An Article Review: Financing CSDP Operations


In the latest issue of the excellent journal European Security figures a fascinating and important study looking at the financing of EU civilian and military CSDP operations. The article by Fabien Terpan, titled Financing Common Security and Defense Policy Operations: Explaining change and inertia in a fragmented and flexible structure (here is the link to the article), takes a look at the complex financing structure of CSDP operations.

The Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) was launched in 1998, known until the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon as the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), following a bilateral meeting between President Chirac of France and Prime Minister Blair of Britain in Saint-Malo. Since the 1998, the CSDP has evolved into an active, but to some degree inefficient, instrument considering its initial hopes and objectives. The construction of the CSDP can be divided into three periods: first, 1998-2003: institutionalization process; 2003-2008: utilization and deployment of the CSDP on the ground; 2008-today: dismay and sidelining by powerful EU Member States.

Source: UE ISS. 2014. "#CSDPbasics leaflet." September 26: 5
Source: UE ISS. 2014. “#CSDPbasics leaflet.” September 26: 6

Prior to the 2013 December Defense Summit, the EU produced a video presenting the CSDP, what it does and how it works.

Back to Terpan’s article, the financing of the CSDP is quite complex. First of all, the EU has two types of CSDP operations: civilian and military. Since 2003, the year of the first deployment of a CSDP mission, civilian CSDP operations have been more numerous than military (20 civilian to 9 military). There are numerous rationales behind such ratio, one of them being the financing structure directly affecting the political motives of the EU Member States. Military operations are financed by individual Member State, and by the Athena mechanism, an intergovernmental fund. The mechanism was created in 2004 in order to cover the common costs of operations such as transports, infrastructures, medical services, lodging and fuel. It covers on average 10 to 15% of the overall cost of an operation. While, civilian operations fall under the “supranational collective mean,” meaning the EU budget (Terpan, 2014: 2). The following chart below produced by Terpan in his article summarizes extremely well the financing rules and structure of CSDP operations:

Terpan, F. 2014. Financing CSDP operations. European Security 23(DOI): 3.
Terpan, F. 2014. Financing CSDP operations. European Security 23(DOI): 3.

Fabien Terpan argues that financing CSDP operations can be “fragmented and flexible” (p. 2). In terms of fragmentation of the budget, Terpan claims that it can be vertical and horizontal:

  • vertical fragmentation implies that EU Member States are not obliged to participate in CSDP operations. Historically, not all 28 Member States have participated in one common CSDP mission.
  • horizontal fragmentation means that there are several mechanisms in place in order to finance an operation, based on its nature and objectives.

The author lays out four possible scenarios in order to address the question of CSDP financing in the future:

  1. a budgetization of CSDP operations, meaning having some type of military budget at the EU level;
  2. strengthening the Athena mechanism, increasing the costs covered by the Athena mechanism;
  3. mainstreaming Athena, financing all civilian and military operations under the Athena mechanism;
  4. status-quo.

At the end of the day, the cost of the CSDP for the Union is very minimal as only 0.16% of the overall EU expenditure for 2013 was dedicated to the “EU as a global partner,” compared to the 5.9% spent on the Administration. This number reflects only a dimension of the EU foreign and security policy, but it nevertheless gives a clear indication of the importance of such policy to the Union and its Member States. As demonstrated in the map below produced by the European Union Institute for Security Studies, the CSDP has been active in Africa, Europe, Middle East and even Asia.

Source: EU ISS. 2014. "#CSDPbasics leaflet." September 26: 5.
Source: EU ISS. 2014. “#CSDPbasics leaflet.” September 26: 5.

Terpan’s article reflects very well on the different forces involved in financing CSDP operations: supranational versus intergovernmental. Greater coherence in financing CSDP missions would in some degree lead to higher degree of coordination at the EU level. Member States have been keen in safeguarding the last dimensions of their sovereignty: fiscal and defense policies. Terpan clearly underscores throughout his article the dilemma faced by EU Member States in financing and utilizing the CSDP.

France has been one of the most obvious illustrations of this dilemma, as it has gone alone since 2011. His military adventures in Mali, Central African Republic, and now the Sahel region have been followed by CSDP operations (civilian and military missions). Since the Eurozone crisis, it seems that the CSDP is perceived as a luxury product by most EU-28 once accepted during the golden period of economic growth. Globally active EU Member States have rather decided to go alone or with the US when it matters to their interests than utilizing the CSDP. In this post-crisis era the CSDP has only been utilized and deployed once the threat had been removed or simply once the situation on the ground is not of importance to the original initiator. The CSDP has become more of a filling-the-holes type of instrument, than an instrument for security promotion and enforcement. Terpan’s argument is extremely relevant to the discussion on the future of the CSDP and the Member States’ commitments to this policy. Incredibly enough, EU Member States have since 2007 been obsessed with the Pooling & Sharing (P&S) at the EU level in order share the burden of defense spending, while deepening cooperation. But Terpan’s article shows a different story as he, indirectly, demonstrates the emptiness of Member States’ commitment to either the P&S or the CSDP.

(Copyright 2014 by Politipond. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission).

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