European Politics and Institutions

Balkans Forum


After the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Lessons learned for the CSDP?

14 June 2012


“The EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina successfully completed its mandate. No ten-year period is a road without bumps. But it showed that we could finish the job in a complex environment,” said Stefan Feller, head of the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUPM).

“Crisis management missions serve a political purpose in the framework of the [EU’s] Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and against the background of the Balkan wars. The EUPM was the first mission to emerge from this,” Feller explained.

“It led to the setting up of crisis-management structures in Brussels. The establishment of strategic and policymaking instruments was shaping how crisis management would transform into meaningful policymaking tools of the EU,” he recalled.

“The road was bumpy. It was a major transition from a UN peacekeeping mission to an EU crisis management mission. International and local opinion is divergent on whether we were there for too short a period or for too long,“ the EUPM chief said.

 “In the Western Balkans, civilian crisis management moves on into enlargement processes, for example Stabilisation and Association Agreements or visa liberalisation. The political dynamic is useful, and it must be as coherent as possible with future negotiation of the EU acquis,” Feller said.

“We’ve left behind sustainable and proficient individual agencies, but their cooperation at strategic level still requires coordinating, which isn’t a crisis management issue. The EU crisis management system works well. That’s the legacy of the EUPM,” he concluded.

“The EU closing down its first-ever police mission is a seminal event. Many things now seem natural which weren’t at all so at the time. The initial focus was on the military, but over time, civilian missions developed much more dynamically than military ones under the CSDP,” said Hansjörg Haber, EU Civilian Operations Commander and director of the EU Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability in the European External Action Service (EEAS).

“We struck gold at the first attempt. Security-sector reform isn’t being pursued by anyone else with such fervour, and it’s a key industry,” Haber argued.

The EEAS official described the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty as an important moment. “Before that, the EU presence was fragmented. The head of mission had a higher profile than the head of delegation,” he said.

“Now it’s the other way around: missions are stepping back, and delegations are strengthening the image of the EU as one. Missions are weighty tools in the remit of delegations,” he claimed.

“Security-sector reform often takes place in a fragmented manner. It’s difficult to get the right expertise into the region. Mission planning is often based on wishful thinking, without being sure that the resources are available,” said Eva Gross, a senior research fellow at the Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

“Local knowledge, for example of geography, would help to produce more realistic mandates,” Gross argued.

“Staffing is an issue. Member states must continually be pushed to second experts with the necessary expertise. Seconding these experts abroad is a domestic political issue too,” she said.

“The Lisbon Treaty fixed some discrepancies between the political, operational and financial arms of EU action, but more inter-EU coordination is still needed before we can coordinate better with [other actors like] the UN, NATO and the USA,” she argued.

“There is insufficient engagement with the USA and others in explaining what the EU can provide and where. This would avoid misunderstandings regarding our brand or our niche, and how we intend to fill it,” Gross said.

She said the way in which the EU interacted with third countries raised legitimacy issues: “the EU works with elites, but at the same time it works in areas [of the world] where there isn’t always local trust in institutions”.

“Outreach to local populations and civil society in the countries concerned must be a key part of the CSDP too,” she argued.

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