Civilian crisis management in the framework of ESDP

Δρ. Ιωάννης Παρίσης

(Δημοσιέυθηκε στο περιοδικό «ΕΥΡΩΠΑΪΚΗ ΕΚΦΡΑΣΗ», τ. 72, Α’ Τρίμηνο 2009)

The expression “civilian crisis management” (CCM) has been commonly used since 1999 in many EU official documents. Generally speaking CCM related to the institutional split between the civilian instruments created under the first and second pillars and the more complicated issues in the civilian area of crisis management between the Council and the Commission. In the EU, CCM means intervening from outside in a humanitarian crisis that is threatening or has taken place in a State, region or society as a result of a conflict, disaster or environmental catastrophe.[2] In other words, CCM is the intervention by non-military personnel in a crisis that may be violent or non-violent, with the intention of preventing a further escalation of the crisis and facilitating its resolution.


The Petersberg tasks (humanitarian and rescue tasks; peace-keeping tasks; tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making) are a key component of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and provide the basis for the legitimacy of the EU’s crisis-management operations. These missions were originally defined within the WEU framework. That definition of the Petersberg missions was included in the Amsterdam Treaty, making the EU an important player in international security, and was also incorporated into the Treaty of Nice (Article 17) in December 2000. Within the EU there is a real resolve to broaden the initial scope of the Petersberg missions to take on board the new threats to European security. To that end the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that these tasks “shall include joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories”

The EU’s overall objective is to support, restore, and contribute to self-sustaining stability, primarily in regions that are of strategic interest to the Union, mainly through endeavours in the field of crisis prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict reconstruction, thereby following a comprehensive and – ideally – holistic approach in which security and development are two complementary sides of the same coin. To achieve this, a range of crisis-management instruments is needed in addition to political, diplomatic, and humanitarian tools. EU needs military capabilities, and in parallel, needs civilian capabilities able to contribute to internal stability and institution building, in particular in the area of police, justice and rule of law, and civil administration.

CCM is less well-known among the public and less spectacular than military operations are. Their stabilising effect, however, is equally important.[3]  Experiences in well-known crisis regions show that civilian instruments constitute an essential part of comprehensive crisis management, and by far the majority of ESDP operations have been of a civilian nature. In fact, the first ESDP operation was a CCM operation, the EU Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia in January 2003.

Civilian ESDP capabilities are primarily constituted by skilled individual experts, able to work in a mentoring, monitoring and advisory function embedded in the management level of the administration or the executive of the country concerned. This contrasts with the military capabilities, which are normally conceived as and provided by weapon systems and/or equipped and trained units. In certain situations, however, effective civilian crisis management also demands multi-functional, trained, and equipped civilian capability packages rapidly available for various deployments. Rapidly Deployable Police Elements (RDPE), that can be deployed within 30 days, are an essential tool in areas where the EU efforts aim at contributing to fill the “law enforcement gap” at the beginning of a crisis intervention when often only military forces are deployed. Since 2006, the European Gendarmerie Force, constituted by five nations, has been set up; it remains to be seen under which circumstances and modalities they might be used by the EU. The key categories of the civilian capabilities are: judges and prosecutors, prison personnel, police officers, border police officers.

Civilian Headline Goal

At the June 2000 European Council in Feira, Portugal, EU leaders launched the civilian dimension of ESDP, making particular efforts to strengthen civilian ESDP capabilities in six priority areas: policing, strengthening the rule of law,  civilian administration, civil protection, monitoring, and generic support to operations or EU Special Representatives. After the decision of 2001, for the establishment of a European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP), aimed to improve the military capabilities of ESDP, a new Action Plan for Civilian Aspects of ESDP, elaborated in line with the European Security Strategy, was approved by the Council in June 2004. It highlighted that: “the EU should become more ambitious in the goals which it set in civilian crisis management and more capable in delivering upon them.” 

At the European Council of June 2004, a civilian headline goal was endorsed, the Civilian Headline Goal 2008. According to the CHG 2008, civilian ESDP capabilities are deployable within 30 days of the decision to launch an EU-led mission. Such undertakings could be deployed autonomously, jointly or in close cooperation with military operations. During the implementation process of the CHG 2008, the priority was given to the development of rapidly deployable capabilities of so-called Civilian Response Teams (CRTs).

Some Conferences was held, in ministerial level, during the implementation of the Headline Goal, in order to identify EU Member State contributions and to review the overall process. During the last Conference in November 2007, Ministers review the CHG 2008 process and they decided that it has been completed and that it has successfully guided the EE’s planning and development set out in the European Security Strategy. But there remains scope for further and more focused action. Therefore, they agreed to approve the new Civilian Headline Goal 2010, which will be launched on 1st January 2008. The new Headline Goal builds on the results of the CHG 2008 and on the growing body of EU crisis management experience, in particular on lessons learned from the numerous civilian ESDP missions.

Structures and Bodies

The Political and Security Committee (PSC) is the permanent body in the field of CFSP, mentioned in Article 25 of the Treaty on European Union.

The Coordination Mechanism for Civilian Aspects of crisis management, in the event of a crisis, can establish an ad hoc centre to coordinate the Member States contributions and provide advice and support for crisis management.

The Police Unit enables the EU to plan and carry out policing operations.

The joint Situation Centre (SITCEN) monitors the international situation and provides the Council’s competent bodies with assessments of the situation.

The Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM) is responsible for developing strategies for civilian priority areas as well as overseeing the management of civilian operations.

The Civilian Planning and Conduct Capabilities (CPCC) plans and conducts civilian ESDP operations under the political control and strategic direction of the PSC. 

The Civilian/Military Cell, including its inherent Operations Centre capacity, is the first standing EU body that fully integrates military and civilian expertise, including from the European Commission. It has been placed within the EU Military Staff

The source of the civilian crisis management operations budget financing depends on their purpose and their content. Funds may come from three different budget lines: the appropriate Community budget line, when the operations are conducted under a Community instrument (information or observation missions, training, economic and trade development incentives, mine clearance, human rights, reconstruction, food aid, humanitarian interventions, etc.); the CFSP budget line for CFSP operations without military or defence implications (such as disarmament, support for peace processes, political assistance, etc.); and a budget other than the EC budget for operations under the ESDP with military or defence implications.


[2] Agnieszka Nowwak (ed.), Civilian crisis management: the EU way, EU Institute for Security Studies, Chaillot Paper no 90, June 2006, σελ. 16.

[3] “Civilian crisis management instruments are just as important as military instruments. We may face situations where a mix of both will be necessary, or indeed where a purely civilian response, using for example police and rule of law experts, will be appropriate.» (High Representative Javier Solana at the November 2002 Ministerial Civilian Capability Conference).

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