Department of Political Studies - University of Catania

Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics

Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics

Florian Güssgen

European University Institute, Florence

Of Swiss Army Knives and Diplomacy. A Review of the Union's Diplomatic Capabilities

April 2001 - JMWP n° 33


April 2001 - JMWP n° 33.00


The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) has revitalised the European Union’s attempts to establish a veritable Common Foreign and Security Policy. It necessitates a re-appraisal of the Union’s foreign policy capabilities. An analysis should be conducted in respect to military capabilities, diplomatic capabilities, and legitimacy. This working paper merely explores to what extent ESDP enhances the Union’s diplomatic capacity to plan cohesive, sustainable and effective foreign policies. I focus on the performance of three elements of the European foreign policy-making system: The High Representative for the CFSP, the Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit, and the Political and Security Committee (COPS). I show that each element has developed in a manner which – despite inherent limitations – increases the Union’s foreign policy-planning ability. As a disclaimer it should be added that the working paper is neither conceptual nor theoretical in nature.


The European Union has decided to strengthen its capacities to act in crisis situations. Within the last two years a framework of institutions, capabilities and procedures has been elaborated which is to enable the EU to act in situations falling within the range of the Petersberg tasks. This framework has been baptised the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). It comprises capacities in military crisis management, civilian crisis management (policing et al.) and conflict prevention. Despite looming uncertainties about the final configuration of the Union’s military capability the Union extends the range of situations in which it will be able to act. Simultaneously, the external perception of ESDP is likely to enhance the credibility of the Union’s foreign policy. However, the scope of actions remains strictly limited – by dependence upon NATO, by dependence upon member states’ case-by-case consent, and by a decision-making procedure which remains faithful to intergovernmentalism. The Union is not in the business of reconverting ploughshares into swords. It acquires a Swiss-army-knife, useful for a wide range of small problems, but of little help in cases of full-scale operation.

In this article, I do not discuss the configuration of the new crisis management capabilities. I am interested in the indirect impact of the ESDP construction process on the EU’s capacity to formulate foreign policies. Foreign policy tools need to follow political direction, need to part of a case-specific foreign policy program comprising goals and strategies. The lack of political cohesion of European foreign policies has been an in-built and thoroughly promulgated problem. It has been due to EPC’s and CFSP’s intergovernmental de facto consensus-based decision-making procedure and the lack of a European foreign policy administration resembling a national foreign affairs ministry. Both deficiencies have hampered effective European foreign policy planning. Here, I do not focus on decision-making but on the bureaucratic-diplomatic conditions of foreign policy planning before and "after" ESDP. Planning is considered a bureaucratic process of drafting proposals, built upon the recourse to a joint pool of information and a joint mechanism of interpretation. These tasks are subsumed under the heading "diplomatic capability". In the past, the "missing link" between member states and the European Union has been the absence of a European foreign service. In an ideal world a European foreign service would be tasked with permanently co-ordinating member states ambitions and pooling the diplomatic information – country reports, intelligence – emanating automatically from the capitals. It would be responsible for the formulation of European policy proposals to be fed into the decision-making process among the 15. Externally, a European foreign service would represent the Union primarily in political dialogue and negotiations. Which effects has the ESDP construction process – as an "independent variable" entailed for the making of a European diplomacy? In the following sections, I am reviewing the performance of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the day-to-day practice of the Policy Unit, and the role of the Political and Security Committee. The "dependent" variable is their joint ability to produce cohesive and sustainable European foreign policy programs. In sum, I find that the spin-offs ESDP entails for the functioning of the Union’s hitherto paralysed diplomatic framework are considerable. ESDP has strengthened the position of the High Representative, the Policy Unit is likely to reap benefits in terms of inclusion into formalised information flows through the establishment of a military unit in the Council’s General Secretariat, and the COPS may serve as "socialiser." The construction of the ESDP tools itself might, on closer scrutiny, not imply a veritable "revolution" in the European foreign policy making process. The configuration of the institutional set-up, however, does.

As a disclaimer, it should be noted that that this article is neither conceptual nor theoretical in nature. The prevalent debates on diplomacy and the Europeanisation of foreign services have been eclipsed. Instead I offer a dense empirical picture allowing for subsequent conceptual analysis.

The Making of a European Diplomacy?

