EU Report


Main Actors

Implementing Europe’s ambitious integrated approach (IA) to conflicts and crises poses challenges, which include securing sufficient buy-in from all EU actors and the problem of competition among institutions and mandates (Tardy 2017). This section investigates the key actors that drive the IA concept and assesses the ways in which intra- and inter-service as well as international coordination have been institutionalised.
When it comes to implementing the IA at an intra-service EU level, there is one key body that coordinates the EU’s integrated approach within the EEAS: the Directorate Integrated Approach for Security and Peace (Dir. ISP). Established in March 2019, this new directorate has become the main coordination hub for EU conflict-cycle responses (Debuysere and Blockmans 2019a). Nestled under the Managing Directorate for CSDP and Crisis Response, Dir. ISP encompasses the old unit for Prevention of Conflicts, Rule of Law/SSR, Integrated Approach, Stabilisation and Mediation (PRISM), which was regrouped with other CSDP parts of the house. Thus, the new directorate is responsible for, inter alia, concepts, knowledge management and training; conflict prevention and mediation; and international strategic planning for CSDP and stabilisation.
A wave of institutional reform that started on 1 March 2019 led to the creation of Dir. ISP. The reforms were partly driven by the recent increase in human resources devoted to defence policies and instruments (in particular, the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO), which created a need to revise and extend the existing Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD). Other motivations underpinning the reform process have been to better embed the EU’s integrated approach in the institutional structure of the EEAS as well as to facilitate and improve the EU’s ability to address global instability and fragility in an integrated way by deploying all its relevant policies, players and tools in a holistic and well-coordinated manner.
It is not the first time, however, that institutional change has sought to smooth the way for the implementation of an IA. Already in January 2017, the EEAS’s Peacebuilding, Conflict Prevention and Mediation unit was upgraded to the status of a division reporting directly to the deputy secretary-general (DSG) for the CSDP and crisis response. This division, called PRISM, became the focal point for EU responses to the conflict cycle, including prevention and resolution. Among other things, PRISM coordinated a working group of like-minded souls within the EEAS and the Commission – the so-called ‘guardians of the integrated approach’ – whose ultimate aim was to enhance operational capacity by adopting an IA to external conflicts and crises.
However, due to its slightly odd position in the EEAS organisational chart, the need was felt to place PRISM in a full-blown directorate with its own managing and deputy managing directors. The result was the Dir. ISP. Itself a pillar responsible for crisis response and planning, Dir. ISP simultaneously operates with a ‘policy pillar’ and a ‘conduct pillar’. While the policy pillar (Security and Defence Policy, or SECDEFPOL) brings together all policies relating to security and defence (e.g. PESCO, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), and cybersecurity), the conduct pillar combines the operational headquarters of both civilian (Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, or CPCC) and military (Military Planning and Conduct Capability, or MPCC) CSDP missions.
Incorporating a revamped PRISM unit into a full-fledged directorate should clarify and strengthen the chain of command in implementing the EU’s integrated approach. In principle, its director and managing director will now be in a position to engage directly with counterparts at their level in the hierarchy. Indeed, the introduction of the new post of managing director means that it will no longer be necessary to turn to an over-solicited DSG to engage in intra-service deconfliction. For example, Dir. ISP hosts crisis meetings that bring together all relevant EEAS divisions and Commission DGs (ECHO, DEVCO, NEAR) involved in crisis management. More than before, the geographical desks play a prominent role in these meetings, which are chaired by the DSG for CSDP or his (or her) representative.
In addition to improving its managerial strength, formalising and upgrading the former PRISM division will also foster better integration and coordination within the EEAS. By absorbing the former Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD), which is tasked with the political-strategic planning of CSDP missions, Dir. ISP now looks at the crisis cycle in its entirety. In principle, merging PRISM with CSDP planning into a single directorate should facilitate the operational implementation of an integrated approach.
