Dr Melanie Antoniou, Jean Monnet Post-Doctoral Fellow, Robert Schuman Centre

for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence, Italy 


The historical evolution of political systems into three main patterns of order – pre-modern, modern and post-modern – has carried with it an analogous evolution of the security systems. However, the historical evolution has never been clear cut, that is why, in the current international political and security systems, and their regional subsystems, coexist elements of pre-modern, modern and post-modern orders.


Robert Cooper’s (2003) analysis of the three historical models of order paves the way for an understanding of the interrelation between political systems and security systems, as well as the coexistence of different systems in the same era. Very briefly, the pre-modern order represents the political system before the establishments of the rules and norms of the Treaty of Westphalian (1648). Within the pre-modern order, states form a ‘loose’ structure without a clear or sufficient sovereign authority, while they are under the hierarchical order of another dominant power (empire). Thereby, ‘states’’ security is connected and guaranteed by that dominant power. The modern order represents the emergence of the secular, sovereign, nation state. As a logical consequence of the need for the sovereign state to be protected, the modern order poses a framework of inter-state relations based on the Westphalian ordering principles of anarchy, balance of power (or bandwagoning within intergovernmental institutions), non-intervention, the separation of domestic and foreign affairs, and the rule of law. In contrast, the post-modern order is based on a different set of rules and norms. Within the post-modern order, international security does not rely on balance or bandwagoning, whilst inter-state relations are based on democratic principles such as consensus, dialogue, transparency, openness, and mutual interference. In that sense, state sovereignty accepts international constraints, as it is pooled within supranational institutions.


The main pattern of the current international order as it was established after the end of the Second World War and reconfirmed with some adjustments after the collapse of the Soviet Union is characterized by the institutionalization (of an intergovernmental structure) of political life. That is, for instance, the United Nations is the fundamental pillar of the current political system, while its Security Council forms the security system of the current international order. The UN is based on the principles of sovereign equality (UN Charter art. 2.1) and non-intervention (UN Charter, art. 2.7), however, the only body within the UN system, which is empowered to recognize the threats, to decide and enforce international peace and security is the Security Council (UN Charter arts. 39-51), which is dominated by the five permanent members (US, Russia, China, UK, France). In fact, the ‘big five’ system creates ‘a hierarchy at the UN, with the five permanent members of the Security Council having a special status that gives them the right to veto any UN action that they find objectionable’ (Ryan, 2000: 158); a reality that results in the creation of ‘a conventional system of power politics’ (Whittaker, 1997: 5). Therefore, under any means, the UN system maintains, first and foremost, the ordering principles of modernity. Similarly, at a regional level, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) maintains the ordering principles of modernity.


The only well developed exception from modernity towards post-modernity is seen at a regional level and is related to the EU system of governance, even though it includes some striking paradoxes. For, the EU incorporates, at once and the same time, rules and norms that are related to post-modernity, modernity and, even yet, to pre-modernity. On the one hand, due to the EU’s peculiar pillar structure, its institutions appear to have significant variations on their allocation of power and competences among the different policies. Therefore, the EU’s institutional structure weds supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. As a fact and, as opposed to the supranational first pillar policies, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and its integral part the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which form the second pillar of the EU, are conducted on an intergovernmental institutional setting and principles that enable mainly the most powerful member states to staunchly preserve their sovereignty and pursue their interests in an interplay of balancing and counterbalancing both within the EU and on the international stage. That intergovernmental character of the CFSP/CSDP ‘is confirmed and even strengthened by the new (Lisbon) treaty’ (Missiroli, 2008: 6).


On the other hand, Cyprus creates another paradox within the EU, given that it remains the only member state that has an ‘in-out’ status within the CSDP, but also because it is the only member state that inserts elements of a pre-modern order within the EU due to its guarantors system of defence and security. In other words, Cyprus is the only member state into which has been imposed significant limitations on its sovereignty in favour of other dominant powers and as a part of a regional power politics game, and not as a concession to a supranational institution, which, at the very least, would be an evolutionary step towards post-modern rules of governance. The potential continuation of the guarantors system in Cyprus would have significant and multiple consequences to different actors. First, it would bring permanent functional implications in the making and development of certain EU policies. Moreover, it would become a permanent stigma on the EU’s post-modern normative structure, and not in favour of modernism, but in favour of pre-modernism. Second, given that Greece has already expressed its willingness to withdraw from the guarantors system, it would be difficult for the UK, a member state of the EU and a fervour supporter of its enlargement, to justify its persistence on such old fashion ordering principles and security systems in the region, moreover, when they come at the expense of another member state. Similarly, it would be difficult for Turkey, a candidate member, to justify its pre-modern policies in the region and, in particular on a small neighbour state like Cyprus, an already member of the EU.



Cooper, Robert (2003), The breaking of nations: order and chaos in the twenty-first century, London: Atlantic.

Missiroli, Antonio (2008), The Impact of the Lisbon Treaty on ESDP, Directorate General External Policies of the Union, European Parliament, Briefing Paper, EXPO/B/SEDE/2007/50, Brussels, 31 January 2008.

Ryan, Stephen (2000), The United Nations and International Politics, Houndmills: Macmillan.

Whittaker, David J. (1997), United Nations in the Contemporary World, London: Routledge.

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