The EU civilian crisis management procedures

The EU civilian crisis management procedures: structure and functioning


03 | 06 | 2022


Besides its generally well-known military operations, the European Union has deployed some civilian missions as well to help preserving security in other countries

En la imagen

EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaking in May about the civilian missions [European Parliament]

While the European Union’s military operations are well known by the population, it is the civilian aspect of the security and defense of the Union what remains in the shadow; the knowledge about it is normally restricted to a small number of policymakers and experts on the matter. What are the EU CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) civilian missions and how do they work? Are they the same as the military operations? Where is the EU currently deploying its forces?

Although the European Union was originally conceived as an initiative driven by economic interests, the field of security and defense came into frame with the birth of the new century. In 2003, the first “European Security Strategy” was published under the mandate of Javier Solana as the High Representative of the European Union for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (a position currently held by former Spanish Minister Josep Borrell). With that pioneer first strategy, the Union also began to launch its first missions and operations in order to safeguard the interests and welfare of its Member States.

The surrounding, neighboring territories of the EU are filled with threats and hostilities against which an adequate response must be taken. Most of what happens next to our borders has an impact in our security, and for that matter, the main aim is always to guarantee that the reaction to any challenge is as quick and effective as possible. The most fundamental idea to bear in mind is the existing difference within the EU External Action between military and civilian actions. The former ones are referred to as operations, whereas the civilian ones (the ones for the interests of this article) are called missions.

The very first civilian mission to be deployed, back in 2003, was the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, following on the UN´s Police Task Force. It was soon followed by several others that same year, including the EUJUST Themis in Georgia, or the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). Most of the well-known missions, such as the EU Training Mission in Somalia or EU Naval Force in the Mediterranean are from the military side. But nonetheless, civilian missions also hold a crucial importance.

As we have said, the civilian missions deployed by the EU are unknown to most of its population, and so are its operational headquarters, which were created in 2007. The Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC) is the global security provider for the Union, defined in broad terms as the deployment of non-military personnel in a crisis setting, and with the primary purpose of performing a variety of peacebuilding tasks throughout a given conflict. It was launched that year responding to the double challenge posed by the EU deployments in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Such crises demonstrated the clear need to establish an identifiable chain of command structure (just like what the EU Military Staff was for the military operations). Today, the CPCC is a mature and solid headquarters staffed by EU Officials, national experts and other agents who successfully oversee the planning and conduct of all missions deployed through the globe.

How are civilian missions planned?

The process of planning any civilian mission to be deployed falls within the competence of the CPCC. The main tasks in such process are the identification of the mission objectives, other related tasks and outputs, and the means to achieve those in a defined sequence, according to the handbook of the Common Security and Defence Policy. In general terms, both military operations and civilian missions undergo a similar process, known as the Crisis Response Mechanism (CRM). Such process is composed of five main stages.

In the first term, the crisis or threat must be identified. This initial phase examines the “why”, the motivations, options and possible outcomes of an EU response. The next phase is the development of capabilities and the establishment of the mission in itself. The politico-strategic part, where the main issue to define is “what” must be done. In this phase, the interaction with partners, organizations or local authorities is often used, and the outcome is a particular mandate for the mission. The third phase comes once the capabilities are deployed and the mandate ready. At this stage, after the operation planning of the mission is ready, the commander must identify how they intend to implement the mandate they have been given, and present it to the Council, who will approve the launch if deemed fit.

This leads to the fourth phase, the deployment of the mission. The plan is conducted by the Head of Mission (HoM), and all the involved actors execute the duties they have been assigned. Each of the missions is normally given a mandate, a period of time to carry out the mission conceded by the Council. In most of the missions that have been deployed, that mandate has normally been extended one or several times in order to fulfill the desired objectives. This comes in the last phase, the fifth and closing stage: the review. It consists of the reassessment of all the mission´s parameters so as to give the Council the information needed to decide whether or not to extend the mandate.

Ongoing missions

As of 2022, the EU is currently deploying 11 civilian missions (plus 7 military operations). Each of those missions have purposes and objectives of different nature. Some of them, referred to as EUCAP are Capacity Building Missions, are launched to support in any specific aspect a particular nation who demands it. Such was the case of Mali, where, since 2015, EU civilian forces keep working to “assist the internal security forces in reasserting the State authority across the country”. Aside from that one, there are currently two other Capacity Building Missions active, in Somalia and Niger.

Other kind of mission is the so-called EULEX (Rule of Law Mission), launched “to support relevant rule of law institutions” in any place where there is a concerning lack of it. As of today, the Kosovo EULEX Mission has been active since 2008, being the biggest mission of the EU CSDP when it was launched, and works to establish an effective, sustainable and free from political interference system that fulfills international human rights standards. Closely connected with these Rule of Law missions are the Police Missions (EUPOL), often directed to assist national police services or provide with additional security in any particular process. This is the case of the current mission in Palestine, the EUPOL COPPS, supporting Palestinian efforts to take responsibility for law and order within its territory.

The last type of missions currently active are the Monitoring Missions (EUMM) and Advisory Missions (EUAM). The former was launched in Georgia in 2008 following a ceasefire agreement and supervises the fulfillment of the agreed rules between Georgia and Russia. The latter is normally oriented to assist national authorities of a country to reform the civilian security sector, and is currently deployed in both Ukraine (since the 2014 Crimean Crisis) and Iraq (where they advise officials from the National Security Sector and the Ministry of Interior since 2017).

Without a doubt, the Civilian aspect of the EU´s External Action is less known to the general public, but still represents a major part of the Union´s mission of securing its external environment and guaranteeing the welfare of its citizens. The numerous active missions are possible with all the civilian support that has been provided since 2003, but throughout the entire process we have described, it is the Member States who exercise the most important part of their control.