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The EU-Ukraine summit: the EU prays Ukraine will give purpose to its directionless security policies

Date

02 Feb 2023

Sections

Global Europe
New report addresses fundamental weaknesses of EU security policy

Brussels, Belgium

On the eve of the EU-Ukraine summit the Brussels bubble is alive with talk of a new era for EU security: the desire for ‘strategic autonomy’, a vindication of ‘European ideals’, and Europe’s enduring strengths on display. 

Yet, as a new report from MCC Brussels details, this is no time to bring out the champagne. EU security policy remains bedevilled by a gnawing, fundamental weakness: the complete absence of popular engagement with and legitimation of EU security policy. 

The new report, The Hollow Flag: The gulf between EU rhetoric and real security is written by Professor Bill Durodié – an MCC Brussels visiting professor, and the chair of risk and security in international relations at the University of Bath. Professor Durodié’s report examines the origin and development of EU security policy and finds that at each stage of its development the EU has been beset by contradictions, confusions, and a lack of clarity about the ends of security policy. Each of these weaknesses can be explained by the inability of EU elites to engage the public around the question of what security means. 

Whilst the physical limitations of the armed forces of EU nations are well recognised, the report boldly argues that military success depends rather more on spirit than just kit alone. The Ukrainian people, according to the report, are proof that security comes from engaging the people in support of their sovereign state and their desire to be free. 

But, the report asks, who across the EU today is willing to fight for their own nation? Surveys suggest that most are unwilling to say they are proud of their homeland, let-alone willing to defend its values, which they have been taught to conflate with colonialism and imperialism.

Professor Durodié comments, 

“As the philosopher John Stuart Mill noted long ago, worse than wanting war is believing nothing to be worth fighting for. Values such as heroism, courage, sovereignty, duty, patriotism, solidarity, and sacrifice are now consistently drawn into question. It is the absence of these elements, drawn from people’s sense of attachment to their community and nation, that defence chiefs and EU leaders ought to be worried about. They took generations to build but have been exposed as lacking when it matters most.”

“Real security relies on precisely these essential fundamentals. In place of these values, EU security is driven by the countless ‘initiatives’ and strategy documents beloved by EU bureaucrats.”

The report concludes with five recommendations for European policymakers, including most controversially a call to restore a form of community or national service across the bloc. 

  1. Recover the art of meaningfully engaging the demos. This is easier said than done. Active involvement in the affairs of state is the only true foundation for security. 
  2. Restore a form of community or national service. By helping all classes to mix as equals and engage in productive activity for the nation, we can restore a connection between the people and security. 
  3. Reclaim the idea of a patriotic education. Patriotism is not blind, nationalistic devotion, but an attitude of pride and confidence in the community. 
  4. Allow NATO to lead matters of security. This is not about surrendering to the interests of the USA, but a recognition that NATO, not the EU, has a legitimate grounding in nation-states. 
  5. Reignite economic growth as the key driver of security. Economic dynamism enables peace. 

 

MCC Brussels executive director Professor Frank Furedi comments, 

“As this report clearly shows, there can be no true security without popular engagement. The occasion of the EU-Ukraine summit is a much-needed opportunity to remind EU elites that they will not discover a mission and purpose in Ukraine – they must search closer to home. The brave, often heroic, resistance of the Ukrainian people reminds us that the values of patriotism, national culture, and courage are the true basis of self-determination – no matter how much EU elites like to dismiss these values as old-fashioned or dangerous. 

“The bold call for a restoration of a form of community or national service is only the start of a necessary process of democratic national discussion about restoring links of pride, community and national togetherness. Whilst EU elites would prefer to bask in the reflected glory of the Ukrainian resistance, they must instead address the questions and concerns of the nations of Europe. No number of summits, policies or reports can provide answers to the questions that need addressing today.”

 

Statement Ends –

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

 

Professor Durodié is available to comment on the report. Please contact John O'Brien, Head of Communications, MCC Brussels.

For your diaries note that MCC Brussels will hold a conference on geopolitics looking at these issues on March 9th in Brussels: 

https://brussels.mcc.hu/event/the-return-of-geopolitics-europe-a-year-after-russias-invasion-of-ukraine

 

About MCC Brussels

www.brussels.mcc.hu 

At a time of unprecedented political polarization, MCC Brussels, will serve as a forum for European debate and is committed to providing a home for genuine policy deliberation and in-depth exploration of the issues of our time. It will provide an opportunity for intellectuals and experts to debate and assess European policymaking's conceptual and normative status. Drawing on MCC’s outstanding pool of expertise, it will attempt to influence European policymakers with its distinct approach toward the political, socio-economic, and cultural issues of our time.

The Centre will offer a challenging and stimulating environment for visiting young students to acquaint themselves with Brussels's policy and decision-making process. It will provide short educational courses and seminars on matters about European thought and EU policymaking.

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