Europe must take on more responsibility in security policy 

09.10.2018 - Article

At a time when the rules based international order is under strain, European foreign policy must face up to new challenges. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is calling on Europe to assume more responsibility in security policy.

Foreign Minister Maas at the Federal Academy for Security Policy
Foreign Minister Maas at the Federal Academy for Security Policy© BAKS

“It is in our genuine interest as Europeans to take on more security responsibility. We must make Europe a major pillar of the world order, a major actor in an alliance of multilateralists.” Foreign Minister Maas delivered this message yesterday (9 October) in a keynote speech at the Federal Academy for Security Policy. What does that mean in practice?

Promoting a networked approach in the EU

Germany has adopted a networked approach that ties together foreign, security and development policy. Civilian and military instruments are coordinated, so that the various actors can take rapid and effective action. Foreign Minister Maas wants to more firmly integrate this approach into the European Union.

Enhancing the EU’s rapid response capabilities

The Foreign Minister also wants to enhance the EU’s ability for rapid response. “For this, we must enhance the professionalism and rapid deployability of our European response assets,” Maas said. He went on to say that “one tool for this is the establishment of a European centre of excellence for civilian crisis management.” What is more, he proposed the idea of highly mobile reconnaissance units that could provide the EU with early situational awareness. The EU should have such “stabilisation scouts” at its disposal for deployment when a conflict reaches a critical point.

Investing in Europe’s security

A Tiger helicopter
A Tiger helicopter© dpa

Last year, the European Union achieved a breakthrough in the area of defence with the establishment of the Permanent Structured Cooperation, also known as PESCO. With it, member states intend to take joint and coordinated action to enhance their military capabilities. Furthermore, discussions are currently underway in Brussels regarding the European Defence Fund. The ultimate aim of these efforts is to improve the EU’s common defence capabilities. “Europe can only be a strong and sovereign security policy player if it has the requisite capabilities. To get there, we must be willing to invest in security,” Foreign Minister Maas emphasised.

Improved and more rapid European decision making

Logo of the EU Training Mission in Mali
Germany is participating in the EU Training Mission in Mali© dpa

According to the Foreign Minister, the EU must also improve its ability to take decisions. He argued that qualified majority voting should be introduced to the sphere of the common foreign and security policy, as well. “It will not be possible for such an institution to solve the problems we face if the principle of unanimity is maintained,” Minister Maas said.

The same holds true, according to Maas, for the idea of creating a European Security Council. Such a format would give a small, rotating group of member states the opportunity – acting on behalf of the entire European Union – to work more rapidly and intensively towards in resolving current crises. Maas stressed that “we must finally make the European Union capable of pursuing foreign policy.”

An active role in the UN Security Council

Foreign Minister Maas at the Federal Academy for Security Policy
Foreign Minister Maas at the Federal Academy for Security Policy© BAKS

Germany will pursue the EU’s foreign policy objectives above all in the UN Security Council.  “The United Nations Security Council is at the very heart of the system for the maintenance of international peace and security. Our Security Council membership, which begins next year, will put us in a position to help shape global developments and improve cooperation.”
Minister Maas also said that, during the time he spent at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, he could literally feel the winds of change. The EU must be willing to play an active role in developments in the coming years. “Change always harbours opportunity,” the Foreign Minister said.

Additional content

I am pleased that the Federal Academy for Security Policy has invited me to speak to you today.  I am even happier to be here because the Federal Academy for Security Policy embodies something that is…

Speech by Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at an event hosted by the Federal Academy for Security Policy

The CSDP enables the EU to use civilian, police and military instruments to cover the full spectrum of crisis prevention, crisis management and post-crisis rehabilitation.

Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)


Top of page