CSDP and the Future European Research Agenda

The Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme defined in 2014 funding for research in the field of conflict prevention and peace building. One of the three projects selected for funding has been the IECEU-project, aimed at researching the effectiveness of military and civilian crisis management operations (CMO’s) implemented within the framework of the European Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP).

Over a time span of 33 months, the IECEU-project reviewed 8 case studies in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia have been reviewed, covering 12 CSDP crisis management operations (see table 1.1 below). Additionally, research has been implemented within the EU’s institutions to review the effectiveness of the concepts pooling and sharing, civilian-military synergies and interoperability. This research has led to valuable insights on the effectiveness of CSDP CMO’s as well as underlined the importance of research in this area, that is still can benefit from a larger academic and practitioners attention.

This is why one of the final reports of the IECEU-project does look into the future research agenda in the new multi-annual financial framework and, based on the 33-month research, identifies five main areas in the broader framework of CFSP and CSDP that could benefit from additional analytical research.

It makes the point that sufficient funding is necessary for fundamental and applied research on external security and defence, as it results to inform policy- and decision-making and enables sound decision making. As of end 2016, the debate started on the future of EU-finances, with the aim to tackle the tough challenge to fund more with less. The discussion is closely linked to the white paper on the future of Europe and will inform the next multi-annual financial framework (MMF) 2020 – 2027. However, the prospects for research spending are not that good, if the mid-term review of the current MMF 2014-2020 can be seen as an indication of the levels of spending. Spending on “unanticipated funding needs” such as securing borders and tackling the migration crisis are prioritized over long-term programmes such as research. From a political short-term point of view, this makes sense. However, the question is whether this is, in the long run, a good solution. Research has a fundamental role in boosting growth, informing better policy making and effectiveness.

In any case, the research area of European foreign security and defence policy has a number of challenges for those engaged in this exercise. Next, to the regular challenges associated with research, there are additional challenges such as access to a highly politicised environment and the geographical and security dimension of researching missions in areas that are unsafe. However, research is next to evaluation and quality assurance, key elements for a mature learning culture, as it supports fundamental understanding of what is happening, why, how and relates it to enriched understanding, from which politicians, civil servants, advocates and the general public can greatly benefit.

As each discipline has its distinctive way of creating contributions that inform debate and policy, research in the area of European foreign security and defence policy is not about predicting the future, but delivering an in-depth understanding of the past and current mechanisms and dynamics at play, by applying rigorous theoretical and empirical care and knowledge of scholarly literature. Implementing this type of research in a multinational consortium, where different methods and views meet and challenge each other leads to even better results than in national projects and funding. This meeting of the minds at European level is the main added value of the Horizon 2020 funding, supporting cross-border scientific cooperation and the cross-fertilization of ideas.

The final Work Programme for Horizon 2020, covering the budgetary years 2018, 2019 and 2020, has been recently launched. It’s priority area ‘Societal Challenge 6: ‘Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies’ (SC6) will include funding for the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and the expanding scope of the EU’s external engagement. From the experience of running a 33-month research into the effectiveness CSDP, six main areas can be identified that could benefit from additional analytical research. These areas are:

  • Conflict prevention and complexity strategies including mechanisms, opportunities, contextual possibilities and analysis of how EUs toolbox can be more effectively used in complex scenarios of conflict prevention.
  • Linking threat scenarios with internal and external capabilities-building and the integrated approach. The key point to be addressed should be what capabilities are needed for the defined scenarios. Scenarios should include the rise of technology and non-state actors as well as new types of threats and challenges, such as cyber and migration.
  • Local ownership and how CSDP is perceived by the local community (visibility of the action, effectiveness in terms of conflict prevention).
  • Electorate ownership and how is CSDP perceived by public opinion in member states in terms of acceptance and further integration.
  • Evaluation methods and mechanisms to measure the effectiveness of the integrated approach and evaluation toolboxes.
  • Standardization of EU crisis management operations SOP’s, training and exercise systems, capabilities, equipment and support platforms.

The report can be downloaded soon from the IECEU-website here.

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