Ten years of European Security and Defence Policy

BRUSSELS – 2009 is a landmark year for the European Union's role in the world. It marks ten years of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), during which the EU became a global provider of security, making a real difference to people's lives all over the world. At the same time, we are on the threshold of a new era when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force and provides fresh impetus for our external action.

In ten years, we have deployed 20 operations on three continents to help prevent violence, restore peace and rebuild after a conflict. From Kabul to Pristina, from Ramallah to Kinshasa, the EU is monitoring borders, overseeing peace agreements, training police forces, building up criminal justice systems and protecting shipping from pirate attacks. Thanks to our achievements, we are receiving more and more calls to help in a crisis or after a war. We have the credibility, the values and the will to do this.

The EU was ahead of its time in 1999. The comprehensive, multi-faceted nature of our approach was novel. And the EU remains the only organisation that can call on a full panoply of instruments and resources that complement the traditional foreign policy tools of its member states, both to pre-empt or prevent a crisis and to restore peace and rebuild institutions after a conflict.

This is where the EU's unique added value lies. We combine humanitarian aid and support for institution-building and good governance with crisis-management capacities, technical and financial assistance, and political dialogue and mediation. The EU's joint civilian-military approach makes us flexible and able to offer tailor-made solutions to complex problems. Today's conflicts demonstrate more clearly than ever that a military solution is neither the sole nor the best option, particularly during the stabilization of a crisis — a truth President Barack Obama has also emphasised.