59 The EU External Conflict and Crises
|Committee's decision||Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee
|Document details||Joint Staff Working Document: Taking forward the EU's Comprehensive Approach to external conflict and crises Action Plan 2015
|Department||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Document numbers||(36802), 7913/15, SWD(15) 85
Summary and Committee's conclusions
59.1 In December 2013, the EU High Representative for Foreign
Affairs and Security Policy (HR Federica Mogherini), and the European
Commission put forward a Joint Communication on the Union's comprehensive
approach to external conflicts and crises. The aim of the comprehensive
approach is "enhancing the coherence, effectiveness and impact
of the EU's policy and action, in particular in relation to conflict
prevention and crisis resolution".[ 438]
59.2 The Joint Communication was retained under scrutiny
by our predecessor Committee on 8 January 2014, and cleared from
scrutiny via European Committee debate on 12 March 2014.[ 439]
However, the Government rejected our predecessor Committee's recommendation
that such an important and infrequent document should be debated
on the floor of the House.
59.3 In May 2014, the European Council gave full
support to the concept of the comprehensive approach, and agreed
what the Commission describes as an "ambitious" set
of conclusions, including on the way forward. In order for the
principles of the comprehensive approach to be taken from theory
into practice, the Council invited the HR and the Commission to
prepare an Action Plan. This was received on 10 April 2015.
59.4 The new Commission under President Jean-Claude
Juncker has emphasised the importance of working across teams.
This emphasis gives further impetus to the development of a comprehensive
59.5 The Action Plan identifies four areas of priority
definition of a common strategic vision through the development
of guidelines for Joint Framework Documents (JFDs). These are
potentially a pivotal part of a comprehensive approach and could
"set out the EU's and Member States' objectives and priorities
for a particular country or region and the tools needed";[ 440]
mobilisation of the different strengths and capacities of the
EU. In this area, the focus will be on three initiatives: capacity
building; transition; and rapid deployment;
and regional cases. These have been chosen to bring forward different
aspects of the comprehensive approach, and to include countries
with and without a CSDP presence, as well as areas where joint
efforts are already taking place. They are: the Sahel, Central
America and the Caribbean, Afghanistan and Somalia; and
and reporting. The Action Plan will be implemented by the EEAS,
the Commission and Member States; the country and regional cases
will see EU delegations and Member States' embassies play a key
role. In addition, there will be an oral briefing on the Action
Plan to the European Council in mid-2015 and a report in the first
quarter of 2016.
59.6 We welcome the formulation of an Action Plan
to take forward the comprehensive approach. It is important that
EU policy in relation to conflict prevention and crisis resolution
should be as 'joined-up' as possible. It is in line with the more
general approach of the Juncker Commission that the Union should
not be constrained in individual silos, but that there should
be working across teams.
59.7 We also welcome the recognition that foreign
affairs and security policy are the responsibility of Member States
as well as of the EEAS and the Commission. Although the comprehensive
approach must be undertaken at EU level and does not engage issues
of subsidiarity, it is important that coordination of action by
Member States should not impair Member States' freedom of action.
In addition, coordination of action should not become duplication
of effort, and the comprehensive approach should be pursued as
complimenting United Nations or NATO operations.
59.8 It is important that the Council is given
regular and full updates on the implementation of the Action Plan,
and in this regard it is to be welcomed that the Commission has
agreed to an oral briefing this year and a hopefully fuller report
in the first quarter of next year. We ask the Minister to write
to us after the first of these briefings, with his views on developments
thus far, and also to keep us fully and promptly informed of UK
involvement in the comprehensive approach.
details of the documents: Joint Staff
Working Document: Taking forward the EU's Comprehensive Approach
to external conflict and crises Action Plan 2015:
(36802), 7913/15, SWD(15) 85.
59.9 The Joint Communication on the comprehensive
approach presented by the High Representative and the Commission
was prepared in advance of the December 2013 European Council
meeting. This was the first such meeting to focus on the Union's
Common Foreign and Security Policy and general defence matters
since 2007. The purpose of the comprehensive approach is to bring
together the EU's diplomatic, economic, development, civilian
and military tools in a coordinated manner to address external
conflicts and crises. The Commission has been at pains to stress
that the comprehensive approach is about process rather than ends;
in essence, not "what to do" but "how to do it".
