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  EU Crisis Response Capability: ambition not matched by resources

Brussels, 26 June 2001: The European Union declared its ambition to create a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) ten years ago, with conflict prevention one its main aims. It has only been in the past eighteen months that the EU has begun developing the bodies – including the 50-60,000 soldier Rapid Reaction Force it aims to have ready by 2003 – that are to constitute a genuine crisis response capacity. The conflict in Macedonia is currently providing a useful test of the EU’s new abilities.

In a report published today, “EU Crisis Response Capability: Institutions and Processes for Conflict Prevention Management”, the International Crisis Group offers a detailed “user’s guide” to the rapidly evolving EU crisis response structures. The study also identifies areas where reforms would help ensure that the EU’s performance will match its ambitions.

One issue that needs to be addressed is the heavy imbalance between the resources for international relations in the European Commission and Council: some 4,000 to 5,000 for the former, and only 200 to 300 for Javier Solana, the Secretary General of the Council. ICG President Gareth Evans said “This imbalance tends to give EU conflict prevention thinking a disproportionately heavy focus on economics, human rights and democratisation – to the neglect of more nimble diplomatic measures that seek to significantly alter the political dynamics of an emerging conflict.”

Second, the complex process of developing common EU strategies frustrates timely responses by the Union in the early stages of conflict. ICG urges the EU to respond faster to Solana’s call for new approaches to this process, while recognising that the tension between the desire for a CFSP, and the different views of EU members is still the subject of political debate.

ICG today also publishes a closely related briefing paper on the European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). Subtitled “Crisis Response in the Grey Lane”, its focus is on how ECHO has responded to the “grey lane” dilemmas of whether and how to separate emergency humanitarian assistance from political considerations as well as avoid confusion with longer-term development assistance.

Many in the EU, and in ECHO itself, argue that emergency aid is best delivered if no one questions the motives of the donor so ECHO should be insulated from the more political objectives of EU foreign policy.

ICG agrees that ECHO faces mission creep and will have to fight hard to preserve and improve its core humanitarian functions. Mr Evans says “it should do so, and the EU should support it. An efficient, focused ECHO could set much of the global agenda for humanitarian action by the international community. Nevertheless, reality demands that, at least in the short term, ECHO will need to act in the political ‘grey’ areas while the EU is still creating and testing its new crisis response tools.”


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