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Hervé Morin relaunches the battle for the European operations headquarters

Hervé Morin facing journalists in Marseille (© NGV / Bruxelles2)

(BRUSSELS2) (In Marseilles) Speaking at the end of the Defense summer universities, then in front of the journalists, the French Minister, Hervé Morin, acknowledged that the construction of European defense was a bit broken down. “With the economic crisis, the establishment of new structures, the dynamics of the ESDP lost momentum. And I'm not sure — he added — that Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) can solve this problem. The CSP must be a real commitment to move forward, and not membership in a club without really putting in the means to move forward. »

Despite this pessimistic observation, the Minister is determined to relaunch the offensive, particularly at the European headquarters. " At the meeting of Defense Ministers in Ghent, I would again plead for the EU to finally put itself in battle order. This order of battle begins for the French minister with two main subjects: a council of defense ministers proper — and not joint meetings with the ministers of foreign affairs — and a center for planning and conducting operations ».

Me Ashton didn't listen...

On this subject, Hervé Morin could not help but point the finger at the High Representative. " At first, she was not convinced (1). But after Haiti, when she came to the Hotel de Brienne (headquarters of the French Ministry of Defence) (2) Me Ashton told me that she had understood the interest of a permanent command and planning structure. Since then there have been floods in Pakistan, in particular. And there…” the EU was the silent extra in a film of which it and its Member States largely contributed to the production, European aid representing 50% of the total effort. »

In front of the journalists, the Minister clarified his thoughts " Mr. Ashton must now take this matter in hand. We need a permanent structure. Quite simply because it is consistent with what we already do. We have GT1500s (battlegroup), which can be deployed within 10 days. How do you do it without a permanent HQ? " In the Minister's idea, this permanent HQ would be the start of the operation HQ, " for Europe to be able to react quickly ", quits " to complete this structure later ».

A Europe in the process of swisserization

More generally, the Minister pleaded for a little more European ambition. " The absence of European ambition and the dramatic reduction in European budgets are particularly worrying. I sometimes wonder if Europe is not becoming a Switzerland without prosperity and without the will to influence world affairs.."

Comment: an internal organizational measure

On this subject, the Treaty of Lisbon has changed the game, in my opinion. Where before, unanimity was required because the structure of the General Staff was under the hierarchical direction of the Council; today, an internal organizational measure could make it possible to go from a simple monitoring and planning unit to a permanent staff. It suffices that the High Representative, as a hierarchical authority, decides to create the “conduct of operations” module alongside that of the “planning” module which already exists. It will be a bit of a forceps. And it will take a bit of audacity or tact to support a few unwelcome comments in European cottages. But it's possible, in my opinion. The essence of the difficulty is therefore no longer legal but financial. How to find the necessary additional human resources. Nothing would then prevent volunteer States from sending, in the form of seconded national experts (END), the necessary manpower. A command HQ does not require – except during the conduct of operations – such a large mass of personnel. And a few ENDs in around ten Member States would suffice to constitute the first necessary embryo.

NB: in defense of the Baroness, we can however estimate that there is a little confusion in Hervé Morin's plea. When he cites Haiti or Pakistan, we are more in situations of crisis management, type "civil protection", a file of which Commissioner Georgieva is seized. While the Operations HQ is aimed at military operations. Unless Hervé Morin is campaigning for a large crisis management HQ (bringing together both military operations and civil protection missions

Read :
(1) The very British vision of Catherine Ashton on European defense
(2) Cathy goes to Paris to patch things up with Hervé, among friends

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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).