59.10 Our predecessor Committee considered the Joint
Communication in its Thirty-ninth Report of Session 2014-15, published
on 24 March 2015. The Committee noted that the Communication had
been assessed as politically important, and had recommended that
the Government find time for it to be debated on the floor of
the House. This recommendation was not acted upon, and the Communication
was debated in a European Committee on 12 March 2014.
59.11 The Foreign Affairs Council endorsed the concept
of a comprehensive approach at its meeting on 12 May 2014. It
agreed a set of Council Conclusions which called for an Action
Plan for implementation of the comprehensive approach to be developed
by the EEAS and the Commission by the end of the first quarter
59.12 In February 2015, there was a "defence
informal" meeting in Riga at which the Minister for Reserves,
Mr Julian Brazier MP, represented the UK. HR Mogherini identified
five areas of focus: higher levels of defence spending, improved
cooperation in capability development, exploitation of dual-use
research, developments of the "train and equip" concept,
and improved EU-NATO cooperation. Several of these are relevant
to the comprehensive approach.
59.13 The Action Plan was due to be promulgated by
the end of the first quarter of 2015. It was published on 10 April
2015, and the Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office on 5 May 2015.
59.14 The Action Plan is founded on three main principles.
Firstly, the comprehensive approach, as stated above, is a working
method, a way of bringing together EU actions in the field of
conflict prevention and crisis resolution. The Commission underlines
that the purpose of the comprehensive approach is not to reiterate
the policy framework contained in the Joint Communication, nor
to list challenges and opportunities across the spectrum of EU
foreign and security policy. Rather:
"The purpose of the Action Plan is [
to identify a selected number of key issues that were flagged
in the Joint Communication and the Council Conclusions and which
should be taken forward as a priority in 2015."[ 441]
59.15 Second, and flowing from that, the best way
to test the comprehensive approach is to apply it to real situations.
Therefore, in line with the Council conclusions, the Action Plan
identifies a small number of country or regional cases to which
particular aspects of the comprehensive approach could be applied.
59.16 Thirdly, the implementation of the Action Plan
is the responsibility of the European External Action Service,
the Commission and Member States. In order for it to be truly
'comprehensive', it should be taken forward by the whole range
of EU actors.
59.17 As described in paragraph 59.5, the Action
Plan prioritises four actions for 2015.
59.18 The first action is the definition of a common
strategic vision. This is to be achieved through the development
of guidelines for Joint Framework Documents. The Commission considers
that JFDs could be a centrepiece of the comprehensive approach,
strengthening joint analysis and creating a common strategic vision
for the EU. It has set out the following core principles in the
development of JFDs:
should be developed jointly by the EU and by Member States;
· EU delegations
and Member States' embassies on the ground should be central to
· A shared
context analysis, based on existing knowledge, should be a fundamental
The Commission also emphasises that the guidelines
for JFDs "should be clear on process as well as its links
to other strategic documents like regional strategies, the Political
Framework for Crisis Approach (PFCA) documents, the programming
documents for EU development instruments etc".[ 442]
59.19 The second action is the mobilisation of the
different strengths and capacities of the EU. The full potential
of the comprehensive approach will only be realised when the EU
and Member States bring to bear all their available and relevant
policies and instruments in a unified way to achieve commonly
identified objectives. The Commission notes that lessons have
been learned about consistency and coherence from support to security
sector reform projects, CSDP capacity-building missions and operations
and the EU support to the African Peace and Security Architecture.
59.20 In this field, the Action Plan identifies three
initiatives for priority attention. The first is capacity-building
in support of security and development. This is intended to building
on the "train and equip" initiative identified as a
priority by HR Mogherini at the defence informal in February 2015,
and is intended to assist partner countries and regional organisations
to manage or prevent crises independently.
59.21 The second initiative is transition; that is,
the switch from one form of EU engagement, such as CSDP, to another,
for example, bilateral or multilateral engagement by Member States.
Strategies to manage this kind of transition are essential in
planning new missions and reviewing existing ones. The Commission
intends that planning such strategies should be a collaborative
effort between the EEAS and Commission services, Member States
and host authorities.
