EU Report



Conceptually, over the past decade, the EU has been elaborating and deepening its WGA to external crises and conflicts. By gradually developing an integrated approach based on the security-development nexus (2003) into a ‘comprehensive approach’ (CA) (in 2013) and a more holistic ‘integrated approach’ (IA) (in 2016), the scope of the EU’s so-called ‘whole-of-governance approach’ (WGA) has ambitiously expanded. While designing this approach, the EU has learned from and exchanged with other multilateral actors (the UN, NATO, the OSCE, the OECD-DAC and civil society), which in turn has led to a gradual conceptual convergence of all these actors’ headquarters-level approaches to dealing with external conflicts and crises.
Today, the EU’s IA aims to address all conflict dimensions – ranging from security challenges to development concerns to economic grievances – during all phases of a conflict, from prevention to post-conflict rehabilitation. To effectively implement such an approach, the EU wishes to coordinate and cooperate with all relevant actors at the local, national, regional and global levels.
Indeed, the EU’s IA is system-wide in that it builds on various EU policies and instruments, including humanitarian aid, political dialogue, sanctions, CSDP, development cooperation, macro-financial assistance and trade (EEAS 2019). While the EU’s core interests in terms of external conflict management lie in its extended neighbourhood, the IA is applied much more broadly and spans the entire globe, including when tackling conflicts in the Sahel (especially in Mali and Niger), the Horn of Africa (mainly Somalia), South-east Asia (notably Myanmar) and Latin America (Venezuela).
In order to operationalise its ambitious WGA policy, several platforms and mechanisms have been put in place to enable actors to interact and coordinate. The key player and facilitator of the EU’s IA is the EEAS’ new Directorate Integrated Approach for Security and Peace (Dir. ISP), which was founded in March 2019 to regroup the former division for the Prevention of Conflicts, Rule of Law/Security Sector Reform, Integrated Approach, Stabilisation and Mediation (PRISM) and the security/defence policy, planning and conduct parts of the house. In addition to conflict and crisis coordination by Dir. ISP, there are numerous inter-service platforms (e.g. crisis meetings and the Commissioners Group on External Action) and multilateral platforms that facilitate a joint crisis response of the HRVP/EEAS, the Commission’s DGs, the Political Security Committee and other international actors. However, despite playing an interesting political role in the realm of conflict mediation, the European Parliament is generally not involved in inter-service coordination.
The latter is emblematic of one core challenge that hampers the establishment of a truly effective IA at the EU level: the remaining gaps between the political and operational dimensions in responding to external conflicts and crises. For instance, while the divisions of the EEAS with a conduct function in civ-mil security and defence cooperation have been merged into Dir. ISP, the geographical directorates under the DSG for political affairs remain largely detached and member states are not fully integrated into their activities. As a result, although the Dir. ISP may trigger integrated action at the bureaucratic level, it will not necessarily do so at the political and operational levels.
At a more technical-operational level, one key innovation that may enhance the implementation of an IA to crisis response is the NDICI, the jumbo financial instrument that has been proposed by the Commission for the next MFF. However, the intention to merge finances for development, international cooperation and the neighbourhood also lays bare one key paradox: While the NDICI has the ability to facilitate coordinated financial action, there is also a risk that it will actually undermine comprehensive action, as some conflict dimensions, levels or phases may outweigh others within the same instrument under political pressure of serving the EU’s direct and immediate interests.
While it still remains to be seen whether the merging of financial instruments will be a success factor for an IA at the EU level, the importance of political leadership in encouraging cooperation and coordination unquestionably is. The cooperation of the HRVP with both the Commission president and the president of the European Council cannot be underestimated in this regard. Moreover, investing in human resources is important to facilitate an IA – and personalities matter. While specialised staff has been hired in Dir. ISP to operationalise an IA, more could be done to create the right incentives for people to work together within and across EU services and institutions.
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