The genesis and direction of the ESS cannot be viewed in a vacuum: the policy context – both international and internal to the European Union – is essential to assess its full potential and ongoing evolution as a framework for action. At least two international developments were crucial to the rather swift adoption of the document: the 9/11 attacks and the transatlantic/intra-European rift over Iraq. Simultaneously, two issues internal to the Union affected the European debate that eventually produced the ESS: the first is enlargement, as a process which is reconfiguring the European Union’s interface with the outside world to its East and South as well as its membership. The second, more technical issue is the growing recognition among the primary contributors to CFSP and ESDP that a limit had been reached: the bottom-up approach to strengthening ESDP (which can be summed up as policy convergence through joint or integrated capabilities) was insufficient to generate consensus on too many post-9/11 priorities, particularly the ‘Wider Middle East’. This is how the key actors became convinced that a basic common vision had to be solemnly reaffirmed in very broad terms, but also formulated (for the first time ever) in the specific form of a threat assessment, a set of strategic objectives and the related policy implications.