Western European Union - An organization without future?

Essay, 2007

13 Pages, Grade: 2.0


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Integrating the Western European Union
II.1. From Maastricht until Today
II.2. The WEU’s Role in the Security World
II.3. Not a Triangle anymore?

III. Membership-Perspective

IV. Conclusion

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

I. Introduction

The Western European Union (WEU) is not one of the most prominent institutions within the framework of the European Union. It is a military and defence organization – but the post-cold-war restructuring of NATO and also the increasing competences and further enlargement of the European Union have made the WEU somehow to an organization without a task. For that reason the main question of this essay is whether the WEU is an institution without future. This will be approached from three different perspectives: The first two are based on arguments made in articles by Simon Taylor and Guido Lenzi. The third approach analyses the problems of similar membership structures in WEU, EU and NATO.

“Next week’s meeting of ministers from the 28 countries which belong to the Western European Union will be like a meeting of employees at a company which is about to be closed down.”[1] Simon Taylor opened his article about the future of the Western European Union (WEU) with this sentence. He doomed the WEU to vanish; replaced by the EU taking over its defence and military tasks. As a reason for this development he mentioned the need for harmonisation of security and defence issues at the EU level to decrease costs and facilitate a better coordination. Furthermore Taylor claimed that the WEU relied on military assets of NATO and thus the US to operate. Taylor wrote his article in May 1999 – today almost eight years later the WEU still exists. And so do his objects of criticism; and still the WEU is doomed to vanish.

In contrast to Taylor the author Guido Lenzi sees already in 1998 a need for a reform of the security framework between NATO, WEU and EU. His main line of reasoning is the changing security world. Especially since the terrorist attacks on 9/11 his argumentation gained further relevance: present wars in Afghanistan and Iraq pose new tasks and defiances to military forces around the globe – for NATO’s and also European military alliances. The European Common Foreign and Security Policy celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, but still the European Union is not able to act as one actor. Various Commissioners are involved; there is a High Representative for Foreign Relations and each member state acts also on the international scene. Especially cooperation in the field of defence is highly underdeveloped. However, a lot of progress was made in the past years and since Nice the integration in this field has accelerated. Furthermore Lenzi argues that the perception of security of the Europeans has changed. Fortified by the war in Iraq Europeans claim the need for a from the US independent military power.

Today nearly all members – no matter which status – of the WEU are members of the EU; except for three: Iceland, Norway and Turkey - but these are NATO members. Military alliances have different levels of responsibility and activity. Also the role of neutral countries in the WEU is a consideration for future developments. So, besides the two structural poles of Taylor’s vanishing WEU and Lenzi’s need for reform, there is the attached difficulty of the membership structure of the institution.

II. Integrating the Western European Union

II.1. From Maastricht until Today

Taylor’s argumentation in his text “Union armed and ready to replace WEU” can be summarised very briefly: He argues that the WEU is an institution without future, because in the past years more and more responsibilities have been transferred to the European Union. Based on Taylor’s assumptions this section will describe this process very briefly along the key points.

Defence and Security Policy in Europe – and also by European countries towards the outside of Europe – are made within a triangular set of European Union, NATO and WEU.[2] Membership structures and countries are similar, and so are the decisions made by the institutions. Already the incorporation of Germany and Italy in the 1950s into the WEU and NATO were closely linked in time and reasoning. Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Anyhow especially before 1992 (and the creation of the EU and its three-pillar-structure) the dominant actor has been NATO, also because of the cold war. However the WEU has always been a forum for discussion of military aspects. As Taylor explained in his article the European Union by now is taking over most responsibilities from the WEU, but despite his forecast the WEU is still an active institution.

The importance of the WEU can only be explained in the entire European setting. But the whole history of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) fills books and would be beyond the scope of this essay. A brief version of the WEU history can be found in the Fact Sheet attached to this essay. Therefore this elaboration will focus especially on the recent developments and leave out the history before 1992. Thus the developments after the end of the Cold War, which changed the world-wide security patterns.

“After fifty years of regular attempts by some member states to extent the scope of the European Community/Union to issues of military security and defence, we are witnessing a final breakthrough.”[3]

The change of ESDP had started already in Maastricht in 1992. A closer form of defence cooperation was planned in the first version of the TEU, “albeit that its article J.4 clearly reflected the compromise, as it referred extremely carefully to ‘the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence[4]. But mainly the security policy was framed in the second pillar, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). But at that time this pillar could “only establish the general principles, orientations, the common commitment, the priorities that the Europeans share among themselves, but can never become a clearly-cut, pre-established blueprint for action”[5]. After Maastricht the WEU was somehow the military part of the European Union: at that time the European Union had no capability to act in this field.[6]


[1] Taylor, 1999, p.1.

[2] Other actors like WEAG and WEAO in this field are for the sake of this essay neglected consciously.

[3] Wessel, 2003, p. 265.

[4] Wessel, 2003, p. 265.

[5] Lenzi, 1998, p. 11.

[6] Woyke, 2000.

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Western European Union - An organization without future?
University of Twente  (School of Management and Governance)
European Institutions
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
478 KB
This eassay elaborates the future role of the Western European Union in the European Defence Framework. It is concluded that the WEU lost nearly all its competences and might either vanish in the future or be reduced to its most important function: it can still remain a forum for discussion between EU member and non-member states. (Arbeit mit einfachem Zeilenabstand)
Western, European, Union, European, Institutions
Quote paper
Hannah Cosse (Author), 2007, Western European Union - An organization without future?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/70288


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