RECON Online Working Paper 2011/19

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A Divided Union?

Public Opinion and the EU's Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy


Dirk Peters(Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, PRIF)




There are few policy areas in which European integration in the past two decades has progressed as fast as in the foreign, security and defence realm. The democratic foundation of these developments, however, has been contested. This paper examines the question of democratic legitimacy from one particular angle, by examining public opinion towards the EUs Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy (CFSDP) as measured in Eurobarometer surveys between 1989 and 2009. It reflects on the relation between polling results and wider questions of democracy and, on this basis, examines three aspects of public opinion vis--vis CFSDP: general support for a common foreign and a common defence policy; differences among support rates in EU member states; and to what use armed forces should be put from the point of view of European citizens.


It turns out that general support for a common foreign policy is high. The desirability of a common defence policy, however, is much more contested among EU member states with member states being divided into a group of supporters and a group of, in part highly, sceptical countries. An EU defence policy that goes beyond strict intergovernmentalism would thus require a significant communicative effort to be justified and become accepted in several EU member states. Thirdly, European citizens do not give particular preference to the defence of international law and human rights as tasks for the armed forces. Traditional security concerns like territorial defence still figure prominently. However, European forces geared primarily at enforcing international law and contributing to UN missions stand a much greater chance of being accepted in all member states, even those in which the idea of a common European defence policy receives only little support. 



Common Foreign and Security Policy ― Democracy ― European Security and Defense Policy ― International RelationsLegitimacy ― Public Opinion ― Security





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