The EPC/CFSP system up to the Treaty of Amsterdam has represented an ever tighter web of inter-bureaucratic diplomatic activity without a co-ordinating agency comparable to a domestic foreign affairs ministry. From the early days of EPC onwards, member states have called upon themselves to ensure permanent consultation and information sharing among each other. In practice the channels of passing on the diplomatic raw material information remained - aside from the low-level COREU system - eclectic, without any automatism. Administrative support has initially been granted by a small EPC Secretariat, which was then moved to Brussels and finally integrated into the single institutional structure. Planning was characterised by up-stream forwarding of proposals from the working groups to the Political Committee (PoCo) and then to the Council. In practice, this system has watered-down the substance of the policy proposals. The diplomatic system has been characterised by an inherent contradiction: While national diplomats were protagonists in shaping the EPC/CFSP, they would not allow for a European service to emerge. As a high-ranking official from the Council’s General Secretariat explained: "National foreign services have functioned as principal actors, not as resources of a European diplomacy." Otto von der Gablentz, on a more conceptual level, has highlighted this "diplomatic paradox" in 1978 already. He wondered, "How can a genuine instrument of the nation state [diplomacy] serve as an instrument for overcoming the nation-state?" (von der Gablentz 1978, 90)

Has the paradox been overcome by ESDP? Have national foreign ministries established routines merging their services with European institutions, that is have they opened their "gates" more than this has been the case beforehand? Or have the consequences of the paradox been ameliorated in any other way?

Amsterdam & ESDP: Strengthening the Executive

On paper, Amsterdam has strengthened the executive element of the European foreign policy making system. It has modified the institutional set-up. A High Representative for the CFSP would be tasked with assisting the Council by contributing to the "formulation, preparation, and implementation of decisions." On request of the Presidency he would "act on behalf of the Council in conducting political dialogue with third parties." Under the authority of the High Representative a Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit (PPEWU) was to be established in the Council’s General Secretariat. "Joint analysis of international issues and their impact, and pooling of information should help the Union produce effective reactions to international developments." (Commission Fact Sheet on Amsterdam Treaty). The implementation of the Amsterdam arrangements cannot be separated from the ESDP process. When the treaty went into force on 1 April 1999, only days after the war in Kosovo had broken out, the High Representative had not been appointed yet. The Policy Unit did not exist. At the Cologne European Council in June 1999 they were then baptised in the political spirit of ESDP. Upon arrival in Brussels in October 1999, Solana’s and the Policy Unit’s working environment has been defined by imminent institutional innovations for the sake of ameliorating the EU crisis management capacity: The establishment of the Political and Security Committee (COPS), the establishment of a Military Committee and a Military Staff in the General Secretariat, and the Situation Center (SitCen). The institutional structure which characterises the EU foreign policy making system "after" ESDP has been depicted below.

Illustration 1: The Institutional Set-Up

The High Representative

The war in Kosovo has triggered determination among heads of state to construct a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). "There is now a serious commitment to presenting a single political will to the rest of the world, a commitment to match Europe’s economic power with political influence. This is the enormous change which we have witnessed in Europe over the last year." (Berlin, 14.11.2000). Javier Solana, the author of these lines, himself serves as personified evidence of this "new political will". In Cologne he was appointed to the position of the High Representative. In his first year Javier Solana has succeeded in creating an executive power point within the European foreign policy-making system. His success has been due to his visibility and accountability as "Mr. ESDP". His political clout should allow Solana to serve as an advocate of genuinely European foreign policy proposals.

