Could planetary security be a possible "grand mission" for EU foreign, security and defence policy?

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2020

15 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of contents

List of abbreviations

Referencing details

1 Intro
1.1 What is planetary security?
1.2 Why does it matter?

2 Change through the challenge
2.1 Change of institutions
2.2 Change of policies
2.2.1 Foreign policy (CFSP)
2.2.2 Security and defence policy (CSDP)
2.2.3 A grand mission?

3 The EU in 2025
3.1 What will it look like?
3.2 What should it look like?

4 Conclusion


List of abbreviations

a.o. amongst others

CSDP Common security and defence policy

CFSP Common foreign and security policy

e.g. exempli gratia (for example)

EGD European Green Deal / Green New Deal

EU European Union

GDP Gross domestic product

GDPR General Data Protection Regulation

HR/VP High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

IISS International Institute for Strategic Studies

JRC European Commission's Joint Research Centre

MSC Munich Security Conference

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization

No. Number

SIPRI Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

SWP Stiftung Wissenschaft & Politik

TEU Treaty on the European Union

UN United Nations

USA United States of America

vs. Versus

WHO World Health Organization

Referencing details

This document is written in reference to the APA style, regarding citations. The basis for this style was taken from the document ‘A quick Hertie School Library guide for EMPA students’, provided by Hertie School in September 2019 (Hertie School, 2019, pp. 19).

For legal citations, the respective article of the relevant legislative text is put in brackets before the part of the text is cited in italics, without quotation marks.

For several definitions and content, Wikipedia is used. This procedure is based on articles by Becher and Becher as well as Rodman (Becher, Becher, 2011, pp. 116; Rodman, 2015, pp. 1).

1 Intro

The European Union faces major challenges regarding its foreign, security and defence policy. In 2020, it is one of the main topics how the EU is going to face China, Russia, and the USA on a geopolitical parquet. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wants to lead a geopolitical commission as she called it herself, and has already called on Europe “to learn the language of power” (Brzozowski, 2020, URL). According to the German Federal Foreign Office, Germany wants the European Commission to work on “uniting Europe on the inside and strengthening it on the outside” (Federal Foreign Office, 2019, URL). Therefore, Germany is helping to find solutions to conflicts and crises and campaigns for a multilateral order based on rules (Brzozowski, 2020, URL; Federal Foreign Office, 2019, URL).

As these claims seem to be vague, the author tries to paint a picture how planetary security could be a possible ‘grand mission’1 for the EU and through this, laying a basis for the future of EU foreign, security and defence policy. Next to that within this policy brief, the author looks at how this challenge is likely to change the institutions and policies of the Union and what the EU could look like in 2025 as well as what it should look like.

1.1 What is planetary security?

Climate change2, pandemics3, conflict risk4 through e.g. water shortage5, geopolitical developments6 - this list could be extended with several other issues. Research suggests that many of these issues are interconnected in one way or another (Nordqvist, Krampe, 2018, URL; Ratner, 2018, URL; United Nations, 2020, URL; Unknown author, 2019, URL; Pinner et al., 2020, URL; Barrie et al., 2020, URL). Concluding these facts means that it is not about political interests or national security anymore. It is about the future of humankind and subsequently planetary security (Raul, 2019, URL).

For this policy brief, the working definition of planetary security is the security and defense of the planet, which includes humankind and environment as well as economies and institutions. Planetary security is regarded as a duty of a government 7 , which must recognize the interconnected challenges and threats for humanity.

1.2 Why does it matter?

The UN Security Council considers climate change a “root cause of conflict in specific regions and countries” (Dortland et al., 2019, URL) and the relation of climate change and security is getting increased attention8 as institutions like the EU or the UN are recognizing the change of the climate as a multiplier for threats (Dortland et al., 2019, URL).

Next to that, the current coronavirus pandemic9 shows how vulnerable the global community is and especially challenges the European Union and its foundations. Wolfgang Ischinger, the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, pleads that the EU must “emerge from this crisis strong enough to deal with the challenges within and to hold its own in a world of great power competition” (Ischinger, 2020, URL) and that the competent decision -makers need to ensure progress and consistency. The EU is facing its hugest crisis after the second World War and the focus has to be on showing solidarity between the member states and only together, a difference can be made (Ischinger, 2020, URL).

