Lesson 21: Regional engagement/mandates


Facilitating regional cooperation in areas of interest to the EU has long been a core goal of the CFSP/CSDP (see also Lesson 1). In this sense the EU has often attempted to export its own norms of institutionalised regional multilateral cooperation to other parts of the world, particularly around the Mediterranean/Middle East/North Africa. Yet this strategy has often run into difficulties in actual practice, so that regional initiatives have not always paid clear dividends regarding multilateral cooperation in general and crisis response/conflict management in particular. As a result, the EU still often resorts to individual interventions in single host countries even though the problem at stake might benefit from a broader regional strategy.

The EU’s approach to maritime security off the Horn of Africa after 2008 is a key example of this tendency (see DL 5.1). Following the launch of EUNAVOR Somalia (or Atalanta) to help protect vessels facing the threat of piracy in this region, from 2010 the EU devised several follow-on missions to enhance maritime security more generally, and therefore promote capacity-building as well as regional cooperation among coastal states along the main maritime routes from the Gulf of Aden to the Straits of Malacca. EUCAP Nestor, the first regionally-focused CSDP mission, was a centrepiece of this regional strategy, and attempted from September 2012 to engage a number of states in maritime security capacity-building: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda. However, after a comprehensive strategic review undertaken by the EEAS in 2015 the mission, renamed EUCAP Somalia, was reframed to focus solely on Somalia. EUCAP Somalia’s redefined aim is to bolster Somalia’s maritime security force, strengthen its ability to fight piracy, and increase its overall capacity to patrol its territorial waters.

In other words, the EU narrowed the mandate of this mission from a regional to a more national (Somalia) focus to better serve its objectives, following a comprehensive review. Although this was a clear learning experience in terms of changing the mandate to improve performance, it does indicate that the EU’s approach to ‘regions’ must be considered very carefully in terms of defining the geographic ‘region’ at stake and framing the specific objectives the EU hopes to achieve in that ‘region.’ As EUCAP Nestor/Somalia clearly demonstrates, even the best-intentioned regional strategy can run into difficulties when it shifts to the implementation stage, so the EU must be open to re-defining such regions or otherwise revising such an approach in favour of a single-country approach in the face of new operational facts. This problem is also in evidence in the EU’s approach to the Sahel, as discussed in DL 4.3.


Although the EU should certainly consider a regional approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding for problems that involve multiple states/stakeholders, it must conduct regular reviews of the value-added of regional strategies. Following such reviews, EU member states and the CMPD/CPCC should be ready to make substantial changes to the mandate and resources of a CSDP mission in order to effectively meet its objectives, including – if necessary – narrowing the mandate or even terminating the mission.

Related Deliverables

DL 4.3
Report on EU comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding

Authors: Faleg, G.N. PirozziB. Venturi and N. Habbida
Lead Institution: Centre for European Policy Studies

Published: 23 March 2018

[PDF, ~0.8MB; click to access]

DL 5.1
Report on EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa and Western Balkans

Authors: Peen Rodt, A.J. TvillingP.H. Zartsdahl, M. IgnatijevicS. Stojanovic GajicS. SimonsK. Abdi, E. GilletteN. HabbidaJ. Berglund and V. Fernandez Arguedas
Lead Institution: Royal Danish Defence College

Published: 30 October 2017

[PDF, ~1.5MB; click to access]


DL 5.4
The EU’s Comprehensive Approach and its Implementation

Authors: Zartsdahl, P.H.K. Đokić and S. Simons
Lead Institution: Roskilde University

Published: 29 November 2018

[PDF, ~2.1MB; click to access]