The International Society for Military Ethics in Europe

Advance announcement of EuroISME’s 13th conference

Conference theme: What makes European military ethics distinctive?

Venue: Baltic Defense College, Tartu, Estonia
Date: 22-24 May 2024

EuroISME was created specifically to be a European forum for the promotion of both theoretical and applied military ethics. This was partly a response to a belief that a European view of military ethics was distinctive and therefore needed to be evaluated and debated as widely as possible.

The ethical codes of most European armed forces are broadly similar, well-articulated and reinforced by sound training programmes. However, even within Europe there are discernible differences, both in terms of emphasis and training. It has therefore proved difficult to define a definitive ‘European’ view that goes beyond seeking a lowest common denominator solution. Following its invasion of Ukraine, this is especially the case if Russia is included as a European country, which has been the case for some years within Euro-ISME. Furthermore, there are strong similarities to the ‘European’ view in the approaches to military ethics taken by countries as geographically distinct as the USA, Canada and Australia. Indeed, the key texts used by many European institutions for teaching are written by authors from those countries.


So are we correct when we talk about a ‘European’ view, or should we think in terms of a view that is common to democratic developed countries and is independent of geography, even if there is a shared root in European philosophical and religious traditions? We should also consider how such a view differs from other identifiably different views of military ethics. For example, such as Chinese, with its Confucian roots, Muslim with theocratic roots, African with roots in traditional Ubuntu teachings and others and whether those difference matter.

What, if anything, does this mean for the conduct of future military operations, whether in alliance or in opposition? And what does it mean for the political appreciation of risk and necessity when leaders must decide whether to enter armed or other forms of conflict?

These questions are taking on heightened relevance in the light of both Russia and China’s demonstrated antipathy to the established liberal world order and their desire to assert their influence within what they see as their own spheres of influence. The consequences of this approach for the avoidance, conduct and resolution of conflict at the strategic level are clear. But within this turbulent defence and security framework, can we assume that the primacy of just war doctrine as the yardstick for assessing the moral justification for conflict will be both universal and permanent?

We should therefore anticipate a robust challenge to the traditional just war centric view of military ethics. This is a question that will be of importance for the world. It would therefore be a good starting point to define not only whether the European view of military ethics is indeed distinctive, but how best to defend it against the coming challenges.

Tartu. Picture Ireen Trummer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dates and venue

The venue of the conference is the Baltic Defence College, in Tartu, Estonia. The city of Tartu will be a 2024 European Capital of Culture. The year will be packed with events showcasing the historical and cultural heritage of the second-biggest city in Estonia and the surrounding region.

Further details

Further details about our Call for Papers, the meet & greet reception, etc, will be published this autumn. You can subscribe to our newsletter to be informed when news are published.

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