The independent resource on global security

7. Security sector reform and NATO and EU enlargements



I. Introduction

II. Repercussions of the enlargements on security sector reform

III. NATO enlargement: challenges of ‘defence reform’

IV. EU enlargement: challenges of ‘internal security reform’

V. New frontiers

VI. Conclusions


Read the full chapter [PDF].


Security sector reform (SSR) is a globally applied concept calling for the enforcement of good governance norms in all aspects of security policy making and implementation (i.e., not just military defence activities). Within Europe, both NATO and the EU have sought to promote democratic standards in the defence and security sphere and have placed this among the criteria for accession candidates. At the same time, however, both organizations have set positive objectives of reform and capability building in the same dimensions. The imminent entry of a large number of new members to both organizations, coupled with the impact of the new global agenda focusing on terrorism and proliferation control, makes it timely to review the way ahead for SSR in the larger European area.


NATO’s concrete targets for military reform in applicant countries were clear, but have not been fully realized either before or (in the case of the three Central European countries already admitted) after accession. Modernization of defence structures, technology, financing, and public understanding and support all remain problematic points within the countries of this region. NATO’s new concentration on out-of-area deployments, and its call for ‘niche’ contributions to these, may have the effect of dividing Central European defence establishments into a relatively sophisticated, small, deployable capacity and a majority of underpaid and under-equipped territorial forces. For the new set of candidates due to accede in 2004, NATO has adopted an improved set of accession goals and a better coaching process, but may also have diluted the strictness of its conditions somewhat in order to permit the wide-ranging incorporation of territory dictated by the post-11 September 2001 agenda.


The EU has been particularly strict in demanding that all its new members scheduled to accede in 2004 should demonstrate their ability to enforce the full ‘Schengen’ system of border control and internal security cooperation (from which some existing members have been allowed to opt out). This reflects concerns about the pressure of illegal migration, smuggling, crime, and so on, on the Union’s extended eastern borders. Given the relatively weak development of scrutiny and democratic control mechanisms both at the European level and within the new democracies, however, this pro-security emphasis risks tilting the balance in member states against the protection of their citizens’ and foreign residents’ human rights. Potential problem areas in this respect include asylum, immigration and refugee policies, inadequate support for national police, and attitudes towards non-EU neighbours. The continuing pressure to strengthen the EU’s anti-terrorism and migration control capacities means that this problem will not quickly go away.


Both NATO and the EU—and in their own contexts, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe—will have to consider how to develop SSR as an element in their policies towards ‘new neighbours’ in the east, south-east and south after enlargement. The new frontier zones from Minsk to Morocco are strategically and culturally diverse but all have below-average standards of security governance, and it is not yet clear how far the methods of leverage which achieved improvements within the existing round of NATO/EU entrant countries can take effect in these different environments. Devoting more resources to SSR as a part of ‘outreach’ is desirable, but also means withdrawing resources from Central European countries before the corresponding reforms on their own territories are soundly anchored. Ultimately, the challenge of monitoring and enforcement within the enlarged institutions could only be met by more clearly defining the SSR norms applicable to all their members.


In sum, NATO and the EU have sought, and to a considerable extent achieved, SSR goals in Central Europe through the medium of a conditional accession process, and have shown the value (in terms of both effectiveness and legitimacy) of addressing these issues through a multilateral authority. It has not been altogether possible, however, to keep political distortions out of the process or to avoid ‘mixed messages’ resulting from the institutions’ concurrent demands for—constantly evolving—performance standards in the fields of military intervention and security enforcement. Maintaining a focus on SSR within as well as beyond the enlarged boundaries may provide the best guide through the risks and opportunities inherent in the enlargement of these key multilateral organizations.



Marina Caparini (Canada) is a Fellow in the Think Tank of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), where she coordinates DCAF’s working groups on internal security (police, intelligence, border management) and civil society. She is doctoral candidate in the Department of War Studies, King’s College, University of London, and is completing her dissertation on internal security reform in select countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Her recent publications include Security Sector Reform and Democracy in Transitional Societies (Nomos, 2002), as co-editor and contributing author, and Civil–Military Relations in Central and Eastern Europe: Learning from Crisis and Institutional Change (forthcoming).