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The Challenge of Security Governance in Europe

Europe consists of fifty sovereign states. The European Union (EU) is the most prominent economic and social cooperation in the region. A total of 28 countries in Europe make up the EU. To deal with the security issues in the region, the EU has come up with a number of strategies and policies. Key among them is the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that guides the union’s diplomatic, defense, and security actions.

To safeguard their security, European nations have also cooperated with other nations and organizations. Considering that a majority of the European nations were part of the Western Bloc during the Cold war, they depended heavily on the US for their security. NATO has also been a key strategic partner to the EU when it comes to matters security. Until 1999, the organization handled all security matters affecting the European Union. However, the EU took over from NATO after 1999. However, both the EU and NATO have continued to cooperate.

NATO and the EU share majority of their member states. A total of 24 NATO member states are also members of the EU. Only 4 members of NATO are not members of the EU and vice versa. This has made it easy for the two organizations to cooperate in security matters.

Europe has in the past faced a number of security threats. Key among them were a terrorism and increased aggression by Russia in the region. There also a wide range of emerging security threats in the region. They include immigration, ISIS, cyber-crime, and a weakening NATO. Better collaboration between the EU and NATO is needed if the region is to remain secure.


EU = European Union

GDP = Gross Domestic Product

CFSP = Common Foreign and Security Policy

NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization

OSCE = Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

UNSC = United Nations Security Council

ESDP = European Security and Defense Policy

ISIS = Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Section 1: Introduction

Europe is a continent consisting of a total of fifty sovereign states. Cumulatively, the region has a total population of an estimated 740 million people (Lazaridis, 2016). The European Union (EU) is the most vocal and active economic and political union within the Europe. As can be seen in table 1, it consists of a total of 28 countries and represents an estimated 510 million people. At the present, it is the largest and most diverse economy globally, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of an estimated $ 16.477 trillion. This is approximately 22.2 percent of the world’s total GDP. The EU has also been at the forefront when it comes to the issue of security governance. The union maintains a common security policy.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was developed by the EU with to guide the diplomatic, defense, and security actions of its member states. Traditionally, the CFSP considered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to be responsible for Europe’s reconciliation and defense. However, the situation changed in 1999 with the EU taking over the policing of agreements and treaties as well as the implementation of peacekeeping missions (Lazaridis, 2016).

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has also played a major role in security governance within Europe. Table 2 illustrates that all EU member nations are also members of OSCE. It is the world’s largest intergovernmental organization that focuses primarily on security matters. At the present, the OSCE is composed of 57 member states from Europe, North America, as well as Central and Northern Asia (Massart, 2017). The body has a number of mandates which include controlling arms sales and movement.  It also seeks to promote elections that are free and fair, press freedom, as well as respect for human rights.

Section 2: How Security Governance in Europe has changed since the End of the Cold War

Security governance in Europe has evolved over the years to meet the regions ever changing needs. Traditionally, America and Russia played an active role in influencing security policies throughout Europe. This was especially the case during the cold war when European nations aligned themselves to the Eastern and Western Blocs. The Eastern Bloc was constituted of the Soviet Union and it satellite states such as Cuba and North Korea. The Western Bloc on the other hand was mainly made up of United States of America and its NATO allies (Lazaridis, 2016). It is worth noting that a majority of European countries were NATO member states. As such, they mainly depended on the United States of America for security during and immediately after the Cold War era.

With the end of the cold war, European nations sought to take more control of their own security. They sought to move away from depending on the United States to having their own security policies and strategies. Until 1999, the region depended on NATO for security and defense (Sperling and Webber, 2014). The trend however changed in 1999 when the EU took over security matters affecting member states. Subsequently, it came up with the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that guided their interaction between the member states and other parties in matters security, defense and diplomacy (Massart, 2017). However, NATO has continued to play a major role in the governance of security in the region especially in matters defense. At the same time, most European states have continued to be members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). However, EU policies are binding for all member states and override those of the other organizations.

Section 3: Current Structure of the European Union (EU)

The EU has seven key institutions that assist in policy making and implementation. The European council is the top-most institution within the EU. It consists of both the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission as well as all the heads of state and government in all the EU member countries (Council of the European Union, 2011). Both the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission have no vote. The council is based in Brussels, Belgium and is charged with the responsibility of setting EU’s general priorities and goals. Although the council does not legislate, it gives the EU the much needed political impetus.

The Council of the European Union is a legislative institution within the EU. It is charged with the responsibility of coordination EU’s social and economic policies as they are stipulated in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The institution works hand in hand with the European Parliament with which it shares budgetary powers (Council of the European Union, 2011). It is also responsible for concluding any international treaties and agreements the EU is party to.

The European parliament plays a legislative role within the EU. Together with the Council of the European Union, the European parliament forms the EU’s legislature. It also shares budgetary powers with the council of the European Union (Lazaridis, 2016). It wields democratic control over other institutions within the EU such as the European Commission. For examples, it approves members to the commission.

The European commission is EU’s executive branch. It is charged with the responsibility of submitting proposals for any new legislation to both the council and the legislature. The institution also administers the EU’s budget and implements the body’s policies. It ensures that all member states honor treaties and agreements and at the same time comply with the European law. The commission also negotiates on behalf of the EU in international agreements (Lazaridis, 2016).

The Court of Justice of the European Union has is based in Luxembourg and is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the European Law is interpreted and applied uniformly across all member states (Lazaridis, 2016). It has powers to rule on disputes between individuals, businesses, institutions, as well as EU member states.

The European Central Bank works in collaboration with the national central banks of the EU member states. Together, they form the European System of Central Banks (Sperling and Webber, 2014). They come up with monetary policies and exercise control over the supply of money.

