Tag Archives: EU

Great Power Cooperation and the Role of International Organizations

Note: Original title of essay: “Great Power Cooperation and the Role of International Organizations and Agreements.”


By Emil Krauch

Europe after World War II: cities, towns, and villages completely destroyed, millions displaced and homeless, a silent air of terror and desperation still palpable. Never before had a war been so bloody and gruesome. Everyone suffered, victor and vanquished alike. The results were bleak — civilian deaths outnumbered combatant deaths by a factor of two.1 Those lucky to survive faced a grim post-conflict situation that almost surpassed the war in its direness. Many countries had serious supply issues of food, fuel, clothing, and other necessary items. Never again. Another conflict had to be avoided at all cost.

The atrocities of World War II have led to the creation of a union of countries that is unprecedented in its cooperation and interdependence. I intend to explore the European Union as an international collaboration of great powers, and to make the case for its importance and success.

Cooperation began in 1951 with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).2 It set forth a free trade agreement of certain goods between Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. To organize and enforce this agreement, the ECSC also created a set of supranational institutions that served as models to later institutions of the EU. In 1957 the ECSC members signed the two Treaties of Rome that went further to not just expand the existing to a comprehensive free trade agreement, but to a real common market. This European Economic Community (EEC) allowed the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people, inhibited internal market advantages, and — most notably — created a common unified ‘foreign’ trade policy. The following Single European Act (1987) and Maastricht Treaty (1993) significantly increased the scope of the Union to non-economic affairs and increased the power of the European institutions. Critically, the power of the directly elected European Parliament was increased. It was also at this time that the small village of Schengen in Luxembourg became known for the named-after agreement that gradually let people travel between EU countries without checkpoints. By the early 2000s more and more countries had joined the Union and many introduced the Euro as their single currency. The last 10 years of EU history can be described as its ‘decade of crisis’ with the failing of the Greek economy, a rise in Euroscepticism, the migration crisis, and the exit of Britain weakening the strength of the Union.

It has left a mark. A recent study coordinated by the European Commission found that only 36 percent of EU citizens “trust the European Union.”3 Many political commentators and the general public appear to agree that the EU “suffers from a severe democratic deficit.”4 Is this really justified?

The EU has has two channels of democratic legitimacy. The first is the European Parliament (EP), elected every 5 years by the population of the member states. The elections are very national affairs, lacking high public participation, where votes on existing national parties are cast, with these parties mostly judged on their performance on national issues. This creates a feeling of disconnect in the general population, the delegates’ successes and failures generally don’t sway the voters when ballots are cast. Stemming from the fact that campaigning in 28 countries of different cultures and languages is very difficult, these problems nonetheless need to be rectified. The second channel is the Council of the European Union which is made up of 10 different configurations of 28 national ministers, depending on subject matter. For example, finance ministers will form the Council when debating economic policy. To pass any proposal, both the Council and the EP have to pass it. Earlier criticisms of a lack of transparency in the Council were remedied in 2007 (through the Lisbon Treaty) by making all legislative votes and discussions of the Council public.5 Laws themselves are drafted by the European Commission (EC). The President of the Commission is selected by the EU heads of state, the 27 other Commissioners are selected by the Council and then either are accepted or not accepted, as a team, by a vote of the Parliament. The members of the Commission have often come under fire by critics, e.g. Nigel Farage in 2014: “ [The EU] is being governed by unelected bureaucrats.”6 In reality the Commission is more of a civil servant, than a government. It does not have the power to pass laws, or act outside the boundaries set by the EP and the Council. Other criticism (e.g it’s role as the sole initiator of legislation) is very credible. On what grounds Mr. Farage calls the Commissioners “unelected” though, can’t be quite comprehended.

Together with the other institutions (mainly Court and Central Bank), the EU therefore represents a group of supranational institutions that have a very democratic, but unique structure due to a cooperation of many culturally different nations; critics have to acknowledge this.

The question that has come up many times during the Union’s existence remains: “What has the EU ever done for us?” For one, it has created seven free trade agreement between the countries of Europe which, most economists would agree, is beneficial to all members of the EU. A recently published paper constructed counterfactual models of European nation’s economic performance, simulating them never having joined the EU.8 The results show substantially better actual performance over the counterfactual models for all member countries, except Greece. The Greek underperformance can’t be explained solely due to the economic crisis of the current era. Greece actually has had a growth rate above the EU average during its time in the single currency, a hasty opening of the uncompetitive domestic market when it joined in 1981, and a lack of structural reform has led to the deficit. Next to the often-noted other benefits of the EU, such as the ability to work and study abroad, the unified action really makes it possible to tackle issues with the necessary vigor that they demand – economic reform, security issues, consumer protection, climate change, justice, and so forth. The problems that exist in the EU today (e.g. migration crisis), wouldn’t disappear if the Union would be dissolved tomorrow. Tackling these problems as a block makes the solutions more transparent, more efficient, and more effective. Criticism of EU red tape must take into account the opposing situation of standalone bilateral agreements between 28 countries.

