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Blog AnalysisPSDC crisis management

A military HQ on the 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 Defence)

(BRUSSELS2) The idea of ​​a European Headquarters for the conduct of military operations (OHQ) today seems relegated to the Greek calendar. It may indeed seem like a detail for Europe to have such a centre. But that is not one.

A heavy absence

The lack of a center for the conduct of military operations, permanent EU, weighs, to fill the gap between the Military Committee of the EU and the PSC on the one hand, which set the political and military doctrine of the EU, and the CMPD and the military staff who conceptualise, plan and provide support as needed but do not conduct the operation.

A truly global approach requires two legs: one civilian, the other military.

To have a truly global approach, that is to say civil and military, it is still necessary to have both tools. If for the first (civilian), the EU has almost the whole range, from recruitment to the budget, through planning and management (role devolved to the CPCC, the operations management and planning center civilians), for the second (military), it has only some of the instruments. There is an "on-line" loss of know-how and coherence of political action. The creation of the Ops-Center, a sort of compromise between Member States, without agreement on an OHQ, does not seem to have really changed the situation.

No need to beat around the bush: the British do not want it

The "official" creation of this control center is compromised by the blocking of one country above all: the United Kingdom. And London does not seem ready to change its mind. He sits quietly on a veto that he finds impossible to circumvent. And yet, there are other solutions to circumvent this veto. Of course, this will upset 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 posts to the military, by obtaining a few more posts from volunteer states (in the form of seconded national experts), it is possible to build an OHQ at a lower cost. This is quite possible today with the integrated structure of the Lisbon Treaty. This is now indeed a measure of internal organization of the European diplomatic service (EEAS). This presupposes a will of the High Representative to "pass in force"...

2. Label a new OHQ

Belgium can, for example, request the approval of a new OHQ. However, this seems complex, long and requires a minimum of funding. Is this 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 can be radical: the national OHQ is "relocated" 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" to several OHQs (Weimar+ for example with Paris-Berlin-Rome). And we can then find additional options: Belgium could provide some rooms within the Royal Military School (*).

Similarly, the envelope of the center can be defined either within the existing formulas within the treaty (enhanced cooperation, permanent structure, group of nations, etc.), or ad hoc by a memorandum. In short, we would thus have, at low cost, both a rationalization and use of what already exists, and a permanent control center in Brussels, which could very quickly increase in power.

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 "fusionn" device...

(*) For non-Brussels residents, the ERM adjoins the EU military committee, faces the CSDP crisis management structures 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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