Why Europe must stop outsourcing its security

The EU’s habit of outsourcing its military interventions is problematic for a multitude of reasons

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Europe should expect ever-increasing pressure from refugees on its southern borders unless it is prepared to bear the cost and risk of military operations to control conflict in Europe’s southern neighbourhood, according to this policy paper. It says while the growing refugee problem generated by conflicts in the Middle East and Africa calls for a more interventionist response from the EU, Europeans have preferred to leave the job to others, notably the UN.

In effect, the EU is “outsourcing” its crisis-management responsibilities to the UN, ECOWAS or the African Union – while confining its own role to logistical, financial and training support.

“Why Europe must stop outsourcing its security”, by ECFR’s Richard Gowan and Nick Witney, argues that this saps European influence in the world – and is anyway not working. UN peacekeeping, stretched as never before, is now in crisis. The authors write that the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) “has become a smokescreen behind which money and advice substitute for early, rapid and robust intervention”. The authors cite the EU’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and ongoing crises in Mali and the Central African Republic as examples of the policy’s “moribund culture”.

They suggest EU High Representative Federica Mogherini initiate a review of CSDP concentrating on Europe’s southern flank and urge a new partnership role with the UN – while noting that a collective, EU, approach would have advantages over efforts by individual member states:

  • The EU is a “good brand” that can avoid charges of neo-colonialism, which could be levelled at individual member states’ intervention in Africa.
  • The EU is better placed than individual member states to draw on significant complementary resources such as humanitarian aid.
  • The EU can facilitate readily available start-up finance for common funding of rapid response operations.
  • The EU can be a powerful “force generator” coordinating specialist capabilities and making it harder for laggards to duck out.
  • The EU can provide the most efficient mechanism for operational planning with the UN.

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

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