Research by the World Economic Forum shows that more than 50% of the global GDP is dependent on nature in a high or moderate way. Furthermore, the pandemic shows how one of the elements in an interconnected system can trigger a domino effect and destabilize a system. Also, diseases which are emerging are in many cases the result of interference in ecosystems and therefore show the need of an intact nature, which acts as a secure cushion between humans and diseases. Necessary action is required to ensure the sustainable capacity of the planet to benefit a yielding and sound human population (Quinney, 2020, URL).

In a recent statement, the Club of Rome10 pleads that it must be acknowledged “that the planet is facing a deeper and longer-term crisis, rooted in a number of interconnected global challenges” (Club of Rome, 2020, URL). Infectious diseases are emerging and are the reason for maladies, damages to the economy and even human casualties. As more than half of the diseases emerge as a result from human activities e.g. the enlargement of agricultural land, wildlife trade, hunting activities, and forest clearing, this all contributes to the loss of biodiversity. Like the coronavirus pandemic, the biodiversity loss and climate change are threats to humankind and can only be managed by acting collectively and should be acted upon before they become outright crises (Club of Rome, 2020, URL). A similar plead comes from Yuval Noah Harari, one of the world’s acclaimed public intellectuals, who speaks out for global solidarity in this crisis and argues that the resulting consequences are going to be a global problem which shall be solved by global cooperation (Harari, 2020, URL).

Based on these facts and recent developments11 mentioned above, it is necessary to view these challenges and threats as a holistic issue, and therefore consider planetary security the relevant and vital mission for the future.

2 Change through the challenge

The first question to address is, how this challenge likely will change the institutions and policies of the European Union.

2.1 Change of institutions

When looking at a possible change of institutions, the first step is to examine which institutions are relevant for the direction, design, and implementation of EU foreign, security and defence policy.

According to the Treaty on European Union (Art. 24 TEU, No. 1, 2012), the Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence.12

Consequently, the European Council is the relevant institution for EU foreign, security and defence policy. It considers the strategic interests of the EU and sets the political agenda for the Union (Europa - European Council, 2020, URL). Nevertheless, the EU member states unanimously need to adopt certain strategies or positions of EU’s stance on key foreign policy issues. This hampers a genuinely common EU foreign policy (Hix, 2011, p. 398).

According to the Treaty on European Union (Art. 42 TEU, No. 1, 2008), the common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets. The Union may use them on missions outside the Union for peacekeeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.13

Concluding this, the common security and defence policy (CSDP) is part of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP). Adding to the information above, the European Council is the competent institution for these policies (Europa - European Council, 2020, URL).

Connecting back to the initial issue of geopolitical positioning and focusing on planetary security as a Union, the European Council needs to work closely with its members, namely Heads of state or government of EU countries, the European Council President, and the European Commission President, and make it a priority to put planetary security on the agenda of the common foreign and security policy of the Union (Europa - European Council, 2020, URL). Hence, e.g. Josep Borrell14 urges for majority voting instead of unanimous voting for the CFSP (Cameron, 2020, slide 23). Research from Hertie School and SWP outlines the current discussion regarding majority vs. unanimous decision-making in CFSP (Koenig, 2020, URL; Bendiek et al., 2018, URL). This does not clearly answer the question of how institutions of the EU likely will change through this challenge, but indicate a possible direction, where the path may lead to.

2.2 Change of policies

The sub-chapters depict a brief outline of the respective policies and the last sub-chapter tries to lay out if a grand mission for EU foreign, security and defence policy is possible.

2.2.1 Foreign policy (CFSP)

The CFSP is a.o. guided by the values of democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms (Federal Foreign Office, 2020a, URL). According to the Treaty on European Union (Art. 21 TEU, No. 2c, No. 2f, 2012), the Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions […] in order to preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security and help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development.

2.2.2 Security and defence policy (CSDP)

The CSDP, as part of the CFSP, allows the EU to use a.o. military instruments for crisis prevention as well as post-crisis rehabilitation and the member states are helping to ensure Europe’s security (Federal Foreign Office, 2020b, URL).

2.2.3 A grand mission?

According to research, the EU’s foreign policy is fragmented, lacks vision, and has no direction (Cameron, 2020, slide 23; Cameron, 2012, p. 27; Puglierin, 2019, URL). Taking this critique and status quo into account, a consolidation of policies possibly would be a fruitful next step. The legal basis within Art. 21 TEU already has a focus on international security and sustainable development. The development towards a grand mission of planetary security could probably unify the differing interests of several member states and strengthen the political will of all parties involved to play a global role on the geopolitical parquet.


