Financing for EU military and civilian operations needs reform

MEPs lay out their aims for an updated financing mechanism for the European common security and defence policy.

29 Apr 2015

Since last September, parliament's foreign affairs and budgets committees have been working on a report on financing the common security and defence policy (CSDP). As MEPs gear up to debate the report in next month's plenary, some of the proposal's key players tell the Parliament Magazine about the main issues at stake.

Indrek Tarand (Greens/EFA, EE) is parliament's co-rapporteur on financing the common security and defence policy

This report aims to improve the efficiency of the EU's common security and defence policy. This will be achieved principally through reformation of the Athena mechanism which handles the financing of common costs for EU military operations, the effective implementation of the Lisbon treaty and enhanced cooperation between military and civilian operations.


This straightforward and realistic approach will allow us to quickly identify and resolve existing and future security and defence issues, such as delays in the deployment and equipping of civilian missions and the gap between commitments and payment appropriations in the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) budget. These gaps are partly due to the limitations of the administrative budget, which is likely to increase this year due to the deployment of the CSDP mission to Ukraine.

Our report calls for transparency, accountability and above all some much-needed ambition from all concerned, namely the council, European external action service and member states themselves. This will pave the way for a robust and coherent European CSDP - a necessary precondition for a European common defence force.

Andrej Plenković (EPP, HR) is a vice-chair of parliament's foreign affairs committee

This report on the financing of CSDP is timely, coming as it does ahead of June's defence summit. Financing aspects of this policy are a cause of some concern and through this report parliament would like to express it position.

The CSDP has fallen victim to lengthy procedures and a decision making process which barely allows the EU to respond to unfolding crises within a reasonable timeframe. It is crucial for financial rules to be adapted to civilian missions in order to facilitate their rapid and flexible deployment. At the same time, the rules must guarantee sound financial management of EU resources and protection of the union's financial interests.

Coherence and complementarity are key. The common foreign and security policy's (CFSP) various instruments should be used to achieve economies of scale and maximise the impact of EU spending. In this regard, military-civilian synergies should not be forgotten, particularly in the areas of logistics, transport and the security of missions.

In terms of financing CSDP military operations, there is the issue of reforming the Athena mechanism. In particular, the catalogue of common costs - approximately 10 to 15 per cent - remains very low, and so member states have little incentive to contribute.

Regrettably, this also applies to the 'costs lie where they fall' principle – where each member state is responsible for its own expenses during operations, barring the common costs which are funded through the Athena mechanism. As a result, countries that have limited financial resources but could supply capacities opt not to contribute. Therefore, it should come as a surprise to no one that unless there is a direct military component to a CSDP mission, only a handful of member states are involved.

Parliament is realistic about this state of affairs and the somewhat reserved political will in the capitals. However, progress - even if limited - is necessary and decision makers should keep in mind that the EU's wider neighbourhood has turned into a ring of fire.

Doru-Claudian Frunzulică (RO) is parliament's S&D shadow rapporteur on financing the common security and defence policy

We must adopt a new method to increase the efficiency of the financing of CSDP missions and operations. Our priority is still to develop a financial mechanism that allows the deployment of EU civilian missions and military operations in a faster and more flexible manner, while having full logistical and financial support to fulfil their objectives.

This is why, among other things, we need to lighten the procurement system's bureaucratic load. The permanent CSDP warehouse must be upgraded as quickly as possible, widening its scope, improving the availability of stored equipment and enlarging its diversity.

I believe that the 'costs lie where they fall' principle is outdated and deters member states from actively participating in missions. Within this context, I would welcome an enlargement of the role of the Athena mechanism and the creation of a start-up fund that would allow a rapid financing of the initial phases of military operations.

To conclude, I believe that parliament should be granted enhanced oversight competences regarding how CSDP missions and operations are budgeted.

Anneli Jäätteenmäki (FI) is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteur on financing the common security and defence policy

There is a lack of solidarity and flexibility in the financing of the CSDP. While some member states actively participate in CSDP missions and operations, others are unable to bear the high costs of their expenses themselves when participating in operations. Meanwhile, certain countries take a free ride and abstain from participating.

Parliament's ALDE group wants to strengthen the sharing of burdens and for more member states to take an active role in EU peacekeeping missions around the world. There are three key issues that would improve the financing of the CSDP.

First, a greater emphasis must be put on broadening the range of commonly charged costs. We must widen the current narrow definition of common costs. A wider array of operational costs should be covered jointly through the Athena mechanism. At present, most costs fall on the member states participating in the operations.

Second, launching a CSDP intervention needs to be a quicker and more flexible process. This calls for a swifter financing procedure. However, greater efficiency must not compromise recent positive developments in transparency or accountability in CSDP interventions.

Finally, greater synergies are most welcome, especially with regard to utilising common facilities when civilian and military interventions operate in the same location. Yet, it is equally important to maintain a clear and pronounced distinction between the scopes, objectives and modes of functioning of civilian missions and military operations.

I believe the above demands are of paramount importance in creating conditions for an effective, legitimate and transparent CSDP.