EU Crisis Response Capability Revisited
EU Crisis Response Capability Revisited
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Making Sense of Russia’s Changing Role in Africa
Making Sense of Russia’s Changing Role in Africa
Report 160 / Europe & Central Asia

EU Crisis Response Capability Revisited

Three years after Crisis Group first took a snapshot of European Union crisis response capacity, much has changed for the better in both conflict prevention and conflict management.

Executive Summary

Three years after Crisis Group first took a snapshot of European Union crisis response capacity, much has changed for the better in both conflict prevention and conflict management. Mechanisms then only planned or just introduced such as the Political and Security Committee are functioning well; important new ones such as the European Defence Agency have come on line. The enlarged EU has gained experience with police and military missions in the Balkans and Africa and has just launched its most ambitious operation, replacing NATO as Bosnia's primary security provider. Nevertheless, many old problems of Council/Commission coordination have not been resolved, and fundamental questions about member state political will to act together are being asked with more urgency in the post 9/11, post-Iraq War environment. The Constitution adopted in June 2004 will help if it is ratified but the EU cannot afford to let momentum slow by turning inward during the difficult year or two while that issue is fought out.

The reason is simple for pushing forward on conflict management capabilities and for acting to the greatest extent possible as if the Constitution's provisions relating to Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) were already in force. The world has become if anything more dangerous in the past three years. The EU is the only serious partner in sight that can significantly help the U.S. deal with a wide range of security problems -- and with the potential strength to cause Washington to take notice from time to time of constructive criticism and alternative policies. That will not happen until the Union builds some further military muscle and above all learns how to punch at a higher political weight.

The European Security Strategy (ESS), adopted in 2003, is a blueprint for what a coherent European foreign policy should look like but it is as yet mostly words on paper. There is hope that the progressive "mainstreaming" of political and conflict issues into development aid and trade deals will result in a renewed debate on reinforcing conditionality in the whole of EU external assistance. Many observers, however, still question whether the EU can not only talk but walk.

The EU and NATO now speak to and about each other constantly in Brussels, and they are beginning to get daily experience of each other in the field in more than one Balkans location. A great deal more work is required, however, to ensure that the relationship is a truly complementary one, as envisaged in the important "Berlin Plus" arrangements they reached in 2003. European armed forces that are stronger, flexible and more interoperable would make the EU a much better partner not only for the U.S. but for the UN and regional organisations as well. On the other hand, an EU failure to improve its capabilities would only strengthen the unfortunate argument of some in the U.S. that America should increasingly go it alone.

This report is not a comprehensive examination of all aspects of EU foreign policy but rather, like its predecessor, an overview of those aspects that relate particularly to the important field of crisis response and management, civilian and military. It is written for a wider than specialist readership, to draw attention to developments within the EU that have been both rapid and not as well understood or appreciated as they deserve to be.

Brussels, 17 January 2005

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