Europe and Security

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To analyse and keep track of important parameters of security in a long term perspective is an enormously complicated endeavour.

My argument here is that no single European Union member state, not even the largest ones, maintains the capacity to fully understand these parameters and in particular the links between them. I would argue: no one does.

The fact that 28 member states still continuously – in different formations and from different perspectives – ponder these issues between themselves is of enormous value. This does not solve all problems but hopefully prevents some fundamental mistakes. The so called Arab Spring is only one example out of many of developments that almost no-one has fully grasped.

People need to talk to each other both inside and between governments – in a responsible and security-conscious way.

The full extent of this value may become obvious to British diplomacy once the UK leaves the Union.

In Berlin and Paris the reticence a few years back to empower a full-fledged strategic debate in Brussels may at least temporarily have been overcome through the decision to go forward with the European Union global strategy.

Only two years ago many insiders in Brussels said more or less openly that nothing was going to happen with this strategy.

They turned out to be wrong but the battle is not over yet.

Europe is full of people who consistently underestimate the potential value of dialogue and strategic thinking both inside and outside the EU. And likewise so many argue that dialogue is expensive and time-consuming when in reality it is the mistakes committed due to a lack of dialogue which costs – big time.

In this world: who can argue that they know it all? Is it not more and more obvious that it is the “Besserwissers” of this world who pose a real danger to security – not the ones who maintain a certain amount of ambivalence and openness to new arguments and new data?

Real-life security policy requires a continuous balancing of different policy ingredients in many different dimensions and from many different perspectives.

When this is not obvious to decision-makers, as seem to be the case in the US Administration at present and even to a certain extent in the UK, countless efforts are being deployed on lower levels in “bureaucracies” to pursue damage limitation.

This seems to be what now is happening in the United States in many different policy areas where high level officials and politicians openly defy the commander-in-chief.

Hopefully, it will not have to happen on a large scale in the EU. Political leaders close to populism, however, in a number of European countries already play around with national interests in a way which constantly needs to be tempered.

And even in other countries, there is the relentless short-sighted struggle for political power making people blind when it comes to the perceptions in the electorate of their behaviour.

Europe and the world are in these days in constant crises whatever stock market figures tell us. This requires taking responsibility in a more general sense and working together in dialogue across all borders.

It is often argued that new administrations in countries after some time adjust to the national interest. The sad truth seems to be that this is not always the case.

The real danger comes when the necessary balance between different pillars of power constituting a system of rule of law is being dismantled.

When even ministers in governments pursue a policy of civil disobedience things have gone a bit too far.

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