Experts & Staff

Nick Witney

Senior Policy Fellow

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

Nick Witney is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. His topics of focus range from the European Security and Defence Policy to the Middle East Peace Process. 

Witney previously served as the first chief executive of the European Defence Agency in Brussels. High Representative Javier Solana chose him 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 Witney 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.

Witney's early 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, Witney 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

  • Bringing good news from Ghent (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 20 September 2010

    If there was ever a moment for defence ministers to pool their efforts and resources, then this is it. Defence budgets across the continent are being severely cut as austerity measures kick in. Ahead of the defence ministers' meeting in Ghent on 23-24 September, Nick Witney points out that the Lisbon Treaty offers defence ministers a ready-made ‘transnational defence cooperation’ device in the form of PESCO – and urges them to use it.

    Sharing aircraft carriers (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 14 September 2010

    Tight budgets mean hard choices. For instance, new aircraft carriers would be lovely but they cost a lot. As the UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review reaches its final stages, Nick Witney argues that perhaps it’s time to start sharing with the French.

    Hedgehog Europe? (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 17 May 2010

    What is defence really for and what should Europe do after defence budgets have been ravaged by the economic crisis? In the second of a two part series of podcasts, Daniel Korski talks to Nick Witney about how European security will have to be rethought from the ground up after the economic crisis - and how the best option might be to become a spikey, hedgehog-like larger version of Switzerland.

    A responsible government must re-examine Trident (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 21 April 2010

    Tomorrow night?s foreign policy Leaders? Debate will cover a lot of ground, and Trident will no doubt be discussed. Nick Witney argues that a post-election defence review that does not include Trident is irresponsible and absurd.

    A new START, but that doesn't mean it's NOFUN (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 12 April 2010

    Obama's moves over nuclear weapons need putting in context. The US no longer needs them to equalise the USSR's conventional forces, but others might need nuclear weapons to equalise the US military

    Britain?s defence review: the real strategic questions (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 11 February 2010

    Britain's defence review must take on board how much the world has changed since the late 1900s and focus on preserving Britain's power and influence, both in and through Europe.

    Tough snub (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 08 February 2010

    Obama's snub of the May EU-US summit is tough, but fair. If it wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, the EU must stop complaining and learn from this and other recent disappointments

    Too many cooks (Commentary)

    Nick Witney - 01 February 2010

    After nearly a decade of effort, the Lisbon Treaty is finally in place ? and Europeans finally have the chance to develop the unified voice and combined weight in the world that we all now understand to be necessary. Yet Europe?s national leaders seem unable to curb the sort of self-indulgent behaviour that will sabotage this historic opportunity.


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