The spoils of EU reform
The spoils of EU reform
War & Peace (Season 5)
War & Peace (Season 5)
Op-Ed / Europe & Central Asia 3 minutes

The spoils of EU reform

There is a sumptuous feast happening in Brussels, but some are better fed than others. What to many may seem an indigestible alphabet soup of new EU institutions dealing with foreign policy after the Lisbon treaty, is actually a smorgasbord of patronage, favour and influence.

Britain may feel it has done well to get the spot at the head of the table in the form of new High Representative Catherine Ashton, but in reality the French and Germans seem to be the ones setting the menu.

Currently at issue is an organ called the Crisis Management Planning Directorate (CMPD), which is intended to be at the very heart of Ashton’s External Action Service - essentially the new European diplomatic corps.

In December 2008, the European Council agreed to merge civilian and military aspects of the planning for European peace keeping missions into a single CMPD. It was a logical step that would help the EU be more efficient in its response to conflicts.

As this new structure is now taking shape, however, the military aspect has been given vastly disproportionate weight.

Civilian experts, most notably the former director on the civilian crisis management side, have been pushed out of the decision-making structures.

But it doesn’t stop there. In the CMPD transitional structure, only one-fifth of the names listed for the so-called “integrated strategic planning unit” seem to have civilian planning expertise.

This development is bizarre for two reasons.

First, the vast majority of European missions in conflict areas have been civilian: 21 out of 27, in fact. The EU has been a much more efficient actor in the civilian components of conflict management and peace building - like policing, rule of law and border missions - than it ever has been on the military side.

Second, among the many lessons learnt in Bosnia and elsewhere, one is that the military hate to do what they have not been trained for. They should never be asked to police cities or launch judiciary reforms.

One would have expected such realities to be reflected in the leadership and structure of the CMPD.

Instead, they have ignored the EU’s traditional strengths, and we are now looking at a future in which military experts will be planning civilian missions.

To understand how and why this has happened, one needs to understand that active member states, with clear ideas of what they want, get the best parts while others simply watch on. France pushed its views only to come up against resistance from Berlin.

A deal securing German positions elsewhere in the post-Lisbon machinery seems to have allowed a certain French view to dominate the CMPD. The UK and other Europeans who contribute to these missions have either allowed the deal to go forward, or weren’t aware that it was happening.

But they will almost certainly show resistance the day they are asked to contribute personnel for new European peace building missions under this structure.

This is not just another Brussels horse-trading story. The CMPD is not an obscure element in the EU machinery. This is quite literally a life-and-death matter, both for people suffering in crisis zones and for European citizens involved in current and future missions.

The CMPD will be the very core of the new European External Action Service and be the body that deals with all the toughest issues of world peace and security the EU is involved in.

The EU needs an institution that can deal with the full “conflict cycle”, from prevention to crisis management, rebuilding and development.

The Lisbon treaty is very clear in giving the High Representative authority over “coordination of the civilian and military aspects” of “peace keeping tasks… tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace making and post-conflict stabilisation”.

Indeed, all these responsibilities and their associated financial instruments should now move over entirely from the Commission to the External Action Service. For the sake of efficiency, it would be essential to create a single Directorate General for peace building and crisis management.

Ideally, under Lisbon, Ashton should have responsibility and exercise leadership over all the directorates that are involved in external policies: development, neighbourhood, humanitarian aid, at least.

Unfortunately, the ambition of the Lisbon text has not yet been matched by Ashton’s own. She has preferred to express a more humble desire to co-ordinate or work closely with all the commissioners involved in foreign affairs, rather than be an outspoken champion for the EU’s role in peace building.

Ashton’s task is huge and complicated, to be sure, but by allowing the CMPD to be dominated by a vision that overly promotes military aspects of EU missions, she has made it tougher still - and not just for herself but for those who will come after.

The structures being created today will have a lasting impact on the way the EU projects itself in the world for decades.

The Union’s conflict prevention and peace building capacity has just suffered a blow to its effectiveness that, if left uncorrected, will have enormous impact on the ground in crisis zones worldwide.

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