Blog AnalysisPSDC crisis management

[Analysis] A military HQ for cheap, it’s possible

HQ BeteraMinisterBono@Esp050128
Can we really do without a HQ if we want a common European security and defense policy? (credit: Spanish Ministry of Defense)

(BRUSSELS2) The idea of ​​a European Headquarters for the conduct of military operations (OHQ) today appears to be relegated to indefinite period. It may indeed seem like a small detail for Europe to have such a center. But that is not one of them.

A heavy absence

The lack of a permanent EU center for conducting military operations weighs on filling the void between the EU Military Committee and the COPS on the one hand, which set the political and military doctrine of the EU. EU, and the CMPD and the military staff who conceptualize and plan provide support if necessary but do not lead the operation.

A truly comprehensive approach requires two feet: one civilian, the other military.

To have a truly global approach, that is to say civil and military, we still need to have both tools. If for the first (civilian), the EU has almost the entire range, from recruitment to the budget, including planning and conduct (role assigned to the CPCC, the operations conduct and planning center civil), for the second (military), it only has part of the instruments. There is an “online” loss of know-how and coherence of political action. The creation of the Ops-Center, a sort of compromise between Member States requiring agreement on an OHQ, does not seem to have really changed the situation.

No need to beat around the bush: the British don't want it

The “official” creation of this control center is compromised by the blockage of one country in particular: the United Kingdom. And London does not seem ready to change its mind. He sits quietly on a veto that seems impossible to circumvent. And yet, there are other solutions to circumvent this veto. Of course, this will annoy our British friends a little… But hey!

Two or three solutions are possible

1. Reorganize crisis management structures

By redeploying certain so-called operations management positions to the military, by obtaining a few more positions from volunteer States (in the form of seconded national experts), we can build an OHQ at a lower cost. This is entirely possible today with the integrated structure of the Lisbon Treaty. This is now in fact an internal organizational measure of the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS). This assumes a desire on the part of the High Representative to “go through force”…

2. Label a new OHQ

Belgium can, for example, request approval of a new OHQ. However, this seems complex, time-consuming and requires a minimum of funding. Is now the right time? Is the Belgian Ministry of Defense ready for this commitment? Both questions are asked.

3. Use an existing OHQ by relocating it

In an easier, more “pragmatic” way, you can use one or more of the approved OHQs, Mont-Valérien (France), Potsdam (Germany) or even Rome (Italy) or (Greece). The solution could be radical: the national OHQ “relocates” to Brussels. It can also be more flexible: a national OHQ opens a national branch in Brussels. We can also develop a compromise solution: a “common antenna” for several OHQs — Weimar+ for example with Paris-Berlin-Rome). And we can then find additional options: Belgium could make available a few rooms within the Royal Military School (*).

Likewise, the envelope of the center can be defined either within the existing formulas within the treaty (reinforced cooperation, permanent structured, group of nations, etc.), or in an ad hoc manner by a memorandum. In short, we would thus have, for cheap, both rationalization and use of what already exists, and a permanent control center in Brussels, which could very quickly ramp up.

Le momentum could be interesting. After the European Council in December, two presidencies will take turns in 2014, the Greek and the Italian, which are struggling with budgetary problems but “theoretically” have a national OHQ. This could be an opportunity for them to test the “fusion” system…

(*) For non-Brussels, the ERM is adjacent to the EU military committee, faces the crisis management structures of the CSDP and is 150 meters from the EEAS!

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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).

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