European Defence Capabilities: lessons from the past, signposts for the future - European Union Committee Contents

Chapter 2: the origins, aims and institutions of CSDP


16.  The EU's CSDP (originally the European Security and Defence Policy - ESDP) came into being following American reluctance initially to become involved in the 1990s Balkan wars,[3] and the realisation by Europeans that there might be military contingencies in which they wished to be involved but in which NATO was not engaged.[4]

17.  The first response came from the British and French with a summit agreement in 1998 at St Malo in France between the French President, Jacques Chirac, and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who decided that the EU must have "the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises". The idea was to build up capacity to undertake large-scale military operations, with 60,000 troops available at 60 day's notice, such as had been undertaken [by NATO] in Kosovo or Bosnia.[5] This had provided a stimulus for a June 1999 decision at a European Council in Cologne when the role of the Western European Union[6] was incorporated into the EU.[7]

18.  At the December 1999 Helsinki Council, Member States signed a document—the Helsinki Headline Goal—which stated that, from 2003, EU Member States should be able to deploy 60,000 troops, within 60 days, and sustain the deployment for a year. This capability was intended to support the so-called Petersberg tasks, inherited from the WEU, which included humanitarian, rescue and peacekeeping tasks and tasks for combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.

19.  In 2003 Member States agreed a European Security Strategy (ESS) which represented their collective thinking on the challenges and security threats facing them at the beginning of the 21st century (see paragraphs 29-30).

Current threats and threat perceptions

20.  During the Cold War, the military threat from the Soviet Union was clear. Since then, threats to Europe's security have become more difficult to define. Xenia Dormandy, Chatham House, pointed out that the threats now involved food and environmental security, energy, and water, which were issues more easily addressed within the EU rather than the NATO framework.[8] Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Royal United Services Institute and King's College, London, saw a risk to Europe's security and prosperity in the increased uncertainty about the future of European institutions, in particular events in the eurozone.[9] For him, coping with an age of "vague and uncertain" threats and the absence of clear, large-scale security threats made it difficult to know how to organise capabilities. He said that Ministry of Defence (MOD) defence planners had "dozens of scenarios" for possible conflicts in which UK forces could be involved in the next 20 years.[10] Sir Peter Ricketts, National Security Adviser at the time he gave evidence, now British Ambassador to Paris, thought that the unpredictability of the security threat meant that the EU had to be adaptable.[11]

21.  We were told that differing histories and geography had led to different perceptions of the threat among Member States, and how dangerous they believed the world to be. Professor Anand Menon, Birmingham University, said that a significant number of Member States saw no threat at all, which was a weakness.[12] Sir Peter Ricketts told us that the new EU Member States in eastern Europe perceived a greater threat than others from a resurgent Russia. Countries in Europe's south would see instability in north Africa as a more pressing threat. The US's concern about the rise of China and its military capacity would not necessarily be shared by all EU countries.[13] Major General Heinrich Brauss, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Defence Policy and Planning, commented that Turkey and Greece maintained "legacy structures" for political reasons.[14]

22.  Gerald Howarth, MP, Minister for International Security Strategy at the MOD, told us that the UK Government did not believe that Russia currently posed a threat to the UK, nor was it likely to for the foreseeable future, though he acknowledged that the world was uncertain.[15] Nick Pickard, Head of Security Policy, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), commented that other Member States did not necessarily agree about Russia and Robert Cooper, European External Action Service (EEAS) reminded us that Russia remained unpredictable.[16]

23.  Ambassador Burns, formerly US Representative to NATO, thought that the major terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, combined with the possibility of terrorist groups potentially acquiring the capacity to use chemical, biological or nuclear capacity, should convince nations to build their defence capacities, and that the ability to appreciate future threats, should be the incentive driving defence budgets and planning.[17]

Structures and Strategies


24.  In order to fulfil the crisis management tasks it had set itself under its CSDP, EU Ministers decided, at the December 2000 Nice European Council, to establish permanent political and military structures (see Box 1 below for details).


CSDP structures and instruments

The European Council

The European Council brings together the heads of state or government of every EU country, the Commission President and the European Council President, who chairs the meetings. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also takes part. It sets the EU's general political direction and priorities, and deals with complex or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at a lower level of intergovernmental cooperation.

The Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers comprises ministers of each Member State with responsibility for a given area. The composition and frequency of Council meetings vary depending on the issues dealt with. Foreign ministers, for example, meet roughly once a month in the Foreign Affairs Council which develops the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including deciding on missions and operations, on the basis of strategic guidelines set by the European Council.

The Political and Security Committee (PSC) (Established by Council Decision on 22 January 2001)

The PSC meets at ambassadorial level to prepare policy for the Council of the EU. Its main functions are to follow the international situation, and help to define policies within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) including the CSDP. It initiates the EU response to crises and exercises political control and strategic direction.

