Implementing the EU Global Strategy: Action Points for Civilian Crisis Management

Hylke Dijkstra, Petar Petrov and Ewa Mahr

16 November 2016

The Implementation Plan on Security and Defence provides important guidelines for improving civilian crisis management. Based on our recent EU-CIVCAP study comparing civilian capabilities of the EU, UN and OSCE, we offer our recommendations.

On Monday 14 November, High Representative Federica Mogherini sent her Implementation Plan of the EU Global Strategy on Security and Defence to the Foreign Affairs Council, where she received a ringing endorsement. In the Implementation Plan, she defines Europe’s level of ambition in the area of security and defence and she identifies 13 concrete actions points.

The Implementation Plan has been discussed in the European press as the foundation for an EU army, defence union, or at least a military headquarters. Yet the truth is that the Implementation Plan presents a (slightly boring) list of nitty-gritty policy proposals on how to incrementally improve the functioning of EU security and defence. If anything, one could argue that the Implementation Plan is under-ambitious, falls short of the ‘strategic autonomy’ headline, and inhabits a different planet than, for instance, the Franco-German proposals for a European Security Compact.

Somewhat surprising, civilian crisis management takes a central position in the Implementation Plan. Whereas recent policy documents privileged military affairs, the Implementation Plan actually starts with civilian crisis management. This is an important recognition of the fact that the EU has deployed more civilian than military operations since 2003. It is now, however, necessary that the momentum is maintained and that concrete steps are taken to improve the daily practice of civilian crisis management.

The first action point of the Implementation Plan is to revise the outdated civilian priority areas of the Feira European Council of 2000. Back in the day – when CSDP was still being established and the member states had no operational experience – the European Council adopted targets on the basis of what the member states had previously done in other international organisations, primarily in the Western Balkans. The world has changed. The Implementation Plan now refers to the need to address the full conflict response cycle, the EU Comprehensive Approach, and new challenges such as “migration, hybrid threats, cyber, terrorism, organised crime and border management” as well as internal security. In short, the priority areas need to be updated.

There is no harm in having the EEAS review these priority areas. But a word of warning is in place. On the basis of our recent EU-CIVCAP report, which compared civilian capabilities in the EU, UN and OSCE, we actually found that the EU is the least comprehensive actor in civilian crisis management. EU civilian mandates tend to be restricted to niches. While EU missions, for instance, often have a mandate to support local police, few missions focus also on the judiciary and penitentiary. Similarly, the EU tends to leave monitoring, mediation, and DDR to the UN, even though these are critical conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks. If the EU is to be a comprehensive actor, the current approach requires a fundamental rethink.

Based on the Implementation Plan, last Monday’s Council meeting has also tasked the EEAS to “make proposals on enhancing the responsiveness of civilian crisis management”. It is worth to discuss the Council guidelines in detail, as they are largely in line with our research findings.

First, to ensure rapid response, the Council tasked the EEAS to make plans to improve force generation and deployment. Strikingly, and contrary to the UN and OSCE, the EU does not have civilian roster or a database of former mission personnel. Member states are not keen to share information on qualified personnel as they want to remain fully in change of their contributions. In addition, the practice of recruiting all civilian staff on an individual basis needs to be evaluated. The UN, for instance, already deploys 70+ self-sustained Formed Police Units, consisting of 120-140 personnel. The Council’s request to consider “pre-configured specialised teams of experts” is therefore an important innovation.

Second, the Council tasked the EEAS to “explore the possibilities for quick deployment of small numbers of experts for a limited timeframe”. In our report, we recommended that the EU establishes small virtual standing capacities consisting of EEAS and CSDP mission staff, which can be deployed within 24-48 hours. The UN has already good experience with (modest) standing police and justice capacities and the OSCE has a rapid deployment roster serving similar purposes. Contrary to UN, our recommendation is about virtual capacities: this is not about officers sitting in Brussels without a purpose, but rather about identifying existing staff.

Third, the Council suggested to “build on the establishment Mission Support Platform as a part of an effort to take forward a Shared Services Centre concept”. This is indeed badly needed. As we note in our report, there are significant problems with the administrative side of civilian missions. Because of funding arrangements, which restrict the number of personnel in the EEAS in Brussels, missions on the ground have to hire a lot of contracted staff and they get precious little guidance in administrative matters from Brussels. It therefore makes sense to ‘pool’ many of the administrative functions of missions in the Mission Support Platform. Yet the ambitions for the Mission Support Platform, so far, have been rather low.

Finally, another priority is to improve “mission staff training”. Two comments are in order. First, the successful ENTRi projects, which have contributed significantly to pre-deployment training, have now ended. The European Security and Defence College has stepped up the effort in terms of pre-deployment, but lacks funding for course participants. Second, the EU needs to make a leap forward with pre-deployment and specialised training for internationally-contracted staff. Contrary to the UN and OSCE, contracted staff does not automatically receive pre-deployment training. This is particularly problematic as contracted staff often fulfills key administrative functions. And if no one know how, say, EU procurement works, civilian missions run into trouble.

The Implementation Plan thus identifies significant issues to improve civilian crisis management. And we can only urge the EEAS to come up with proposals to address existing challenges in full. At the same time, it is also worth noting that the recommendations are all targeted at the Brussels-based institutions. The member states have not given themselves homework. This is unfortunate. As long as the member states do not take full ownership of civilian crisis management and make the necessary capabilities available, the EU will have great difficulty meeting the newly defined levels of ambition.

Related Deliverable

dl_4-1DL 4.1: Reacting to Conflict: Civilian Capabilities in the EU, UN and OSCE

Authors: Dijkstra, H., P. Petrov and E. Mahr
Institution: Maastricht University

Published: 2 November 2016

[PDF, ~1.6MB; click to access]



About the Authors

Ewa Mahr

Ewa Mahr is a PhD Candidate at the Campus Brussels, Maastricht University.

Hylke Dijkstra

Hylke Dijkstra is an Assistant Professor (with tenure) at the Department of Political Science.

Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov is an Assistant Professor (with tenure) at the Department of Political Science, Maastricht University.

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