Varying degrees of success
These four institutional WGA enablers have been present to varying degrees and with varying degrees of success in the EU and its member states (cf. Table 3). First, in terms of adaptations to the institutional setup and structures, WGAs to external conflict and crisis are often facilitated by formal inter-ministerial steering groups, joint crisis-management centres or national security councils. The key players and drivers behind these structures are generally the ministry of foreign affairs and/or the ministry of defence. More ad hoc or informal ways of WGA operationalisation can also be found, sometimes even in addition to formal structures. For instance, ad hoc crisis coordination happens through gatherings or temporary centres that deal with one particular crisis theatre, such as the Sahel region (e.g. in Czech Republic and France) or Libya (e.g. in Malta).
Central crisis hub
The extent to which these formal and informal bodies are effective in fostering coordination varies significantly. Some of the member states with the most robust WGAs in place have highly formalised WGA structures. The presence of a central crisis hub, for example, which is in charge of facilitating a WGA to external crisis response, can help in facilitating inter- and intra-ministerial cooperation. Examples of crisis hubs, beyond those in the pioneering countries, include the crisis management centre in Cyprus, the steering group of the comprehensive approach in Belgium, a newly designated department in Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, and the new Directorate ISP at the EU level.
Mandate for the ministry of foreign affairs
Another way of facilitating a successful WGA is through the introduction of a WGA mandate for the ministry of foreign affairs. In countries such as Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the ministry of foreign affairs is also responsible for the portfolios of development, international cooperation and/or international trade. This fosters better synergies between different dimensions (trade, development, defence) of external crisis management.
However, drawing from experiences in other member states, the presence of a specific WGA policy and/or formalised WGA structures do not appear to be a conditio sine qua non for effective coordination or cooperation in the realm of external crisis management. In fact, there are countries that coordinate quite well among relevant actors without having a specific WGA policy document in place (e.g. the Czech Republic, Ireland and Luxembourg). Similarly, a number of countries (e.g. the Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia) manage to operationalise their WGA in an informal and/or ad hoc way without having established formal and/or permanent structures and processes.
Second, leadership that provides clear political WGA direction is identified as being crucial for enabling a WGA. Successful leadership can take the form of top-down political steering (e.g. in France), while what matters most in other cases is the positive role that individual personalities play within the administration (e.g. in Italy and Malta). A combination of both political and administrative leadership is perceived as being ideal for the operationalisation of a WGA. However, the country case studies also illustrate how leadership may actually hamper effective WGA coordination and cooperation. Indeed, leadership that is particularly centralised and authoritarian, such as that in Hungary and Poland, may undermine transparency and multilateral cooperation, both of which are key for a successful WGA.
Joint lessons learned; pooled budgets
Third, WGA tools and instruments (e.g. WGA guidelines, joint lessons learned procedures and mechanisms for information sharing) are generally not (yet) very institutionalised in EU member states, except in the pioneering countries. Overall, many country experts noted that there is a high risk of losing institutional knowledge over time. To remedy this problem, a process of joint lessons learned is needed as well as the development of designated bodies, accountability mechanisms and doctrines. Moreover, while joint budgets are identified as being a key tool to successfully operationalise a WGA to external conflict and crisis, most member states have not (yet) set up such pooled funding mechanisms.
There are, however, a number of positive exceptions. Denmark has a ‘Peace and Stabilisation Fund’ managed by an inter-ministerial secretariat, which includes representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice. The ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund’ in the UK pools finances across the Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, and the Department for International Development. The Netherlands has two joint budgets for coordinated international crisis management: the ‘International Security Budget’, which is based on inter-ministerial decisions, and the more operational ‘Stability Fund’, based in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ‘Enable & Enhance Initiative’ in Germany is another example of a budget that is financed and administered jointly by its Federal Foreign Affairs Office and Ministry of Defence.
WGA HR policy
Fourth, most member states have not set up a specific human resources policy to improve the administration’s WGA to external crisis response and conflict management. Exceptions include some countries that organize joint trainings (e.g. France, Germany and Sweden) or secondments and rotation schemes that foster inter-ministerial and inter-organisational staff exchanges (e.g. Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia). The latter also applies to the secondment of secretarial staff from the European Parliament to the EEAS. Human resources that foster WGAs are often identified as an area in need of improvement.
Positive role of international organisations
Apart from these four enablers, the country case studies also shed light on a number of additional success factors that are relevant in the realm of external crisis management. Recurrent in many country reports is the positive influence of the WGAs of various international organisations – whether the EU or other multilateral bodies (e.g. the OECD, NATO and the UN) – on the development of national WGAs. Indeed, many national WGAs have been patterned after WGA documents of the EU and other multilateral organisations. Moreover, direct political exposure to the EU institutions has also driven further development of national WGAs. For example, the fact that a Cypriot once served as EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management facilitated the setup of Cyprus’ WGA to external crisis management. Similarly, the first Slovene presidency of the European Council, in 2008, provided the strongest push for developing Slovenia’s WGA.
There are also a number of more country-specific success factors. The size of a country may impact the country’s success in implementing a WGA. Smaller member states (e.g. Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta) tend to have smaller administrations that facilitate frequent exchanges and personal ties among policymakers, which is a plus for a successful WGA culture. Indeed, the absence of a huge bureaucratic hierarchy makes communication easier and the distance between leadership and civil servants smaller. Conversely, while small-sized countries may find it easier to set up effective coordination between and within different ministries, they also often lack sufficient financial and human resources to effectively implement a WGA system. A lack of (non-)financial resources is more generally identified as being a key obstacle to successful WGA implementation.
Another country-specific success factor constitutes the geostrategic location of a country, which may foster the political will to implement WGAs to external threats. By way of example, the flow of refugees and migrants stemming from the Middle East have put the issue of a comprehensive approach to this ‘crisis’ higher on the political agenda in, for example, Cyprus and Greece.
National culture and history
A country’s national culture and history are a final factor that may impact the implementation of WGAs. For example, in some countries (e.g. Austria, Germany and Sweden), constitutional provisions aimed at preventing concentrations of power by allocating leadership responsibilities to multiple parties as well as at fostering negotiation and compromise in the political process also affect the implementation of WGAs.