All of this is not the most remarkable achievement of the EU. One must go back to its origins: great nations with limited resources, at close proximity. The necessity of fighting and winning a war against the evil of Nazi Germany was clear. What arguments of morality did earlier conflicts have? Often there were none. Power struggles between the elites of European countries have plagued the continent for millennia.9 Germany and France have fought four major wars in the last 200 years. Could World War One be initiated as easily in today’s landscape of democratic European countries? Perhaps not. It does show, however, the susceptibility of the European continent to unsustainable nationalistic and expansionist ideas.

This is the greatest achievement of the EU. It has maintained peace between the large and small countries that it envelopes, on a continent that was plagued by war for thousands of years.

Originally from Heidelberg, Germany, Emil Krauch is a second year mechanical engineering student at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland. He is actively involved in the school’s Model United Nations and Debate Clubs, and will start work as a University teacher’s assistant this upcoming semester. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, Emil plans to pursue a graduate education in both engineering and business. 

1. Yahya Sadowski, “The Myth of Global Chaos,” (1998) p. 134.

2. European Union, “Overview Council of the European Union,” https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/council-eu_en (accessed 28.03.2017).

3. TNS Opinion, “Standard Eurobarometer 86 – Autumn 2016,” (2016) doi:10.2775/196906 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-4493_en.htm (accessed 29.03.2017).

4. Andrew Moravcsik, “In defence of the ‘Democratic Deficit’: Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union*,” JCMS 2002 volume 40, number 4, (2002) pp. 603-24 https://www.princeton.edu/~amoravcs/library/deficit.pdf (accessed 27.03.2017).

5. European Union, “Overview Council of the European Union,” https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/council-eu_en (accessed 28.03.2017).

6. Nigel Farage.,“Unelected Commission is the Government of Europe – Nigel Farage on Finnish TV,” MTV3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1rfNlJMsFw (accessed 28.03.2017).

7. Kayleigh Lewis, “What has the European Union ever done for us?,” Independent (24.05.2016) http:// www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-what-has-european-union-done-for-us-david-cameron-brexit-a6850626.html (accessed on 29.03.2017).

8. Campos, Coricelli, and Moretti, “Economic Growth and Political Integration: Estimating the Benefits from Membership in the European Union Using the Synthetic Counterfactuals Method.”

9. Sandra Halperin, “War and Social Change in Modern Europe: The Great Transformation Revisited,” (2003) p. 235-236.


Arnold-Foster, Mark. “The World at War” (1974).

Campos, Coricelli, and Moretti. “Economic Growth and Political Integration: Estimating the Benefits from Membership in the European Union Using the Synthetic Counterfactuals Method.” IZA Discussion Paper No. 8162 (April 2014) http://anon-ftp.iza.org/dp8162.pdf (accessed 29.03.2017).

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “European Union.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/European-Union (accessed 27.-29.03.2017).

European Union. “Overview Council of the European Union.” https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/council-eu_en (accessed 28.03.2017).

Farage, Nigel. “Unelected Commission is the Government of Europe – Nigel Farage on Finnish TV.” MTV3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1rfNlJMsFw (accessed 28.03.2017).

Halperin, Sandra. “War and Social Change in Modern Europe: The Great Transformation Revisited.” (2003) p. 235-236.

Lewis, Kayleigh. “What has the European Union ever done for us?.” Independent (24.05.2016) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-what-has-europeanunion-done-for-us-david-cameron-brexit-a6850626.html (accessed on 29.03.2017).

Moravcsik, Andrew. “In defence of the ‘Democratic Deficit’: Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union*.” JCMS 2002 volume 40, number 4, (2002) pp. 603-24 https://www.princeton.edu/~amoravcs/library/deficit.pdf (accessed 27.03.2017).

Sadowski, Yahya M. “The Myth of Global Chaos.” (1998) p. 134.

Schneider, Christian. “The Role of Dysfunctional International Organizations in World Politics.” http://www.news.uzh.ch/dam/jcr:ffffffff-d4e5-28e2-0000-000000b8fd0e/Dissertation_ChristianSchneider.pdf (accessed 27.03.2017).

Terry, Chris. “Close the Gap. Tackling Europe’s democratic deficit.” Electoral Reform Society(2014) https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/Tackling-Europesdemocratic-deficit.pdf (accessed 27.03.2017).

TNS Opinion. “Standard Eurobarometer 86 – Autumn 2016.” (2016) doi:10.2775/196906 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-4493_en.htm (accessed 29.03.2017).

Featured Image: European Union member states’ flags flying in front of the building of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 21, 2004. (Reuters/Vincent Kessler)

European Answers for African Questions?

Maritime Security Topic Week

By Dirk Siebels


Maritime security challenges have received increasing attention in Europe in recent years. In 2014, the Council of the European Union adopted the first EU Maritime Security Strategy which includes a comprehensive definition of maritime security from a European standpoint. The EU understands it “as a state of affairs of the global maritime domain, in which international law and national law are enforced, freedom of navigation is guaranteed and citizens, infrastructure, transport, the environment and marine resources are protected.” In short, maritime security comprises much more than the traditional questions related to seapower and naval strategies.

