Europe’s Stillborn Security Strategy

MADRID – If a strategy is announced and nobody is listening, does it make a sound? The European Union will find out the answer this June, when Federica Mogherini, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, presents a long overdue foreign and security strategy for Europe – just when all eyes will be on the United Kingdom’s referendum on EU membership.

The EU is adrift and desperately in need of a catalyst to renew its sense of purpose and dynamism. The global strategy could serve that purpose, but not if it is issued at a time when attention is squarely focused on another challenge, especially one that could bring about fundamental change for the EU. Given this, the strategy’s launch should be put on hold until after the referendum.

In the United States, the president is legally required to issue a national security strategy annually. Though the requirement is adhered to only loosely – President Barack Obama has released just two strategies in the last seven years – the intent is clear: to establish a set of concrete national security priorities informed by the administration in office and the country’s changing circumstances.

In Europe, the approach is broader. When the first – and only – strategy was launched in 2003, it was meant as a long-term guide, to endure through multiple European Commissions. But it has lasted for too long, and is now well out of date – a reality that is apparent from its opening line: “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure, nor so free.”