A tight itinerary bears proof of Solana’s extensive efforts to ensure EU representation on the international stage. During his first year he has visited more than 16 ministerial summits. He has travelled to 40 countries and he has given numerous speeches on behalf of the Union - even to the UN Security Council (Solana, Stockholm Speech). As an EU-envoy he has participated in the ad-hoc Middle East Peace Negotiations in Sharm-el-Sheikh where, alongside UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, he allegedly played an important mediating role. In the follow-up to Sharm-el-Sheikh he has been appointed to the Mitchell-Commission investigating into the killings in Israel, the Gaza strip, and the West Bank. Mission accomplished? As pertains to sheer visibility, certainly yes. Laurent Zechini wrote in Le Monde: "Au moins, dans un premier temps, le rôle de Javier Solana était de donner un visage et un nom, bref une visibilité, à la diplomatie européenne, et cette mission-là a été accomplie." But external visibility in itself is not necessarily an asset in the EU’s internal policy-formulation process. In the structurally fluid system, Solana’s impact depends upon the elusive yet decisive criterion "political standing". And quite firmly he stands. Subtle and not-so-subtle disagreements with Presidencies have not erupted in open conflict which could have damaged his position. His conciliatory leadership style has served him well in steering clear from troubled waters. A negative perception on the part of the the member states has been avoided. In contrast, the positive perception of the High Representative – and his political weight – draws from his proactive role in the ESDP process. ESDP’s high-flying ambitions have required a central agency accompanying the construction process. Solana, given his previous position as Secretary General of NATO, has been selected for this purpose. Factually modifying the Amsterdam provisions, his job description changed from "assisting the Presidency" to "steering ESDP" pushed forward by the new Political and Security Committee (COPS). Equally, ESDP required international and external representation and explanation. As a consequence, the High Representative has served as the prime political interlocutor – for think tanks, member states’ governments and third countries. A diplomat from a Mediterranean state, for example, highlighted the external identification of ESDP with Solana: "We were very worried about the EU’s intention with ESDP. When Solana explained the ESDP’s goals at the Marseille EuroMed conference in November [2000], he succeeded in reducing these worries." In the European public Solana is equally held accountable for ESDP. The contentious issue of "transparency" serves as a point in case. When the Council successively adopted measures for the classification of documents and then for the restriction of public access to these document, it has been Solana who had to take the heat - from the media and the European Parliament. He has been held politically responsible, although formally he is not. Accountability translates into political clout. A first sign of the institutionalisation of the weight of the HR has been manifested in the Presidency’s report on ESDP adopted at the Nice European Council. In times of crisis, Solana will serve as chairman of the COPS. The COPS is not a decision-making body, but is likely to turn into the central steering committee for preparing the Council’s decisions.

Mission accomplished? The equation that has been at work is quite simple: Member states consider ESDP an important project. Solana is Mr. ESDP. Therefore, Solana is important. Javier Solana has thus seized the opportunity of increasing his political weight through ESDP. He has carved out a power position which should allow him to successfully insert policy proposals in the decision-making process.He is the EU’s first "chief diplomat" – even if he is a diplomat without a state and a full-fledged administration, and his 15 big brothers watch him suspiciously. The next section examines the work of the policy unit. It is the unit charged with supplying Solana with high-quality proposals to feed into the decision-making process.

The Policy Unit

In an ideal world, the policy unit delivers high-quality European policy proposals to the High Representative and the COPS. The proposals have a "European" quality because they have been drafted by a unit distinct from but yet attached to the national administrations. At the same time, the proposals have been elaborated in a process involving continuous up-dating of information on the subject concerned. Equally a constant exchange on the member states’ positions has been ensured. Because it is mainly staffed with diplomats seconded from the member states, the Policy Unit has an unique permeable national/European diplomatic structure. The permanent flow of information between Brussels and the member states’ capitals is ensured. Due to these characteristics, the proposals have a high chance of being adopted. Substantially, they are more outcome-oriented than the results of the previous EPC/CFSP system. Aside from long-term and middle-term policy programs the Policy Unit the SG/HR and the COPS with briefings on current events. The "Situation Centre"/Crisis Cell (SitCen) functions as working platform, staffed with diplomats and military experts. It serves as contact point for news agencies, for the Commission’s external delegations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and member states. In an ideal world, the policy unit profits from the ESDP provisions. Its diplomats are included in an circuit of security measures necessary for the future reception of military intelligence in the SitCen. The first step has been the introduction of a new classification of documents, the second one has been the limitation of public access to these documents, a third one has been the screening of personnel. Finally, the Situation Centre is to physically move away from the Justus-Lipsius-Building to a new building in Rue Cortenberg, which is to be certified "secure". So much for the ideal world.

Illustration 2 : Situation Centre/Crisis Cell



The Practice

Organisationally, the unit has been subdivided into seven "task-forces" which cover geographic and thematic issues. Each Head of Task Force is supported by two or three official. This is not a fixed structure. Depending upon current events and work load, assignments may be shifted. An organigram, dating from July 2000, has been reproduced below.


