Break down these walls

The EU should reinvent its crisis management capabilities / An open letter to the 27 Permanent Representatives to the EU

This open letter was sent to the Permanent Representatives to the EU on 20 April, and published by Global Europe.

The creation of the External Action Service (EAS) offers a unique opportunity for Europe to redefine its foreign and security policies. In no other area is the opportunity as great as in the EU’s policy towards weak and failing states. It is here that Europe’s diplomatic corps can truly come into its own by providing institutional support for conflict prevention and amalgamating the EU’s civil and military resources.

It is for this reason that we are concerned with the proposals for the EAS that are currently being discussed by member states. Rather than bringing the existing crisis response and peace building capacities of the Council Secretariat and the Commission together and linking them effectively with other services of the EAS, the proposals fence-off the existing CSDP structures (Crisis Management and Planning Directorate/CMPD, Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability/CPCC and EU Military Staff/EUMS). Were these proposals to be passed, there would be hardly any integration with the Commission’s services in this area, be it in terms of geographical expertise or specific peace building and crisis management capacities.

If we want to seize the opportunity the establishment of the EAS offers, the EU needs to heed the lessons of the last ten years of ESDP, which tell us that the walls between the EU’s instruments – be they civil or military or between the Council and the Commission – should be brought down. In fact, it is hard to find any review, including ECFR’s research and work by the EU’s own think-tank EUISS, that has not called for greater civ-mil integration.

The best way to ensure the greatest form of integration would be to marshal all the relevant resources in a Crisis Management and Peace Building Directorate-General under the authority of HR/VP or, ideally, a specifically-designated deputy (with final power resting with HR/VP). An alternative may be to appoint the next Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency from the ranks of EU foreign or defence ministers and give that person a de facto deputy role overseeing all CSDP-related units.

The directorate-general would group together the Council Secretariat’s CMPD, CCPC and EUMS with the Commission’s unit for the CFSP budget and the units for security policy and crisis response and peace building. Such a Crisis Management and Peace Building Directorate-General would also be best placed to manage the Instrument for Stability. In other words, the EAS needs to be as integrated as possible.

New structures do not by themselves create new capabilities. As well as setting up a new Crisis Management and Peacebuilding Directorate-General, the EU should therefore do an audit of the EU’s missions and capacities along the lines of Lakhdar Brahimi’s 2000 review of UN peacekeeping. Otherwise it risks pursuing bureaucratic interests and lowest common denominator solutions rather than the steps needed for the EU to improve its crisis management capabilities. Putting off such a review for a few years will only make it harder to undertake reforms.

We are of course conscious of the considerable effort that has already gone into shaping the EAS, and aware that there is a case for testing the proposed set-up before making further changes. However, there is a significant danger that the next tests of the EU’s crisis management capabilities will be unpredictable, bloody and strategically challenging. We should not wait for a crisis in Africa, the Middle East or Asia to expose flaws in the post-Lisbon architecture, damaging our credibility.

Daniel Korski is Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Richard Gowan is Associate Director at the NYU Center on International Cooperation and the UN Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). They have recently published a report on the EU’s civilian capacities.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Associate Senior Policy Fellow
ECFR Alumni · Former Senior Policy Fellow

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