Furthermore, the document underlines the EU’s capacity to engage with other organizations such as the African Union which “has a direct impact on its ability to safeguard its interests and to strengthen regional and international maritime security.” Africa matters, not only because of migrants boarding rickety boats in Libya to embark on a dangerous trip to Europe. At the same time, European and African governments often have different agendas, underlined by the many challenges to maritime security emanating from the African coastline.

Narrow Focus in the Indian Ocean

Counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean are a perfect example of a maritime security challenge. When attacks by Somalia-based groups became a major worry for the shipping industry, the international community quickly reacted. The EU launched its ‘Operation Atalanta’ in 2008, complemented by other task forces from various NATO countries and other countries like Japan and China, who deployed independently of the task forces.

The question of whether attacks by Somali pirates really justified the large-scale military response is open for debate. Nevertheless, European involvement in the fight against the perceived threat on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes underlined the importance of maritime trade routes for the continent. Almost without warning, European maritime security was suddenly threatened by men armed with AK-47s and RPGs in small skiffs rather than more traditional scenarios that military planners had always imagined.

Capturing suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia. Image courtesy of the European Union Naval Force. Somalia, 2012.

From a European perspective, the naval response to this non-traditional threat has been largely successful. Even though military officers and shipping industry representatives agree that the threat remains dormant and could resurface in the future, the number of attacks by Somali pirates dropped significantly within a short time. That success was made possible by unprecedented cooperation between naval forces and the shipping industry, as well as self-protection measures of merchant vessels, including the use of privately contracted armed security personnel. At the same time, the EU and other international organizations were heavily involved in capacity-building on land in Somalia.

Successful counter-piracy operations notwithstanding, maritime security in the Indian Ocean region has not been strengthened by a narrow focus during these operations. Whether through the EU or on a bilateral basis, European governments would have the capacities to provide assistance for sustainable projects in African countries. New European-built infrastructure, however, has not been linked to existing organizational structures, namely to the regional economic communities (RECs). Cooperation with security agencies in East Africa has also been limited. As a retired admiral from a NATO nation put it, “We have talked a lot about the region since our navies started operating in the Indian Ocean, but we have not talked a lot with people from the region.”

Failed integration of the RECs is arguably the most notable problem for the long-term sustainability of regional maritime security capacities. These organizations are the cornerstone for peace and security on the African continent. While ambitious plans for the African Peace and Security Architecture have not materialized yet, strengthening capacities within existing organisations would certainly be more sustainable than creating parallel structures in the context of counter-piracy operations.

EU NAVFOR piracy incidents (EU NAVFOR—Atalanta photos)

Somali piracy has never been high on the agenda of governments in East Africa. Attention for maritime topics in general remains limited but problems such as smuggling of drugs and weapons, the illegal wildlife trade or illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing are a much higher priority. In some countries, notably in Mozambique and Tanzania, security for the fledgling offshore gas industry is another important issue. European partners would be well-advised to take these priorities into consideration.

Broad challenges in West Africa

West Africa is another region where piracy has been the most headline-grabbing maritime security problem in recent years.i From a European point of view, these attacks are less of a threat since they do not take place close to a major international shipping route. Nevertheless, the EU became involved, underlined by the ‘Strategy on the Gulf of Guinea’ and the Gulf of Guinea Action Plan 2015-2020.’ Both documents highlight the EU’s strategic objectives in West Africa: a common understanding of threats, support for multi-agency institutions in the region, strengthened cooperation structures, and above all, the development of prosperous economies.

Practical measures, however, have been extremely limited. In October 2016, the Gulf of Guinea Inter-regional Network (GoGIN) was launched, a four-year, €9.3m project supported by the EU and the government of Denmark. The aim of the project is the allocation of funds to regional or national endeavors to promote maritime security and combat piracy. Like CRIMGO, its predecessor project, GoGIN will be implemented by Expertise France, the French development agency. The agency undoubtedly possesses a lot of regional knowledge in West Africa but it is also a vital tool for the French government to secure political influence, particularly in francophone countries.

Capacity building in West Africa does not have to include large-scale financial commitments by partners from Europe or elsewhere. Similar to East Africa, however, it requires a focus on regional priorities to be sustainable. In the past, European involvement in the provision of maritime security in West Africa has largely been limited to the fight against piracy and armed robbery and, on a more limited scale, against drug smuggling on maritime routes.

Similar to East Africa, however, the priorities of regional governments are notably different from those of the EU. For many countries in West Africa, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is the most important threat in the maritime environment, even though it is not a traditional security concern. Limited maritime situational awareness and almost non-existent law enforcement at sea are aspects that will not be changed overnight but even small-scale NGO projects have shown that improvements are possible even in the short term. European governments certainly have the necessary capacities to provide assistance, but political will is an entirely different question.

Even in areas that are more closely related to traditional maritime security threats, European involvement in West Africa is generally not based on long-term planning. Training courses and other projects are rarely coordinated among partners, availability of relevant personnel is not taken into consideration, and overall goals are unlikely to be based on the priorities of partners in West Africa. Such criticism is mentioned time and again in conversations with naval officers and law enforcement officials from West Africa but does not seem to reach Europe.