However, the fact that the directorate has been called ‘Integrated Approach for Security and Peace’ – with ‘security’ preceding ‘peace’ rather than the other way around, as is common in the international context – raises questions about where the unit’s focus lies. The staff balance also tilts towards security, with over a third of all the directorate’s personnel operating in strategic planning for CSDP and stabilisation. While, on paper, the (staff) capacity for prevention and mediation has improved compared to PRISM, it is clear that political will on the part of the member states will be needed to prioritise this aspect of the EU’s crisis response.
However, this is exactly where the shoe pinches for Dir. ISP. Rather than merging the operational level with the political level, the new directorate only merges the operational side. The reforms did not further integrate the work of the geographical divisions and of the EEAS’ DSG for political affairs. While Dir. ISP may trigger integrated action at the bureaucratic level, it will not necessarily do so at the political level. For a service that was expected to be the embodiment of inter-institutional cooperation, it is paradoxical to have developed thick bureaucratic walls within its own organisation.
Moreover, the member states are largely absent from the new directorate’s activities even though the Political and Security Committee is permanently chaired by someone in-house and despite the efforts of Dir. ISP to convene meetings of an informal network of corresponding structures, which exist in some ministries of foreign affairs.
To be truly effective from an IA perspective, the latest wave of institutional reforms should have been more informed by, and geared towards, the DSG for political affairs. In this regard, lessons can be learned from the recent UN reforms, which tried to do just that: The former Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO, now the Department for Peace Operations, or DPO) was integrated with the former Department of Political Affairs (DPA, now the Department for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, or DPPA). This was done at both the assistant-DSG and geographical levels in headquarters and in-country through newly empowered resident coordinators.
By failing to realise the integration of the new structures for CSDP and crisis response into the geographical managing directorates of the EEAS, mainly due to limitations posed by the Treaties, Dir. ISP cannot be seen as a silver bullet for a ‘whole-of-Europe’ approach to external conflicts and crises. That said, the new directorate is an important step in efforts to improve the EU’s bureaucratic capacity to coordinate its IA.
When it comes to implementing the IA at an inter-service EU level, there are some formal bodies that facilitate coordination among the various EU institutions – principally among the European Commission, the Council and the EEAS – in tackling external conflict and crisis.
The crisis meetings previously organised by PRISM are now convened by the new Dir. ISP on a ‘need to act’ basis (interview EEAS, May 2019). The goal of these meetings is to bring together all relevant EEAS and Commission services and actors – including EEAS crisis response/management structures, geographical divisions, the EU Military Committee and relevant European Commission DGs (ECHO, DEVCO, NEAR) – to ensure an adequate and timely crisis response. The crisis meetings are intended to establish a clear division of labour among the different services and to provide political and/or strategic guidance in the management of a given crisis (interview EEAS, May 2019).
The Commissioner’s Group on External Action (CGEA) was reactivated by then-President Jean-Claude Juncker and represents one of the most important institutional initiatives in EU foreign policymaking since the merger of the position of the high representative for CFSP with that of vice-president of the Commission (to form the HRVP) and the creation of the EEAS (Blockmans and Russack 2015). The CGEA, chaired by the HRVP, brings together the commissioners for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, International Cooperation and Development, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and Trade. Commissioners who do not belong to this pre-defined cluster of four, but who nevertheless have an interest in the items on the CGEA’s agenda, are also invited.
Depending on the topic on the agenda, the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) convenes member states’ ministers of foreign affairs, defence, development or trade. The FAC is chaired by the HRVP and also attended by responsible members of the Commission (Keukeleire and Delreux 2014: 66). However, rather than by the FAC, most decisions are taken by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER II) or the Political and Security Council (PSC). While the former deals with EU external action (e.g. development cooperation and trade policy) and internal policies with an external dimension, the latter deals with CFSP/CSDP policies. The PSC, which is composed of one ambassador per member state as well as a representative of the Commission, of the EU Military Committee (EUMC) and of the Committee for Civilian Aspects for Crisis Management (CIVCOM), is in fact the logical counterpart in the Council of the CGEA. As the central body for preparatory work for the FAC, it convenes at least once a week in addition to exercising the political control and strategic direction of civilian and military CSDP operations (ibid.: 69–70).