59.22 The third initiative is rapid deployment. Some
recent deployments, such as that to Libya (Operation Odyssey Dawn),
have demonstrated some of the solutions which can draw capacities
and resources from across Member States and the Union itself,
and these should be examined and developed further for the rapid
deployment of joint field missions.
59.23 The third action is the identification of a
number of country cases which demonstrate different aspects of
the comprehensive approach, including countries with and without
a CSDP presence. The Commission also notes that the six-monthly
EU Conflict Early Warning System process may identify further
regions which could benefit from the comprehensive approach.
59.24 The Action Plan names four countries or regions
in this context. The first is the Sahel, for which the EU is developing
a Regional Action Plan (covering Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina
Faso and Chad) to implement the Strategy for Security and Development
in the Sahel adopted by the European Council in March 2011. The
RAP is being developed by the EEAS, the Commission and the EU
Special Representative for the Sahel, M. Michel Dominique Reveyrand-de
Menthon. It is intended that the RAP will offer opportunities
for the EU and Member States to implement the comprehensive approach.
59.25 The second region is Central America and the
Caribbean, for which the EU has had a Strategy on Citizen Security
since July 2014. The HR and the Commission are in the process
of drawing up an action plan to address the security challenges
of high homicide rates and international criminal activity.
59.26 The third country is Afghanistan. The EU and
Member States reiterated their long-term commitment to Afghanistan
in a Joint Communication issued in June 2014, Elements for
an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16, which the Commission
views as a concrete example of the comprehensive approach. The
Strategy comprises financial aid, electoral assistance, an EU
Special Representative (Hr Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin) and a
59.27 The fourth country identified is Somalia. The
EU operates in Somalia through the Somali Compact, adopted by
the international community in cooperation with the Federal Government
of Somalia in 2013. It is engaged in three CSDP missions, development
and humanitarian aid and coordinated diplomatic actions under
the auspices of the EUSR for the Horn of Africa, Mr Alex Rondos.
The Commission views Somalia as an excellent opportunity for implementing
the comprehensive approach, to develop shared analysis, define
a common EU strategic vision to align existing documents with
the Somali Compact, mobilise the different strengths and capacities
of the EU and continue engagement with the African Union.
59.28 The fourth action prioritised for 2015 is implementation
and reporting. The Action Plan is to be implemented by the EEAS
and relevant Commission services together with Member States.
In the regional and country cases in particular (paragraphs 59.24-59.27
above), EU delegations and missions and the embassies of Member
States will play a key role in the creation of the comprehensive
approach. In terms of reporting, the European Council will receive
an oral briefing on the progress of the Action Plan in mid-2015
and a report in the first quarter of 2016.
The Government's view
59.29 The UK has for a long time supported the development
of the EU's Comprehensive Approach and took a leadership role
in creating the Action Plan. It notes in its Explanatory Memorandum
that the Plan "contains some positive proposals, in line
with UK objectives", and highlights early planning, better
joint institution analysis and the nexus between training and
equipping as particularly important.
59.30 The Government looks forward to using the updated
Action Plan, due to be produced by the EEAS in 2016, as an opportunity
to ensure the inclusion of more practical and operational elements.
These will include the 'mainstreaming' of the Comprehensive Approach,
and better joint working across institutions in Brussels.
Previous Committee Reports
Thirty-ninth Report HC 219-xxxvii (2014-15), chapter
19 (24 March 2015); Twenty-ninth Report HC 219-xxviii (2014-15),
chapter 12 (14 January 2015); Twenty-second Report HC 219-xxi
(2014-15), chapter 17 (26 November 2014), Thirteenth Report HC
219-xiii (2014-15), chapter 33 (15 October 2014), Fifth Report
HC 219-v (2014-15), chapter 13 (2 July 2014) and Twenty-ninth
Report HC 83-xxvi (2013-14), chapter 9 (8 January 2014); also
see (36526), and (36527), : Twenty-fifth Report
HC 219-xxiv (2014-15), chapter 20 (10 December 2014); (36180),
11358/14: Ninth Report HC 219-ix (2014-15), chapter 19 (3 September
2014); and (35857), 7537/14: Second Report HC 219-ii (2014-15),
chapter 4 (11 June 2014).
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439 Common Security & Defence Policy debate 12 March 2014 Back
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