Blog post

Newsletter July August 2023

Security transition

| 05/07/2023

Recommended citation

Maillard S. 2023. « Security transition », Newsletter, Paris: Jacques Delors Institute, July-August.

“We talk about the green transition, we talk about the digital transition. We should be talking about the security transition”. A lucid observer of the state of the world and of Europe, Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, recently called this the “third transition for the European Union”, which he believes is underway. The expression is based on a broad notion of security, understood in the military, economic, energy, technological and information sense. The “security transition” reflects the same direction given to different public policies to equip the EU with the tools to defend itself and respond to other powers in the world and to new threats. Even the enlargement policy, which will be debated by the EU-27 under the Spanish Presidency, is now part of this movement, so as to ensure that the grey areas of the former Soviet empire no longer degenerate into potential threats to the EU. In short, Europe is moving from a peace projet to becoming a power project, without abandoning the former but on the contrary adapting itself to strengthen it.

In its most obvious sense, the security transition is taking place firstly by increasing defence budgets, amid the duty to lower post-Covid national public debts. The urgent need for munitions to support the Ukrainian counter-offensive and, more broadly, the threat of an unstable and unpredictable nuclear power on our doorstep, which Russia represents today, as well as the evolution of American strategic priorities, are leading a number of EU Member States to increase their own military spending. The Nato summit in Vilnius on July 11th and 12th will provide an opportunity to assess the scale of this increase.

The European economic security strategy, which the von der Leyen Commission has just presented, is also fully in line with this transition of the third kind. It is based on an arsenal of newly created instruments, such as the screening of foreign investments, or those in the process of being adopted, such as the anti-coercion regulation or the regulation on critical raw materials, which should reduce the risks of over-dependence, particularly with regard to Beijing.

The war in Ukraine immediately revealed another European dependence, on Russian gas, from which we quickly emerged. But despite progress in diversification and interconnection, the continent’s security of gas supply still needs to be sustained by a further reduction in demand for this fossil fuel, as recommended by our Energy Centre.

Generally speaking, there is a trade-off between greater security and lower prices, in favour of greater resilience in value chains rather than just the lowest production costs. The security transition is thus leading to a price adjustment. It is also leading to deep changes in the internal market, which will have to protect its openness in the future.

Our publications and events, presented in this summer’s newsletter, describe and analyse the various aspects of this security transition, which has become a new vector for European integration. The movement has undoubtedly only just begun. It will have an even greater impact on our work.

On the more modest scale of our think tank, a transition is also beginning, this time a human one. From September 1st, I will be leaving my position as Director of the Jacques Delors Institute, which I have held for the past six years, to move to London, where I will work for our new Centre Grande Europe, with a focus on the European Political Community. My successor, Sylvie Matelly, who comes from IRIS (Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques), will then head our Institute, still under the presidency of Enrico Letta. Her recognised expertise in geo-economics and defence will be particularly welcome in “thinking Europe”, as our motto puts it, in this threefold transition and in the light of the world’s constant upheavals.

Sébastien Maillard,
Director of the Jacques Delors Institute