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icono de curso

European Security and Defence Policy (intensive)


Credits: 3 ECTS

First semester

Elective Courses



This elective course will explore the strategic context of CSDP, its new policy framework provided by the June 2016 EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS), as well as its architecture and the main elements and challenges of European defence. It will, furthermore, analyse the different modalities of operationalizing European defence as exemplified by relevant EU missions and operations, such as the ones undertaken in the Balkans, the Sahel, Afghanistan and Libya. The relations between the EU and NATO as well the implications of the US shifting strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region or those of the Brexit will be considered throughout.

The EUGS entrusts yet a new task to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The “European way of life” needs to be protected at home, which includes facing “challenges with both an internal and external dimension, such as terrorism, hybrid threats, cyber and energy security, organised crime and external border management”. Moreover, CSDP must a) contribute to “the resilience of states and societies to the east stretching into Central Asia, and south down to Central Africa”, but also, in fact, to maintain security in the neighborhood by forceful means when necessary; b) help maintain “sustainable access to the global commons”, including multilateral diplomatic initiatives in key areas but also a stepped up military contribution, especially as a “global maritime security provider”, and with a specific focus on Asia; and c) “assist further and complement UN peacekeeping” even outside Europe’s broad neighborhood.

In contrast with those ambitious tasks, a pervasive lack of cooperation has prevented the formation of the defense component of CSDP. It could safely be said that CSDP rather consists of the more than 30 missions and operations conducted since 2003 under the EU flag, be they framed in broader multilateral action or not, for which member states are showing a decreasing commitment during the last five years. The Council Decision establishing a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) of 8 December 2017 may, however, constitute a driver for developments that are long overdue.

The EUGS proclaims that “member states will need to move towards defence cooperation as the norm”, either at the EU level or through clusters of member states. In order to achieve ‘strategic autonomy’, EU member states are bound to pooling and specialising while allocating enough resources to R&T, which should allow the EU e.g. to develop key enablers such as remotely piloted aircraft systems, satellite communications, and autonomous access to space and permanent earth observation. The benefits of defence cooperation in the broadest terms are apparent, since prevailing fragmentation and duplication are but cost-effective, and no individual EU member state has or can develop a defence industrial base to produce the full range of military capabilities required today.

In order to analyse and assess the developments and shortcomings of CSDP, as well as the prospects for a Security and Defence Union, the course is structured in three main parts and a final debate:

  • the first part focuses on the main features of CSDP, with a special focus on the new EU Global Strategy as its policy framework;
  • the second part covers the defence and crisis management dimensions of CSDP, including initiatives to progressively develop a European defence;
  • the third part offers an in-depth analysis of four key CSDP missions and operations representing different modalities of European crisis management; and the concluding debate is intended to facilitate ‘group thinking’ on the future of CSDP. 


During the course, students will be required to prepare two short essays out of the three proposed below, the ideas of which will be presented to the group:

  • a brief essay (max. 1500 words) either assessing one element of the new EUGS in relation to the security strategy or a defence white paper of at least one member state of the EU, or analysing at least a weak aspect of CSDP and making realistic proposals to achieve strategic autonomy towards a Security and Defence Union; and
  • a paper (max. 2500 words, or 3500 if jointly developed by two students) assessing goals and performance of one of the four CSDP operations and missions covered in Part III of the course.

Essays and papers will be at least 24 hours before the dates assigned to sessions devoted to the topics in question.

Final grade in the course will be based on individual work that will be weighted as follows:

  • Quality and presentation of the assessment paper 50%
  • Quality and presentation of the brief essay 30%
  • Class participation 20%

          TOTAL 100%

Each regular session will start with a presentation by the professor explaining the context and key concepts and principles of the topics in question followed by a guided discussion with the group. Sessions under Part III also include presentations by students with a focus on assessing goals and performance of the respective operation followed by an open discussion. Debate sessions will intercalate brief presentations by students of their analysis and proposals.

To be able to actively participate in the sessions, students must read at least the recommended papers and cases included in the basic reading. A deep knowledge of international or European law is not required, although students should be familiar with basic legal documents and principles as well as with the decision-making and functioning of both the UN system and the EU external action structures.

Laptops and other IT devices are allowed in class although they are not necessary at all. Discussion and debate will be encouraged as opposed to note-taking.