Recent regional and global crises like the crises of Ukraine, refugees, those in the Middle East and North Africa, and, most importantly, terrorism and growing terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe have made it evident that Europe’s security is not separate from global security and that of other regions. New security challenges have made it clear that the previous approaches of local and regional security, such as closing borders, do not work anymore and today, Europe’s security has become extremely vulnerable in the face of global threats and challenges in an unprecedented way. Experts and senior politicians of the European Council on Foreign Relations believe that in such an interdependent security system, Europe needs to replace the old policy of ‘being a geopolitical plaything of others (read the United States)’ with a new security policy ‘as an effective security player at the global level’.
The idea of revising and re-energizing Europe’s joint security and defense policy was proposed to the European Council on Foreign Relations by Nick Witney, a senior policy fellow and expert in European and international security affairs. It was an innovative model for gradual revision in this field. Since then, owing to this different approach, effective works have been presented to enhance Europe’s security policy. Among them are Mark Galeotti’s influential work on Russia’s intelligence services, coercive diplomacy and criminal networks, Ellie Geranmayeh’s* timely and interesting initiative in the midst of nuclear negotiations and agreement with Iran, and also the work by François Godement on the position of China in the new world order. But what Europe is facing now is not the continuation of old challenges as new challenges have also been growing: from how to organize Europe’s relations with big powers (China and Russia) to new economic, security and environmental challenges in the trans-Atlantic relations, increasing terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and the consequences of Brexit. These all indicate that new challenges cannot be resolved by relying on old approaches. Hence, Europe has moved from an international environment with local and regional-oriented security approach to the security approach of interdependence and, at the same, mutual vulnerability.
The New European Security Initiative (NESI) has been formulated to find strategies for facing new crises and challenges. This initiative is planned to have an active and leading role at all four levels of Europe’s security. The four levels are: 1. Threats; 2. Capabilities and equipment needed to counter these threats; 3. Coalitions and institutions ensuring security; and 4. Domestic aspect of Europe’s security collaborations. The new approach, in addition to detaching from previous approaches, will in practice focus on reciprocal relation between domestic polices of Europeans countries and joint decisions of the EU. All in all, NESI is for responding to the new security challenges which have been created for Europe in the new security atmosphere and which old approaches can no longer deal with. The new issues NESI is supposed to answer are as follows: What are new threats for Europe? Why does Europe need to change its security approaches? Thus, some strategies offered by NESI include: linking national and foreign security, going past traditional concepts of Europe’s defense efforts, forming broader and comprehensive understanding of security in Europe and interdependence of global security, especially with regards to the Middle East crises, acquiring the required equipment and capabilities for facing new European security challenges, and developing flexibility in domestic and foreign policies to effectively and efficiently counter threats without undermining the cohesion and accord in the EU.
Reviewing and analyzing the New European Security Initiative is important from several aspects:
1. Europe’s leaders, after a long period of fanning the flames of war and tension and displacement of millions of people in the crises in Syria and Iraq, and involvement in other wars and crises in the Middle East and North Africa, have now reached the same conclusion that the Islamic Republic of Iran has stressed since the beginning of crises in the Middle East, that is, security in different regions is related to one another. While Iran has put emphasis on regions’ dependence on one another in terms of security since the beginning of crises in the Middle East, this issue was once again highlighted during a recent visit by the Iranian foreign minister to Europe to meet his counterparts in Germany, Italy and France and deliver a speech at the annual meeting of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). This was welcomed by Europe’s media outlets, one of which published an article titled "Security Cannot Be Purchased”. In his address to the ECFR, Iran’s foreign minister said, "Security cannot be purchased, foreign policy is not a commodity, and arms deals do not mean participation,” but the behavior of the West, especially the US, regarding the sale of weapons has reinforced a cognitive disorder in the Middle East region that security can be purchased from outside, and this gradually will make not only the Middle East but the West more vulnerable. The Iranian top diplomat added, "The European Union cannot think of victory at the expense of others and this is what Iran is well aware of. Thus, it is necessary that, instead of forming hostile regional blocs in the Middle East, which has ultimately caused security vulnerability in Europe itself, it should call for a regional security forum in the Persian Gulf to promote dialogue.”
2. What is important is that this issue, namely Europe’s security vulnerability as a result of Middle East crises, especially with regard to refugees and terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe, has been emphasized in NESI. The pivotal issue in this document is that security cannot be local and regional since there is interdependence and shared vulnerability and, therefore, the EU needs to have new approaches to counter new challenges. It is worth mentioning that 40 politicians and senior experts in foreign policy and security-military affairs were involved in devising NESI in the European Council on Foreign Relations. They included politicians and experts on Europe’s security and defense, terrorism and cyber-terrorism, Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Libya and Yemen.
3. The New European Security Initiative has been mentioned for combatting new challenges at a time when the EU is on the one hand facing a new gap and challenge in security issues with the new US president whose uncertain security approaches has put Europe in a hazy and vulnerable security situation in the face of both Russia and Middle East crises. On the other hand, Europe’s increasing vulnerability to Middle East crises (self-created), which is manifested in the growing number of terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe, has pushed it closer to this security approach of the Islamic Republic of Iran that "Security of different regions are integrated. If there is security, it is for everyone and if there is a lack of security, it is also for everyone.” That is why the most important issue in this initiative is distancing from old approaches of the EU that regarded the continent’s security as being unrelated to other regions, and instead emphasizing the new approach of interdependent security and shared vulnerably of regions.
* Ellie Geranmayeh is a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations doing research in the fields of EU-Iran relations, Iran nuclear issue, and Iran foreign policy and security issues. During the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries, she served as an advisor to EU Foreign Policy Chief. She has penned numerous articles on post-JCPOA relations between the EU and Iran and how to maintain the nuclear deal with a focus on Europe’s role.
You may read the full version of the essay as follows here (in Persian).