Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Per M Norheim-Martinsen, Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge


  On 12 July 2004, the Council of the European Union decided to launch a military operation (EUFOR) in Bosnia in Herzegovina (BiH). With this operation, code-named "Althea", the EU is set to take over the responsibilities of the NATO-led SFOR after a transition period, starting on 2 December. The symbolic value of the take-over is striking. It was the events that followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia which so painfully revealed the shortcomings in Europe's military capabilities. Now, EUFOR will provide the first real test case for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), the process towards which was spurred by these very events. Europe is about to reclaim its backyard, at the same time, signalling that the EU intends to look after its own neighbourhood in the future. Trust, however, is something you earn and the minor operations in Macedonia and the Democratic Republic of Congo were not enough to erase the memories of Europe's poor military track record. The two operations, code-named "Concordia" and "Artemis", involved 400 and 1,800 troops respectively. The upcoming EUFOR mission, on the other hand, involving a robust force of 7,000 to 9,000 troops, will provide a proper test case for the ESDP not only in terms of the sheer size of the operation, but also in terms of the challenges posed by the need to co-ordinate the activities of a plethora of actors on the ground. First of all, the EU will have to co-ordinate its own approach, the process towards which was initiated by the adoption of a comprehensive EU policy towards BiH, by the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 14 June 2004. Secondly, other actors, most importantly NATO and the OSCE, will retain a strong presence, leaving Lord Ashdown with the unforgiving task of co-ordinating all activities. Ashdown is the EU's Special Representative to BiH (EUSR) and head of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which was established after the 1995 Dayton/Paris Peace Accord. This memorandum examines challenges to internal EU co-ordination, before addressing some issues arising from EU cooperation with other international actors in BiH.


  The decision to launch EUFOR follows the implementation of the EU Police Mission in BiH (EUPM), replacing the UN-led police force, earlier this year. Yet another in a line of ESDP "debuts", EUFOR represents the Union's first joint civil-military crisis management operation, hence also the first practical display of the integrated approach, of which EU leaders speak so warmly. The question is how integrated civilian and military elements really are. The two operations report to separate chains of command and are formally subject to co-ordination in the Political and Security Committee (PSC). This reflects a general feature of the ESDP framework, namely the lack of a clear hierarchy of military and civilian sub-units that correspond to each other and interact at lower levels. To alleviate this situation, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, has made it clear that Lord Ashdown, as EUSR, is to be the de facto person in charge of all ESDP operations in BiH, aiming also to co-ordinate these with Commission activities. This means, in practice, that the EUSR will meet regularly with the EU Force Commander, the Head of the Commission Delegation and other EU representatives, ensuring that his political advice and directives are taken into consideration. However, in case of disagreement between the Force Commander and the EUSR—as could be the case, for example, regarding the role of the military in the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) process—the matter will have to be solved in the PSC. As has generally been the case so far, the coherence and efficiency of the ESDP are heavily dependent, thus, on informal channels of interaction, pragmatism and interpersonal skills. In the same way that the inter-pillar divide in matters of foreign and security policy could hardly have been bridged so effectively over the last years without the charismatic personalities of Javier Solana and Chris Patten, the EU's Commissioner for External Relations, Lord Ashdown's personal qualities and already influential role in Bosnia may hopefully counter some of the institutional barriers to cooperation on the operative level.

  Another matter is the potential divergence between the strategic priorities of the Commission and of the Council. The former has been involved in BiH for several years already, working towards reconstruction of the state within the framework of the Stabilisation and Association process (SAP), on which it has spent 4.6 billion euros. The Council, on the other hand, and according to the EUSR's Mission Implementation Plan (MIP), will have to concentrate on maintaining a secure and stable environment for the implementation of the Dayton/Paris Peace Accord—a task which shall prove challenging enough, given the continued undercurrent of instability in the country. In sum, objectives and roles appear to be complementary; the Commission concentrates, through the SAP, on long-term institution building and political and economical development, while the Council, through the EUSR predominantly, concentrates on keeping the peace. If only it was that simple.

