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The EU's Common Security and Defence Policy

The EU's Common Security and Defence Policy

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is the security and defence policy for the EU. It forms an integral part of the EU’s foreign policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).


The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is the security and defence policy for the EU. It forms an integral part of the EU’s foreign policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).


It creates a framework for the military and defence aspects of EU policy. Created when the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in 2009, the CSDP replaces and enlarges the former European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The aim of the policy is the establishment of a common European defence capability.


  • EU countries must make civilian and military capabilities available to the EU to implement the CSDP.
  • The CSDP includes the progressive framing of a common EU defence policy; this will lead to a common defence when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides; the policy of the EU will not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain EU countries and will respect the obligations of certain EU countries under NATO. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, a mutual defence clause was created, which is a key element of the CSDP.
  • EU countries will take measures to improve their military capacities. The European Defence Agency (EDA) is the body that aims to help facilitate those measures. It reports to the Council of the EU on its work, which revolves around:
    • setting common objectives for EU countries in terms of military capacity;
    • introducing and the managing programmes in order to achieve set objectives;
    • harmonising EU countries' operational needs through the notion of ‘pooling and sharing’ military capabilities;
    • managing defence technology research activities (22 priority areas including electronics hardware, counter-landmine systems, and physical protection);
    • strengthening the defence sector’s industrial and technological base; and
    • making military expenditure more effective.
  • The permanent structured cooperation in defence (PSCD) (also added in the Lisbon Treaty - Articles 42 and 46 of the Treaty on European Union) refers to a deeper form of cooperation between EU countries. Under this framework, EU countries commit to developing their defence capacities more intensively and supply combat units for planned missions. The EDA assesses contributions, while the Council authorises the cooperation.
  • The EU may use civilian and military assets outside the EU for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security. The types of tasks that can be carried out under the CSDP are:
    • humanitarian and rescue tasks;
    • conflict prevention;
    • tasks for combat forces in crisis management;
    • joint disarmament operations;
    • military advice and assistance tasks; and
    • tasks in post-conflict stabilisation.
  • The Council of the EU defines the objectives of the tasks and the conditions for their implementation. It may delegate the implementation of a task to EU countries willing and able to carry out the task. EU countries responsible for carrying out tasks act in association with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and they must regularly inform the Council of their progress.


The idea of a common defence policy for Europe dates back to 1948 with the Treaty of Brussels (signed by the UK (1), France and the Benelux countries), which had a mutual defence clause that paved the way for the Western European Union (WEU). Since then, European security policy has followed several different paths, developing simultaneously within the WEU, NATO and the EU.

For more information, see: Security and defence - CDSP

last update 16.09.2015

(1) The United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union and becomes a third country (non-EU country) as of 1 February 2020.