News BlogEU Defense (Doctrine)EEAS High Representative

Will the new director of the European Defense Agency be “One”?…

CF Arnould with Sedivy and Hoop Scheffer (credit: Otan)

If you still have any hope of obtaining a high-level position in the future diplomatic service, scan the next few days and keep your phone line open! EU High Representative Cathy Ashton conducts final job interviews...

For the European Defense Agency, however, the High Representative (HighRep) already seems to have a well-established idea... Promote the current head of the military-civil crisis planning structure (CMPD), Claude-France Arnould. The formal proposal has not yet been made. But it does not arouse general approval among diplomats in Brussels.

Present in Brussels since 2001, CF Arnould has however worked for defense policy since the creation of the ESDP, first within the Defense Directorate of the Council of the European Union then at the head of the new CMPD (1) . She has the advantage of knowing the mysteries of European defense well, both in Brussels and in the capitals. French (2) and a woman in addition (3), she undoubtedly represents a judicious political compromise for the Baroness who can thus appear free from the influence of capitals by appointing “her” candidate, without appearing to submit to France ( who had another candidate). In passing, it allows it to clean up its organizational chart. Relations between the two women are, in fact, not in good shape. This is not common knowledge but it is an open secret. Cathy Ashton does not seem to appreciate, in general, those who were too close to her predecessor, Javier Solana.

teeth grinding

On the part of the Member States, however, this appointment raises eyebrows. However, it is the Ministers of Defense who normally have the last word for the Agency since it is the steering committee of the Agency which decides on a proposal from the HighRep. Main criticism made against CF Arnould: she does not come from the ranks of defense industry directors (there are other candidates from this ranks). And France already occupies certain positions in the strategic field of the defense industry. Thus, on the “other side” at NATO, it is General Abrial who is the head of the “Transformation” Command (SACT) in Norfolk and Patrick Auroy is deputy general secretariat in charge of defense investments). “ It's starting to get a lot of French » explains a diplomat, who is also a rather Francophile. It is also Cathy Ashton's method which seems to be in question. “ When Javier Solana approached a candidate for the European Defense Agency, he informally consulted member states until consensus was reached.. With Cathy Ashton, we are a bit presented with a fait accompli ". Will member states dare to oppose this proposal? We can doubt it.

Other positions in play

Because Cathy Ashton is counting on the other nominations to coax everyone. By preventing each country that has presented a candidate to the Defense Agency from suffering a snub. The Finnish government thus claims to be sure of being able to obtain the position of SitCen (the EU intelligence center) for one of its own (4). The French government has, for the moment, other fish to fry. Between the defense cooperation agreement with the British, the NATO summit, the G20 presidency and the internal reshuffle, there is little room for other Brussels maneuvers, especially since the French ministries have somewhat ridiculed by each presenting a candidate. As for the country of Squadra Azura, which was beginning to despair at not being able to place one of its own in a position of management of the diplomatic service, it could obtain a first success. An Italian (5) should be appointed to the post of coordination of crisis response structures, a newly created position. The problem is, in fact, elsewhere…

Who will lead the CMPD?

It would then remain to replace CF Arnould at the head of the CMPD. And that's another story. One of the candidates often cited in well-informed circles is the Czech Sedivy, former deputy secretary general of NATO, who does not receive unanimity, far from it, and does not seem the best choice from a professional point of view ( weak experience of the EU, of European defense missions, etc.), than politics. The Czech Republic has never been a promoter of the PeSDC, it is even the dunce of the 27 on the subject. “ This is the surest way to deal a blow to European defense and kill the CMPD » summarizes someone close to the case. A point of view which seems to be shared by several specialists. To be continued…

(1) Read: Claude-France Arnould takes the helm of the new civil-military leadership of the EU

(2) According to an unwritten agreement, if the first director of the European Defense Agency was a Briton, the second a German, the third was to go to France (one of the three largest contributors to the defense industry, yesterday, the first today).

(3) The High Representative promised, particularly in the European Parliament, to ensure a gender balance in the appointment to the highest positions. However, diplomacy shines in many countries through an over-representation of men, which sometimes borders on a certain machismo... And the successful candidate is generally well appreciated by European parliamentarians.

(4) Read: Will a Finn take over the SitCen?

(5) Name, biography and comment. Read here

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).