Recent geopolitical and technological changes have resulted in a modified security environment. The world has become more complex and contested. Security challenges have emerged or grown stronger compared to just a few years ago: cyber-attacks, hybrid threats, terrorism, hostile communication and disinformation campaigns or classical military challenges that require boosting our defence capabilities.
Europeans have made unprecedented progress in working together in the defence domain over the past years. However, complex security challenges cannot be effectively addressed with a purely military approach. Europe seeks to develop its role as a global security provider based on the combination of a much broader range of tools.
Diplomacy, humanitarian aid, development cooperation, climate action, human rights, economic support and trade policy are all part of the EU's toolbox for global security and peace. Different instruments are combined in a specific way fitting the particular circumstances of each crisis or situation. This tailor-made, multi-faceted approach – continuously adjusted to evolving conditions – is the EU's so-called Integrated Approach.
The EU is a global heavyweight in many respects: it is the most lucrative market in the world, the second largest economy, the world's biggest investor in development cooperation and humanitarian aid and has one of the largest diplomatic networks. These strengths – Europe's soft power – are all helpful when it comes to fostering security and promoting European interests and values.
Lack of stability or crises outside Europe's borders can have a direct impact on internal security. The EU currently has 16 civilian and military missions and operations deployed in Africa, the Middle East and Europe itself – namely in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Military personnel and civilians such as police officers, coast guards, political and legal advisors are detached by EU Member States with tailored mandates. They provide military training, capacity-building and assistance in border management or on rule of law issues, support in the fight against piracy or against human trafficking and people smuggling, against document fraud, arms trafficking or corruption.
Cooperation is key to the European approach – be it among EU Member States or with partner countries and international organisations like the United Nations, NATO, the African Union or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). While the EU looks for the required degree of strategic autonomy when it comes to protecting its interests and values, it will always work closely with its partners.
The EU firmly believes in a rules-based global order with multilateralism as its key principle and the United Nations at its core. Cooperation with NATO is also essential and complementary and has been strengthened over the past years.