CSDS – A Year in Review

2023 marks another productive year for the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy (CSDS). We have continued to meet our objective of contributing to a better understanding of the key contemporary security and diplomatic challenges of the 21st century and their impact on Europe. During the year, CSDS expanded its research base with new post-doctoral and doctoral students including Andreea Budeanu, Gabriel Heyl, Hongcheng Hsiao and Marianna Lovato. We continued to bolster our research offering with a new in-house format of research meetings where junior and senior academic staff can exchange views on new research.

Over 36 individual pieces of research and analysis were produced by CSDS researchers during 2023 with outlets such as the Australia Institute of Foreign Affairs, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Defence Studies, Elcano Royal Institute, European Parliament, European Security, Foreign Policy, Global Policy, Journal of European Integration, Marathon Initiative, Mediterraneen Confluences, NATO Review, Naval War College Review, Royal United Services Institute and War on the Rocks. In particular, CSDS researchers were commissioned to write 3 major reports for the European Parliament on Qualified Majority Voting, EU-Japan relations and the Versailles Summit on defence. The Marathon Initiative commissioned a major study from CSDS researchers in the context of our Bridging Allies initiative, and a report to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and South Korea was produced by the KF-VUB Korea Chair.

Our events have stimulated further reflection among the policy, academic and think tank communities. We have been able to welcome individuals such as Rob Bauer, Benedetta Berti, Yun Byung Se, Kurt Campbell, Karel de Gucht, Yves Dupont, Kim Gheewhan, Shintaro Ito, Ryu Jeong-hyun, Hitoshi Kikawada, Angus Lapsley, Caroline Millar, Jedidiah Royal, Stefano Sannino, Richard Tibbels, Gunnar Wiegand and Penny Wong, among many others.

At the start of the year, and in the context of the Bridging Allies initiative, we held an event at NATO headquarters featuring Ambassador Julie Smith as a keynote speaker. In June, we held our third “Transatlantic Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific” in Washington with our partners the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The first workshop under the Sino-American Competition and European Strategic Autonomy (SINATRA) project was held over two days in October, bringing together leading policymakers and experts from across Europe, the United States (US), Japan and China. A CSDS delegation visited Japan and Australia in the context of our Bridging Allies initiative. In Australia, CSDS co-hosted an event with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on the strategic relevance of Emerging Disruptive Technologies. CSDS researchers were also in Japan in November as part of a NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme (SPS) project looking at futures in the Indo-Pacific: the visit was part of a major event organised with the Japanese National Institute for Defence Studies. While in Japan, CSDS co-organised an event on economic security with the Keio Center for Strategy. Another major CSDS event was held in January, when we invited Australia’s Foreign Minister for a discussion alongside the Secretary General of the European External Action Service in Brussels.

Another successful part of our work at CSDS this year has been our regular “Conversations”. These are closed-door events on critical security topics and we invite experts to share their views with a select audience. In 2023, we organised 7 Conversations with speakers including Michael Beckley, Ian Brzezinski, Michael Green, François Hiesbourg, Beatrice Heuser, Masafumi Ishii, Robert Lee, Michael Mandelbaum, Chris Miller, James Sherr, Susan Shirk, Lucilla Sioli, Sir Hew Strachan and Tomas Szatkowski.

The Japan Chair has held a number of events during the year including roundtables and expert lectures in partnership with the Embassy of Japan to Belgium, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. As part of the “Japan Chair Cluster” meetings, CSDS was able to welcome experts from the Brookings Institute, Indiana University and the University of Tokyo. The Japan Chair was also responsible for publishing 6 CSDS Policy Briefs on topics ranging from Japan’s economic security, Japan’s space programme and the country’s “Zeitenwende” in defence policy, as well as a focus on Japan-NATO relations. The Japan Chair also published research on maritime security and the Indo-Pacific with the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. The Chair has also extensively engaged with the news media, having provided expertise for Nikkei Asian Review, Japan Times, Rai Radio 1, The Diplomat and the South China Morning Post.