1 A ‘grand mission‘ in this context means that the EU, similar to its pioneering role e.g. with the GDPR or the European Green Deal (EGD), takes on a major challenge for the global community and positions itself as the frontrunner – in the case of this policy brief for planetary security in the field of foreign, security and defence policy.

2 In general, climate change “occurs when changes in Earth's climate system result in new weather patterns that remain in place for an extended period of time” (Wikipedia – Climate change, 2020, URL) and it is also interchangeably referred to as global warming. Due to climate change, the year 2019 was the second warmest year on record, according to the United Nations. Research shows that increasing land and ocean heat, accelerating sea level rise, and melting ice contributed to this development. This also has an impact on economic development, the health of humans, migration, marine ecosystems, and food security (United Nations, 2020, URL). Joseph Stiglitz, the former Chief economist of the World Bank and Nobel laureate compared the effects of climate change with the ones of a war. He describes the climate crisis as a ‘Third World War’ because the lives and all civilization are at stake (Unknown author, 2019, URL).

3 In general, a pandemic is “an epidemic of disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of people” (Wikipedia – Pandemic, 2020, URL). According to research by McKinsey, pandemics and climate risk “share many of the same attributes. Both are systemic, in that their direct manifestations and their knock-on effects propagate fast across an interconnected world.” (Pinner et al., 2020, URL).

4 According to research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) there is evidence that the dynamic and the causes of violent conflict are possibly in some way an effect of climate change. So, climate change can have an effect on conflict when a.o. the basis for the existence of people is subject to decay, when the upper class takes advantage of resources or social weaknesses or when people get displaced and thus migration levels are elevated, according to the research study (Nordqvist, Krampe, 2018, URL).

5 According to research from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). There is the possibility of people clashing for the access to water resources. These water wars could become increasingly relevant due to climate change and the growth of populations. Those so-called hydro-political issues enable instability in several regions as well as social unrest and will lead to competition for resources which are more and more scarce (Ratner, 2018, URL).

6 Several geopolitical developments are relevant for the European Union in the present. Russia, by annexing Crimea, attempted to change international borders in Europe via the use of force several years ago and is still a relevant player in the field. Also, the growing political, economic, and military influence of a rising China cannot be underestimated by European governments (Barrie et al., 2020, URL).

7 In this context, this refers to a supranational union like the EU.

8 There are several aspects which make climate change relevant for global issues and therefore, planetary security. Weather events, which are becoming more and more extreme, increase in magnitude and prevalence and the rise of sea levels will affect populations living in lower areas on the planet, confronting these people with the serious threat of flooding. In addition, the global population, which is consistently growing, puts more and more pressure on earth’s resources. This leads to a changed availability of natural resources, and climate change aggravates this situation, degrading resilience of ecosystems. Tensions arise because of changing landscapes in the arctic areas and geopolitical interests occur with regard to gas resources or minerals in this area, all amplified through the effects of climate change (Dortland et al., 2019, URL).

9 In December 2019, a new phylum of coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China, is now referred to as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As of now, 200+ countries and territories have been affected by COVID-19, with major outbreaks and centers of disease occurring in the USA, China, and Western Europe. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic (Wikipedia – Pandemic, 2020, URL).

10 The Club of Rome is a Think Tank, consisting a.o. of high-level politicians, government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists, and corporation leaders from around the globe (Wikipedia – Club of Rome, 2020, URL).

11 The ongoing coronavirus crisis elucidates that pandemics - as part of the multitude of threats and challenges for the global community - emphasizes the necessity for a planetary security approach.

12 Art. 24 TEU No.1 also states that […] The common foreign and security policy is subject to specific rules and procedures. It shall be defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. The adoption of legislative acts shall be excluded. The common foreign and security policy shall be put into effect by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and by Member States, in accordance with the Treaties. The specific role of the European Par-liament and of the Commission in this area is defined by the Treaties.

13 Art. 42 TEU No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 also state that […] The performance of these tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States. […] The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides. It shall in that case recommend to the Member States the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. […] Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy, to contribute to the objec-tives defined by the Council.

14 He is the current High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Wikipedia – HR/VP, 2020, URL).

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Could planetary security be a possible "grand mission" for EU foreign, security and defence policy?
Hertie School of Governance
European Union Governance
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Planetary security, International security, Foreign policy, Security policy, Defence policy, EU
Quote paper
Stefan G. Raul (Author), 2020, Could planetary security be a possible "grand mission" for EU foreign, security and defence policy?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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