The EU’s Discourse on Promoting Security in Fragile States

Mirroring an Externalization of Internal EU Security Interests

Bachelor Thesis, 2011

32 Pages, Grade: 1,8


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. Conceptual Framework
2.1 The changing Nature of the Security Concept
2.2 Towards a Paradigm Shift in Development Cooperation
2.3 The Construction of Security Problems

3. The Concept of Fragile States – Mirroring different Security Patterns

4. The EU’s Discourse on Promoting Security in Fragile States
4.1 Methodology
4.1 Methodology
4.2 Analysis
4.2.1 The European Security Strategy (ESS)
4.2.2 The European Consensus on Development (ECD)
4.2.3 EC Communication on State Fragility (CSF)

5. Reflections – Whose interests are really at stake?
5.1 The necessity of tackling fragile states
5.2 The underlying Motivations
5.3 Securitization

6. Conclusion



EU Development Policy, Fragile States, Discourse Analysis, Securitization

List of Abbreviations

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1. Introduction

“Ours is a world of growing complexity with many threats and challenges, including fragile states, terrorism, organised crime [and] the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction … Many of these threats are inter-linked. We have to identify the linkages and then frame and implement comprehensive strategies. We must mobilise all our levers of influence…in support of a single political strategy.”(Catherine Ashton at the Munich Security Conference, on 6 February 2011 (Council of the EU, 2011a))

In her address to the Munich Security Conference, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR), Catherine Ashton, pointed to the current globalized world structure in which domestic issues progressively display problems of common concern. After the end of the Cold War, a multi-polar world emerged that cleared the way for the rise of transboundary security threats, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and international terrorism. With the terrorist attacks of 9/11, these threats gained increased attention on the international community’s security policy agenda. In their attempt to tackle those security threats, the community’s focus has increasingly been on states in fragile situations that are perceived as particularly prone to crime and terrorism, due to their lack of state legitimacy and unstable institutions (Hoebeke & Vlassenroot, 2009; van Ven, 2007).

The EU has addressed fragile states in the wider context of promoting security in developing countries (Hout, 2010).[1] As reflected in HR Ashton’s statement, there have been intentions to develop a comprehensive political strategy towards third countries that encompasses development, military, humanitarian, as well as security aspects. However, critics are increasingly accusing the EU of framing its security approaches towards developing countries according to its own strategic security interests rather than to those of the states addressed (Beall et al, 2006; Duffield, 2007; Hoebeke & Vlassenroot, 2009). The importance of linking different components of external relations within EU policies towards developing countries, particularly fragile states, has been addressed for the first time in the European Security Strategy (ESS) in 2003. In 2007, the European Commission (EC) came up with its first proposal for a comprehensive policy approach towards fragile states.

When taking a closer look at the concept of ‘state fragility’, it becomes apparent that there is no common definition among international and regional actors[2] that would enable the development of one single strategy towards fragile states. The diverging interpretations of when a state is considered to be in a situation of fragility, leaves room for political actors to frame the concept in a distinct way, directly corresponding to their individual interests and strategies. All these points considered, the following question presents itself: How has the concept of ‘fragile states’ been framed by the EU in recent years, specifically in the context of its interests to promote security in developing countries?

This paper will examine the discourse on security and development within the EU, focusing specifically on its ‘fragile states’ approach which is increasingly dominating the development policy agenda. As fragile states have been addressed for the first time in the 2003 ESS, the analysis will be focused on the years 2003 to date. The EU’s approach towards fragile states is addressed in many studies, which mainly discuss it in the context of crisis management and how to enable a sustainable development environment. This paper aims to contribute to the existing scholarly literature by focusing on the concept per se rather than the policy instruments applied. Accordingly, it will be analyzed how the concept is framed around certain interests by means of a qualitative discourse analysis on relevant EU policy documents. To this end, the paper is structured as follows.

Firstly, concepts relevant to the analysis and understanding of the EU’s promotion of security in third countries in general, and its approach towards fragile states in particular, will be presented. The concept of security will be introduced and discussed with regards to the relationship between internal and external security interests and their transboundary nature.