Crisis Management Planning Department (CMPD)

The CMPD was created in 2009 from a merger of departments and transferred to the European External Action Service, set up under the Lisbon Treaty. It undertakes strategic planning—early advance planning on how the EU should address security crises—and produces a crisis management concept (CMC) which must be approved by the Council. If agreed, the CMPD produces a concept of operations (CONOPS) and an operational plan (OPLAN), which also need Council approval. The CMPD works with the EUMC and CPCC (see below) and with geographical desks and plays an important role in coordinating military and civilian capabilities. It also works on relations with partner countries which participate in EU missions, eg Turkey and the US, and concludes framework participation agreements with those countries.

The European Union Military Committee (EUMC) (Established by Council Decision on 22 January 2001)

The EUMC is the highest military body set up under the Council of Ministers. It is composed of the Chiefs of Defence of the Member States, who are regularly represented by their permanent military representatives. The EUMC provides the PSC with advice and recommendations on all military matters within the EU. It is currently headed by the French General Patrick de Rousiers.

In parallel with the EUMC, the PSC is advised by a Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM). That Committee provides information, drafts recommendations, and provides an opinion to the PSC on civilian aspects of crisis management.

The European Union Military Staff (EUMS) (Established by Council Decision on 10 May 2005)

The EUMS is composed of military and civilian experts seconded to the EEAS by the Member States, and officials of the EEAS.

The Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC), which is part of the EEAS, is the permanent structure responsible for the operational conduct of civilian CSDP operations. Under the political control and strategic direction of the Political and Security Committee and the overall authority of the High Representative, the CPCC ensures the effective planning and conduct of civilian CSDP crisis management operations, as well as the proper implementation of all mission-related tasks,

Operations Centre. An Operations Centre has existed inside the military staff since 2004, but was not used until it was activated for the first time in December 2011 for the EU's missions in the Horn of Africa, to "provide direct support to the Civilian Operations Commander for the operational planning and conduct of the Regional Maritime Capacity Building mission; provide support to the EU Training Mission commander and enhance strategic coordination between the mission and other CSDP actions in the Horn of Africa; strengthen civilian-military synergies; liaise with Operation Atalanta; and facilitate interaction between the mission/operations and the Brussels-based structures." [18]

National Operational headquarters. When an EU military mission is launched, the operational headquarters of one of five Member States has traditionally been used. They are Northwood, UK (used for Operation Atalanta); Paris, France (used for the Chad operation); Rome, Italy (used to prepare a possible humanitarian assistance operation for Libya); Potsdam, Germany; and Larissa, Greece. When these headquarters are used, they are augmented by EU experts. It is also possible to use the EU's Operations Centre or NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Command Europe (SHAPE).


25.  In July 2004 Member States set up a small European Defence Agency (EDA) "to support the Member States in their effort to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the ESDP as it stands now and develops in the future".[19] This was refined in Article 42.3 of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which states that the EDA, "in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments shall identify operational requirements, shall promote measures to satisfy those requirements, shall contribute to identifying and, where appropriate, implementing any measure needed to strengthen the industrial and technological base of the defence sector, shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy, and shall assist the Council in evaluating the improvement of military capabilities." The EDA's role is further expanded in Article 45 of the Treaty.

26.  All EU Member States subscribe to the EDA, except Denmark. Norway (not a Member of the EU) also subscribes to the EDA. The Agency is small, with 120 staff, based in Brussels and is headed by the High Representative who chairs its Ministerial Steering Board. It has four main functions:

  • Defence capabilities
  • Armaments co-operation
  • The European defence technological and industrial base and defence equipment market
  • Research and technology[20]

27.  Madame Claude-France Arnould, EDA Chief Executive, explained that the Agency had also developed an intergovernmental regime on defence procurement. In November 2005, Member States had approved a Code of Conduct on defence procurement which was a voluntary, non-legally-binding mechanism encouraging competition in the European defence equipment market. Twenty-five Member States (all except Denmark and Romania) plus Norway subscribed to the Code.[21] The EDA had established an "electronic bulletin board" on which over 680 contract opportunities with a total value exceeding €25 billion had been posted. Over 440 contracts, totalling approximately €5.7 billion, and almost 150 cross-border contracts had been awarded, which represented progress. Two subsequent Directives on defence procurement and intra-community transfers were, she believed, a strong incentive to create, progressively, a single European defence market. The interpretation of the Directives and the possible use of Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union[22] were being explained to Member States.[23]

28.  The UK Government in 2010 announced that they would continue British support for the EDA for two years, until autumn 2012, and would then make a decision on future support depending on improvements in the EDA's performance.


29.  In 2003 Member States agreed a European Security Strategy aimed at bringing together Member States who had been divided by the Iraq war. It "represents the collective thinking of Member States on the challenges and security threats facing them at the beginning of the 21st century." It "sets three important EU security objectives: addressing the threats, building security in the EU's neighbourhood and working with other states and organisations to achieve 'effective multilateralism.'" Our Committee gave its views on the ESS at the time of its review by Member States in 2008[24].

