European Defence - The Future of EU Missions

This policy brief by the Clingendael Institute frames the changing status quo of EU CSDP in the context of ongoing security crises. The authors discuss how the war in Ukraine, the series of coups d'état in the Sahel, and spillover from the Israel-Hamas war are affecting CSDP and recommend policy changes for CSDP policy and missions moving forward.

The security situation for EU CSDP has changed dramatically in recent years. First, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has brought domestic European security forward as a top priority. Second, with the series of coups d'état in the Sahel region, especially Mali and Niger, the EU has had to scale back and even close down missions in the area. And finally, the war between Israel and Hamas has led to realisation of the EU's vulnerability to insecurity in maritime trade. With the upcoming June 2024 European elections, the opportunity and political pressure to adjust the Strategic Compass and expand current missions’ mandates are both present. 

As such, the authors make a series of recommendations for CSDP going forward. In terms of general policy, they recommend that the definition of CSDP within the TEU be formally changed from a long list of specific mission types to a more abstract definition to allow greater flexibility within policy practice. Moreover, as EU and NATO interests are very closely aligned, especially within the realms of European and maritime trade security, the two organisations should look to areas of operations where each organisation has comparative advantages to find a synergistic division of labour.

Within specific civilian missions, the authors recommend first that the EUAM Ukraine be expanded to counter hybrid threats and a new executive mission should be launched to support Ukraine in border management, firefighting, demining, and emergency response. With the upcoming presidential election in Moldova and likely Russian hybrid interference to undermine the current pro-EU president, the EUPM mission there should be bolstered to counter this threat. In the Caucasus, the support mission in Georgia should be supported despite the growing pro-Russian lean of the governing party, and in Armenia the EUAM mission should expand from border management to rule of law and counter-hybrid support in a similar structure to the Moldova mission.

The authors hope these recommendations can focus and strengthen CSDP into the future as the EU faces increased threats closer to home. 

Reference: Zandee, D. & De Baedts, R. (2024). European Defence - The future of EU missions. Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael. 


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