Ana Soares über Michael Brzoskas Band, European Peace and Security Policy: Transnational Risks of Violence (2014)

Michael Brzoska hat das Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg (IFSH) von 2006 bis 2016 geleitet und ist dort nun als Senior Research Fellow tätig.  Brzoska hat als Professor an der Universität Hamburg gelehrt und am Internationalen Konversionszentrum Bonn sowie am Stockholmer Friedensforschungsinstitut SIPRI gelehrt und geforscht. Die Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung leitete er von 2008 bis 2015.

Ana Soares ist Doktorandin im Fach Politikwissenschaft an der Universität Hamburg und arbeitet an der Professur für Global Governance (Prof. Antje Wiener). Sie ist in Brasilien aufgewachsen und hat BA- und MA-Abschlüsse in Internationalen Beziehungen an der La Salle University und der Corvinus Universität Budapest erworben.

Imagine an enhanced reality with no borders, no walls and no limits. A reality where technology has transformed the world, where actors are getting more and more intertwined. We might have already achieved this reality, a society in which the powers of nation-states are not enough to set the limits to the risks of violence, and security needs to be found elsewhere. Michael Brzoska’s 2014 edited volume European Peace and Security Policy: Transnational Risks of Violence is a selection of papers developed by the IFSH research programme “Transnationalization of risks of violence as a challenge to European peace and security policy”, which addresses the emergence of cross-border security risks. The program started in 2007 and was built on earlier security research with the intent to analyse the approach of the European Union (EU) to the so called “new threats”. Various publications have been produced by the program: special issues of journals, books and anthologies; nevertheless, the works chosen to be in this volume represent the general findings of the IFSH project[1]. The core objectives of the research program include the elaboration of an analytical foundation and conceptual-normative framework, the tracing of strategies and instruments of European actors, and an analysis of the effectivity of security policies and interventions. All the goals are discussed with an institutional-oriented approach where the OSCE and the EU occupy the central stage of the investigation.

This volume consists of a collection of sixteen papers on transnational security written by the researchers of the IFSH. The book is divided into two sections: the first six chapters concern general concepts and fundamental issues, and the second group of papers are focused on particular cases addressing cross-border threats. These transnational phenomena involving at least one non-state actor range from obvious dangers – such as terrorism and organized crime – to environmental threats that do not respect the rules of the game of the sovereign state. Therefore, the chapters of this edited volume investigate the security perceptions and policies of relevant international organizations based on a post-national constellation ontology. This ontology is structured by de-nationalization and globalization, and it requires cooperation and coordination from the relevant actors to work effectively.

Perception is a concept of significant relevance that many times is overlooked by the agents of security and by the scholars producing security knowledge. In the end, security is all about the perception of a threat by the actor that, in a supposedly non-hierarchical environment, has the power to intervene within the security governance scheme. Perceiving the decision-making of security agents as a simple reaction to external threatening events, without an element of co-construction among actors, audience and object is a limiting way to approach such a complex scholarship[2]. This is where understanding the role of interdisciplinarity can make a difference. Although cited in the introduction of the edited volume, the intersubjectivity of the notion of transnational risks of violence is not extensively addressed by the chapters of this book. What can be seen here is a more functional and practical access – with some exceptions – to security policies, with few mentions to personal, structural and cultural aspects of transnational violence[3].

In the paper by Hans-George Ehrhart, Hendrik Hegemann and Martin Kahl, Security Governance in the Post-National Constellation: Concept, Practice and Critique, the authors address the concept of governance, criticizing and questioning the interests, the exclusion and the legitimacy of security politics acting in a multilevel/multipolar world. Above all, “security governance can produce unintended consequences through the solidification of local conflicts, the alienation of certain social groups and the erosion of broader norms”[4]. Thus, the following chapter written by Regina Heller and Martin Kahl is a well-placed paper that complements the previous conceptualization having the EU as a case study. The EU is a very rich example when talking about security policies due to its structural complexity of intergovernmental, supranational, and regional operations. For instance, its neighbourhood policy (ENP) is an illustration of an asymmetry inherent to the EU’s external governance. Both texts stress the importance of seeing security governance as more than a strategic tool to approach transnational risks of violence, but as a questioning tool that addresses the already given idea of a pseudo-hierarchy.

Keeping in mind that a core-periphery dynamic takes place in the ENP framework, it is essential to grasp the intricacies of governance in a post-national constellation. Even though the authors of the chapter Managing Transnational Security Threats in Europe. Concepts, Modes and Effects of EU External Governance mention the term “europeanize” in the text, there is a lack of criticism over the supposed superiority of the European norms and way of thinking when talking about the ENP. It is important to understand that although most of the knowledge production is developed in the Global North, some concepts and ideas cannot possibly be applied to the ontological rationale of all EU neighbors. The seemingly universal concept of the Westphalian state, for example, was actually enforced in the post-colonial reordering of some regions in Africa, not necessarily respecting the local cultural structure[5]. This phenomenon, “most fundamentally, […] manifests itself in the assumption that the ‘European’ or, more accurately, the Euro-American model of the state and the accompanying political culture is valid globally”[6]. Furthermore, it is safe to say that the West-Centric structure of international relations can blind the policy making system and scholars need to be aware of it[7].

