that none of the threats can be tackled by the Union alone. The conclusion reaffirms that these challenges also pose opportunities for the EU to become more active and more capable in the pursuit of a safer, more unified world.

Four years after the adoption of the ESS, Member States tasked the High Representative at the December 2007 European Council ‘to examine the implementation of the Strategy with a view to proposing elements on how to improve the implementation and, as appropriate, elements to complement it’. The resulting document, the 2008 ‘Report of the Implementation of the European Security Strategy: Providing Security in a Changing World’, effectively confirmed the enduring validity of the 2003 ESS and the need to be ‘more capable, more coherent and more active’ in order for the EU to reach its full potential.


The Treaty of Lisbon

The Treaty of Lisbon was signed in October 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009. It amends and modifies two pre-existing treaties: the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty of the European Community (TEC), now the Treaty on the Functioning of European Union (TFEU). Its ‘Provisions on the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CSDP)’ incorporate the European – now Common - Security and Defence Policy (ESDP/CSDP) and all its developments since the Cologne European Council in 1999.

The Treaty also contains a number of important new provisions related to the CSDP, including a mutual assistance and a solidarity clause, the creation of a framework for Permanent Structured Cooperation, the expansion of the Petersberg tasks, and the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) under the authority of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The High Representative has additional roles as a Vice President of the European Commission (HR/VP) and chair of the Foreign Affairs Council.

The Treaty introduces solidarity and mutual assistance clauses. The former states that ‘the Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if an EU Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster’ (TFEU Art. 222). The mutual assistance clause, inspired by Article V of the WEU Treaty, states that ‘if a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 [the right to self-defence] of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States' (TEU Art. 42.7). The clause, however, includes a caveat that ‘commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation’.

Moreover, the Treaty extends the scope and range of the Petersberg tasks to include ‘joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories.’ (TEU Art. 43.1).

For its part, Permanent Structured Cooperation is an agreement for ‘Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions’ (TEU Art. 42.6). It is designed to contribute to a new stage in the development of the CSDP and a more assertive role for the EU in the realm of security and defence. To achieve these objectives, Member States are encouraged to: cooperate to reach objectives concerning expenditure on equipment, harmonise defence apparatuses, when appropriate pool and specialise resources, and coordinate logistics and training. There is no minimum number of states required for cooperation to take place at this level, as opposed to the Treaty provisions on ‘enhanced cooperation’ (Art. 20). The decision to set it up is taken by the European Council. Notably, this is one of the few areas in the CSDP where decisions are not made by unanimity but instead by qualified majority voting (QMV). In addition, the Treaty stipulates that the European Defence Agency (EDA) shall contribute to a regular assessment of the contributions of Member States.


Civilian Headline Goals

Civilian crisis management, an area where the EU has been at the forefront of international efforts, forms a key part of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and is guided by the Civilian Headline Goals.

The first Civilian Headline Goal was set in 2000 at the meeting of the European Council in Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal. It identified policing, the rule of law, civil administration and civil protection as four priority areas for the EU. In the area of policing, the 2000 Feira Council set concrete targets whereby EU Member States could collectively provide up to 5,000 police officers for crisis management operations, with 1,000 officers on high readiness (able to be deployed within 30 days). EU Member States also identified a number of key tasks for civilian policing which included: monitoring, advising and training local police, preventing or mitigating internal crises and conflicts, restoring law and order in immediate post-conflict situations, and supporting local police in safeguarding human rights.

The 2001 Gothenburg Council subsequently set concrete goals for the other three priority areas. By 2003, the EU set out to be able to: have 200 judges and prosecutors prepared for crisis management operations in the field of rule of law that could be deployed within 30 days, establish a pool of experts in the area of civilian administration (including general administrative, social and infrastructure functions) and provide civil protection teams of up to 2,000 people, all deployable at very short notice. These teams included 2-3 assessment/coordination teams consisting of 10 experts that could be dispatched within 3-7 hours.

After the 2004 Civilian Capabilities Commitment Conference in Brussels declared these targets to have been met (and indeed exceeded), the formulation of the Civilian Headline Goal 2008 (CHG 2008) was shaped by the experiences the EU had gained in the field, increasing the attention paid to training, staffing procedures, and mission planning.

The CHG 2008 added two new priorities to those identified at Feira: monitoring missions and support for EU Special Representatives. The CHG 2008 also emphasised the need for the Union to conduct simultaneous missions and highlighted two further focus areas for the EU: security sector reform (SSR) and disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR).

