In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The European Security and Defense Policy

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Theoretical Approach
  • Conceptual Approach
  • NATO
  • European Strategic Culture
  • Defense Economics and Procurement

International Relations The European Security and Defense Policy
Tine Van Criekinge
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0078


The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) reflects one of the newest policy areas of the EU, security and defense. It was founded only in the early 21st century, nearly a decade after the Cold War and largely in response to changing international- and regional-security challenges. Yet, the story of European security and defense does not start there. Indeed, the post–World War II and Cold War periods are fundamental parts of the wider context to consider when examining the EU’s transformation into a more present and active security actor. Literature in the field of international security dates back to the late 1950s, with the first decades in which it was written focusing particularly on Europe’s position between the superpowers and, more specifically, Europe’s role within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These accounts were written mostly from a strict international relations (IR) perspective. Literature written in the two decades prior to 2012 has increasingly focused on the EU’s changing and evolving role in global and regional security, with scholars of European integration making broad contributions, in recognition of the fundamental links between integration and the rise of a security-and-defense role for Europe that is separate from that of NATO. This bibliography seeks to provide a broad overview of the literature and debates surrounding this new EU policy area of security and defense, taking into consideration its evolution over time, the most important actors involved in shaping the policy, the EU’s actual role in security and defense, and its impact on Europe’s relations with the rest of the world. The following sections present literature on the topic written from a variety of perspectives; namely, historical, theoretical, and conceptual. The first sections take a broad look at the evolution of the policy area and the EU’s security role from the end of World War II until the Lisbon Treaty of 2008. The next sections investigate the role of the EU Member States in shaping and driving this intergovernmental policy. They will also look at some of the major debates both in the academic literature and the actual policy field; namely, whether the EU is developing a strategic culture, whether it is developing the necessary capabilities to handle complex security issues, and what its strengths and weaknesses have been in implementing the ESDP and deploying its operations. The last section will review the EU’s growing role as a regional and global security actor, by looking more closely at the geographical areas where the ESDP and the EU’s security interests have been promoted most robustly, as well as at the security partnerships it has formulated with other relevant international actors. This bibliography will thus provide the reader with a better and broader understanding of the EU’s expanding international role in the realm of security and defense.

General Overviews

In order to fully comprehend the EU’s position as a security actor, as well as the evolution of the ESDP over time, it is essential to have some background information on the EU’s foreign-policy system in general. The ESDP is undoubtedly linked and integrated within the EU’s system of making foreign policy, and, as such, some review of the basic literature on the EU Foreign Policy is an excellent starting point for any specific investigation on the ESDP. The extraordinary evolution of the ESDP from nonexistent during the Cold War period to involving a policy area that is increasingly integrated in foreign policy over the twenty years prior to 2012 certainly merits an in-depth investigation. Furthermore, there are now numerous works exclusively dedicated to examining the EU’s role in security and defense. The second part in this section, The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), will thus present some general overviews examining only the ESDP.

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