European maritime security may not be directly threatened by challenges off the African coastline, but they certainly have an influence on Europe. Addressing these challenges as early as possible would be important to prevent a possible escalation, yet that is true for security challenges in general. Due to the international nature of the maritime environment, however, a lack of security at sea is likely to have an impact on several countries, creating the need for multinational solutions.

The European Union is in a unique position to strengthen maritime security, both at home and abroad. In theory, the combination of civilian and military measures is the perfect fit for a broad range of largely non-traditional maritime security challenges, ranging from piracy and armed robbery at sea to IUU fishing. In practice, however, the EU’s potential is often wasted by concentrating on areas that are important for European governments while failing to address the agendas of partnering governments.

In the Indian Ocean, counter-piracy operations have been very successful but based on a very narrow mandate. Other challenges to maritime security in the region have hardly been addressed so far. This might change in the future; amending the Djibouti Code of Conduct in January 2017 certainly was a step in the right direction. The document was adopted by governments around the western Indian Ocean in 2009 but originally was only concerned with the suppression of piracy. It took signatories around eight years to broaden the document with the Jeddah Amendment, signalling their intention to strengthen the ‘blue economy.’

In West Africa, a similar document was already adopted in 2013 and the European Union has signaled its intention to support implementation. So far, however, that support has been sketchy at best, and one of the EU’s main goals, the development of prosperous economies around the Gulf of Guinea, remains elusive. Addressing maritime security challenges alone will not immediately lead to economic growth, but it would certainly be an important step. The focus on maritime security in the wider context of the ‘blue economy,’ however, is not a traditional task for navies in Europe and will require better coordination between a wide range of partners such as governments, NGOs, and law enforcement agencies outside the military.

Dirk Siebels works as an analyst for Risk Intelligence. His research areas include maritime security issues in sub-Saharan Africa and he presents regularly at academic and military research institutions on related topics. Before starting to work in his current role, Dirk served as an officer in the German Navy and worked as a journalist and PR consultant for several years. He holds an MA in International Studies from Durham University and is currently working on a PhD in maritime security at the University of Greenwich. The views presented here are those of the author.


i West Africa in this context includes all coastal and island nations between Senegal in the north and Angola in the south. These countries are members of ECOWAS or ECCAS, the two regional economic communities for West and Central Africa, and have adopted the Yaoundé Code of Conduct to strengthen maritime security in the region.

Featured Image:Italian Frigate Scirocco Rescues Somali Fishermen (EU-NAVFOR)

Integrating Maritime Security Operations in the Mediterranean

Maritime Security Topic Week

By Evmorfia-Chrysovalantou Seiti


The European Union represents the latest stage of the larger European integration that began at the end of World War II, initially by six Western European countries to promote peace, security and economic development. Undoubtedly, European countries managed to overcome their dark past and the cruelty of World War II; today, the European Union has 28 member states, including former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. These developments prove that European countries realize that the things that unite them are more than the things that divide them, and only through strengthening cooperation and promoting dialogue can they establish the peace and security in European continent and beyond.1

The EU project can be characterized as successful and a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. The European Union, beyond other areas of cooperation, has developed common foreign and security policies. From 2003 until the present date, the European Union has executed around thirty civilian and military operations on three continents. Their aim was to deal effectively with crises in those regions. Significant examples include peace-building after the tsunami disaster in Indonesia, operations for protecting refugees in Mali and the Central African Republic, and combating piracy in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

Despite this, a paradox exists. Under the existence of this ambitious policy and after more than thirty operations through the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), political interest in national capitals in acting through the EU’s CSDP has been declining.2 It is important to point out that the reasons member states should have high political interest in acting through the CSDP are more compelling that those that limit shared interest.

Additionally, some European policymakers and analysts have characterized the European integration project as a bicycle, which must keep going forward to avoid falling over. Imbalance can cause a number of problems, such as the Greek debt crisis, the migration and refugee crisis, the June 23, 2016, United Kingdom referendum on EU membership, a resurgent Russia, and heightened terrorism. These are some of the factors that caused the increase of unemployment in many EU countries, economic and political pressures, and the rise of political parties with “Eurosceptic” ideas.In one of the toughest periods of its history, some members of the European Union are creating dividing lines instead of trying to provide a common and effective response. Also, the voices and opinions on the future of European Union and the vision of European integration remain divided between those who are supporting the European project (and believe that it will continue to exist despite the serious challenges it is facing) and, from the other side, those who believe that those challenges would bring the collapse of the European project.

This article will focus on the current challenges in the Mediterranean, and how those challenges can be a pillar of integration for the Common Security and Defense Policy of the European Union.