Secondly, before embarking on the examination of the EU’s discourse on fragile states, it is important to consider the nature of the concept of ‘fragile states’ as well as the context in which it is used. Accordingly, different definitions provided by scholars will be presented and discussed with regards to their relevance for the analysis at hand. Thirdly, the EU’s discourse on ‘fragile states’ will be analyzed by means of a disourse analysis of relevant EU documents that will be complemented by a more content oriented examination. The analysis will be followed by a comparative assessment section in which the different findings will be summarized and critically assessed.

Finally, it will be suggested that the EU’s discourse on fragile states displays a securitization of EU development policy. The transboundary nature of security issues is increasingly addressed in this discourse, emphasizing the necessity to ensure the EU’s internal security through the promotion of security interests in third countries, such as in fragile states.

2. Conceptual Framework

In recent years, the focus of EU development policy has increasingly been on promoting security and stability in fragile states. Thus, the EU’s principles on what factors are included in its development cooperation with third countries have changed over time. Many scholars have argued that the EU’s development policy has moved from having a primarily humanitarian focus to a more strategic one, which includes foreign policy components such as security (Beall, 2006; Chandler, 2007; Klingebiel, 2007).

In order to analyze how the EU has framed the concept of ‘fragile states’ from 2003 to date, it is first necessary to understand the analytical framework surrounding the discourse at hand. Thus, in the following section, the concept of security, and its transboundary nature, as well as the blurring between internal and external security issues and their ultimate impact on the EU’s approach towards developing countries, will be discussed.

2.1 The changing Nature of the Security Concept

As Buzan et al (1998) emphasize, security constitutes a particularly contested concept, as it has been often perceived as too narrow and inappropriate (p.21ff.). Since the end of the Cold War, security has undergone a continual process of conceptual redefinition (Miller, 2001).

The traditionalist approach to security focuses solely on the study of force; use of, as well as threat emanating from, military control (Krause&Williams, 1996, p.233). According to Cottey (2007), this concept does not only deal with a state’s military capabilities but also entails its ability to safeguard its independence and to uphold its values, such as democracy (p. 6). Whilst the traditionalist strand defines security from a state-centric point of view, by exclusively focusing on the military threat posed by one state onto another, today’s security threats are perceived by many as being domestic or transnational in nature (Buzan et al, 1998). Thus, critiques have emphasized the need to broaden the traditionalist concept of security, in order to encompassthe security challenges facing the world today (Miller, 2001, p.19). Sheehan (2005) adds that by widening this concept, threats currently neglected by a country’s government, but nonetheless faced by its people, are more likely to be taken into account (p.3).

In the post-Cold War era, the EU member states had to acknowledge that the transnational threats they were faced with required a concerted transboundary response (Rees, 2011, p.227). In 2003, the EU noted in the ESS that in light of the challenges emanating from global threats, in particular international terrorism, “no single country [was] able to tackle today’s complex problems on its own” (European Council, 2003). Thus, from this time, close cooperation between EU member states, but also between the EU and other regional and international entities, such as the United Nations (UN), have been perceived as vital to effectively tackle those threats (Cottey, 2007).

However, the EU’s new approach is not only based on a more collaborative spirit. According to Erikkson and Rhinhard (2009), one “particularly new, and challenging aspect of security [is] the problematic divide between ‘the internal’ and ‘the external’” (p.244). During the Cold War, with its bipolar world order, a clear divide existed between a country’s internal and external security concerns and the way they were addressed, whereas since then those dividing lines have become increasingly blurred, displaying a nexus[3] between the two security aspects (ibid.).

The notion of the diminishing of a clear division between internal and external security interests within the EU is reflected in a number of official EU documents. The European Commission (EC) states in its Communication on a strategy on the external dimension of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, that the EU shall project its values inherent to its area of freedom, security and justice, onto third countries, in order to ensure the internal security of the EU. The communication continues that “[m]enaces such as terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking also originate outside the EU. It is thus crucial that the EU develop a strategy to engage with third countries worldwide” (European Commission, 2005a). This statement clearly displays an inclusion of internal security interests in the EU's promotion of security abroad. On a policy level, this approach is inter alia implemented through the imposition of clauses in the EU’s agreements with third countries. Such clauses may refer to a closer cooperation in the areas of international terrorism and illegal immigration (Smith, 2009, p.2).