Illustration 3: Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit

Date: 1 July 2000

The day-to-day practice of information sharing is "state-dependent". The most important states in the process are the UK, France, Germany, and Italy: They dispose of the largest networks of diplomatic and intelligence services. British and French telegrams are most useful – for very practical reasons: English and French are the de facto working languages in the Council’s General Secretariat. Telegrams in any other languages require translation. The unit disposes neither of the time nor the manpower to ensure translations from any of the nine additional community languages into English or French. What kind of attitude have the large member states been credited with when it comes to sharing their "state secrets"? While the UK and Germany have been said to pursue a rather open – although not formalised - information policy, France has been seen as hesitant. A German diplomat said: "We are passing on information to our contact person in the policy unit. But, quite frankly, we do not want to know exactly what happens with it. This is up to the discretion of our representative therein." A diplomat on the receiving end explained: "I am receiving information from the permanent representation - even from the intelligence service - on a regular basis. This information is not free-floating though. I am passing it on to the colleague concerned to have him read it and then return or detroy it." The UK appears to pursue a rather pragmatic approach in terms of passing on telegrams. Where it appears useful or advantageous, the foreign office supports the practice of information sharing. An official describes the rationale: "It should not be forgotten: If we pass on telegrams we might be able to influence policy at an early stage." France, on the other hand, seems more cautious with mingling her "state secrets" with the European Union. As a member of the policy unit put it carefully: "Member states provide the unit very selectively with information, depending upon their conception of Europe [Italics added, F.G.]." A French diplomat explained France’s hesitation from a practical point of view: " France is willing to share information with the other member states. With cables – from missions abroad - this is no problem. It is only getting more difficult when technical issues come into play, most importantly the issue of classification. The missions often classify information as confidential, even if you can read it in the newspapers. Then it becomes more difficult to share the information with the 15. There are limits of course. Intelligence information will be very difficult, and I don’t think that there will be enough security in the near future to really share it among the 15. In crisis situations, other channels exist."

If "push comes to shove", the Council Secretariat and even the 15 are not likely to be included into the exclusive circle of information recipients. At least for the time being. The system then follows a "directoire" logic. The club comprises the "serious people", the "Gens Serieuses" as a former German diplomat termed it: the UK, France, may be Germany and may be may be Italy. One level below, there is an informal directoire system including the Council Secretariat: France, Germany, the UK and Italy - each of these states have senior level diplomats positioned throughout the Secretariat. These senior level "gate keepers" may, upon receiving data from their ministries of origin, pass them to the SG/HR. However, these national anchoring points are not tied into a clearly discernible structure. It is only on the third level that the policy unit comes in - as a sort of "information sharing experiment with 15".

The unit has presented well-received reports and briefings on the Balkans, the recent hot spot of European foreign policy. Equally, reports on the Great Lakes and on conflict prevention have been prepared. At several occasions the head of the unit has briefed the COPS. Topics have included the situation in Moldavia, the Caucasus and Belorussia. The unit has been involved in the drafting of several reports presented by the SG/HR either to the GAC or to the European Council. The decisive criterion for the successful reception of the unit’s proposals appears to be their quality - which is credited with great variation.

For the time being, the SitCen has served more as a symbol of the Union’s ambition to re-act swiftly to international events than as a functioning crisis centre. Physically, it resembles a calm news-room - with television-sets running CNN and computers linked to major news agencies. The SitCen produces daily summaries of the most important COREU telegrams and forwards information on the focal points of EU foreign policy, namely the Balkans or the Middle East. The SitCen has gained some prominence when elections were held in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in November 2000. It was then that the EU demonstrated a hitherto unknown immediacy. The SG/HR kept himself informed throughout election night in the SitCen and then was one of the first politicians to comment on the results in the morning.

The policy unit consists of some 20 diplomats tasked with a plethora of duties? Much ado about nothing or a veritable operational improvement in the chain of European foreign policy-making? In my view, the Policy Unit represents the most innovative element of the Amsterdam/ESDP set-up. Both in theory and in practice it opens up the opportunity of integrating the national foreign affairs ministries in a permanent flow of communication – even if the current practice is still characterised by difficulties. It has the potential to develop into an impartial advocate of an European approach to specific cases. Other than any previous concept, the policy unit is an experiment in using national diplomatic administrations as resources, not as "principal agents" while at the same time involving them through its diplomatic staff seconded from the member states. Naturally, in order to be successful, this approach requires time: security measures need to be implemented, tested and trust needs to be earned. Somewhat counter-intuitively, however, the main threats/challenges the unit is encountering do not originate from the lack of trust of member states. Its main problems are bureaucratic in nature. The first source of bureaucratic tension stems from a home grown rivalry between the Policy Unit and DG E within the General Secretariat. In theory, the division of labour is quite clear-cut: DG E is primarily supporting the Presidency and the working groups, while policy formulation via the SG/HR is entrusted upon the policy unit. In practice, DG E has been there first and it is hesitant to surrender the more political task of policy formulation. Some staff in the Council’s General Secretariat claims, that DG E’s proximity to member states in the working groups enables the unit to contribute more effectively to a successful policy formulation. The policy unit would be included in DG E’s structures. The policy unit, on the other hand, highlights its diplomatic expertise and the importance of differentiating the functions of "supporting" the working groups and drafting policy. An official from the policy unit said: "We [the policy unit, F.G.] are there in order to contribute our own work. DGE is there in order to support the Presidency. In addition, 90% of the DGE’s staff are no diplomats." While the tension between the Policy Unit and DG E has manifested itself as rivalry-in-practice already, the second source of tension hitherto is only theoretical in nature: The unit’s collaboration with the military staff not only opens up a chance for the policy unit. It also establishes a new threat. Granted: The combination of diplomatic and military expertise on one working platform (the SitCen) is a unique and promising experiment resembling the merger of a national foreign ministry with a defence ministry. There are two problems conceivable, however: culture and quantity. The policy unit consists of diplomats, people trained to analyse political situations, to talk and to present. Military culture is based upon other ideals, mainly to "get things done". It is technical, not political, in nature. Thus, the Situation Centre is a melting pot of 15 diplomatic cultures and 15 military cultures. Clashes are in-bred. The experiment may only work if the two units deal with each other on the basis of equality. Quite practically equality implies "equal numbers" of staff. However, within the Council Secretariat an asymmetry is likely to emerge. The military staff, fully operational by the end of the year 2001, will exceed a number of hundred staff while the policy unit is likely to remain limited to some twenty staff.

