Experts & Staff

Nick Witney

Senior Policy Fellow

Languages: English, French, Arabic
Areas of Expertise: International relations, International Security Policy, the European Security and Defence Policy, military capabilities development, defence equipment cooperation, research and industry, the Middle East and North Africa, the Middle East Peace Process

Nick Witney is a senior policy fellow at ECFR.

He previously served as the first chief executive of the European Defence Agency in Brussels. High Representative Javier Solana chose Nick in January 2004 to lead the project team charged with developing the concept and blueprint for the agency. The European Council approved the team’s proposals in July 2004, an achievement recognised by European Voice in nominating Nick as one of its 50 “Europeans of the Year”. After that, he was appointed to establish and run the agency for its first three years.

Nick’s earlier career, after reading Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, was spent in British government service, first with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and later with the Ministry of Defence (MOD). As a diplomat, he learned Arabic in Lebanon and Jordan, served in Baghdad, and spent four years as private secretary to the British ambassador in Washington, D.C.

Working with the MOD, Nick took on a wide range of responsibilities, including planning and finance, defence exports (the al-Yamamah programme with Saudi Arabia), nuclear policy, the defence estate (running the privatisation of the MOD's married quarters housing stock), the new Labour government's 1998 Strategic Defence Review, the forward Equipment Programme, and defence industrial policy. His last job before leaving for Brussels was as the MOD’s director-general of International Security Policy, where he was responsible for NATO and EU policy as well as missile defence.

Latest from Nick Witney

More union in European defence (Commentary)

by Nick Witney - 05th March, 2015

In a world of unprecedented change, Europeans need a global plan if they are to ensure their children’s security and prosperity.

After the Paris Massacre: fighting back with restraint (Commentary)

by Nick Witney - 08th January, 2015

‘Fighting back’ may actually require the exercise of self-restraint – and a disciplined demonstration of tolerance and openness.

Ten Commandments for effective interventionism (Commentary)

by Nick Witney - 19th December, 2014

Ten commandments for effective interventionism, building on Witney's recent publication with Richard Gowan.

Cover: Why Europe must stop outsourcing its security

Why Europe must stop outsourcing its security

by Richard Gowan & Nick Witney - 15th December, 2014

The EU's habit of outsourcing its military interventions is problematic for a multitude of reasons.

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A French lesson for Europe's foreign policy (Commentary)

by Nick Witney - 07th October, 2014

The EU is in need of clear foreign policy direction as Federica Mogherini prepares to take over as High Representative.

Cover: Rebooting EU Foreign Policy

Rebooting EU Foreign Policy

by François Godement & Mark Leonard & Daniel Levy & Kadri Liik & Vessela Tcherneva & Nick Witney - 03rd October, 2014

The EU is ill-equipped to respond to foreign policy crises.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron addressing the Commons on 26 September, 2014 on issue of airstrikes. © Reuters

Europe and the Islamic State: Venturing down the wrong track (Commentary)

by Nick Witney - 02nd October, 2014

Slowly and circumspectly, after weeks of hesitation over how to react to the ‘Islamic State’ phenomenon, European governments are now setting off down the wrong path.

European foreign policy: the Berlaymont strikes back (Blog)

by Nick Witney - 11th September, 2014

Juncker's Mission Letter to new High Representative Federica Mogherini is part seduction, part abduction.

Read all from Nick Witney

Read all publications from Nick Witney