The European Union and the Mediterranean

Why the Mediterranean? The Mediterranean region is characterized by crises and revolutionary changes that affect the Middle East, North Africa, and Southern Europe, as well as trans-Atlantic stakes in these regions. In the meantime, the strategic environment in the Mediterranean is increasingly shaped by forces emanating from outside the region, more specifically from the Levant and the Eurasian and African hinterlands, the Black Sea, and from the Atlantic Basin. As a result, these shifts in the strategic environment have brought the progressive globalization of Mediterranean security.4

The Mediterranean Sea is connected with the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. Traditionally, it was a sea passage for internal European trade and imports from Africa and Asia. A powerful coalition and multilateral body such as the EU should adapt to the new challenges and threats, which are a result of the systemic context. The EU’s aim is to ensure stability and to avoid any kind of activities that could damage maritime security or bring danger to the life of individuals.

Although the European Union is not the only interested party, the involvement of external actors is inevitable. This work will analyze the external actors present in the Mediterranean and the schemes of cooperation for preventing a spillover effect, which can not only impact the European continent but global affairs.

The Main Challenges in the Mediterranean

Maritime Terrorism

After September 11, 2001, NATO initiated Operation Active Endeavor. This operation has achieved a high degree of visibility and contributed to “good governance” in the Mediterranean Sea and the straits of Gibraltar.Despite this progress, there have been setbacks, including the 2014 hijacking of an Egyptian Navy patrol craft, which took place along the Mediterranean coast 40 miles north of the Seaport of Damietta, and again when 21 Egyptian Christians were kidnapped in two separate incidents in the coastal city of Sirte.6 Both criminal activities were posed by militant groups that have declared allegiance to Islamic State, raising the concern for terrorist activities in Mediterranean Sea, which could cause damage to international shipping and port infrastructure.7

Expanding their activities at sea, terrorists could attack unguarded cruise ships plying Mediterranean waters. Only one attack like this would be enough to spread images of western tourists being murdered and provide the powerful publicity desired. At equal risk are vessels and ports from which terrorists would gain publicity and financial gain. For instance, hijacking a cruise ship provides only one potential scenario. Ungoverned coastal areas of Libya would make a good launch pad for terrorists, although the incidents in Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia can show that much of the Maghreb could provide a point of origin for attackers.8

Irregular Migration

Concurrent conflicts and turbulence from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan are generating waves of economic and political migrants desperate to reach the relative prosperity of southern Europe.9 The range of their mobility is striking. Almost 2 million refugees have fled to or through Turkey since the start of the war in Syria, and many more have crossed to Jordan and Lebanon. Over one million Christians have fled Iraq, and over half of a million more have fled from Syria. The annual number of migrants registered as having been arrested and deported in the EU; the figure is somewhere around 500,000. However, there are only estimates of the total number of irregular migrants that reached European maritime borders. The number ranges from 4,000,000 up to 8,000,000.10 Tens of thousands of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean by sea in recent years, 6,000 to Italy alone. Over 3,000 died in the Mediterranean in 2014, comprising the vast majority of the estimated 4,000 migration deaths worldwide in the same period. The Mediterranean region is in the grips of a human security crisis, a crisis affecting the security and the welfare of individuals, unprecedented since the end of World War II.11


The International Maritime Organization’s 2011 annual report on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships identified 10 different regions prone to maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships of the world:

  • East Africa
  • Indian Ocean
  • West Africa
  • Arabian Sea
  • Malacca Strait
  • South China Sea
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • North Atlantic
  • Regions that are classified “Others”

Regarding “others,” in these regions, the occurrence of the two crimes are at a very low rate or even rare. Moreover, incidents such as the 2009 hijacking of “M/V Arctic Sea” in the Baltic prove that even the most secure maritime spaces in the world can be affected by maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships.12

The Mediterranean Sea doesn’t currently sustain a realistic threat in terms of modern-day piracy as we now know it. Unlike the Indian Ocean, it is enclosed and very well policed, surveyed, and trafficked. The entire area is also within easy rapid reach of sophisticated military and naval resources. However, more clandestine (and arguably more damaging) operations are perfectly feasible. It is no secret that obvious targets include port facilities, berthed vessels, outlying transport structures, and logistical hubs.

Other challenges arise from the Atlantic approaches to the Mediterranean, where new trafficking routes from Latin America to West Africa are bringing drugs, arms, and money onward through the Maghreb to Europe. Drawn to West Africa’s penetrable borders and anemic state and security institutions, new distribution routes have been created by drug traffickers, resulting in an inflow of cocaine into the region.13

Cooperation with External Actors

EU-NATO Joint Declaration

A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Police was adopted on June 2016. On November 14, 2016, ministers agreed on a new level of ambition in security and defense. 16 days later, on November 30, 2016, the European Commission adopted the European Defense Action Plan. This plan “comprises a European Defense Fund and other actions to help member states boost research and spend more efficiently on joint defense capabilities, thus fostering a competitive and innovative defense industrial base and contributing to enhance European citizens’ security.”14

Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown conducted a cooperative boarding on the Togolese flag merchant vessel (MV) Byblos as part of NATO’s counter-terrorism Operation Active Endeavour. (MARFOR)

On December 6, 2016, the Council of the European Union and Foreign Ministers of NATO adopted a common set of proposals for EU-NATO cooperation. This follows from the Joint Declaration signed by EU leaders and the NATO Secretary General on July 2016. They agreed on a set of actions, including 42 concrete proposals for implementation in seven areas of cooperation: “Countering hybrid threats, operational cooperation including maritime issues; cyber security and defence, defence capabilities, parallel and coordinated exercises and defence, defence industry and research and security capacity-building.”15 Facing common challenges, the cooperation between European Union and NATO is more important than ever.

