Bastian Giegerich

Bastian Giegerich
Address: 13-15 Arundel Street
London WC2R 3DX


Informal Directorates and EU Decision-Making: Building or Killing ESDP?

Informal directorates have played a crucial role in advancing the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). This project explored this phenomenon further, asking: what are the costs and benefits of informal directorates? Can they contribute to building an ESDP that is more effective yet still legitimate? The concepts of minilateralism and state socialisation provided the framework for my analysis of informal small-group decision-making within the larger context of European foreign policy and emerging structures of security governance in Europe. Two case studies relating to the development of ESDP, the EU Battle Groups initiative and the creation of the EU Civ/Mil Planning Cell, have been studied in depth. I conducted some 30 semi-structured interviews with policy-makers and analysts in Berlin, Brussels, London, and Vienna. Two research visits of two weeks each to Berlin and Vienna were complemented by short visits to Brussels. The research conducted in this project led to publications in peer reviewed as well as policy journals of international reputation. Whether or not small-group cooperation within the EU’s ESDP is a good or a bad idea depends on how it is done. Unfortunately, the political debate rarely seems to leave time for a nuanced understanding. It is understood in EU member state governments that credibility for ESDP has to be build on the capacity and will to act. In this regard, the UK and France rightly claim that they bring most to the table. This is acknowledged by other member states, including small ones. It is important for smaller member states to feel that they have been consulted voluntarily and that the member states, who initiate policy, even if it is a group consisting of the largest EU states, try to provide for an opportunity for smaller states to contribute. In practice, for ESDP, informal capital-to-capital relations keep the machine alive. Ideas are generated and proposals are expressed on the margins of Brussels-based process. However, the exchange is not systematic. In fact, it is based almost entirely on personal networks build up and maintained by individuals. If an official moves on to other responsibilities the contacts, and hence access, move with that individual. In lights of these realities and based on the case studies conducted in this project, four basic principles suggest themselves as guidance for small-group cooperation that both produces meaningful results and legitimate solutions. 1. Small-group cooperation needs to be informal and not institutionalized. This gives outsiders the possibility to save face. 2. Small-group cooperation should be flexible. This means that size is not the determinant of the group composition. Rather, those states who can contribute will do so. 3. Small-group leadership has to be permeable. This means that the members of the leadership group have to be willing to disseminate information and involve EU institutions. 4. Finally, and despite of the first three principles, the big three seem to be indispensable for small-group leadership in the field of security and defence. France and the UK are needed to lend military muscle and an expeditionary mindset to lend credibility to any EU attempt at global influence in the security realm. The UK furthermore has to reassure the US and other Atlanticist EU members. Germany is indispensable in its role as a bridge builder, both between the UK and France and between small states and large states.








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