  Although one has sought to streamline an overall EU policy on paper, the traditional inter-pillar rivalry is likely to ensue, as the lines between conflict prevention, generally the Commission's domain, and crisis management, falling under the ESDP, remains fuzzy. One example is the EU's police related work in BiH, branches of which embody different approaches, time spans, decision making structures, mandates, structures etc The EUPM, which answers to the Council, has a small mentoring and advisory role, but no executive powers. The responsibility for executive police work is generally in the hands of the Bosnians. However, EUFOR may engage in gendarmerie type operations. Complicating the situation further, Bosnian police forces receive advice and guidance also from 10 police and justice experts, employed by the Commission under the SAP. In addition, come operations under the external dimension of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)—also the responsibility of the Commission—which target issues such as corruption, organised crime and border control.

  As long as the pillar structure remains, both the Commission and the Council will guard their responsibilities carefully, especially those falling in the grey-zone between crisis management and conflict prevention. Herein can also be observed a fundamental struggle over which approach is the better—thus, who is to have the leading hand when objectives are adjusted to fit each other. Some resentment on behalf of the Commission, for which the SAP has been a prestige project, can be traced in the words of a Commission representative, interviewed last year, who said there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the Commission's long-term commitment in the Western Balkans now that the Council wants to play an active part in the region. Such sentiments will not make Lord Ashdown's job any easier and, as an appointee of Mr Solana, he shall struggle hard to gain the trust of the Commission delegation, such that he can fulfil the seemingly lofty objective of speaking on behalf of all of the Union in BiH.


  NATO remains the EU's most important working partner in BiH, due to EUFOR's reliance on NATO capabilities, the recourse to which was ensured by the Berlin Plus agreement. Paving the way for the long overdue operation "Concordia" in Macedonia last year—after Turkish opposition put the operation off for months—EUFOR will provide a first proper test case for whether the mechanisms will work in practice. Reflecting the strong strategic ties between the organisations, General John Reith, currently Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), has been appointed EU Operation Commander, while Major General David Leakey is the EU Force Commander. The EU Operation Headquarters has been located at NATO SHAPE, following a welcome display of flexibility on behalf of the French, who initially opposed such an arrangement. Non-EU NATO members, such as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, as well as other third countries, including Canada, Chile, Argentina and Morocco, are expected to participate in the operation. Third countries, in accordance with their contributions respectively, will have co-decision making powers on an operative level, while strategic direction is in the hands of the PSC and the EU Military Committee (EUMC).

  In practical terms, little more than a change of badge on the soldiers' uniforms is to be expected, which is also in line with the short-term objective of a "seamless transition" from SFOR to EUFOR. Whether important elements of the Berlin Plus arrangements do work, will be revealed first in case of a crisis on the ground, when availability of resources and the speed with which they are provided will represent the yardsticks. Although SFOR has been terminated, NATO will undertake counter-terrorism tasks and remain in charge of defence reform under its Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, thus keeping a separate and independent office in Sarajevo. In this regard, one of the most important objectives of the reforms is to end the ethnic division of Bosnian armed forces. The EU Force Commander will have a seat on the Defence Reform Commission, which is jointly chaired by NATO and the Bosnian Ministry of Defence, aiming to ensure compliance with Dayton. One may wonder, however, whether such a division of labour is a sensible one, given the EU's heavy involvement in institution-building and democratic reform in all other aspects of the state. This said, all parties have made it clear that NATO and EUFOR are not in competition.