In particular, in December of 2016, the European Union and NATO agreed to enhance the cooperation and coordination between Operation Sea Guardian, a flexible maritime operation created by NATO that can perform a wide range of maritime security tasks,16 and EU NAVFOR MED Sophia, which started on June 22, 2015 and ceased operations July 27, 2017 and was formed to disrupt the business of human smuggling and trafficking in the Mediterranean and prevent loss of life at sea.17 The EU and NATO agreed to enhance the cooperation of these operations through information sharing, logistical support, and practical interaction.

Moreover, they agreed to build upon synergies between the EU operation and NATO in the Aegean. In support of the above goals, the EU and NATO will continue to make full use of the mechanism of Shared Awareness and Deconfliction in the Mediterranean (SHADE MED). SHADE MED is a forum where stakeholders, nations, or organizations that are affected by migratory phenomenon in the Mediterranean can meet, de-conflict, and coordinate their maritime security operations. This can be achieved by sharing situational awareness as well as assessing the evolution of trends and best practices.18 Furthermore, seminars will be held in the early part of 2017 to build on experiences from the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean and on interactions in the Mediterranean.19

Integrating Mediterranean Maritime Security

And finally, why can maritime security in the Mediterranean be an integration pillar for the Common Security and Defense Policy? First, continued fiscal austerity could possibly impact the already limited defense expenditures in Southern Europe and give rise to new security concerns. Having an integrated approach can prevent and efficiently manage the existing threats in the Mediterranean which became even more challenging and complicated after the outbreak of the Arab Spring. The percentage of refugees and migrants who are trying to reach Europe by crossing Mediterranean has skyrocketed.20 Also, the incidents of terrorist activities in Mediterranean coasts, the threat of piracy attacks, as well as the fact that the Mediterranean has become a route of trafficking, drugs, arms, people, and money.

Another important factor which should increase efforts for further cooperation within the CSDP is the circulation of foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere to the battlefields of the Levant and back. This phenomenon is not new, although the sheer size and widespread nature of the problem has given it a totally new dimension. Terrorist attacks and counterterrorism operations in France, Belgium, Denmark and Germany, highlight the nature of the threat.21 Terrorists could find a number of other ways to use the sea to carry out threats, such as using explosives to damage vessels, passengers and crews, or surrounding areas. They could also use vessels to transport explosives and other chemical, biological, or nuclear materials, including fissile material to use ashore.

Related to the external actors in the region, European Union member states should enhance their cooperation within the CDSP due to the declining interest of the United States in maintaining a strong presence in the Mediterranean due to competing priorities elsewhere. Washington has always put pressure on Europe to do more for its own security, and will likely increase this pressure in the future.22

From the other side, in June 2013, Russia announced that it would permanently maintain about a dozen warships in the Mediterranean for its national security. After a period of weakness and instability during the 1990s, the Federation is reappearing on the international scene as a major security player, claiming the status of a great power. The Russian Federation is affirming its global role and its activities in the Mediterranean as a part of a wider strategy shaped by a flowing interplay of internal and external influences. Russia has many ‘cards to play’ and it is playing some of them expertly.23

Russia, as the other actors in the region, is seeking some combination of economic and security gains in the Mediterranean while also trying to build or rebuild economic and security ties. According to General Philip Breedlove, then NATO’s top commander: “Tartus may also be part of a Russian effort to establish an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubble over Syria, designed to prevent NATO forces from taking offensive action against Russia and its allies in the region.” These ambitions are illustrated by the Russia’s new Maritime Strategy, the Maritime Doctrine of Russian Federation 2020. This strategy includes the Mediterranean Sea, claiming that the aim of the Russian Federation is to re-establish a Russian Navy presence there.24 


Based on these developments the European Union, a global maritime player, cannot remain uninvolved, and especially when its own interests and the peace and security of its citizens are affected directly by the situation in Mediterranean basin. The above examples shows that this threat cannot be tackled effectively when each member state is acting individually and there is a lack of compromise. Cooperation under the CSDP is linked to military deployment, and the CSDP creates fertile ground for cooperation and dialogue between the EU member states and cooperation with external actors.

The European Union as a security and defense actor cannot remain a distant viewer when security challenges in the Mediterranean are more rapidly emerging. Those threats do not concern only the countries of the “front line” but all the EU member states. Maritime security in the Mediterranean region can be an integration pillar for the Common Security and Defense Policy as recent events prove, although many more challenges are still yet to come.

Evmorfia-Chrysovalantou Seiti is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science and International Studies in University of Warsaw, Poland and she is working in a multinational corporation dealing with banking and financial services. She holds an MA in Political, Economic and International Relations in the Mediterranean from the University of the Aegean. Her primary areas of research are European Security, European Maritime Security Strategy towards Mediterranean and Euro-Mediterranean Politics.


1. Kristin Archick, ‘’The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects’’, Congressional Research Service, June 2016, available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44249.pdf

2. Daniele Keohane, ‘’The Paradox of  EU Defence Policy’’, European Geostrategy, Vol. 8, No.9 (2016) available at http://www.europeangeostrategy.org/2016/03/the-paradox-of-eu-defence-policy/

3. Available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44249.pdf

4. Ian O. Lesser, ‘’The United States and the Future of Mediterranean Security: Reflections from GMF’s Mediterranean Strategy Group’’, Policy Brief Mediterranean Policy Program, April 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

5. ‘’Maritime Security in the Mediterranean: Challenges and Policy Responses’’, Security and Defence Agenda Discussion Paper, June 2011 available at https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/130716/Maritime_Discussion_Paper_FINAL.pdf

6. ‘’ISIS video appears to show beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya’’, CNN, February 16, 2015 available at http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/15/middleeast/isis-video-beheadings-christians/

7. Mark William Lowe, ‘’MSS in depth: The Threat of Maritime Terrorism’’, Med Security Summit, September 16-18, 2015 available at http://www.medsecuritysummit.com/wp-content/uploads/MSS-InDepth-May-2015.pdf

8. Mark William Lowe, ‘’MSS in depth: The Threat of Maritime Terrorism’’, Med Security Summit, September 16-18, 2015 available at http://www.medsecuritysummit.com/wp-content/uploads/MSS-InDepth-May-2015.pdf

9. Ian O. Lesser, ‘’The United States and the Future of Mediterranean Security: Reflections from GMF’s Mediterranean Strategy Group’’, Policy Brief Mediterranean Policy Program, April 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

10. Ian O. Lesser, ‘’The United States and the Future of Mediterranean Security: Reflections from GMF’s Mediterranean Strategy Group’’, Policy Brief Mediterranean Policy Program, April 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United StatesClandestino Project, Final Report, November 23, 2009, available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_147171_en.pdf

11. Clandestino Project, Final Report, November 23, 2009, available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_147171_en.pdf

12. Jean Edmond Randriananteinaina, ‘’Maritime Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships: Exploring the Legal and the Operational Solutions. The case of Madagascar’’, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea Office for Legal Affairs , the United Nations, New York 2013, available at  http://www.un.org/Depts/los/nippon/unnff_programme_home/fellows_pages/fellows_papers/Randrianantenaina_1213_Madagascar.pdf

13. ‘’West Africa drug trade, new transit hub for cocaine trafficking fuels corruption’’, United Nations, available at http://www.un.org/en/events/tenstories/08/westafrica.shtml

14. ‘’EU Security and Defence Package’’, European Union External Action, December 2016, available at https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/16693/eu-security-and-defence-package_en

15. ‘’EU NATO start new era of cooperation’’ European Union External Action, December 2016, available at https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/16643/EU%20and%20NATO%20start%20new%20era%20of%20cooperation

16. ‘’Operation Sea Guardian’’, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, October 2016, available at http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_136233.htm

17. ‘’EU NAVFOR MED Operation Sophia’’, European Union External Action Service, September 2016, available at https://eeas.europa.eu/csdp-missions-operations/eunavfor-med/12193_en

18. ‘’Shared Awareness and Deconfliction in the Mediterranean’’, available at http://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/csdp/missions-and-operations/eunavfor-med/shade/pdf/2015/terms_of_reference.pdf

19. ‘’EU-NATO Cooperation: Council adopt conclusions to implement Joint Declaration’’, Council of the European Union, December 2016, available at http://dsms.consilium.europa.eu/952/Actions/Newsletter.aspx?messageid=9551&customerid=36699&password=enc_52517859324E68794E576B6E_enc

20. ‘’UN Refugee Agency: 2016 is the deadliest year for refugees crossing to Europe via Central Mediterranean’’, available at https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/un-refugee-agency-2016-deadliest-year-refugees-crossing-europe-central-mediterranean

21. Boutin B., Chanzal G., Dorsey J., Jegerings M., Paulussen C., Pohl J., Reed A., Zavagli S., ‘’The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the European Union: Profiles, Threats & Policies’’, International Centre for Counter -Terrorism- The Hague-Research Paper April 2016

22. Michael Codner ‘’The Security of the Mediterranean Sea’’, LSE Ideas, A Strategy of Southern Europe, Special Report 2013, available at https://sarahwolffeu.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/lse_ideas_report_southerneur_lores.pdf

23. Rajan Menon and S. Enders Wimbush, ‘New players in the Mediterranean’, Mediterranean Paper Series 2010, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, May 2010

24. Edward Delman, ‘’The link between Putin’s military campaigns in Syria and Ukraine,The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/navy-base-syria-crimea-putin/408694/

Featured Image: The boarding team from Spanish EU-Naval Force warship ESPS Rayo board a suspicious skiff. (EUNAVFOR)

Naval Logistics, The “Mediterranean Corridor,” and the Pivot to the Pacific

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By Alex Calvo and Pol Molas

The logistical side to the US Pivot to the Pacific. One of the aspects not often discussed of the US “Pivot to the Pacific” is that it is not just combat forces (US Army, US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps) moving, but also the Military Sealift Command, which constitutes the cornerstone of logistical support for US operations all over the world. Just to get an idea of its size, if this command’s ships belonged to another nation they would be the fourth-largest navy in the world. As a consequence, NATO European members must reinforce their logistical capabilities.