The KF-VUB Korea Chair also organised events in cooperation with the Korean Cultural Centre in Brussels, the Korea Foundation, the Korean Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) and the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). In May, the Chair co-organised a major event to mark the 60th Anniversary of EU-Korea relations and the annual Brussels Korea Forum was held in October. The Brussels Korea Forum brought together experts from Europe and South Korea to discuss the scope for deeper cooperation after 60 years of relations. In October, the KF-VUB Korea Chair also co-organised the Korea Trilateral Forum in Seoul with GMFUS and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. That same month, the Chair organised the inaugural EU Next Gen trip to Korea, with five EU officials visiting Seoul to meet with a range of Korean government officials and experts. In November, the KF-VUB Korea Chair, KIEP and KEI co-organised the 2023 seminar on the Potential for Trilateral Trade Cooperation among Korea, the EU and US in Seoul. The KF-VUB Korea Chair also used 2023 to promote a number of new books including “South Korea’s Grand Strategy” (Columbia University Press) and “Korea: A New History of South and North Korea” (Yale University Press). The KF-VUB Korea Chair also engaged extensively with the international and Korean press during the year.

Under our Defence & Statecraft programme we organised 7 major events. The programme’s flagship annual Defence & Statecraft Forum was held at the end of April, and events on the military balance in Europe and NATO’s new force model were organised during the year in cooperation with the Egmont Institute and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In February, CSDS worked with the US Military Academy on a major international seminar and in November CSDS worked with the US Mission to the EU and Taiwan on an event on countering foreign interference. Finally, the Defence & Statecraft programme successfully completed two events – Brussels and Washington – in the context of the NATO sponsored “TIDE” project on transatlantic defence.

CSDS has also been successful in 2023 on the project acquisition front. We launched the Bridging Allies initiative in January, which is a project being supported by the Australian government and NATO. We also kick-started a two-year NATO SPS project focusing on futures in the Indo-Pacific. NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division also sponsored two of our events on transatlantic security under the TIDE project. CSDS also supported the EU’s public diplomacy efforts. In particular, it contributed to the EUPOP Korea project, funded by the EU Delegation to the Republic Korea, with the organisation of two Council of the EU simulations in English and Korean. Additionally, CSDS contributed to the initiative launched by the EU Delegation to the US and Canada on “Creating the Next Generation of Transatlanticists”. CSDS also supported the EUPOP India project, which is funded by the EU Delegation to India. As part of the project, CSDS worked during the year on a Young Leaders’ Exchange, expert workshops and we managed a series of calls for research papers. Finally, the Japan Chair announced its cooperation under the “INPACE” project, which is funded by the European Union to look at digital partnerships in the Indo-Pacific and Europe – the project will begin in 2024.

In terms of publications, our flagship series went from strength to strength. Our successful Policy Brief series became even more relevant in 2023. No fewer than 32 Policy Briefs were published during the year on topics such as the war on Ukraine, emerging and disruptive technologies, European defence and NATO, China’s economic statecraft, Russia’s nuclear signalling, Japan’s defence and economic security, Taiwan security, the US alliance structures, AUKUS, space defence, EU foreign and security policy, industrial policy in the digital domain and South Korea’s geostrategy. No less than 4 In-Depth Papers were published by CSDS on topics related to geopolitics and multilateralism, Europe’s defence industry, the nuclear dimensions of the AUKUS agreement and the EU’s grand strategy. We published 3 Strategy Debriefs with leading members of the policy and think tank worlds, including with the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer.

CSDS has continued to enhance its social media presence. We have added over 1,500 new followers on our two main social media sites, X and LinkedIn during 2023. Our Policy Briefs, In-Depth Papers and Strategy Debriefs have been viewed by close to 313,000 individuals on X and LinkedIn. Through our social media exposure, we have been able to launch targeted campaigns for our events, publications and projects. This coverage is in addition to our newsletter, which is sent to over 3,000 followers of our work.

Finally, CSDS researchers continued to engage with the media and spoke at several events during 2023. They have also delivered a number of guest lectures. Such opportunities have allowed CSDS to spread its in-house expertise and engage with wider policy and academic communities on a more global basis. CSDS thanks the Egmont Institute, ESIWA, European Forum Alpbach, European Parliament, European Security and Defence College, German Foreign Office, GMF Japan, Hertie School, Kubernein Initiative, NATO, Norwegian Institute on International Relations, Polish Institute of International Affairs, Royal Institute for Higher Defence Studies, RAND Corporation, Ritsumeikan University, Sciences Po, the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica, the University of Innsbruck and the Waseda University for the opportunity to have shared our expertise and research. We also thank Arirang News, Deutsche Welle, Financial Times, El Pais, El Mundo, Euractiv, Euronews, Het Nieuwsblad, TV5 Monde, Voice of Asia, the Wall Street Journal and the Yonhap News Agency, among others, for publishing our media quotes and interviews.