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The European Council and EU efforts to strengthen the partnership with the United Nations on crisis management

Written by Suzana Elena Anghel,

In June 2016, the European Council ‘welcomed’ the presentation of the Global Strategy for the European Union. One element in the strategy is the recognition of the United Nations’ central role in maintaining international stability, and a call for an integrated EU approach to conflicts and crises. It is thus timely to consider what progress has been made so far on EU-UN cooperation on crisis management, in line with the European Council’s guidelines.

Main developments in the European Council on EU-UN crisis management cooperation

United Nations flag

Lukasz Stefanski / Shutterstock

The EU-UN partnership on crisis management has been shaped through several European Council meetings over the course of 15 years, given that the European Council defines the strategic orientations of the European Union. The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 and the Santa Maria de Feira European Council in June 2000 defined the EU’s approach to civilian and military crisis management, and expressed the Union’s recognition of the UN’s responsibility in maintaining international peace and security. The Thessaloniki European Council adopted the European Security Strategy in June 2003, recognising the UN’s role in safeguarding international peace and stability. The June 2004 European Council endorsed the Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management of September 2003, which called for coordination on planning, training and information exchange, as well as the sharing of best practice and lessons learned. A permanent joint consultative mechanism in the form of the EU-UN Steering Committee on Crisis Management, which meets twice a year, was established to foster the ‘exchange of views on thematic and geographical issues’. Its output has been criticised due to the absence of ‘more strategic and forward-looking discussions’.

The European Council endorsed a new Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management at its June 2007 meeting. The document outlined progress made since 2003 and reiterated the need to continue strengthening cooperation in planning, training and information exchange. It recognised the progressive institutionalisation of EU-UN relations and called for continued regular exchanges of views at senior political level and senior official level. The EU Battlegroups’ potential for rapid intervention in EU-led operations under UN mandate was welcomed. This point remains to be implemented, as the EU has not used the Battlegroups on operations to date. Experts considered the 2007 Joint Statement to represent a ‘more strategic document’, an expression of a progressively ‘maturing’ relation between the two organisations, allowing for the development of a ‘longer term strategic framework’. Novosseloff (2012: 150) considered that the EU-UN partnership on crisis management evolved from scarce interaction in the early 2000s to active cooperation by the mid- to late 2000s, but back to reduced interaction prior to 2012, due mainly to ‘internal and inter-organizational’ dynamics that affected both the EU and the UN.

The December 2012 European Council was the first meeting since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty at which the Heads of State or Government called for the strengthening of EU-UN relations on crisis management. At two other meetings, in December 2013 and in June 2015, they reiterated this call, referring to the UN as a ‘key partner’. The EU’s policy in support of UN peacekeeping for the 2012-2014 period was laid out in Actions to enhance EU CSDP support to UN peacekeeping and its Plan of Action. This consisted of six key elements, namely: 1) a clearing house mechanism relating to civilian and military capabilities; 2) a ‘modular approach’ entailing an EU military component to UN operations; 3) autonomous civilian EU deployment in support of UN operations; 4) autonomous military EU deployment in support of UN operations; 5) targeted assistance to regional (i.e. African Union, AU)/sub-regional organisations; and 6) cross-cutting areas (i.e. training and exercises, security sector reform). Experts assessed its implementation as ‘uneven’, with very limited progress made in certain areas, particularly on the development of the clearinghouse mechanism.

Seven priorities for 2015-2018 are outlined in the document ‘Strengthening the EU-UN Strategic Partnership on Peacekeeping and Crisis Management’: 1) strengthening rapid response capacity (i.e. the EU Battlegroups), 2) supporting African peace and stability through increased UN-EU-AU cooperation; 3) facilitating EU Member States’ contributions to UN operations; 4) cooperating on rule of law and security sector reform (SSR); 5) logistics support; 6) information exchange; 7) completion and follow-up of the 2012-2014 Plan of Action, in particular as regards military and civilian capabilities development, streamlining operational planning, training, and integration of lessons learned. In September 2016, HR/VP Federica Mogherini identified an integrated approach to crises and conflicts, including capacity-building and in particular security sector reform, among the key priorities for the implementation of the Global Strategy with which the European Council was presented in June 2016. The development of capabilities is another area where progress may be envisaged, when the European Council considers defence priorities at its December 2016 meeting, following the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap.

EU Member States’ contribution to UN peacekeeping and crisis management

Top 5 EU Member States in personnel contributions to UN missions out of total, collective EU Member States' contributions (August 2016)

Top 5 EU Member States in personnel contributions to UN missions out of total, collective EU Member States’ contributions (August 2016)

Individual EU Member States’ contributions to UN missions consist of both capabilities and funding. In August 2016, the UN reported 100 950 persons deployed on UN peace operations. EU Member States, with the exception of Luxembourg and Malta, were collectively contributing 5 549 persons or 5.5 % of the overall international contribution to UN missions, distributed among EU Member States as shown in Figure 1.

In 2015, at the Leaders’ Summit on UN Peacekeeping, European Council President Donald Tusk called for the strengthening of EU-UN cooperation on crisis management, while stating that, collectively, EU Member States represent the main financial contributor to UN peacekeeping. The EU Member States’ cumulative contribution is around 40 % of the total UN peacekeeping budget, with the five largest EU Member States (Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain) contributing over 28 % of the UN peacekeeping budget for the 2013-2015 period. This confirms expert assessments that Member States are currently more inclined to contribute financially rather than in personnel numbers to UN missions. Additionally, several CSDP operations/missions either acted as ‘bridging missions’ until a UN operation was set up (e.g. EUFOR RCA),  were conducted in parallel to and in close cooperation with a UN operation (e.g. EUSEC RD Congo; the first UN/EU pre-deployment assessment mission in Mali which evaluated the Malian security sector), or were set up as a follow-up to a UN operation (e.g. EUPM BiH).

The European Parliament’s views on EU-UN cooperation

The European Parliament has referred to EU-UN cooperation on crisis management almost every year in its resolutions on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), on the implementation of CSDP, and on the EU priorities ahead of the UN General Assembly. In a resolution of June 2016, the European Parliament welcomed the priorities set for 2015-2018 with respect to strengthening EU-UN crisis management cooperation, called on ‘the EU Member States to significantly increase their military and police contributions to UN peacekeeping missions’, and welcomed the ‘signing of the EU-UN administrative arrangement on exchanging classified information’, which will, most likely, contribute to improving cooperation in peacekeeping. One month later, in July 2016, the European Parliament asked the Council ‘to further develop procedures for the use of EU Common Security and Defence Policy in support of UN operations, including through the deployment of EU Battlegroups, or through capacity building and Security Sector Reform initiatives’.

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About ECOS

The European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)monitors and analyses the delivery of the European Council in respect of the commitments made in the conclusions of its meetings, as well as its various responsibilities either in law or on the basis of intergovernmental agreements.

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