Coercing “European Integration”? Assessing the Offensive Posture of the EU CSDP

Coercing “European Integration”? Assessing the Offensive Posture of the EU CSDP

Diesen G.,

PhD, Associate Lecturer, Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, Macquarie University. Sidney, Australia,

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2015.06.10

For citation:

Diesen G. Coercing “European Integration”? Assessing the Offensive Posture of the EU CSDP. – Polis. Political Studies. 2015. No. 6. P. 81-102. (In Russ.).


The EU’s development as a security institution with the ongoing evolution of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) raises questions concerning the link between peacekeeping and imperialism. Peacekeepers and peacemakers temporarily limit the sovereignty of states in conflict regions by taking over what are traditionally state functions for the purpose of providing stability and peace, which eventually augments sovereignty. In contrast, peacekeeping resembles imperialism when sovereignty is not completely restored. The historical challenge of peacekeeping is to prevent the security provider from becoming part of the conflict by using its position of authority to accumulate relative power against competing powers. During the Cold War, this was usually managed by delegating peacekeeping responsibilities to smaller neutral countries. The EU seeking a leading role in European conflict resolution represents a fundamental break with this practice, which is justified by the notion that the EU constitutes a “force for good”. A further challenge to the EU’s capacity to act as a peacekeeper is that the political settlements for conflicts in Europe are linked directly to EU integration. The possibility of the CSDP posturing an ‘offensive strategy’ has remained an underresearched topic due to the dominant imagery of the EU as a benevolent actor, and because the CSDP is limited to the low-politics of conflict management. The EU engages in peacekeeping and other military conflict management, albeit most CSDP missions are civilian and law reforming. Assessing the extent of an “offensive” conflict management strategy entails considering both means and ends. The ‘means’ is a reference to whether the availability of coercive tools reduces the reliance on compromise through persuasion or attraction. The ‘ends’ imply whether the security provider pursues zero-sum objectives at the expense of acting as an agent of the UN. This article explores the degree to which the EU has developed an offensive conflict management strategy with the CSDP. Irrespective of the benevolent intentions behind linking conflict resolution to EU enlargement and neighbourhood policies, it implies that EU’s own conditions undermines its capacity to act as a mediator and push for compromise. The leading objective of integration is to develop the EU as territorial-focused entity that absorbs state characteristics. Subsequently, the EU loses its impartiality by allying itself with “pro-European” groups in conflicts that share its post-conflict objectives. This bias is further exacerbated by the exclusive conception of “Europe”, resulting in ‘European integration’ becoming a zero-sum geopolitical project competing with Russia for influence in the shared neighbourhood. This adds further EU conditions to post-conflict political solutions, at the expense of promoting compromise between the conflicting parties. As a result, the EU can be seen to become more reliant on coercive means in order to impose political outcomes. This article focuses solely on European CSDP missions due to the implication of “European integration”. More specifically, the case studies include Bosnia and Kosovo in the south, and Moldova and Georgia in the east. The author conclundes that the conception of the EU as a territorial-focused entity that seeks influence over its periphery with the use of unilateral “external governance” diminishes its ability to manage and mitigate power competition, since it becomes a tool for power competition. By demanding EU integration as condition for political settlement, the EU capacity as a mediator is diminished. Rather than pushing for compromise, the EU can be seen to set strict conditions or even reject compromise when it conflicts with the conditions for EU integration. This further increases the EU’s reliance on coercive means. In Bosnia and Serbia the EU’s criteria for post-conflict solutions imply a unilateral revision of which sovereign should be augmented, as a fundamental issue in peacekeeping and nation-building. In Moldova and Georgia the conflicts are further complicated by the prospect of EU integration due to the zero-sum choice between integrating with the EU or Russia. Because the breakaway regions prioritise relations with Russia, the EU undermines compromise and instead relies on coercive means to achieve political solutions whereby states make a clear choice for Euro-Atlantic institutions. Diplomacy and compromise is marginalised as the EU tends to align itself with one side. This alienates Russia in the UNSC which subsequently results in more restrictions on UN mandates. The room for compromise is reduced since the EU sets its own conditions, which undermines its role as a mediator. In Kosovo this is evident by its refusal to negotiate on the key issue of status settlement, while also rejecting the possibility of autonomy or secession for Northern Kosovo. In Bosnia, the EU undermines the previously agreed compromise for a unified but decentralized state. In both Moldova and Georgia, the EU implicitly rejects a political solution that would grant the breakaway regions autonomy to the extent that they can accommodate Russia, which blocks a ‘European perspective’ or ‘transatlantic vision’. In Moldova the EU’s opposition to compromise went to the extreme of torpedoing a peace treaty where the two parties had compromised. In Georgia, its alignment with the Georgian government has discredited the EU as a mediator in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

EU; CSDP; UN; Russia; Bosnia; Moldova; Georgia.

Content No. 6, 2015

See also:

Svetlov V.A.,
The Georgian-South-Ossetian Conflict. Reflections of a Conflictologist. – Polis. Political Studies. 2009. No3

Bardin A.L., Barinov I.I.,
Problems of National Development and Consolidation of Political Spaces (the Cases of Moldova and Romania). – Polis. Political Studies. 2018. No6

Graham T.,
China-Russia-US Relations and Strategic Triangles. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No6

Bogaturov A.D.,
The Chinese Angle in the World-system Management. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No5

Bruter V.I., Solonar V.A.,
Moldova: an Essay of Political-Cultural Analysis. – Polis. Political Studies. 1993. No3



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