Nine years into the New Millennium, peace and democracy are still under constant threat in many world regions. How should military responses be coordinated with diplomatic and development efforts? Europe is making another attempt at answering this question.
The involvement of multi-national armies in some of the deadliest conflicts of the past few years showed how the international coordination of efforts in this sense can produce devastating side effects from a human rights and development perspective.
The European Union - unlike some of its member countries - has so far been reluctant to support the use of military force to ensure the security of European citizens or to promote democracy outside its borders. From time to time, however, there have been attempts to change that approach. Some E.U. bodies appear to welcome a more active approach.
The creation of a European Armed Force and a common defense policy were among the main measures proposed in a report approved Feb. 19 by the European Parliament in Brussels.
The report on the European security strategy, as well as its security and defense policy, was adopted with 482 votes in favor, 111 against and 55 abstentions by the Union's only directly elected assembly, representing almost 500 million European citizens from 27 member countries.
The report only represents an update of the 2003 ESS strategy, which identified terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as state failure, regional conflicts and organized crime as main threats against Europe and its citizens. The new report's recommendations are not binding for the E.U. nor for its member countries.
Its adoption, though, reflects an approach to international conflicts that seems to be taking root in Europe, one that favors military and defense cooperation within a global strategy based on the "right to protect" (a concept that has been endorsed by the United Nations) over economic and diplomatic efforts.
"The security interests of the Union also include the protection of its citizens and its interests inside the EU as well as abroad, the security of its neighborhood and the protection of its external borders and critical infrastructure," the EU Parliament members stated in a note released after the vote. They also called for greater interaction between the member states' armies, as well as for their opening to non-European citizens.