CEPS Project

Constitutional, legal and institutional implications of a common security and defence policy

Possibilities offered by the Lisbon Treaty


Recent practice in the field of EU external action shows the convergence of strategic objectives, mandates and operation plans pursued by EU actors hitherto confined to either internal or external security. This is testament to the idea that a comprehensive understanding of “security” not only includes the recognition of the multidimensional nature of security issues, the widening of actors as objects and subjects of security, but also the broadened scope of security responses across the spectrum, including “defence”. However, legal bases, decision-making procedures, budgetary modalities and staffing arrangements remain distinct and will most likely continue to lead to interinstitutional squabbles over the delimitation of competences before the Court of Justice.
This study was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament. It examines a series of constitutional, legal and institutional implications of the proposals endorsed by the December 2016 European Council for the further development of the Common Security and Defence Policy in the framework of the current Treaties.

The study argues that the 2016 “winter package” on European security and defence does not represent an immediate game-changer in military terms but forms part of a longer trend that will change the nature of European defence cooperation and integration. It clarifies the stated ambition of the EU Global Strategy but does not pitch it at a new level. That said, the lists of concrete proposals and detailed timelines contained therein, in particular in the European Commission’s Defence Action Plan, are deemed most welcome. The initiatives to create a permanent operational headquarters, a European ‘semester’ for defence (CARD), a European Defence Fund, and to start harmonising standards and requirements for a European defence industrial market are all actions that deserve to be supported. But talk about “turbo-boosting” defence spending is exaggerated. The study finds that the untapped potential of the Lisbon Treaty lies primarily in the possibility to create a framework for permanent structured cooperation (PESCO); institutional adaptations at the level of the Council, the European Parliament and the European Defence Agency; and the modus operandi of the mutual assistance clause.

Steven Blockmans

Director of Research

+32 (0)2 229 39 25
CEPS Conference Room
Place du Congrès 1 - 1000 Brussels

Participation in this event is free of charge.