Saturday, October 31, 2009

Broken promises from EU members on crisis missions risk more fragile states collapsing into failed states

October 15

Broken promises and treating Afghanistan, DR Congo and Iraq like Bosnia has left the EU without the capacity to prevent fragile states from becoming failing states. This is the main finding of the latest report from the European Council on Foreign Relations, published today.

According to the report, Can the EU rebuild failing states? A review of Europe's civilian capacities, by ECFR's security experts Daniel Korski and Richard Gowan:

  • EU member states break promises and significantly under-staff key international missions.
    No member state has deployed even half of what they promised in the 2004 Civilian Headline Goal process, and the EU has a shortage of 1,500 personnel across its 12 ongoing EU state building missions. All eyes are on Afghanistan: but the EU's police mission there is at half its authorised strength.
  • Crisis missions still rely on the 'Bosnia-template', ignoring reality on the ground.
    The 2005-2006 mission to DR Congo, for instance, was rendered largely irrelevant because EU planning failed to take into account corruption and the country's size compared to Bosnia.
  • Turf wars between the European Commission and the European Council weaken missions.
    In practice, spheres of influence overlap, leading to squabbles over who is responsible for what. In 2004 this led to a case at the European Court of Justice over who should get involved in a project tackling weapons trafficking in West Africa.

Daniel Korski says:

"If Yemen descends into full blown civil-war or al Qaeda gains new bases in Africa, the EU will be ill-equipped to offer the strategic and development assistance likely to be needed. Getting EU crisis missions right is essential in a world where stability in faraway places is key to security on the streets of Hamburg, Marseille and Manchester."

Broken promises and weakened missions

The EU prides itself on its involvement in civilian missions to fragile states, with successes in countries like Bosnia and Aceh. But this reputation is being undermined by the broken promises of some member states.

The worst offender in breaking promises is Spain, which deploys less than 3% of its pledged civilian experts. Britain does little better, fulfilling only 7% of its promises. France is more than twice as likely to stand by its undertaking, but Korski and Gowan rank France below Britain because France's civilian missions have serious flaws elsewhere - for instance, debriefing procedures in France are very inconsistent.

Korski and Gowan's report is the first-ever audit of the EU's civilian crisis management capabilities based on extensive research in all 27 member states, interviews with more than 50 EU officials and reviews of completed and ongoing European missions, including former EU Special Representatives, heads of missions and senior generals.

For the full text of the report:

Key recommendations to policy makers include:

  1. The EU needs to scrap the 'Bosnia template' and rethink its entire approach to foreign interventions, with a focus on speed, security and self-sufficiency. EU member states need to recruit the right specialists, officials and administrative staff. Then the EU must be able to deploy these civilian experts rapidly to dangerous places and to let them operate closely with local populations. Civilian personnel must become better at taking the initiative, and Brussels must be prepared to cut the apron-strings.
  2. The EU should appoint senior envoys in each of the twenty countries the EU considers to be at greatest risk of instability. These twenty countries should be based on the European Commission and Council Secretariat's watch lists of countries in danger of slipping into violence. This would allow the EU to have a more seamless approach to foreign interventions, taking steps to prevent crisis before they erupt and offering immediate assistance on the ground when they do.
  3. Set up a "European Institute for Peace" which should be the standard setter of member states' civilian missions training.
  4. Ensure each member state devises a National Action Plan, to make certain all recruitment, training, funding, debriefing and planning targets are met. This should be peer-reviewed by another member state every four years.


1. Daniel Korski is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and is based in London. He is a former British official who has worked in Bosnia, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. He can be contacted at, or on +44 7876 616302.

2. Richard Gowan is a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and is based in New York City. He can be contacted at, or on +1 917 975 6629.

3. Results of the audit: The analysis of the 27 member states conducted in this audit allowed the authors to divide them into four groups on the basis of their civilian crisis management capabilities.

a) The professionals: Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The EU's top performers take the role of civilians in crisis situations seriously. They recruit carefully and comprehensively, offer extensive training for civilians, have developed cross-governmental planning processes, and seek to debrief all deployed personnel to learn lessons.

b) The strivers: Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy and Romania. These countries show signs of wanting to build their civilian capacities but have yet to put in the necessary hard work. While France, Italy and Romania are all major contributors to missions in terms of numbers deployed, they fall down elsewhere. None of these countries appears to take have put much thought into recruitment, and debriefing procedures in France and Italy are extremely patchy.

c) The agnostics: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. These countries seem unconvinced about the value of civilian deployments. Planning is a problem; all countries report poor governmental co-operation; and debriefing is mostly patchy and informal.

d) The indifferents: Other than Lithuania, which seems to be attempting to improve its performance, no country in this category seems to take the task of developing civilian capacities seriously. Only Greece and Malta have compulsory training for police; Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia only train personnel deploying to Afghanistan. Planning and debrief procedures in these countries are also very weak. Others, such as Bulgaria, Luxemburg and Cyprus, need more coordination between the ministries responsible for their involvement.

4. This report, like all ECFR publications, represents the views of its authors, not the collective position of ECFR or its Council Members.

5. For all media enquiries please email or telephone +44 20 7031 1623.

6. The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is the first pan-European think-tank. Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values based foreign policy.

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