In the context of widening the concept of security to also include non-conventional threats, the international community has been shifting the reference object of its security policies from the state towards the well-being of a country’s individuals (Duffield, 2007, p. 22; Kaldor et al, 2007). This concept of ‘human security’ was dealt with for the first time in the 1994 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Committee (UNDP) (Tschirgi, 2007, p.45). According to the UNDP (1994), human security constitutes “freedom from want” as well as “freedom from fear” (p.23), comprising “the safety of individuals and groups from such threats as hunger, disease and political instability” and sudden disruptions (Jolly&Ray, 2006, p.4). Thus, this new conceptualization understands security as also comprising economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security (ibid.).

In its 2001 report, entitled The Responsibility to Protect, the Independent International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) points to the responsibility of effective states to focus on populations that live in states of fragility, since

in an interdependent world, in which security depends on a framework of stable sovereign entities, the existence of fragile states, failing states, states who through weakness or ill-will harbour those dangerous to others, or states that can only

maintain internal order by means of gross human rights violations, can constitute a risk to people everywhere. (ICISS, 2001, p.5)

All these points considered, the international community’s approach towards third countries seems to be increasingly driven by perceptions of fear and threat. This shift involves major implications concerning the way developing countries are addressed by international and regional actors, such as the EU.

2.2 Towards a Paradigm Shift in Development Cooperation

Until the late 1990s, underdevelopment and insecurity in third countries were perceived as first and foremost constituting a threat to the countries concerned. Thus, assistance provided to those states by the international community was, at least in official terms, primarily governed by humanitarian and moral interests (Gibert, 2009, p. 623). According to Ogata (2010), development assistance granted to third countries has been traditionally concerned with addressing long-term problems, such as poverty and social inequity and how economic growth could be fostered (p.1).

Since the 1990s, and since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in particular, those problems are perceived as constituting a threat to the world’s security as a whole, “and therefore also to our own security” (Hoebke & Vlassenroot, 2009, p. 1). In recent years, development cooperation has been consequently addressed in a wider foreign policy context, inter alia linking it to the promotion of international security (Klingebiel, 2007, p.3). The EU acknowledges that “there cannot be sustainable development without peace and security, and … without development and poverty eradication there will be no sustainable peace” (Council of the EU, 2007a, p.1). Hence, the EU believes that its development policy will only be successful if it is supported by measures aiming at promoting political, social as well as economic stability and security in the countries addressed (Faust & Messner, 2005, p.426).

Although the interdependence between security and development policies is a phenomenon that can be traced back to the 1990s, direct assistance programmes related to peace, security and conflict have been collectively avoided, so as not to interfere in issues deemed to fall within a country’s national sovereignty (Tschirgi, 2007, p. 46 ff.). Accordingly, “[d]evelopment actors worked in conflict and around conflict but they carefully avoided working on conflict” (Goodhand and Atkinson (2001) cited in Tschirgi, 2007, p. 47). However, the advancement of globalization in general and the emergence of global terrorism in particular, brought about new forms of interdependence and rendered today’s world community more vulnerable to security threats (Duffield, 2007).

World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick said in a statement that “[o]nly by securing development can we put down roots deep enough to break the cycle of fragility and violence” (2008, p. 69). This argument clearly displays the way the nexus between development and security has been framed in recent years. Hence, as Beall et al (2006) point out, the EU’s security policy is increasingly conceptualized as “both objective of, and instrument for, development”, the latter being perceived as “a response to the insecurity felt by the developed North in the post 9/11 environment” (p. 54).

Overall, as discussed above, the concept of security has been framed in different ways, in terms of the historical context it has been faced with. However, two essential questions remain to be addressed: Firstly, under which conditions are threats and security problems perceived by the international community as such? And secondly, why are specific issues defined as security threats and others are not?

2.3 The Construction of Security Problems

According to the Copenhagen School, an issue is put on a country’s security agenda “not necessarily because a real existential threat exists but because the issue is presented as such a threat” (1998, p.24). Thus, security is understood as a socially constructed concept gaining relevance only within a certain social context. Balzacq (2011) defines securitization as

an articulated assemblage of practices whereby heuristic artefacts (metaphors, policy tools, image repertoires, analogies, stereotypes, emotions, etc.) are contextually mobilized by a securitizing actor, who works to prompt an audience to build a coherent network of implications (feelings, sensations, thoughts, and intuitions), about the critical vulnerability of the referent object, that concurs with the securitizing actor’s reasons for choices and actions, by investing the referent subject with such an aura of unprecedented threatening complexion that a customized policy must be undertaken immediately to block its development. (p.3)