In short, the Policy Unit is the most innovative element of the Amsterdam set-up. In its day-to-day working environment it is squeezed in between DG E and the quickly growing military staff. As a consequence, the policy unit is forced to mark its territory. It has two strategies at its disposal: The first option consists of extending its tasks following the logic of gaining bureaucratic power through omnipresence. On the other hand, a task extension may lead to functional over-stretch and a decreasing quality of the out. The second strategy the unit might pursue is a focus on fewer middle-term and long-term project. Then, however, it is risking the fate of a great number of national planning cells, namely to be parked somewhere between policy advice and academia.

Throughout the last year, the unit appears to have gone over-stretch. It has taken on a plethora of duties and tasks, covering virtually each and every area of EU foreign policy making: conflict prevention as much as policing, Asia as much as the Middle East, day-to-day duties like drafting speaking notes as much as long-term projects. Given the small number of staff, the tribute might have to be paid in terms of quality. A solution could be an increase in personnel, which, judged from the member states’ budgetary generosity, does not appear very likely. Alternatively, the unit could focus on fewer thematic or geographic issues.

Bureaucratic in-fights accompany any organisational innovation, no matter if the private or the public sector is concerned. More importantly, the policy unit provides for a true improvement of the European diplomatic system. It has thriven throughout the ESDP construction phase. In the future, the quality of its output will serve as the decisive measure for its success.


The last section has focused on two new institutions within the European foreign policy-making system: the High Representative and the Policy Unit. Chronologically, they originate from the Treaty of Amsterdam but it is only in the course of the ESDP construction process that they have assumed executive functions. Despite the aforementioned problems, they are likely to enhance the Union’s policy planning capacity. Their progress marks a step towards a European diplomacy. This section deals with a genuine ESDP-innovation: The Political and Security Committee, the COPS. On first sight, the COPS merely adds another committee to the already complicated arrangement within the CFSP/ESDP decision-making process. On closer scrutiny, however, the COPS may turn into a central element in tying together member states and EU-institutions. It may pull foreign policy decision-making into Brussels. The COPS may equally lead to domestic tansformations. It may "Europeanise" an important and traditionally rather Euro-sceptic group within the national foreign ministries: the PolMil departments.

The decision-making system prior to ESDP has been complicated already: COREPER II has prepared the meetings of the General Affairs Council. COREPER II has been supported by the Antici-Group while the consistency of second pillar decisions with Community procedures and budget lines has been assured by the group of CFSP-counsellors who are diplomats from the member states’ permanent representations. The GAC has equally been prepared by the Political Committee (PoCo), meeting roughly monthly, which has attained de facto decision-making authority. The PoCo, in turn, has been supported by the group of European Correspondents which have been located in the national foreign affairs ministries as collaborators of the political director. Until Maastricht, the European correspondents have served as the "hub of the EPC wheel" in the sense of giving it a permanent structure. These contacts have been contacts between capitals. As of Maastricht, the role of the CFSP counsellors has grown in importance. These have been placed in the permanent representations in Brussels.

