Tim writes to Helga: I came to tell you that I am leaving… from the CSDP

(B2 – exclusive) This is not the retreat from Dunkirk. But it looks like it. The British tiptoe away from CSDP missions and operations. It's final… from 2021

The British contingent in Somalia already reduced to a bare minimum at the end of 2018 (credit: EUTM Somalia – Archives B2)

The British ambassador in Brussels, Tim Barrow, has just written to Helga Schmid, the secretary general of the EEAS, a short letter to formalize what everyone has been sensing for several weeks: the definitive withdrawal of the British from the CSDP missions. Letter of which B2 was able to become acquainted.

A 'bye bye' in order

Basically, it says: As you know we were able to maintain our participation in CSDP missions/operations during the transition period. I would like to inform you of the withdrawal at the end of the transition period on December 31. We will continue to work closely with the EU and its Member States to minimize this interruption (disruption) and ensure an orderly withdrawal. ».

On tip-toes

That's all. The ambassador goes no further. He can not. Everyone knows that the negotiations on the exit agreement are very delicate today. And that any misstep could start by costing its author his job. Everyone also knows that British participation in future CSDP missions is a very easily resolvable question either by means of a framework agreement for participation (as a good twenty have already been signed), or by simple ad hoc participation . But the time has not yet come.

The association of third countries is moreover the norm today rather than the exception in CSDP missions and operations: from the Turks and Chileans in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Americans in Kosovo, via the Georgians or Canadians in Ukraine, the Serbs in Africa or the Norwegians in Palestine, the examples are not lacking.

A residual presence

In military terms, this decision has little consequence. The bulk of the transfer took place in early 2019, when the Anti-Piracy Operation HQ was transferred from Northwood to Rota (Spain) (read: Operation Atalanta: Rota takes command) and when command changed hands to EUFOR Althea (Read: Brexit obliges, the command of the EUFOR Althea operation will pass to a Frenchman). Today, the British are no longer very numerous in the missions/operations. I spoke about it with several managers. Difficult to take stock, as the workforce is weak. According to our elements, they are some in the training missions in Mali and Somalia (EUTM Mali and EUTM Somalia), some others in the stabilization operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina (EUFOR Althea) and some citizens of His Gracious Majesty still present to EUAM Ukraine and EULEX Kosovo in particular.

A certain anticipation

In most cases, the Europeans have taken the lead and replaced certain strategic positions (for example the intelligence men at EUFOR Althea). The only problem is for the reserve company which is used for the operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although based in the United Kingdom, it will lack the legal framework for its intervention, we are told. Several ideas are currently on the table: a contribution from the Austrians, who are not very far away geographically, or even the use of battle groups. An idea already considered before the Brexit period, but which had been rejected at the time. Overall, on a European scale, this solution is not insurmountable.

I came to tell you…

This letter therefore resonates like an aria from the song by Gainsbourg, recorded at the Phonogram studios in London in 1973, the day after a difficult heart attack for the singer (and the United Kingdom's accession to the EEC). Unlike the original, which featured Jane Birkin crying on the soundtrack, I'm not sure Helga Schmid cried much after reading this widely anticipated breakup letter.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: Brexit. Is the British necessary for European defense?

and on B2 Pro: Sanctions, Defence, Space, the United Kingdom will in fact be more 'exit' than 'in' during the transitional period. Explanations

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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