30.  Our witnesses made little reference to this Strategy: General Syrén, Chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUMC), considered the ESS to be an important starting point for EU missions and operations;[25] Sir Peter Ricketts believed that there was a case for updating it, which should include the importance of sustaining key military capabilities.[26]

EU institutions

31.  Professor Menon was critical of the institutions: "None of the EU institutions is very well adapted to defence policy" because the design of the EU as an institution was intended to tame the powers of its Member States, in particular Germany and other large Member States, not to project them. Problems arose if attempts were made to use the institutions to deploy power abroad.[27] Sir Peter Ricketts pointed out that institutions in themselves did not generate greater capabilities for nations[28] and Etienne de Durand, Institut Français des Relations Internationales, told us that the real problem was capabilities across Europe at the Member State level where matters were decided. The organisation by European countries of their institutional relations was of a secondary order.[29]

32.  In Brussels we took evidence from the officials operating the systems. General Syrén told us that the EU's new "comprehensive approach" to crisis management introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 had brought together two different cultures, military and civilian, which had led to some difficulties. Strong leadership was needed for effective coordination, in which the Crisis Management Planning Department (CMPD, see Box 1 above) played an important part. However, he was optimistic that management structures were in place, that top-level management was aware of the need for some fine-tuning and he thought that the EU's structures were "going in the right direction".[30]

33.  Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service, also said that some early difficulties had been experienced with the new post-Lisbon arrangements as officials were unfamiliar with working with other services, for example, the Development Directorate General (DG) in the Commission, but all the services were working well together in the crisis in Syria. The EEAS Delegations now had to adapt to the new situation and new ways of working.[31]

34.  Walter Stevens, Director of the Crisis Management and Planning Department (CMPD) described the institutional difficulties in setting up military rather than civilian missions, which led to delays. For civilian missions, the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC, see Box 1) was closely involved in developing a Crisis Management Concept (CMC) from the outset and the process of approval by the Council could proceed as soon as the CMC had been developed. On the other hand, for a military mission, additional steps were required before the Council could decide to launch it. Military advisers had first to decide on strategic military objectives and directives after the CMC had been developed; time was also lost bringing in the experts from the Member State which would host the operational headquarters.[32] We discuss this in Chapter 5.

35.  Former US Representative to NATO, Ambassador Nicholas Burns, was sceptical about the CSDP; the pan-European security establishment, which linked Europe to the US, was NATO. The CSDP should not diminish NATO, threaten its lead role, or subtract from Europe's ability to contribute militarily to NATO.[33] He believed that it would be unacceptable to the US if the EU asserted a combat capacity outside the Berlin Plus arrangements (see Box 5 below); the US would prefer Europe not to act unless NATO agreed and NATO chose not to act.[34] He also believed that the US should meet its responsibilities within NATO and play a leadership, rather than a supportive, role in any operation.[35]

3   The Americans were later involved in the 1999 NATO bombing campaign targeted at strategic Serbian installations. Back

4   Cooper Q 117 Back

5   Sir Peter Ricketts, National Security Adviser at the time of the evidence, Q 7 Back

6   The Western European Union was formed in 1954 and tasked with implementing the modified version of the 1948 Treaty of Brussels. The treaty contained economic, social and defence provisions, and included a strong commitment to mutual defence. Back

7   Vimont Q 117, also Pickard Q 43 Back

8   Q 80 Back

9   Q 81, also Burridge Q 318 Back

10   Q 114 Back

11   Q 2 Back

12   Q 93 Back

13   Q 3 Back

14   Q 238 Back

15   Q 353 Back

16   QQ 70, 128 Back

17   Q 282 Back

18   Press release on 23 January, on Conclusions at 3142nd Council meeting, 1 December 2011. Back

19   Joint Action of the Council of Ministers on 12 July, 2004 Back

20   EU Council website:  Back

21   Q 216. See also:  Back

22   Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union allows Member States to exempt certain defence articles from Community rules on the free market if the article in question is essential to the government's security interests. In practice, this means that governments do not have to open all their defence orders to competition and can award the sensitive ones directly to a company of their choice. The Commission's new Directive on defence procurement has been designed to make it more difficult for governments to invoke Article 346.  Back

23   Q 216 Back

24   31st Report (2007-08) Adapting the EU's approach to today's security challenges - the Review of the 2003 European Security Strategy (HL Paper 190). Back

25   Q 157 Back

26   Q 13 Back

27   QQ 94, 98 Back

28   Q 30 Back

29   Q 295 Back

30   Q 156 Back

31   QQ 178, 181-186 Back

32   Q 147 Back

33   Q 269 Back

34   Q 285 Back

35   Q 288 Back

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