Illustration 4: The Decision-Making System prior to ESDP

In 2000, the COPS has been tasked with the elaboration of the permanent structures of the ESDP. It has been in the COPS where, for example, Council decisions about the future of the WEU as well as issues of procurement have been prepared. Its scope is unlimited. In the future, it will serve as the permanent panel dealing with every issue falling within the range of the CFSP): The Helsinki report stated that " … [t]he PSC will deal with all aspects of the CFSP, including the CESDP …". The Presidency’s Report on ESDP at the Nice European Council repeated this formulation. In routine times, the COPS is tasked to

"… keep track of the international situation in the areas falling within the common foreign and security policy, help define policies by drawing up "opinions" for the Council, either at the request of the Council or on its own initiative, and monitor implementation of agreed policies, all of this without prejudice to Article 207 of the Treaty establishing the European Community and to the powers of the Presidency and of the Commission."

In crisis situations, it will give political-strategic direction. In the short run, the COPS adds to the already complicated structure of foreign policy decision-making. In the mediate term, its existence will transform the structures. It will take over the bulk work of the Political Committee (PoCo) which still convenes on an irregular basis giving general guidelines. Given the frequency of its meetings, the COPS will form a sort of "second-pillar-COREPER" and de facto replace the PoCo. As one official from the Council’s General Secretariat explained in December 2000: "In the last months, we had several discussions about the future of the Political Committee. It is very likely that in the future the COPS will replace the Political Committee. The political directors will continue to meet of necessary, when, for example, strategic matters are being discussed. However, the day-to-day work will be discussed within the framework of the COPS, while the CFSP counsellors prepare and finalise legal acts." The COPS’ most important asset in respect to decision-making - that is preparation of the GAC - is its permanent character. The ambassadors are in a position to continuously consult with each other, the High Representative, and the Policy Unit. In doing so, they do not alter the intergovernmental decision-making procedure, but due to sheer presence they are more likely to be receptive to European proposals than the PoCo has been.

Illustration 5: Decision-Making System after ESDP

The creation of the COPS is likely to lead to adaptations in the permanent representations as well as the national foreign affairs ministries. In the representations in Brussels, the ambassadors might assume the role of a "political director" heading the political unit including an ever large PolMil staff. In the capitals, the creation of the COPS is likely to evoke a learning effect. It is likely to familiarise diplomats with the European Union’s CFSP/ESDP procedures, because it will need to rely on their expertise more frequently. In addition, ESDP pushes a group of national diplomats in the European circus arena, which have so far resisted "Brusselisation": the PolMil sections of the member states’ foreign ministries. The COPS not only extends the scope of European foreign policy deliberations to the field of defence. The frequency of its meetings also requires more intense preparation by the foreign ministries. It enhances the pressure for proper intra-European diplomatic representation. It is a feature of most European foreign affairs ministries that the PolMil sections foster state-centric attitudes, while the Europe departments tend to be somewhat more integrationist in outlook (some call the PolMils the "last bastions" of statehood). This claim cannot been quantified. But interviews conducted with French and German officials demonstrate that the relationship between PolMil departments and the "Euro-Ayatollahs" is often characterised by a relatively small flux of personnel among those units and a continuous struggle for competence. The "impermeability" of these structures varies from country to country and largely depends upon national diplomatic cultures. But it is striking that a French diplomat who has largely been dealing with PolMil issues re-collects his EPC/CFSP experience with the following words: "The European Correspondent has been the unit in the PolMil section dealing with European Affairs. But it has not been a horizontal unit influencing the policies of the other units. These were the people preparing part of the work of the political director. But that was it. Myself, I have only learned about the value of CFSP in New York. It is within the framework of the UN that CFSP matters for France for it is there where we can increase our political weight through Europe." Individual PolMil diplomats will now have to prepare themselves much more thoroughly "for Brussels" in order to support their representative in the COPS. At the same time, CFSP might attain a more horizontal character in the foreign ministries. More importantly, however, the COPS will allow the policy unit to constantly have informal high-level information on single state’s positions at their immediate disposal. It will be easier to circulate policy proposals informally and provide for up-dating before the proposals enter the decision-making phase. Due to ESDP, the permeability of the "national" diplomatic armour has increased and is likely to do so in the future. The COPS is likely to function as central engine of this change.


This working paper suggests that "diplomacy" constitutes an internal and external capability of the European foreign policy-making system. The presence of a European variation of a foreign service is necessary for the production of sustainable, cohesive and effective foreign policies. In the paper, I have examined the changes ESDP has triggered and is likely to trigger for the Union’s internal diplomatic capability, that is its capacity to plan foreign policy.

I have started by highlighting a deficiency: Until Amsterdam the "diplomatic paradox" has entailed a truncated European diplomacy unable to fulfil the central tasks of co-ordination, pooling of information and planning. Afterwards, I have focused on the present performance of the High Representative, the Policy Unit and the COPS as well as on their potential for providing future improvements.