The best-prepared naval forces to achieve this are the Royal Navy (the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, to be more precise) and France’s Marine Nationale. Germany is beginning to boost her global-scale force projection capabilities, limited to date due to well-known historical reasons. Now, the economic crisis and ensuing budget cuts are providing added impetus to the development of shared capabilities. While there is a growing pressing to achieve this, it is nothing new. For example, we can mention the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as a model of force integration, with their UK/NL Landing Force. By the way, there is a Catalan angle to this. Anglo-Dutch cooperation in amphibious operations dates back to the 1704 landing in Gibraltar, where a 350-strong Catalan battalion under General Bassett also took part. Therefore, should a future Catalan contingent join the UK/NL Landing Force, they would just be coming back home. Another significant example are the three Baltic Republics, which combine their naval forces in the BALTRON (Baltic Naval Squadron).

Barcelona and Tarragona Harbours: two key dual-use infrastructurs in the Western Mediterranean. When we talk logistics, one of its key elements are ports. It is precisely when countries are pondering how to cut costs that the concept of dual-use infrastructures comes to the fore. In this area, the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona can make a much greater contribution that they do at present. Right now, other than the occasional port visit by the US and other Allied navies, they are not the permanent home of any Spanish Navy unit. Furthermore, despite healthy growth in terms of tonnage, much of their necessary connecting infrastructure remains incomplete. In particular, a European gauge connection to the French railway network. However, in addition to featuring in plans for a future Catalan Navy, they could also become an strategic asset for NATO, being home to a portion of the Atlantic Alliance’s logistical units in the Mediterranean Theatre.

It is not just a matter of size. Both infrastructures are located in areas sporting a concentration of industry and transportation links. These links must certainly be improved, in line with the EU’s 2013 decision to confirm the “Mediterranean Corridor” as a key element of the Old Continent’s transportation networks. This label refers to a railroad transportation axis connecting cities and ports along the Spanish southern and eastern seaboards to France. Since most EU member states also belong to NATO, there is no reason to expect any discrepancy between the two organizations when it comes to the logistical map of Europe.

The benefits on the civilian economic front of completing this infrastructure have already been explained at length by myriad economists, such as for example Ramon Tremosa, currently serving as member of the European Parliament, who has written extensively on the project and worked hard as a lawmaker to see it come to fruition. This explains the support of the French Government and the European Commission, which have rejected alternative proposals to drill a tunnel in the Central Pyrenees, connecting Spain and France through the Aragon region. From a naval logistics perspective, this alternative plan would not have benefited NATO and allied navies to the same extent, since it would have meant bypassing Tarragona and Barcelona. The benefits of the “Mediterranean Corridor”, on the other hand, also extend to the field of defense. For example, should NATO’s Response Force (NRF) need to project one of its battle groups in a crisis scenario, we may ask ourselves whether Toulon, Marseilles, and Naples harbors would suffice. While it would not be impossible, it may make it harder to label it a rapid-reaction force.

Tarragona Harbor

The Pivot to the Pacific rests on a strong NATO and a secure Mediterranean. The US Pivot to the Pacific, and more widely the growing coordination among the maritime democracies in the Indian-Pacific Ocean Region, are based on the assumption that the Mediterranean will be secured by NATO. Thus, any move reinforcing security in this body of water has a direct, positive, impact on the struggle for the rule of law at sea in the Indian-Pacific Region. A struggle, let us be realistic about it, that is surely to be bitterly tested in the future ahead. As a historical reminder of the connection between the two regions, we may mention the failed British strategy to defend Singapore. Built at a time of scarce resources, the naval base was supposed to provide the necessary facilities for a strong naval and air force to be moved in the event of a crisis, without the expense involved in a permanent presence. However, the need to protect home waters, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, meant that all that London could send were HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, sunk by Japanese land-based naval aircraft in the South China Sea in the opening days of the Second World War in the Pacific.

Conclusions. Barcelona and Tarragona are key dual-use facilities in the Western Mediterranean, whose naval logistical potential to date has not been fully exploited. Their worth will multiply once the “Mediterranean Corridor”, backed by Paris and Brussels, is completed. Their potential contribution to NATO is growing as pressure on defense budgets forces countries to get as much bang for the buck as possible, and as moves to reinforce the Indian-Pacific Ocean Region make it imperative to fully secure the Mediterranean.

Alex Calvo is a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan) and member of CIMSEC, Pol Molas is a naval analyst and regular contributor to the Blau Naval blog