EU Member States then set an additional goal, the Civilian Headline Goal 2010 (CHG 2010), to continue the capability-development process and to synchronise it with the Military Headline Goal 2010. The CHG 2010 goal drew on the now extensive experience in civilian crisis management of the EU, and placed greater emphasis on civil-military cooperation in addition to a continued focus on improving readiness and deployability. It also identified other capabilities to be developed, such as making available 285 additional experts on transitional justice, dialogue, and conflict analysis. The CHG 2010 also focused on the creation of Civilian Response Teams (CRT), a 100-person strong pool of experts prepared for rapid deployment.


Military Headline Goals

The Military Headline Goals (HLGs) are designed to ensure that the EU possesses the military capabilities required to conduct the full range of missions encompassed by the Petersberg tasks. Following the agreement of EU heads of state and government at the Cologne Council that the EU should possess an autonomous military capacity to respond to crises, the 1999 Helsinki Headline Goal outlined the following objectives:

‘By the year 2003, cooperating together voluntarily, [EU Member States] will be able to deploy rapidly and then sustain forces capable of the full range of Petersberg tasks as set out in the Amsterdam Treaty [Petersberg-tasks], including the most demanding, in operations up to corps level (up to 15 brigades or 50,000-60,000 persons). These forces should be militarily self-sustaining with the necessary command, control and intelligence capabilities, logistics, other combat support services and additionally, as appropriate, air and naval elements. Member States should be able to deploy in full at this level within 60 days, and within this to provide smaller rapid response elements available and deployable at very high readiness. They must be able to sustain such a deployment for at least one year.’ (Helsinki Annex IV).

Eventually, the experience gained from the military operations EUFOR Concordia and Artemis, in addition to a changing security environment, resulted in a move away from the overwhelmingly quantitative focus of HLG 2003 to a more comprehensive and qualitative approach. The European Council in 2004 consequently set a new target for capability improvement, the Headline Goal 2010 (HLG 2010), which identified several strategic scenarios whereby the EU should:

‘Be able by 2010 to respond with rapid and decisive action applying a fully coherent approach to the whole spectrum of crisis management operations covered by the Treaty on European Union [i.e. the Petersberg-tasks] …the EU must be able to act before a crisis occurs and preventive engagement can avoid that a situation deteriorates. The EU must retain the ability to conduct concurrent operations thus sustaining several operations simultaneously at different levels of engagement.’

The Battle Group Concept, endorsed at the informal meeting for defence ministers in Brussels in April 2004 became a central part of the Headline Goal 2010. Battle Groups are high readiness forces consisting of 1,500 personnel that can be deployed within 10 days after an EU decision to launch an operation and that can be sustained for up to 30 days (extendible to 120 days with rotation). At the 2004 Military Capability Commitment Conference, Member States made an initial commitment to the formation of 13 EU Battle Groups, with the aim of always having two Battle Groups on standby. On 1 January 2007, the EU Battle Group Concept reached full operational capacity. To date, the EU Battle Groups have yet to be deployed.

Since then, the EU has embarked on further capability enhancement, urging greater member state cooperation through the development of pooling and sharing options as well as strengthening the role of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in this area.


October 2021 - From the speech on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP plenary

Let me thank Rapporteur [Urmas] Paet for bringing cyber defence issues to our attention.

As highlighted in the report, in recent years we have seen continuous growth in cyber-attacks against the European Union and its Member States, which is affecting European security.

The best way to face these threats is to join forces and mobilise resources, as rightly indicated in the report. To protect cyberspace, we need to modernise our capabilities; advance research, training and exercises; and increase efforts to prevent, deter and respond to cyber-attacks.

The European Union cyber diplomacy toolbox has already proved its value in allowing Member States to take measures – including sanctions – to address cyber activities affecting them and threatening their security.

Our 2020 Joint European Union Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade allows us to increase our resilience; reinforce our capacities to prevent, deter and respond to cyber-attacks; and advance a global, open and secure cyberspace.

Building on this Strategy, we are reviewing the 2018 European Union Cyber Defence Policy Framework (CDPF) setting the political ambition for the European Union’s cyber defence policy, making full use of available instruments such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). Cyber defence will also be a key aspect of the Strategic Compass, currently under development. As is stressed in the report, our key challenge is to develop and use capabilities in a collaborative approach.

Today, within the European Defence Agency, we have a structured framework to support Member States in collaborative capability development and research activities. This allows for enhanced interoperability and pooling of scarce national resources.

The European Security and Defence College organises cyber training courses for military and civilian personnel from the European Union institutions, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations and Member States to strengthen their coordination.