In order to explain the connection between EU development and security policies by means of the theory of securitization, the following can be said: Firstly, underdevelopment and the absence of stable state structures is perceived as constituting a direct threat to the security of the developed world, which requires exceptional measures to be tackled effectively. Thus, the issue is securitized by being taken out of the realm of “normal politics” (ibid.). Secondly, underdevelopment consequently represents the referent object to be addressed. Thirdly, governments involved in development coope-ration programmes with third countries can be considered as depicting the securitizing actor, as they frame the threat as such.[4] Fourthly, the audience may be represented by the governments of the third countries addressed, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as the public. In an age where global terrorism is perceived as an imminent threat to one’s own security, the securitizing authority is likely to be able to convince the audience of the importance to undertake exceptional measures in order to immediately tackle the threat at hand.

With regards to the aim of this paper, namely to analyze the way fragile states have been conceptualized by the EU in the context of promoting security in developing countries, the concept of securitization is therefore of particular importance: It not only serves the purpose of exploring if and how security issues are increasingly embedded in the EU’s approach towards fragile states but it also helps analyzing how particular measures are justified to this end. However, prior to addressing the aforementioned points, it is important to discuss the different existing concepts of fragile states, which the analysis will ultimately draw upon.

3. The Concept of Fragile States – Mirroring different Security Patterns

“A cohesive and peaceful international system is far more likely to be achieved through the cooperation of effective states confident in their place in the world, than in an environment of fragile, collapsed, fragmenting or generally chaotic state entities” (ICISS, 2001, p.8).

As discussed in the last section, policies towards third countries have been increasingly shaped by perceptions of fear and threat in recent years. Thus, in the context of the EU’s attempts to promote security in developing countries, fragile states have attracted particular interest. Conversely, “in achieving security, securing failed and fragile states has been identified as pivotal” (Duffield, 2007, p.27). Although there is general agreement on the existence of fragile states, it is not clear which states are perceived as falling within this category. Moreover, there is neither a common definition nor labeling of the word as such (Hoebeke &Vlassenroot, 2009, p.1). Thus, as Cammack et al (2006) note,

The word ‘fragile’ is often substituted without a precise change in meaning by ‘failed’, ‘failing’, ‘crisis’, ‘weak’, ‘rogue’, ‘collapsed’, ‘poorly performing’, ‘ineffective’, or ‘shadow’; a fragile state may also be called a ‘country at risk of instability’ or ‘under stress’, or even a ‘difficult partner’. In most cases, these labels do not have a meaning that is clearly understood far beyond the author who has used them. (p.16)

In the following section, some of the existing definitions will be presented and discussed in light of their relevance for the analysis at hand.

According to Francois & Sud (2006), fragile states may be perceived as states that are liable to move towards state failure in the future (p.144). However, according to Ipke (2007), there are also states, classified as ‘fragile’, that are too weak to guarantee their citizen’s welfare but which are not necessarily prone to imminent state failure. From a human security perspective, as discussed above, those countries therefore constitute a fragile state, due to “their instability and lack of responsiveness to human needs” (p.86).

According to Stewart (2006), besides the lack of capacity - defined by Ipke as a state’s capability to protect itself, cope with economic risks and deliver core services - many countries also do not have the will to address their fragile state of being. He therefore distinguishes between four different categories of ‘weak states’: “relatively good performers, states that are weak but willing, states that have the means but not the will, and those with neither the will nor the way to fulfill the basic functions of statehood” (p.30). The characterisitics of these dimensions can be represented in the following table:


[1] The EU’s classification of developing countries is based on the list of Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipients that is revised every three years by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

[2] such as the UN, World Bank, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the EU

[3] Gänzle (2009) defines the term ‘nexus’ as “a construction of two or more social phenomena, which are put into a logical relationship of mutually reinforcing interdependence” (p.15).

[4] see e.g. the statement by World Bank Director Robert B. Zoellick

Excerpt out of 32 pages


The EU’s Discourse on Promoting Security in Fragile States
Mirroring an Externalization of Internal EU Security Interests
Maastricht University
European Studies
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ISBN (eBook)
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615 KB
European Union, Fragile States, Securitization, EU Development Policy
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Liana Luecke (Author), 2011, The EU’s Discourse on Promoting Security in Fragile States, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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