AmericasBlog Analysis

So ! A military mission for Haiti or not? explanations

(BRUSSELS2) Will there be a military mission in Haiti? Yes and no one could say. Yes in the sense that there is a development of the EUCO mission – coordination of the EU's military resources (we could speak of EUCO II). No in the sense that there is not really a “new mission”, and even no “mission” at all (in the sense of the PeSDC). In fact, the Commission got a little tangled up in the military issue (or wanted to make a publicity stunt, as the evil tongues say). As summarized very diplomatically, an expert on the file “ the communication from the Commission is a bit muddlede ". Some explanations are in order…

A little “hiccup” in communication. Let’s take a look at the thread of events. Yesterday (Thursday) the news hit the “teletypewriters” (on our emails): the High Representative of the EU is preparing a new military mission for Haiti. As a Reuters report confirms: “ The European Union is preparing to send a military mission to Haiti to provide shelter to victims of the January 12 earthquake before the rainy season, which begins in March, announced Catherine Ashton, the representative of European diplomacy. » (1). Taken aback, a spokesperson for the Commission approached me and told me that, well, that's not quite right... Rebelote, however, a few hours later, another press release from the Commission came out, concerning the aid humanitarian, which states: “ Together with the upcoming EU military
mission aiming to provide shelter this funding will further contribute to alleviating the suffering of the Haitian people
". There is no doubt. Apparently…

Not a mission but an action. In fact, there is no new mission as such. Simply the European coordination of military resources (EUCO), implemented at the end of January (read: The 27 approve the coordination cell (EUCO Haiti)) continues his work. A first list of needs was communicated by the UN at the time. In the meantime, Euco agents went to the site. And a second list of needs has just been established in conjunction with the Haitian authorities and the United Nations (see below). This is not a PeSDC mission in the literal sense but rather an emergency action with military means. You might think we're playing with words. Nope…

Why soldiers? What are the soldiers going to do? in Haiti ? Concretely, the most urgent need is shelter for the population, with the rainy season approaching. We must be able to relocate several hundred thousand people as quickly as possible. To move quickly, only military means can intervene. According to my information, the list of needs, distributed by EUCO Haiti (made yesterday evening) includes: transport needs, materials, earthworks, construction capacities for sanitary means, building engineering. We are still awaiting formal confirmation from the Haitian government.

What is the difference between mission and action? In the first case (mission), there is a decision, developed jointly, legally approved and published in the Official Journal, with rules of engagement and intervention defined in advance (in particular to respond in the event of winning, etc.), capacities and a budget if not common but at least shared. All under an integrated European command: a force commander who has a certain latitude of action (in particular to react in the event of an emergency or self-defense), an operation commander (who in particular gives authorization to apprehend a individual, example pirate in Somalia, or shooting), and lastly, the High Representative of the EU who (in all cases) is informed. In the event of slippage, it is the responsibility of the EU that can be engaged (in the literal sense: budgetarily speaking). In the second case (action), each State comes with its troops, its modus vivendi, its
intervention rules. But simply to avoid a duplication of resources and an “impression” of anarchy, the European Union centralizes everyone's requests and needs and transmits them to everyone. Thus a British or Belgian plane could transport Slovak or Polish relief resources and Spanish or French boats be made available to others. Basically, use strengths intelligently and play as a group rather than divided.

Some comments

On communication. Yesterday, the European Commission was criticized for not communicating enough. Today, we still can't blame him for doing a little too much. In reality, it's simpler, the Commission has a little difficulty understanding the military thing, which is new for it. In itself, this is not serious. But all the same, it would be a question of not repeating the exercise and of being more serious. Because, just as much, we can communicate on GMO authorizations (by manipulating the information a little, distorting it if necessary). As for military matters, it's a little more delicate or a little more dangerous. And you have to be careful with the terms used. At this price, we could find ourselves at war with Costa Rica over a little verbal slip-up…

A new kind of mission: EULOG? If we push the thinking a little further, beyond words (mission, action, etc.), this “action” inaugurates a new mode of operation. Alongside the military missions of the PeSDC, strictly speaking, we will use the military more often than in the past for various support missions — civil security missions, humanitarian aid missions, citizen evacuation missions, etc. This is the very consequence of the integration desired by the Lisbon Treaty where the EU has several areas of intervention (humanitarian, financial, etc. and military). This, without necessarily triggering all the heavy “artillery” of the current mechanism
(decision, IMD, Conops, Oplan, etc.). But by having lighter coordination. It will be necessary to put in place a new operating logic – concept, organization, etc. –, rules of intervention, and choose a communication term more suited to these more “logistical” missions than interposition, training or maintenance. Peace. Why not a logistics operation, EU LOG (like logistics) for short?

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)
(1) The Reuters colleague whom I know well is a serious and experienced person and would never have written this dispatch without confirmation from Catherine Ashton, of whom he is a compatriot.

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).