  On a general note, EUFOR may be seen to represent another step down the path towards what some have referred to as the "Europeanization" of Balkan peacekeeping, a notion implying, on the one hand, continued American detachment from the region. This trend has spurred some concern, not least among Bosnian Muslims, who may have felt safer with the Americans around. Others are worried about the potential implications of the American focus on threats outside Europe, and the accompanying strains on its military forces, on the access to crucial NATO capabilities—that is American capabilities predominantly—in case of a crisis. The process of "Europeanization" may, on the other hand, be seen to reflect also a move towards a specific European way of projecting force—ie more integrated with other foreign policy instruments and focusing on core European strengths, such as peacekeeping, nation-building and counter-insurgency, as suggested, for example, in a recent publication by the London-based Centre for European Reform[29] Nevertheless, the EU will remain reliant on NATO for years to come, although transatlantic divergence over how, when and where to apply military force is likely to put some strains on relations in the future.


  With regard to other international actors operating in BiH, structures for co-operation, as well as a rough division of labour, exist already in accordance with Dayton. The principal body—since procedures for co-operation were streamlined in 2002—is the Board of Principals, which meets every week in Sarajevo. Permanent members, before the implementation of EUFOR, included OHR, SFOR, OSCE, UNHCR, EUPM and the European Commission. With the merger of the positions of head of the OHR and EUSR, as well as an even stronger EU presence, it is to be expected that procedures and tasks to a larger degree will be dictated by the Union hopefully with better co-operation as the result. The aim is to avoid duplication and ensure coherence when tasks are overlapping, which applies especially to the area of conflict prevention. However, the need for co-ordination of resources applies also to access to EUFOR military capabilities when, for example, human rights breaches are reported—an area on which the OSCE focuses heavily. Quick and decisive action in such cases is a matter of accountability, but limits to co-operation are inherent in the fact that half of the OSCE member states are not members of the EU. Moreover, the OSCE and other organisations have a treaty given right to perform the tasks assigned to them by Dayton. This will have to be taken into consideration by the EU now that its involvement in BiH is strengthened. Finally, several UN branches are involved in BiH, most importantly the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the lead agency, as established by Dayton, in accommodating the return of Bosnian refugees and internally displaced persons. This process is reliant on a safe and stable environment, which makes effective co-operation between EUFOR and the UNHCR particularly important.


  Since its birth at St-Malo in 1998, the ESDP seems to have suffered from a "big words but little action"—syndrome. The ceremonious speeches at the 2001 Laeken summit, when the ESDP was declared operational for "some crisis management operations", did not seem to quite reflect actual accomplishments with regard to, for example, the increase in capabilities. The same goes for the EU's military debut in Macedonia, which was not exactly a dashing display of force. In retrospect, however, the ESDP process can be seen to have been one of steady growth to meet the challenges at hand. As such, EUFOR is not only a timely venture—next year it will be 10 years since NATO intervened in BiH—but also a bold one, since another European failure in the Balkans would probably bury the EU's military aspirations for good. On a strategic note, EUFOR restates the EU's commitments in the Balkans, as set out in the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS), and reflects the overall strategic objective of creating stability in the EU's immediate neighbourhood. 38 The focus, prior to the deployment, on streamlining EU policies—with particular emphasis on the SAP as the overall framework for the European course in BiH—reflects also a turn towards a more comprehensive approach than NATO has been capable of, providing it perhaps with better a better chance of success. Depending on how well the EU performs in BiH, one might—perhaps sooner rather than later—expect a take-over of NATO-operation KFOR in Kosovo as well. This would revoke the somewhat arbitrary impression of ESDP operations so far, while heeding the aspirations of the ESS of "extending the zone of security around Europe". As tempting as this may be, however, the EU should be careful not to bite off more than it can chew. Reclaiming its backyard is perhaps yet a bit premature.

M Norheim-Martinsen

38 Solana, J (2003) "A Secure Europe in a Better World—European Security Strategy", (15895/03, PESC787).

29   Everts, S, L Freedman, C Grant, F Heisbourg, D Keohane, M O'Hanlon (2004) A European Way of War, London: Centre for European Reform. Back

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