Both in the Commission (SG Inter-institutional and external relations) and the EEAS (SG AFFGEN Inter-institutional relations, policy coordination and public diplomacy), there are also specific units that facilitate intra- and inter-service coordination. These units also facilitate an IA by setting up platforms and guidelines to cooperate (interview EEAS policy coordination unit, April 2019). In times of crisis, the heads of division operate in a rather informal but swift manner, including via a pre-established WhatsApp group (interview EEAS, April 2019).
The role of the European Parliament (EP) in EU foreign policy in general and crisis response in particular is quite limited. In the CFSP/CSDP framework, the EP has only a consultative role, and the Treaty on the European Union (Art. 36) says that the HRVP “shall regularly consult the European Parliament on the main aspects and basic choices” of the CFSP and CSDP, and that the EP “may address questions or make recommendations to the Council or the High Representative.” When it comes to EU external action (outside CFSP/CSDP) and internal policies with an external dimension, the EP has two major instruments to influence EU foreign policy (Keukeleire and Delreux 2014). On the one hand, there is the consent procedure, which gives the EP a veto power over the ratification of international agreements. On the other hand, the EP has important budgetary powers, which it can indirectly use as leverage over EU foreign policy.
One ‘crisis response’ area in which the EP does play a role is mediation activities. What originally started as an informal consultation by Commissioner Johannes Hahn with certain MEPs in North Macedonia (or the FYROM, as it was then called) has gradually developed into a Mediation and Dialogue Unit (one pillar within the Directorate for Democracy Support at DG EXPO) in the European Parliament. In terms of conflict prevention and mediation, this unit regularly cooperates with DG NEAR, DG DEVCO, the EEAS and the EU delegation on the ground.
Regarding coordination at the international level, one can note that UN-EU cooperation has seen worse days, as both multilateral actors aim to preserve the importance of multilateralism in today’s multipolar world (interview UNLOPS, May 2019). While the EU’s CSDP missions and the UN’s peacekeeping operations were somehow in competition a decade ago, the urgency of the threat posed to a multilateral, rules-based order – in combination with the important steering role played by HRVP Federica Mogherini and the UN Liaison Office representing the DPA and DPKO in Brussels – has greatly fostered EU-UN cooperation and coordination in the past five years.
EU-NATO relations have traditionally been described in lethargic terms due to longstanding political blockages (Duke 2008; Smith 2011). Nevertheless, bound by a shared commitment to universal values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, NATO and the EU have not only strategic goals, but also global security challenges in common. The new security environment has driven the EU to assume a bigger role in security and defence, and has forced EU-NATO relations to evolve into a more practical strategic partnership. This has been prompted by the facts that their security is interconnected and that neither organisation has the full range of tools needed to address the new security challenges on its own.
Only limited progress has been made in developing synergies between the OSCE and the EU, which alone comprises already half of the membership of the OSCE (Jorgensen 2008). The contributions of the EU family make up over 70 percent of the OSCE’s budget, not to mention the extensive financial support the EU gives to specific operations, such as the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. Furthermore, there are many examples of cooperation between the OSCE and the EU, such as in electoral observation missions or in addressing protracted conflicts, such as the Transdniestrian settlement process. At the same time, there are areas in which this cooperation could be improved. For instance, conflict mediation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere in the Balkan region would lend itself to more extensive EU-OSCE cooperation and a pooling of expertise.
The EU regularly cooperates with the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF), a subsidiary body of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which brings together DAC members and key multilateral agencies working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts (interview DG DEVCO, April 2019). Among the other international organisations with which the EU cooperates closely is the Council of Europe, whose Venice Commission plays a very valuable (and, in many respects, unique) role in buttressing the rule of law in Europe’s wider neighbourhood. Furthermore, while civil society organisations play an important role in conflict theatres, their role at the headquarters level is generally limited to providing inputs in consultations for the development and review of policies.
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