ESDP has strengthened the position of the High Representative and has made him a strong entry point for European proposals into the decision-making process. The Policy Unit has earned merits in developing proposals. Its set-up is conducive to ensure constant up-dating with diplomats in member states’ capitals as well as with ambassadors in Brussels. Quality is the decisive threshold which the unit is only likely to pass if it avoids over-stretch in an internal bureaucratic struggle. The COPS is likely to provide an ever closer decision-making-link between the national foreign ministries and the Council’s General Secretariat. At the same time, it is likely to trigger processes of domestic change in the member states’ foreign ministries. In the course of the ESDP process, although not exclusively caused by it, the General Secretariat has assumed executive functions in the European foreign policy-making system. Increasingly, it disposes of a capacity to "autonomously" draft and insert policy proposals in the decision-making process.

These developments indicate the slow construction of a European foreign service. Concomitantly, the term "diplomacy" itself appears on the agenda: In November 1999 the Political Committee (POCO) has adopted a proposal for a "European Diplomatic Program" which has been launched in fall 2000. In May 2000 the Spanish European Parliamentarian, Gerardo Galeote, has presented a report on a "Common European Diplomacy", highlighting the existing deficits and explicitly calling for the creation of a European foreign service. The depth of these projects is limited: The Diplomatic Program annually merely reaches two diplomats of each member state’s foreign affairs ministry, and the Galeote report, as an official from the Council’s General Secretariat explained, "has been dead before leaving ground" for lack of financial resources. Given these restrictions, a full-fledge debate about the necessity and the structure of a European foreign service still needs to be started.

Nevertheless, a striking phenomenon concerning the integrational logic of the ESDP process is being highlighted in the conclusion: While the intergovernmental mode hitherto has been characteristic of both the decision-making as well as the planning of European foreign policy, now the two have been disentangled. The Council Secretariat has assumed wide-ranging executive functions and decision-making remains intergovernmental. The executive powers have not been allocated in the Commission. Preliminarily, I propose to use the term "governing intergovermentalism" for a logic, which represents yet another odd but apparently efficient twist in European integration.



Table 1: ESDP Chronology






Oct. 1998

Informal European



UK drops objection to EU defence


Meeting of EU Defence Ministers


Defence ministers discuss defence within

EU framework for the first time


Anglo-Fernch Summit

St. Malo

Letter of Intent (LOI) on defence co-operation

"Joint Declaration on European Defence": Establishment of

"autonomous" capacity envisaged.


NATO Summit


New strategic concept; Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI); support for EU-led mission on Berlin-Plus Basis; Principle: "Separable, but not separate."

May 1999




Call for Franco-British-German concertation ( "concertation triangulaire")


European Council


Limitation of defence capacity to Petersberg tasks;

Appointment of Javier Solana to the post of the SG/HR;

Regular ad hoc meeting of the GAC (including, as appropriate, Defence Ministers), Creation of Interim Political and Security Committee (COPS), Interim Military Committee (MC), Military Staff (MS) including a Situation Centre (SitCen)





Launching of European Defence Capabilities Initiative (EDCI)




Javier Solana takes up position


WEU Ministerial



Audit of Assets and Capabilities for European Led Crisis Management Missions


WEU Ministerial


Javier Solana appointed Secretary-General of WEU


Anglo-French Summit


Joint Declaration on European defence, foreshadowing Helsinki


European Council


Headline Goals (by 2003, 60.000 troops deployable withing 60 days) and sustainable for one year; Develop modalities for full co-operation between the EU and NATO; Develop modalities for consultation with accession candidates and non-EU European NATO and WEU partners

March 2000



Interim Committees start to work


Informal European Council


Decision to establish a committee for Civilian Crisis Management


WEU Ministerial


Civilian Crisis Management Procedures

Inventory/Audit of European Military Capacities


European Council

Santa Maria da Feira

Setting up of four ad-hoc EU/NATO committees on security, capability goals, modalities of the use of NATO assets, definition of permanent consultation mechanisms

Setting of the headline goal of up to 5000 police officers for international missions across the range of conflict prevention

Proposing establishment of committee for civilian aspects of crisis management


Capabilities Commitment Conference


Quantitative Results: see below.


European Council


Definition of the headline goals

The establishment of permanent political and military structures

Consultation arrangements

Definition and implementation of EU capabilities

Table 2: The Political and Security Committee (PSC)


Representatives of Member States on senior/ambassadorial level, at times at level of Political Directors

Role of SG/HR

SG/HR may, particularly in crisis situations, act as chairman

Frequency of Meetings

Weekly (at least)

Tasks in Routine Situations

- Monitors international developments;

- Drafts opinions for the Council;

- Monitors implementation of policies;

- Provides guidelines and monitor work of CFSP working groups and committees (>20 WG, Military Committee, Committee for Civilian Crisis management)

- Consults with NATO

- Guides the development of military capabilities.