European Court of Auditors ensures that the budget is implemented in the right manner. It is an independent institution that seeks to provide oversight over the utilization of resources within the EU.

Section 4: Relationship between the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance constitution of 28 sovereign states. Members to the alliance have agreed to mutual collaboration and defense in the event of aggression by an external party. It is worth noting that three of NATO members are also permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Subsequently, they have veto powers and are for this reason able to influence international security policies (Lazaridis, 2016). These include the United Kingdom, the United States of America, as well as France.

NATO and the EU share common strategic interests. The two organizations cooperate in matters of security, political consultation, capacity development, as well as crisis management. It is worth noting that both NATO and the EU share majority of their members (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017a). It is worth noting that 24 of the 28 members of NATO are also members of the EU. This means that only 4 members of the NATO are not members of the EU. At the same time, only 4 members of the EU are not members of NATO.

Section 5: How the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Programmes of Expansion have contributed to European Security

The EU and NATO programmes of expansion have had a major contribution to European security. The two organizations launched institutionalized relations in 2001. This was a product of the steps undertaken throughout the 1990s between the two organizations with the aim of improving defense matters throughout Europe (Lazaridis, 2016). The result was the formation of the NATO-Western European Union cooperation in 2001.

In 2002, the two organizations declared the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). Its purpose was to reaffirm relations between NATO and the EU. Both parties would going forward share their defense planning and capabilities (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017). The 2003 Berlin Plus engagements set out the arrangements whereby the EU would lead its operations without having to engage NATO as a whole.

The 2010, Lisbon summit came up with resolutions to improve NATO-EU cooperation. It was agreed that the two organizations would cooperate in matters of conflict management, stabilization of situations in the post-conflict period, and crisis prevention (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017a).

Section 6: Problems and New Security Threats Europe Faces

There are a wide range of security problems that affect Europe. Terrorism has been for years been the main security challenge facing the region. Unlike other forms of security risks, terrorism is harder to predict. The proximity of the EU to the Middle East and some volatile regions of Northern Africa such as Libya have made it more susceptible to terror attacks. NATO’s intervention in the Libyan crisis has for instance made Europe a major target by terror cells in both Libya and the Middle East (Lazaridis, 2016). The intelligence services of the EU have done a poor Job when it comes to sharing intelligence regarding terrorism. Traditionally, terrorist activities used to be perpetrated by foreigners who held different political and religious ideologies. In recent times, domestic terrorism perpetrated by European nationals has also become a reality. Increased Russian aggression especially towards Ukraine also threatens peace and security in the region.

There has also been an upsurge of security threats in Europe. Key among them is the weakening of the EU. Member countries have gradually formed a habit of ignoring directives by the organization. Such activities are likely to undermine the powers of the organization in the future and hamper its efforts to promote security in the region. Britain’s Brexit from the EU also weakens the EU (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017b). With the exit of Britain from the EU, the organization will not only lose a permanent member of the UNSC but also a strategic NATO member. The proposal of the US president Donald Trump to cut his country’s funding to NATO also threatens the security of the EU. The United States has for decades been the greatest source of funding to NATO. In the event that the proposal is to be implemented, the ability of Europe to protect itself through NATO is likely to be greatly undermined.

Europe also has to deal with the immigrant issue. Conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq have led in the massive displacement of populations. Many of these refugees have made their way to Europe as a result of its close proximity to the war-torn regions. It is estimated that about 1.8 immigrants entered the region without following the proper legal channels in 2015. An additional 980,000 have applied for asylum to the EU (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017b). Some of these Immigrants have been linked to the latest wave of terrorist activities throughout Europe.

The proliferation of ISIS is also a major emerging security challenge facing Europe. The terrorist organization has resulted to recruiting sympathizers from EU member countries. Efforts by Russian, US, Arab, and European forces to put to an end the ISIS menace has resulted in the group becoming more aggressive (Friedman and Shapiro, 2017). By entrenching itself in the borders of European countries, ISIS has succeeded in keeping European countries occupied. Cyber-crime is also another growing security challenge in the region (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017b). European countries have lost billions of dollars in cyber-attacks mainly perpetrated by ISIS. This money has then been used to fund terrorist activities within Europe.

Section 7: How the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have addressed Security Problems and New Security Threats Europe Faces

Both NATO and the EU have made attempts to deal with both the existing as well as the emerging security threats in Europe. The NATO Warsaw summit held in July 2016 explored measures that would help the region better deal with hybrid security threats. The summit focused on issues of cyber defense, defense capacity building, and maritime security. Discussions were also held on how to improve security through defense capacity building and joint defense exercises. Over 40 measures to measures proposed to improve cooperation between the EU and NATO during the conference were approved in December 2016 by NATO foreign ministers (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2017a). It is expected that going forward, both NATO and the EU are going to continue cooperating in matters security.

Section 8: Tables

Table 1: EU Member Countries

Table 2: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Member Countries.

Section 9: Bibliography

  1. Council of the European Union (2011). Security Committee. Accessed 14.04.17 at:
  2. Massart, P (2017) A European Security Council based on the U.S. model could do wonders for the development of a European strategic community beyond the policy wonks in the Brussels bubble. Accessed 14.04.17 at:
  3. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (2017a). Relations with the European Union. Accessed 14.04.17 at:
  4. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (2017b). Current security challenges and the role of NATO and the European Union. Accessed 14.04.17 at:
  5. Friedman, G., and Shapiro, J.L. (2017). 3 issues that will lead to trouble in Europe in 2017. Accessed 14.04.17 at:
  6. Lazaridis, G., (2016). Security, insecurity and migration in Europe. London, UK: Routledge.
  7. Sperling, J. and Webber, M., 2014. Security governance in Europe: a return to system. European security, vol. 23 (2), pp.126-144.

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