Book chapter

Western European Union (WEU) (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

This empirical and historical analysis of the Western European Union (WEU), an intergovernmental defense organization, contributes to the broader understanding of the construction and integration of European security and defense policy. The WEU was established in 1954 by the Modified Brussels Treaty after the failure of the European Defense Community and at the time of the construction of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).Over its lifetime, the WEU was confronted by two major trends: the centrality of collective defense agreement providing security on the European continent enforced by NATO and the construction of a European security and defense policy within the broad integration process of the European Union (EU). The WEU provided a platform for Western European powers, particularly France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, to engage in the construction of a European defense. Historically, these countries had diverging visions ranging from an autonomous force to one that should remain under the NATO auspice.The end of the Cold War accelerated the transfer of the WEU mission to the EU, but the crises in the Gulf region and in the Balkans in 1990s led to a period of activity for the WEU. The institutionalization of the EU, beginning with the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, accelerated the construction of a European defense and security policy within EU structures. The transfer from the WEU to the EU began in the late 1990s and the WEU was dissolved in 2011.