Lesson 29: Enhancing civil-military synergies


The relationship between civilian and military capabilities for conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks is one of the four central cross-cutting issues that play a role in the work of EU-CIVCAP researchers. Although the EU still remains a civilian actor for the most part, it also has some capacity for small-scale military operations, both land and maritime, that could be oriented towards conflict-related missions, whether directly or indirectly. In addition, even though the majority of EU CSDP missions since 2003 have been civilian in nature, there is still considerable scope for the EU to become more involved in the military aspects of conflict prevention and peacebuilding, which raises questions about the overall chain of command for missions that involve civilian and military tasks. This issue is also very salient regarding the EU’s pursuit of an integrated approach to its foreign & security policy (see Lessons Identified 23, 2425 and 34).

These concerns are also a central focus of DL 5.3, which examined synergies between EU civilian and military capabilities during the conduct of specific CSDP missions. It paid special attention to EU activities in the Western Balkans and the Horn of Africa, two regions where the EU has been particularly active over the past decade or more. Although there is considerable potential for civil-military synergies to improve the impact/performance of EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities, and to reduce unnecessary costs (including avoiding duplication of effort), DL 5.3 also found that the EU’s existing coordination mechanisms still fall short of this standard (see also Lessons Identified 6 and 12). This is partly a consequence of different mindsets among civilian and military actors/stakeholders involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, but also a product of three specific limitations identified by EU-CIVCAP researchers: 1) Mandates for coordination are left open to individual interpretation and rarely specific civil-military synergies; 2) limited authority for decision-making or prioritisation between EU instruments at the operational level; and 3) host countries rarely have the capacity to manage or coordinate multiple international actors with overlapping mandates (a problem that overlaps with Lessons Identified 13, 14 and 30 on local capacity-building). Beyond these challenges, DL 5.3 also found that the EU’s own terminology for civil-military ‘cooperation’ and ‘coordination’ is somewhat inconsistent and different from that used by other actors in this realm, which also relates to other conceptual problems identified in the course of EU-CIVCAP’s work.


To enhance civil-military synergies, mandates (i.e., responsibilities) for conflict prevention and peacebuilding-related missions should provide a more detailed and task-based approach to civil-military coordination. The EU should embrace opportunities for using high-level competences to offer leadership in coordinating civil-military actors. More decision authority should be delegated to mission leadership and staff; this delegation should include authority for taking actions in support of regional strategic objectives or other strategic actors. The EU should consider integrating civil-military chains of command at the theatre and operational level, which would be a more direct and hopefully more effective way to enhance synergies, as opposed to relying on more ad hoc civil-military coordination, no matter how formalised or consistent it is.

Related Deliverables

DL 5.3
Report on Civil-Military Synergies on the Ground

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

Published: 29 May 2018

[PDF, ~0.4MB; click to access]