Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

Theories at a loss? EU-NATO fusion and the 'low-politicisation' of security and defence in European integration

Hanna Ojanen

January 2002

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


In the European Union, security and defence integration was for a long time seen as impossible or at least highly unlikely. Theories of European integration leaned complacently on the idea that security and defence policy have a specific character that explains this state of affairs. Yet, recent developments seem seriously to challenge their assumptions: the new joint EU crisis management with military means is bound at least to affect, if not replace, the traditional defence policy of the member states.

Both neofunctionalism and intergovernmentalism may be momentarily at a loss with this development, but, as resilient overall theories, they are already finding explanations for it. The problem, however, is that as they are likely to retain their basic assumptions, both fail to detect the change taking place: security and defence change nature in the process of integration, and may actually be losing their ‘specific character’.

I shall argue that a wholly new type of supranational defence is becoming a reality within the European Union – unless a EU-NATO fusion puts on the brakes.

After delineating these two possibilities, I shall look at Finland, whose security and defence policy is oscillating between the two. Finland is an example of how new security perceptions are adopted from the European ‘reference group’ and how these influence the perceived practical defence policy needs of the country. Finland is quickly adapting a supranationalising discourse in its security policy. Yet, it also tries to have a foot in the other camp, and may therefore be pursuing two contradictory objectives simultaneously.