European Union External Action

20 years of EU security and defence: stabilising our neighbourhood, providing security at home

19/08/2019 - 13:12

In 1999, the EU’s Member States decided to create a common European policy on security and defence. European security and defence has now turned 20 and much progress has been achieved, in particular over the past few years. In a rapidly changing world, the EU and its Member States are actively engaged to provide stability in our neighbourhood and security within our borders. Work continues and is needed to consolidate this progress.

EU security and defence


In an increasingly complex and contested world, security challenges have emerged or grown stronger: cyber-attacks, hybrid threats, terrorism, hostile communication and disinformation campaigns or classical military challenges. No EU Member State can tackle these threats alone and the EU needs to be a credible global security provider in order to protect its citizens.

In 1999, the Heads of State or Government of the EU’s Member States gathered at a European Council meeting in Cologne and decided to create a joint EU approach to security and defence.

‘’We, the members of the European Council, are resolved that the European Union shall play its full role on the international stage. To that end, we intend to give the European Union the necessary means and capabilities to assume its responsibilities regarding a common European policy on security and defence.’’ (Conclusions of the Presidency, Cologne European Council, 3-4 June 1999)

As we mark 20 years since the creation of a common European policy on security and defence, much work has been accomplished.

A total of 34 missions and operations have been deployed under European flag so far. 16 of them – 10 civilian missions and 6 military missions and operations – are currently active in our neighbourhood: Africa, the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, the Middle East. Over 4,000 European women and men are engaged on the ground to stabilise our partner countries and work for security at home.

Progress has been unprecedented over the past few years: Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence for joint work on new capabilities and better interoperability of the already existing ones; new financing tools and instruments for a stronger and more competitive European defence industry, more efficient spending, better capabilities; better command structures for the EU’s international civilian and military missions and operations.

As EU High Representative Mogherini recently said: ‘’On defence, we have shown that this Union knows how to deliver if there is political will. In some cases, we have achieved even more than we hoped and expected in this field.’’ These results, however, ‘’need to be consolidated, and the new possibilities that we have opened in these last three, four years can be now explored and expanded. This requires unity of purpose, determination and, most of all, political will.’’