Interoperability in CSDP – the third state dimension

The analyses of the effectiveness of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) crisis management operations, implemented by the IECEU-project, also researched interoperability through extensive desk research and field research with eight case studies in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia, covering 15 CSDP crisis management missions. One aspect that was reviewed was the third state dimension in interoperability.

Crisis management operations under the flag of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) often happen in complex environments, where the EU is not the sole actor on the ground.  Third states, international organisations and NGO’s are also operating in conflict areas, with their own mandates and interests, that might differ from the EU’s mandates and interests.

There are a number of tools to streamline the actions of these actors on the ground, and one of them will be discussed in this blog, i.e. the Framework Participation Agreement (FPA). This tool allows a non-EU member state that wishes to contribute and participate in the CSDP crisis mangement operation to actually do that.

By signing the Framework Participation Agreement (FPA) with the EU, a legal and political basis for such cooperation is provided. The European External Action Service is the one who leads the negotiations after receiving its mandate from the Council, who keeps the final say. A template has been agreed at PSC level, that is in-turn negotiated with the third state.  Generally speaking, the FPA includes provisions on participation in both civilian and military crisis missions/operations (e.g. regulating the personnel, chain of command, financial aspects and agreements regarding the status of personnel and information sharing etc.).

There are multiple reasons to support third state involvement with a FPA. One is that it can bring capacity that the CSDP-crisis management operation lacks. Another one is that such an involvement brings legitimacy as by involving non-EU member states in the crisis management operation, the operationt gains a broader  acceptance in the international community.

However, at the same time the FPA adds an additional dimension to the interoperability i.e. that of third countries personnel and equipment being interoperable with EU-personnel and equipment in CSDP missions and operations.

One critical issue found in the IECEU-study on interoperability is that third states are not involved throughout the planning level, i.e. establishing the EU crisis management mission and its subsequent amendments and the Operation Plan (OPLAN). They are only involved in the process of establishing the mission only in only at a later phase, so they do not have important impact on the decision making process. This might affect interoperability, as at planning stage specific standard operating procedures or requirements of third states are not taken into account.

Another critical issue identified is that the challenges related to interoperability of troops contributed by the third states are similar to those of the multinational forces in general including the cultural and language barriers, doctrinal differences and technological differences.

Tackling these interoperability challenges at operational level and better incorporating third states in CSDP crisis management operations is important as it has economic benefits, force generation benefits and gives political legitimacy. Especially, the political aspects of such cooperation should not be overlooked as having third states participating in CSDP crisis management operations does give a stronger credibility and legitimacy to the EU CSDP missions and operations.

The recommendation of the IECEU-project is to strengthen third country participation in CSDP crisis management operations by including them in the early planning stages and develop standard operating procedures that address doctrinal, procedural and technological differences and interoperability issues.

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