Tasks in Crisis Situations

- Exercises political and strategic control of the EU’s military response to a crisis

- Proposes political objectives to be pursued and recommends a cohesive set of options integrated in a joint action to be adopted by Council.

- Processes opinions and recommendations of the Military Committee (strategic military options including the chain of command, operation concept, operation plan) to be submitted to the Council.

- Provides inter-pillar cohesion by PSC chairman participating in Coreper meetings.



Table 3: The European Union Military Committee (EUMC)


Chiefs of Defence (CHODs) represented by their military representatives (MILREPs)

Chairman (CEUMC)

4-star flag officer on appointment selected by the CHODs of the Member States

Chairman’s Tasks

- Attends PSC with the right to contribute to discussions and attends the Council meetings;

- Military adviser to the SG/HR;

- Liaises with the Presidency in the development and implementation of its work programme;

- Primary Point of Contact (POC) with the Operation Commander during the EU's military operations.


Frequency of Meetings

Weekly (at least)

Tasks in Routine Situations

- Provides PSC with advice on all military matters (conflict prevention and crisis management);

- Develops an overall concept on the military aspects of crisis management in its military aspects;

- Asseses risks of potential crises with output from the Situation Centre;

- Elaborates and reviews capability objectives;

- Estimates financial costs of operations and exercises.

Tasks in Crisis Situations

- Issues an Initiating Directive to the Director General of the EUMS (DGEUMS) to draw up and present strategic military options.

- It evaluates the strategic military options developed by the EUMS and forwards them to the PSC together with its evaluation and military advice.

- Authorises Initial Planning Directive for the Operation Commander on basis of the military option selected by Council;

- Provides advice and recommendation to the PSC on the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and on the draft Operation Plan (OPLAN) drawn up by the Operation Commander.

- Gives advice to the PSC on the termination option for an operation.

Monitors the proper execution of military operations conducted under the responsibility of the Operation Commander.

Table 4: The European Military Staff (EUMS)


- About 100 persons staff composed of personnel seconded from the Member States acting in an international capacity under the statute to be established by the Council;

- could set up Crisis Action Teams (CAT), drawing upon its own expertise, manpower and infrastructure. In addition, it could, if necessary, draw upon outside manpower for temporary augmentation to be requested from the EU Member States by the EUMC


Directorate General within the Council Secretariat, attached to the SG/HR; Council Secretariat department directly attached to the SG/HR; it is composed of personnel seconded from the Member States acting in an international capacity under the statute to be established by the Council;

Director General EU Military Staff

3-star-flag officer

Tasks in Routine Situations

- early warning, situation assessment and strategic planning

- identification of European national and multinational forces

- implementation of EU policies and decisions

- elaboration, assessment and review of capability goals ensuring member states’ coherence with NATO’s Defence Planning Process (DPP) and the PfP’s Planning an Review Process (PARP)

- Supplies the Situation Centre with military informationa nd receives ist output

- Contributes to evaluation and preparation of multinational forces

- Organises and co-ordinates procedures wit national and multinational HQ’S

- establishes permanent relations with NATO according to "EU/NATO Permanent arrangements" and appropriate relations with identified correspondents within the UN and OSCE, subject to an agreement from these organisations.

Tasks in Crisis Situations

- requests and processes specific information from the intelligence organisations

- supports the EUMC in its contributions to Initial Planning Guidance and Planning Directives

- it develops and prioritises military strategic options as the basis for the military advice of the EUMC to the PSC by

- It conducts strategic analysis in liaison with the designated operation commander to support the EUMC in its advisory role to the PSC in charge of the strategic direction;

- In the light of political and operational developments, it provides new options to the EUMC as a basis for EUMC's military advice to PSC.



Table 5: The Situation Centre (SitCen)


A Single Situation Center gathers, assesses and provides information and evaluations of a civilian and military nature covering all aspects of EU cricis management.


Under authority of the SG/HR

Joint facility manned and run by the PU and the MS with a joint PU/MS leadership.


Situation monitoring

Early Warning

Situation assessment

Provisions of facilities for any crisis task force

Acting as point of operational contact for the SG/HR as well as for similar SC/Crisis Cells




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ã Copyright 2001. Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics 

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Florian Güssgen, European University Institute, Florence