Blog AnalysisMissions Operations

In slippers, in front of the TV, a new way of managing crises

(B2) The operation of the EU Internal Security Forces Support Mission (EUAM Iraq) ready for questioning today

Our investigation (read: EUAM Iraq, a 40 million mission running on empty, led by slippers from a distance) is uplifting. At first we were quite incredulous. I have to recognize it. It seemed like a big joke to us. But instead of recanting, our internal information was gradually confirmed internally, as well as formally by the European authorities. 

A head of mission for seven months in Germany

We have learned, incidentally, that EUAM Iraq's head of mission, Christoph Buik, a German policeman who came from the special police in Cologne, although experienced in international UN missions in particular (Read: German relay at the head of the EUAM Iraq mission. Berlin intends to keep positions of influence) has been absent subscribers since the end of March. Returned to his home in Germany at the time of the first wave of Covid-19, as part of the repatriation of those judged “ vulnerable he hasn't been back since.

A spoiled mission

He is not the only one. Of the approximately 60 personnel, only 11 remained on site. Following the leader's example, the others have returned and are teleworking (see box 1). The mission is therefore only a shadow of itself.

From a distance, a drink in hand

No problem, we were officially told. The head of mission can very well " perform functions remotely, including participating in virtual meetings with Iraqi partners as well as international partners a European official told B2. He can thus maintain permanent contact with the head of the NATO mission, with the UNDP, the UNAMI (the UN mission in Iraq) and the coalition command against Daesh. Likewise, he is in constant contact with the Head of the EU Delegation », remained on the spot, him, in Baghdad!

The virtual, the future of crisis management

Our head of EUAM Iraq is working, we are assured. The head of mission " can use virtual platforms for cooperation and dialogue with partners ». And " he constantly did so with a very active presence in the meetings of the mission ". That " proves that his duties have been performed adequately in recent months ". And, at the same time, he heals himself. " For several months now, the head of mission has been working, in consultation with medical specialists, to improve his medical condition in order to be able to be redeployed. »

At the expense of the princess

It should be noted, however, that this in no way prevents our amiable 'high-level' policeman from continuing to receive a comfortable emolument, classified as confidential defense (see box 2). Its amount would bring it to the level of the remuneration of the German Chancellor (23.000 euros per month), or even above, we are whispered. And the mission to support the internal security forces - the results of which are difficult to assess to say the least (internally, we call this kind of mission 'pool tennis aperitif' missions) - all the same comes out at nearly 40 million euros, to the European budget... per year! A budget well spent apparently (see box 2).

A new policy is born: completely virtual?

The European idea is thus derided by the very people who are supposed to implement it. In this spirit, this leads us to reflect and make three proposals.

Save money: cut expatriate positions...

First, when there is a crisis, there will no longer be a need to deploy personnel on the spot. There are much cheaper and faster. A good video link, a factotum and a few dedicated local or expatriate agents to convey messages and take one or two photos. And, presto, voila. The 'zero risk' is assured since you do not set foot in a dangerous country.

... abolish the CFSP

In fact, we could go further and generalize the 'Buik' method, with 2.0 missions, away from everything, cushy in slippers. There is no longer even a need for a civilian CSDP mission or even a CFSP budget. It is enough to have a few experts at the headquarters of the European diplomatic service in Brussels and an EU delegation on the spot. This could save the EU no less than 350 million euros per year... 🙂

...and extend the concept to military operations

One could even imagine generalizing this process to combat operations, such as Barkhane for example. The chief would be quietly installed in Paris, instead of being in Chad or on the spot. He could make one or two phone calls a day to his troops. And order a drone strike or two as needed. The virtual and remote-controlled peacekeeping mission in a way. A model for the future?

Conclusion: It's time to react

We will understand. These ideas, taken to the extreme, clearly show the ridiculousness of the situation. And the embarrassed explanations of European officials who get entangled in their remarks confirm it. Fortunately, most of the other CSDP missions and operations (in Georgia, the Central African Republic, the Mediterranean, etc.) do not have such an attitude and have, despite the coronavirus crisis, held their ground.

A suicidal policy

To persist in this attitude, and to defend it, amounts concretely to confusing people in the field (soldiers and diplomats who risk their lives) and those at headquarters (see box 3). It also amounts to undermining any idea of ​​the common security and defense policy. It is a suicidal policy which goes against all the official declarations: of a European 'hard power' defended by the High Representative Josep Borrell or the European Commissioner Thierry Breton; a geopolitical role advocated by the Von der Leyen Commission; of a Europe as a 'security provider' as seen by leaders such as Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.

Measures to be taken in Iraq

The current laxity must end. Either the EUAM mission is closed. Its uselessness has, in fact, been demonstrated over the months. A good head of the EU delegation with a few experts is then more than enough. No need for a CSDP mission. Either, the operation of this mission is resumed with a firm hand. The mission is reoriented. And its frames changed. An investigation by OLAF, the European anti-fraud office, must also be seized to shed light on what appears, at best, to be a waste of European funds.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

1. Private aircraft preferable to regular lines

We should also wonder about the mode of evacuation chosen by those in charge of the mission in Iraq, at the time of Covid-19, by private plane. With champagne at the key. At the expense of the European taxpayer, of course. This mode of evacuation was reserved for missions that no longer had usable regular or international links (UN, NATO, etc.). What was not the case of Iraq assured us of reliable sources.

2. 'Confidential defence' on awkward questions

We questioned either the European Commission and the EEAS on several occasions, or the person concerned himself (who did not deign to answer, leaving the spokesperson's service to answer) on several concrete points, his salary for example, and where he works. Each time, we came up against an end of inadmissibility. Knowing where the person concerned works is a personal question that does not concern the functions of head of mission ". All that seems certain is that he works neither at Berlin police headquarters nor at an official building of the European Commission in Berlin... His salary and distance allowance, " this is confidential information ". Data protection requires...

3. The head of mission in the field, the head of remote operations

The PSDC was not really designed to be a remote intellectual management tool. On the contrary, it allowed the people of Brussels to have legs, eyes and ears in the field. This is specified in Article 42 of the Treaty: the CSDP aims to " provide the Union with an operational capability based on civilian and military resources ". In the European CSDP mission architecture, there is an Operation Commander, the Civilian Operation Commander, based in Brussels, and a Head of Mission in the field. This scheme, quite classic in crisis management, distinguishes the 'political and strategic' level from the 'technical and tactical' level. This is also expressly described in the decision setting up EUAM Iraq. " The Head of Mission is responsible for EUAM Iraq and exercises command and control in the theater of operations (Article 6.2). He " represents EUAM Iraq in its area of ​​competence ».

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).