In the past decades, terrorism was one of most addressed topics in security policy. Five out of the sixteen works selected to be part of this volume concern solely terrorism and counterterrorist measures. In the paper entitled Public Good Theory and the ‘Added Value’ of the EU’s Counterterrorism Policy, Raphael Bossong criticizes the practical implementation of policies against terrorism executed by international organizations. He applies public good theory to understand the complex patterns of international counterterror cooperation, facing security as an asset, a resource. The three aspects of public good theory – weaker link, aggregate efforts and better shot goods – converse fluently with the other four papers about terrorism. Regina Heller, Martin Kahl and Daniela Pisoiu point out effectively the connection between counterterrorist argumentation and the changes in a normative framework. It is the summation of information and the use of language that incites an audience to legitimate a measure against terrorism. In addition, A Good thing gone too far? External Assessments and Counterterrorist Finance-Related Measures in the European Union written by Michael Brzoska is an example of the weaker link approach to counterterrorism policies. Brzoska analyses the efforts of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to control governments’ finance-related international measures towards terrorism. However, the question brought by Brzoska is regarding the expansion and intensity of the counterterrorist financing (CTF) in the EU: is the cost-benefit ratio worth it? A thorough account of the effectiveness of this measure is needed to answer this question.

As previously stated, the IFSH research programme had a functional, strategic and pragmatic approach towards security practices, and in this case, it made sense to include a paper addressing “effectiveness” in international politics. The text Studying ‘Effectiveness’ in International Relations: Objectives, Concepts and Applications fulfils this purpose. “Many of the core issues and problems of international politics require answers to the questions of whether, how and when certain actors, tools or policies cause or at least affect specific results”[8]. Recognizing the difficulties of designing research about effectiveness, the authors reaffirm the need for practically-relevant findings rather than theoretical and methodological orthodoxies[9].

The chapter that follows is called Theory of War – For Security and Peace written by Johann Schmid. According to Schmid, war shapes history and society. Schmid’s main contribution is to treat war as the core variable of historical investigations and research on peace. However, Schmid presents a rather black and white world, where the opposite of peace is Clausewitzian war. Reality is not binary and necessarily dichotomous. The so-called “new wars” can be fought not only by states but also by ethnic, political, social or organized crime groups. Consequently, in this new paradigm there is no equality in the military capacity of the actors, characterizing a completely asymmetric and unpredictable nature (Kaldor, 1999). In such a conflict, it is difficult to define where the boundaries of the laws of international armed conflict begin, who is civil, who is a soldier, who is the financier, and how best to combat them. Although coming from a strictly Westphalian ontology, Clausewitz can nevertheless enhance, philosophically, the discussions on conflict resolution and peacekeeping. Selecting this paper to this volume can be viewed as a bold move, still, it seemed misplaced and disconnected with the second part of the book and its specific case studies.

Starting with a contribution by Wolfgang Zeller on the OSCE agenda on transnational threats, the second part of this edited volume is dedicated to institutional and regional cases dealing with new risks of violence. The seven other papers address the situation of political Islam in Central Asia, piracy in Somalia, the relation of the EU and the Palestinian territories, the UN and EU measures towards blacklisted terrorists, terrorism in Afghanistan, Jihadi radicalization, and the control of dangerous technologies by state and non-state actors.

This edited volume is a good representation of the strengths and weaknesses of the IFSH research program on transnational risk of violence and how Europe deals with these threats. The reproduction of a core-periphery system of knowledge fabrication is already expected in such a work. Furthermore, the stiffness of a non-interdisciplinary approach to IR can hinder the study of perception and it can reaffirm dated conceptualisations of security. Nevertheless, the functional and pragmatic approach to security policies is very interesting and effective in terms of application and development of international measures. Stressed by the book, cooperation among nations is, indeed, the most important aspect of combating threats that transcend the boundaries of states. European Peace and Security Policy: Transnational Risks of Violence is the outcome of a sophisticated research program. It will incite the transnational security-discussion, stressing the increasing necessity of foregrounding the theme among scholars and policy makers.

[1] Brzoska, 2014.

[2] Bigo and McCluskey, 2018.

[3] Brzoska, 2014.

[4] Ehrhart, Hegemann and Kahl, p. 30, 2014.

[5] Ofuho, 2009.

[6] Wilkinson, p. 7, 2007.

[7] Amitav and Buzan, 2019.

[8] Hegemann et al, p. 113, 2014.

[9] Hegemann et al, 2014.


Acharya, Amitav and Barry Buzan (2019) The Making of Global International Relations: Origins and Evolution of IR at its Centenary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 392.

Bigo, Didier and Emma McCluskey (2018) “What Is a PARIS Approach to (In)securitization? Political Anthropological Research for International Sociology”, in Alexandra Gheciu and William C. Wohlforth (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of International Security, p. 608.

Brzoska, Michael (2014) “Introduction”, in European Peace and Security Policy: Transnational Risks of Violence, Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 7-22.

Ehrhart, Hans-Georg et al (2014) “Security Governance in the Post-National Constellation: Concept, Practice and Critique” in European Peace and Security Policy: Transnational Risks of Violence, Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 23-42.

Hegemann, Hendrik et al (2014) “Studying “Effectiveness” in International Relations: Objectives, Concepts and Applications” in European Peace and Security Policy: Transnational Risks of Violence, Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 113-133.

Kaldor, Mary (1999) New Wars and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Cambridge: Polity, p.

Ofuho, Cirino Hiteng (2009) “Africa: teaching IR where it’s not supposed to be” in Ole Wæver and Arlene B. Tickner (eds.) International Relations Scholarships Around the World, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 71-85.

Wilkinson, Claire (2007) “The Copenhagen School on Tour in Kyrgyzstan: Is Securitization Theory Useable Outside Europe?”, Security Dialogue, vol. 38, n. 5, pp. 5-25.

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