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Dissertation: existence and development of the European security architecture

On Thursday 15 April, Sabine Mengelberg, associate professor at the Faculty of Military Sciences of the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA), will defend her thesis on changes in European security architecture. Permanent Change? The Paths of Change of the European Security Organizations is the title of her doctoral thesis. The result is impressive, but it was a tough job. I am glad it is finished', Mengelberg laughs.

Mengelberg has long had a fascination with 'war, conflict and peace', as she calls it. ‘They reflect certain aspects of human nature such as conflict, despair and cooperation, and that has always attracted me, as well as all aspects of international relations.’

Mengelberg studied political science at the University of Amsterdam and, via the Clingendael Institute, actually ended up 'by accident' at the Ministry of Defence. There she worked at various training institutes, such as the KIM and the KMA. She also worked at TNO and the National Institute for Government Training. In 2001, she joined the Defence Academy where she lectures nationally and internationally, including in many former Warsaw Pact countries. She works at the Department of Military Sciences of the NLDA, as a university lecturer in International Security Cooperation and International Security Organisations and has done research as an external PhD student at Leiden University under the supervision of Professor Rob de Wijk in cooperation with Professor Georg Frerks of Utrecht University. 


Her research focuses on the changes in the European security architecture consisting of NATO, the EU and the OSCE from the end of the Cold War until 2016. Mengelberg: 'I wanted to know how these three organisations have changed. What influence did major game changers such as 9/11, the crisis in Crimea in 2014, the Balkan wars of the 1990s, but also the possible influence of the organisations on each other? And, the question whether other processes also influence the changes of these security organisations? In addition, there is always discussion about the right of existence of the EU, the OSCE and NATO. Every so often, this flares up again, and I find it interesting to see how this relates to the European security architecture.

Sabine Mengelberg

Complementary and dependent

After the Cold War, the architecture was to be built on a division of labour between the various organisations, with the idea that there would be no competition or rivalry between the security organisations. Mengelberg's research shows that such competition has indeed not erupted, but that the security organisations do influence each other, both negatively and positively and have even become complementary and mutually dependent.

A complex and hybrid security architecture has emerged and the changes are therefore both positive and negative in nature. ‘If you look at the path of enlargement, you could say, for example, that the increasing size of NATO and the EU has been negative for the OSCE. That organisation has become less important. The organisations have been strengthened and broadened by treaties and an expanded range of tasks, but there have also been states that have worked or cooperated outside the organisations. You see this, for example, in operations where quick action is needed, such as in Afghanistan or the response to 9/11. Countries then say: we'll do it with an ad hoc coalition first, instead of with a big, viscous organisation. Then the EU and NATO have to react and take action.’   

More cooperation

The EU and NATO have become more interdependent. There is more cooperation at different levels. 'This is creating a geographical, functional and institutional interweaving and even interdependence through cross-institutional and inter-organisational linkages in the political, policy and operational domains. The result is a blurring and interpenetration of security concepts: collective defence and collective security.'

Off the list

Mengelberg will defend her thesis online on Thursday 15 April. ‘It's a pity that this is the way things are in this day and age, but that's how it is. As an external PhD student, alongside a regular job, it is a tough course, but it does teach you the merits of doing scientific research. And, it has given me the opportunity to go deeper into a subject that has always been close to my heart. I am glad it is now completed and can be ticked off my list.’ She hopes that her research will at least be seen by the Ministry of Defence. ‘The EU-DNA could be strengthened there and this story can certainly contribute to that.’

The live stream can be followed here on Thursday 15 April from 4.15pm onwards.

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