European Union performance in the field of non-proliferation

I want to draw your attention to the latest issue of UNISCI – a Spanish journal-. This special issue ( is devoted to the analysis and evaluation of some aspects of the EU policy in the field of non-proliferation, ten years after the adoption of the EU Strategy against WMD. Considering that sometimes the non-English publications are “out of the record”, I’ve considered that this blog gives us the opportunity to be aware of this literature.

Below I reproduce several paragraphs of the Coordinator (Clara Portela) pointing out the main contributions of the articles included (most of them in English!):

“In the opening article, Megan Dee evaluates the role of the EU in NPT negotiations. The EU has a history in this forum, having coordinated positions at NPT Review Conferences since the 1995, when it conducted a celebrated campaign in support of indefinite extension. It also appeared promising on account on its multilateral nature and vocation, very much highlighted in the ESS. However, according to Megan Dee, EU’s performance is ultimately hampered by its own lack of ambition, as well as by the other groups which fulfill the consensus-building role the EU aspires to. In other words, it has been outperformed by groups with better defined and less status-quo oriented visions.

The second article by Oliver Meier analyses an issue area that has remained conspicuously absent from current accounts of the EU’s action in this field, its policies in various arms control regimes, with refreshing and sometimes unexpected results. Oliver Meier concludes that, despite the EU’s favorable position in the export control regimes, members’ action in these informal fora remains uncoordinated.

The following article by Milagros Álvarez comparing the non-proliferation strategies of the EU and the US demonstrates that, despite the hopes instilled by Obama’s nuclear disarmament impetus, US action in the field remains conservative in several respects. Her findings are rather disappointing: Transatlantic collaboration prospers in the consolidation of informal non-proliferation tools. Her contribution also helps us contextualizing nuclear non-proliferation in the broader field of WMD: selective progress in the non-proliferation is matched by stagnation in the biological and chemical domain.

Anne Finger follows up exploring European options for the implementation of a key initiative in the field, Obama’s “Global Zero”, a highlight which has so far received less resolute support from the EU than one would expect following the adoption of the EU’s WMD strategy. In the face of “Global Zero’s” fading momentum, Anne Finger suggests ways forward for reviving and facilitating progress towards nuclear elimination in Europe.

A second set of articles examines significant issues surrounding the EU and WMD proliferation. Benjamin Kienzle looks at the EU’s policies towards Iran in an effort to explore the problems created by the multiplicity of norms promoted in EU foreign policy. He shows that in the EU’s Iran policy, non-proliferation was eventually privileged over human rights objectives. In the absence of pre-established priorities among norms, the EU faces a dilemma in its external norm promotion; namely, it might have to prioritize among competing norms, or else pursue both of them at the expense of coherence. Two subsequent contributions analyze key issues determining the non-proliferation context in which the EU operates: Belén Lara compares and assesses European reactions to the US plans to deploy a Missile Defence system, while Natividad Fernández reviews the sometimes misrepresented, or simply misunderstood, non-proliferation policies of the Russian Federation. Finally, Fernando Borredá explores the role of the EU in the field of chemical weapons by applying most the straightforward standards, i.e., by assessing the relevance of EU action to the main challenges currently faced by the chemical weapons regime.

While the picture that emerges from this compilation of articles points to a suboptimal performance, it does not necessarily augur badly for the future of the EU as a nonproliferation actor. Those articles evaluating the EU’s track record reveal a gradual improvement in EU coordination, such as in the NPT framework. Others deal with arenas where the EU has not seriously contemplated closer co-ordination, as exemplified, to all appearances, in the export control regime. And granted, some contributions discuss issue areas which European countries prefer not to address through the EU, such as Missile Defence. The benefits of the emerging literature to which the present issue draws attention is that it shows a growing interest in the policies of the EU in the field, pointing to current deficiencies and sometimes even suggesting avenues for improvement. Nonetheless, the EU is clearly “not yet there”. In order to achieve relevance in the non-proliferation domain, the EU still requires a breakthrough….”


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