We also conduct exercises with cyber included, notably the European Union Integrated Resolve or the annual cyber diplomacy toolbox exercise. These exercises will help us to strengthen our common understanding of the procedures for mutual assistance and solidarity, as pointed out in the report.

Last month, the European Union Military Committee approved the European Union Military Vision and Strategy on Cyberspace as a Domain of Operations, which sets the framework to use cyberspace as a domain of operations in support of European Union CSDP military operations and missions.

And further responding to the need for more cooperation among national entities in charge of cyber defence, we have taken our first steps towards the establishment of a Military Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) network.

As recommended in your report, the European External Action Service also works together with the Commission on the establishment of the Joint Cyber Unit (JCU) bringing together all cyber communities, including cyber defence and diplomacy, to better coordinate European Union action to prevent, deter and respond to cyber-attacks.

Finally, the report also calls to strengthen our coordination and cooperation with NATO in the framework of the Joint Declarations, which we do through our staff level dialogues and by conducting cyber scenario-based discussions and exercises.

In conclusion, we have made considerable progress in the past few years on cyber defence. At the same time, the ongoing work on the Strategic Compass and the review of our Framework for Cyber Defence Policy will allow us to further strengthen Member States' capabilities and cooperation in this domain in view of a true European Union Cyber Defence Policy.


Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, 2021 State of the Union address.

"If everything is connected, everything can be hacked. Given that resources are scarce, we have to bundle our forces. [...] This is why we need a European Cyber Defence Policy, including legislation setting common standards under a new European Cyber Resilience Act."

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, 2021 State of the Union address.



2021 State of the Union Address by President von der Leyen


Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own. But if we are to do more, we first need to explain why. I see three broad categories.

First, we need to provide stability in our neighbourhood and across different regions.

We are connected to the world by narrow straits, stormy seas and vast land borders. Because of that geography, Europe knows better than anyone that if you don't deal in time with the crisis abroad, the crisis comes to you.

Secondly, the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly: from hybrid or cyber-attacks to the growing arms race in space.

Disruptive technology has been a great equaliser in the way power can be used today by rogue states or non-state groups.

You no longer need armies and missiles to cause mass damage. You can paralyse industrial plants, city administrations and hospitals – all you need is your laptop. You can disrupt entire elections with a smartphone and an internet connection.

The third reason is that the European Union is a unique security provider. There will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be.

On the ground, our soldiers work side-by-side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers.

We can combine military and civilian, along with diplomacy and development – and we have a long history in building and protecting peace.

The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem.


But what we need is the European Defence Union.

In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces.

This is no doubt part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution.

But the more fundamental issue is why this has not worked in the past.

You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them - of what use are they?

What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will.

And if we develop this political will, there is a lot that we can do at EU level.

Allow me to give you three concrete examples:

First, we need to build the foundation for collective decision-making – this is what I call situational awareness.

We fall short if Member States active in the same region, do not share their information on the European level. It is vital that we improve intelligence cooperation.

But this is not just about intelligence in the narrow sense.

It is about bringing together the knowledge from all services and all sources. From space to police trainers, from open source to development agencies. Their work gives us a unique scope and depth of knowledge.

It is out there!

But we can only use that, to make informed decisions if we have the full picture. And this is currently not the case. We have the knowledge, but it is disjoined. Information is fragmented.

This is why the EU could consider its own Joint Situational Awareness Centre to fuse all the different pieces of information.

And to be better prepared, to be fully informed and to be able to decide.

Secondly, we need to improve interoperability. This is why we are already investing in common European platforms, from fighter jets, to drones and cyber.

But we have to keep thinking of new ways to use all possible synergies. One example could be to consider waiving VAT when buying defence equipment developed and produced in Europe.

This would not only increase our interoperability, but also decrease our dependencies of today.

Third, we cannot talk about defence without talking about cyber. If everything is connected, everything can be hacked. Given that resources are scarce, we have to bundle our forces. And we should not just be satisfied to address the cyber threat, but also strive to become a leader in cyber security.

It should be here in Europe where cyber defence tools are developed. This is why we need a European Cyber Defence Policy, including legislation on common standards under a new European Cyber Resilience Act."





So, we can do a lot at EU level. But Member States need to do more too.

This starts with a common assessment of the threats we face and a common approach to dealing with them. The upcoming Strategic Compass is a key process of this discussion.

And we need to decide how we can use all of the possibilities that are already in the Treaty.

This is why, under the French Presidency, President Macron and I will convene a Summit on European defence.

It is time for Europe to step up to the next level.


The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), news and alerts

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