Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Time for CSDP to become pragmatic?

Source: CSDP

Source: CSDP

by Myrto Hatzigeorgopoulos

What can one expect from the December 2013 European Council on Defence? What importance will be given to the discussions on the future development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)? Above all, where is the CSDP heading? How can the European Union’s security and defence structures and instruments manage to overcome the mix of hopes and fears resented by its international partners, its Member States, and its populations?

On 30 May 2013, ISIS Europe attended the European Security Roundtable and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Conference entitled “Perspectives for CSDP in the light of the December 2013 EU Council”. The conference was articulated around three panels which attempted to provide a comprehensive perspective on European Defence.

What role for the European Commission in European defence?

If many are rather doubtful about the December Council’s ability to make a significant change, there is a common driving line: to spend better in security and defence and to create a more competitive and efficient European technological and industrial base. This also implies developing common European standards and certifications in order to open companies to European and international markets, but also to lower costs, give a comparative advantage to EU industries, facilitate interoperability and cooperation. Will the Council succeed in setting up ambitious, useful and fruitful projects?

The possibility of developing capabilities that would be owned by the Commission or its agencies, and that could be put at the disposal of the CSDP has been proposed by Commissioner Michel Barnier, and a consensus is close to being reached. This would naturally concern areas where the EC has a clear competence, which are related to defence but that cannot be defined as such (maritime surveillance, border protection etc.).

From this overlap between Commission, EDA, Member States and EEAS in defence at large, results a major problem of communication, transparency, and coordination. Their respective work needs to be bridged if the EU is to increase its efficiency at the lowest possible cost. Points of contacts should be established to increase the knowledge, mutual understanding and complementarity of the different actors, and to achieve cooperation on the ground and synergies needed within a comprehensive approach. This starts at the training and education levels in all Member States.

Relaunching the Common Security and Defence Policy

The high hopes that accompanied the kicking off of CSDP in 1999 have now given space to despair and general pessimism. Arnaud Danjean, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Security and Defence Subcommittee, talked about the risk of CSDP disappearing, not in concept (as it is in the Treaties), but in practice. In the past three years, major crises have arisen in Europe’s vicinity and the impression is that Europe was not there. What is CSDP for, if it cannot go beyond the crisis management tools and concepts that have been used over the past 14 years? What does the EU want for the future? Will the Union wait for the crises to happen, and then limit itself to sending small targeted missions reduced to training?

In the current context, discussions on the economic crisis have overshadowed any real consideration on security and defence issues. MEPs suggested that the decision-making processes should be reviewed within the Council so as to allow those Member States who want to move ahead, to be allowed to move ahead; if the core may always be the same, the contributions of smaller countries are always valuable and need to be taken into account. Otherwise, CSDP will be reduced to the lowest possible common denominator. Arnaud Danjean’s words were: “Let’s face the reality. If we look for inclusiveness, then nothing will be done”.

The panel agreed on the fact that the highest expectations for relaunching the CSDP, were not directed to the December 2013 Council, but rather to the upcoming new nominations in 2014 within EU institutions, and especially within the Council and the EEAS. They called for a real political leadership at Member States and at the European level.

Strengthening European crisis response capabilities through common planning and command structures

LtGen. Jean-Paul Perruche drew attention to the restrictions put on the development of European capabilities by the Nice Treaty, as confirmed by the Lisbon Treaty. It limits the role of CSDP to peacekeeping operations taking place outside the EU territory, while collective defence is attributed to NATO. In addition, the capabilities of the EU have been restricted to non-duplication of what exists within NATO (permanent chain of command) – which he qualified as a “schizophrenic attitude” on the part of the EU.

Offering an industrial perspective, Jacques Cipriani, argued that with such uncoordinated defence budget cuts, with virtually no pooling of demand, there is no need for a directive on public market since there is simply no public market. In his opinion, debates on defence or OHQ, are, thus, irrelevant. He warned that industrial capability could not be put on storage. To use his metaphor, the EU is running out of steam, and it will be impossible to rebuild the engine if you let it be dismantled. In Jacques Cipriani’s opinion, the unification of demand will not come simultaneously from national governments, nor from NATO as it is a coalition. In this perspective, influence should come from the EDA, OCCHAR, and the Commission to create a political will to purchase some common capabilities at EU level. As underlined by Jo Coelmont, Senior Associate Fellow at Egmont, it is important that initiative really comes from the heads of states. There is need for a top down approach, notably through the formulation of a new European security strategy/concept.


LtGen Jean-Paul Perruche argued that CSDP is not a European body, but the intersection of 26 nations defence policies; this is why it lacks ambition. If states were to be more serious about it, national governments would view their security on a different scale in order to see Europe as a single entity. This would enlarge the scope of their defence policies thereby increasing their intersection.  However, for EU Member States to contribute forces in an international crisis management operation, three elements need to be combined:

– Level of interest

– Acceptance of risk

– Trust in leadership and capabilities engaged in the operation

Thus, if the EU wants to acquire effective common planning and command structures, it needs to have:

– A capacity of anticipation and situation awareness (early warning etc.)

– The capacity to take decisions  – converge national interests and trust of nations in the instruments

– A capacity of action: undertaking, planning, running operations

These elements will give credibility to the EU’s crisis response.

For a full report on the conference click here


One comment on “Time for CSDP to become pragmatic?

  1. Pingback: A more coherent EU ‘Peace Policy’? |

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This entry was posted on 31/05/2013 by in Conferences, Myrto Hatzigeorgopoulos and tagged , , , , .


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