Blog AnalysisMissions Operations

CSDP military missions continue, but at low speed (v3)

(B2 – exclusive) Most EU training missions have ceased all activity, according to our information, due to the coronavirus epidemic. The situation is monitored on a daily basis in Brussels to avoid any cessation of activity

The graduation ceremony for the Central African forces at Camp Kassai on March 20 is marked by weak social distancing, below WHO standards (1,50 m) (credit: EUTM RCA)

Despite all the measures taken (see box), CSDP military missions and operations are impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

A limited impact in terms of health

Four cases are now recorded: two in Bosnia-Herzegovina (operation EUFOR Althea) and another at maritime level in the flagship commanding the EUNAVFOR Atalanta fleet in the Indian Ocean, to which was added a soldier who tested positive for EUTM Mali. Of the " isolated cases », We are assured, which were quickly identified. In the first two operations, the sick were evacuated and repatriated to their country of origin. In Mali, the “ patient was quarantined under medical supervision » specifies the communications officer. While staff members in contact with these colleagues have been “ isolated as a precaution ". The health impact is (for the moment) limited: more of 1 in 1000, out of a total number of approximately 3000 soldiers. But counting the personnel in contact, it starts to add up to a lot. And this is reflected in the activities.

Two fully operational missions

At the operational level, only two operations remain fully active: the naval anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean (EUNAVFOR Atalanta) and the stabilization operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina (EUFOR Althea). “ They maintain a strong level of operational capacity, and we can say that they are 100% active », replied the High Representative of the Union, Josep Borrell, to B2 after the meeting of Defense Ministers on Monday (6 April). The EUNAVFOR Med Irini operation in the Mediterranean has not really started.

Stop training in the Central African Republic…

At the level of EUTM-type training missions, the result is quite different. The number of formations was reduced due to constraints imposed by host countries » Josep Borrell told us. In the Central African Republic, in particular, European soldiers have been confined until further notice. The Central African Minister of Defense has decided to stop all training, a decision taken for all military academies (1). In all cases, precautionary measures, such as social distancing, prevent any training, a soldier tells us.

…in Mali (and Somalia)

Same in Mali. " For several weeks now, EUTM Mali has been implementing a series of careful isolation measures”, thus asserts a communicated of the mission. " In coordination with the Malian Armed Forces and in communication with medical authorities, all training activities have been temporarily suspended as of last week.. "Precautionary measure" temporary and necessary ", to ensure as well " the security of FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) personnel, local Malians and EUTM Mali personnel ».

A (small) consulting activity still maintained

The missions, however, maintain " as much as possible other activities, such as consultancy activities », clarified to B2 Josep Borrell. They " are even expanding, in order to show how to deal with the pandemic, using the experience we have acquired on this ».

Civilian missions in reduced mode

As for the civilian missions of the CSDP, they have also been forced to reduce their level of activities. Thus in Niger, most of the activities of the internal security capacity support mission (EUCAP Sahel Niger) have also been stopped. 49 international experts were repatriated to Europe, only 30 international experts and 60 national employees remain on the ground.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


Measures to contain the spread of the virus

The missions and operations took rapid measures to mitigate risks and fight the coronavirus pandemic. they remain extremely vigilant », We indicate from the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS). Protocols have been put in place to identify, isolate and test suspected patients as well as to control entries and exits. A plan to combat epidemics has been established. Non-essential visits and meetings, as well as leisure activities outside the camps, have been canceled. Daily staff checks are carried out and quarantine regulations and facilities are in place.


  1. In a difficult context where Europeans and Russians are competing on FACA training (Also read: The Russians are training the Central African army instead of the Europeans)

Update on the situation in the Central African Republic (v2) and in Mali (v3)

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).