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The 27 agree to strengthen the European Defense College

On 27th December the 8 Foreign Ministers approved the strengthening of the European Security and Defense College (CESD). A necessity because this “structure” of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) is only a “college” in name.

In fact, the CESD has no means of its own: it has no premises (the College must beg rooms from the Council of the EU, the European Commission, or the Point Info Europe, to organize its courses); it has no legal personality (therefore no possibility of renting rooms without going, here again, through the intermediary of the Council); and it does not have its own staff (three people from the Council's secretariat provide the College's secretariat, in addition to their other tasks!). The objective is therefore to remedy these drawbacks, without however transforming the College into an autonomous agency. Several Member States – notably the United Kingdom – remain opposed to this solution.

Three key recommendations were thus endorsed by the Ministers:

1) appoint a CESD manager and set up a CESD secretariat of 8 people in all, including the head (7 will be recruited, 1 made available by the Board). Two of the people recruited will be specially responsible for advanced distance training via the Internet and civil crisis management (topics recognized as priorities by the previous decision).

2) adopting its own multiannual operating budget, based on the CFSP line of the Community budget, and after adoption of a Council decision specifying the procedures. The budget would amount to 3,3 million euros for 4 years (with a maximum of 820 euros annually, 000 euros the first year).

3) confer legal personality on the CESD so that it can fulfill its functions, in particular, "recruit the necessary personnel, conclude the contracts or administrative arrangements necessary for its operation, acquire equipment, in particular educational equipment, hold a bank account or sue”.

Finally, the ministers underlined the value of "increased" cooperation with the other existing training centres, in particular the European Police College (CEPOL), the NATO Defense College (in Rome) and the politics and security in Geneva.

Located in Brussels

For the location of the college, several solutions were mentioned, all in Brussels. Belgium therefore offered to make available the “Quartier Panquin”, one of the Belgian barracks located in Tervuren, near Brussels. The advantage would be to have a 100-seat auditorium. The other solution would consist of occupying the premises of the general secretariat of the Western European Union (WEU) in Brussels. The Council secretariat also raised the possibility of housing the College within it. But the question of classrooms would then remain raised.

First assessment

Created by a joint EU action in July 2005, the European Security and Defense College aims to "develop and promote a common understanding of the ESDP among civilian and military personnel, to identify and disseminate , best practices, and to strengthen the European security culture within the ESDP.

Since its creation, it has trained 1133 participants, the majority from Member States, with an average of 33 participants per course. States are now very demanding of training. And the college cannot cope with all the multiple enrollment requests.

In December 2007, the annual report pointed to a list of dysfunctions within the College and proposed various reforms. However, member states were not prepared to put in place additional budgets and recruitments, nor to appoint a leader. The common action had been modified in June 2008, nevertheless including the “legal capacity” of the college and defining new training missions.


(article published in Europolitics)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).