Blog AnalysisMissions Operations

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

(B2) The functioning of the EU mission to support the internal security forces (EUAM Iraq) is now open to questioning

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 learned, incidentally, that the head of mission of EUAM Iraq, Christoph Buik, a German police officer from the Cologne special police, 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 has not returned since.

A spoiled mission

He is not the only one. Of the approximately 60 staff, only 11 remained on site. Following the leader's example, the others have returned and are working remotely (see box 1). The mission is therefore nothing more than 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 UNDP, 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!

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

Let us point out, however, that this in no way prevents our friendly 'high-level' police officer from continuing to receive a comfortable salary, classified as defense confidential (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, to say the least, difficult to assess (internally, we call this type of mission 'swimming pool tennis aperitif' missions) – still brings in 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 ridiculed by the very people who are supposed to implement it. With this in mind, this leads us to reflect and make three proposals.

Save money: eliminate expatriate positions…

First, when there is a crisis, there will no longer be a need to deploy personnel on site. There is much cheaper and faster. A good video link, a factotum and a few dedicated local or expatriate agents to carry messages and take one or two photos. And, presto, that’s it. 'Zero risk' is assured since we do not set foot in a dangerous country.

…remove the CFSP

In fact, we could go further and generalize the 'Buik' method, with 2.0 missions, away from everything, cozy in your slippers. There is no longer even a need for a CSDP civilian mission or even a CFSP budget. All it takes is a few experts at the headquarters of the European diplomatic service in Brussels and an EU delegation on site. We could thus save the EU no less than 350 million euros per year… 🙂

…and extend the concept to military operations

We could even imagine generalizing this process to combat operations, like Barkhane for example. The leader would be quietly installed in Paris, instead of being in Chad or on site. He might make one or two phone calls a day to his troops. And order a drone strike or two if necessary. The virtual and remote-controlled peacekeeping mission, so to speak. A model for the future?

Conclusion: It's time to react

We will have understood it. These ideas taken to the extreme clearly show the ridiculousness of the situation. And the embarrassed explanations of European officials who get bogged down in their comments confirm this. 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 on.

A suicidal policy

Persisting in this attitude, and defending it, amounts concretely to confusing people on the ground (soldiers and diplomats who risk their lives) and those at headquarters (see box 3). This also amounts to undermining any idea of ​​a common security and defense policy. It is a suicidal policy which contradicts all 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 'security provider' as seen by leaders like Emmanuel Macron or 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 EU delegation with a few experts is then more than enough. No need for a CSDP mission. Either, the operation of this mission is taken over with a firm hand. The mission is reoriented. And its frames changed. An investigation by OLAF, the European anti-fraud office, must also be carried out to shed light on what appears, at best, to be a waste of European funds.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


1. Private plane preferable to regular lines

We should also question the method of evacuation chosen by those responsible for the mission in Iraq, at the time of Covid-19, by private plane. With champagne to boot. At the expense of the European taxpayer, of course. This method of evacuation was reserved for missions which no longer had usable regular or international connections (UN, NATO, etc.). This was not the case for Iraq, reliable sources assured us.

2. 'Confidential defense' on embarrassing questions

We questioned on several occasions either the European Commission and the EEAS, or the person concerned himself (who did not deign to respond, leaving the spokesperson's service to respond) on several concrete points, his salary for example, and where he works. Each time, we were met with rejection. 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 the Berlin police headquarters nor in an official building of the European Commission in Berlin... His salary and his distance bonus, " this is confidential information ". Data protection requires…

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

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 on the ground. This is specified in Article 42 of the Treaty: the CSDP aims to “ ensure the Union has an operational capacity based on civil and military means ". In the European architecture of CSDP missions, there is an operation commander, the civil operation commander, based in Brussels, and a head of mission on the ground. This diagram, 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 establishing EUAM Iraq. “ The Head of Mission is responsible for and exercises command and control of EUAM Iraq 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).

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