Integrating Contrasting Approaches: Civil–Military Cooperation in CSDP

07 January 2020   ·   Carolyn Moser

Faced with ever more complex conflicts, the EU needs to overcome the civil-military divide within its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It’s time to develop a comprehensive strategy that bridges the gap between military and civilian CSDP and clarifies the role of increasingly influential law enforcement agencies. France and Germany should take the lead.

Security and defence issues rank high on the agenda of European leaders these days. In light of an increasingly challenging international environment, the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) has recently received a significant push for integration. Indicative hereof are inter alia the launch of PESCO in 2017 and the adoption of a compact to boost civilian crisis management in 2018. In parallel, we witness a growing involvement of the Commission in defence questions.

As the EU’s security architecture is undergoing significant changes, the debate about a civil–military (re)calibration of the CSDP has regained traction. The operationalization of the CSDP indeed relies on two ‘strands’, namely a civilian and military one. Currently, some 5.000 civilian experts and soldiers serve in ten ongoing civilian missions and six EU-led military missions and operations in Europe, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. While some Member States wish to strengthen the EU’s ‘civilian power’, others prefer to enhance military integration. Therefore, the big—and unresolved—question is how to strike the right institutional and operational balance between the civilian and military branches of the CSDP.

Increasingly complex conflicts necessitate civil-military synergies

As a matter of fact, the civilian strand of the CSDP suffers from a second child syndrome: even though the EU has deployed far more civilian missions than military operations, civilian crisis management lags behind in terms of staffing, financing, and, importantly, political attention. This imbalance can be traced back to the inception of the CSDP in 1999, when military motives clearly ranked first. In addition, the presumption of a civil–military dichotomy—civilian tasks being considered merely ancillary to military activities—led to the establishment of separate bureaucracies for military and civilian crisis management at the EU level. In the past, multiple efforts have been made to bring the two CSDP strands closer together within EU structures. Member States put in place civil–military liaison units concerning the planning (e.g. CivMilCell, CMPD, both of which ceased to exist) as well as the implementation of crisis management activities (e.g. Joint Support Coordination Cell, JSCC, that liaises between the Civilian and the Military Planning and Conduct Capabilities).

Moreover, operational business has forged more civil–military connectedness. Indeed, in the process of tackling multi-factorial security challenges, the line between ‘civilian’ and ‘military’ activities has been blurred. Indicative hereof is the growing number of civilian missions focusing on security sector reform, law enforcement training and military capacity building on the one hand, and the significant number of ‘civilian’ tasks increasingly inserted into the mandates of military operations (e.g. training, consulting or capacity-building) on the other. Another sign of the increased CSDP hybridization are complementary civil–military CSDP deployments, notably to the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region. What is more, a panoply of hybrid tasks has recently been added to the CSDP portfolio, such as border control, migration management or maritime security. In light of these new operational realities, civil–military synergies are very topical.

An increased influence of law enforcement agencies may lead to new turf wars

In addition to the hybridization and diversification of CSDP activities, we see a conceptual and operational broadening of crisis management tasks. Since security at home is understood to depend on peace beyond the Union’s borders, the internal and external security spheres become amalgamated. Consequently, the line between security policies within and outside the EU is being blurred and the design of field activities changes. The EUGS advocates an integrated approach to crisis management which involves the connection of different external policy instruments, particularly security and defence, development, and law enforcement.

A sign of this new paradigm is that the police play a far bigger role in external action. Accordingly, Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies, in particular Frontex and Europol, progressively engage in extraterritorial activities, including on traditional CSDP turf, such as capacity building or training of actors within the security sector. Therefore, CSDP realities might henceforth be characterized by a civil–civil–military nexus involving civilian experts, soldiers, and JHA actors. We already observe this type of arrangement in the Mediterranean, where the naval operation EU NAVFOR Sophia and the civilian mission EUBAM Libya on the one hand, and Frontex and Europol on the other jointly combat illegal border crossings by smugglers (and migrants).

The most recent bureaucratic reshuffle concerning CSDP structures affiliated with the EEAS is another expression of an expansion of crisis management tasks beyond civilian and military CSDP instruments. The new bureaucratic configuration is likely to shift the balance in favour of non-military tools, such as mediation, civilian missions, but also JHA activities. In the past, however, encroachment on crisis management competences has been a major source of interinstitutional tensions, triggering judicial proceedings before the Luxembourg Court—and similar discontentment is likely to occur in the future between a range of actors operating on the same security turf (namely the EEAS, the Commission, the Council, and JHA agencies).

A proper CSDP strategy should serve as guideline for all actors involved

It is thus essential that the EU and its Member States develop a clear vision of the CSDP. Drafting a CSDP-specific strategy (that is a livre blanc or Weißbuch) complementing the EUGS would be an important move forward in this regard. Concerning the civil–military nexus, such a CSDP strategy should contain three elements. First, it should specify by which civil and military CSDP means the defined (strategic) objectives can be reached. In this context, the document should outline civil–military complementarities and possibly identify joint civil–military activity modules for deployments. These modules could serve as building blocks when planning or implementing crisis management activities related, for instance, to capacity building in the security sector.

A second interrelated element would be to clarify how the institutional civil–military interface should develop, both regarding planning (involving primarily Brussels-based bureaucracies) and implementation (including first and foremost actors in the field). Although the stereotypical images of the courageous warrior figure on the one side and the technocratic civilian expert on the other have faded, daily interaction of civilian and military CSDP actors (in Brussels) is still cautious. With a view to encouraging a common socialization of crisis management bureaucrats, it would be important that a CSDP strategy unequivocally acknowledges the importance of civil–military synergies at the operational and institutional levels of crisis management.

Finally, the livre blanc would need to address the growing role of JHA actors. In the wake of the migration crisis, Member States developed a preference for law enforcement (under the JHA umbrella) over conflict prevention (under the CSDP framework). In light of this trend towards marginalized civilian missions, the document should stipulate under which conditions CSDP–JHA cooperation is desirable or even necessary, and when it is unsuitable. Another overdue measure would be to improve the secondment arrangements for civilian missions, since there are currently career advantages incentivizing individuals to join a JHA agency rather than a civilian mission.

A Franco-German entente should pave the way

But a strategy is only beneficial if it is backed by the necessary political will. It is thus crucial to overcome policy makers’ tendency to view the development of the two CSDP branches as a zero sum game, with more military integration meaning less investment in civilian CSDP and vice versa. In the end, the EU’s civilian power and military strength are interrelated. In order to leave behind the detrimental civil–military divide, an entente between Paris and Berlin on the aims and means of EU security and defence is key, especially since defence questions have recently engendered a strain between the two neighbours. Yet, for the CSDP to remain relevant and to progress, both Germany and France will have to make an attempt at rapprochement. Concretely, this means that France—traditionally in support of military instruments—will have to show significantly more interest in the development of civilian means, while Germany—an adherent of civilian action—will have to give up its reluctant stance on joint military endeavours beyond logistics and training.

To end on a positive note, the civilian and military CSDP strands taken together offer the EU a comprehensive toolbox to engage in prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding, as well as stabilization activities in crisis zones. Therefore, the existence of both military and civilian crisis management expertise is a big advantage for the EU, which is worth being preserved and promoted.

Zivil-militärische Zusammenarbeit Europäische Union CSDP

Carolyn Moser

Carolyn Moser heads the research group ‘Borderlines’ at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg.