The European Union concluded last week one of the biggest exercises it has ever conducted. The exercise was named "Multilayer 16" (ML16) because it involved all levels, from the political to the operational. It was an occasion to test the EU's capacity to react to an international crisis. "Our mission is to further increase our capacity to respond immediately to all dimensions of any crisis that threatens our security that may erupt around the world," explained Deputy Secretary General Pedro Serrano.
The exercise started on the 13th of September and was concluded on the 19th of October 2016. EU staff was required to act as they would in a real crisis. Germany offered the Operational Headquarters, based in Potsdam. The scenario was based on a fictitious crisis, 6000 km away from the EU, in an imaginary country called "Ranua". A local rebel group has been fighting the government, which asked the EU to intervene to support the peace process.
An assessment of the EU response in ML16 is going to be conducted in the next weeks. However, what is already certain is that the exercise showed an unprecedented level of ambition for a number of reasons.
First, the EU used a large variety of instruments from its toolbox: a civilian mission and a military operation were launched under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP); diplomatic actions were carried out at the highest level; the Civil Protection Mechanism and the EUs Humanitarian Assistance channels were activated; development and trade policy served as levers in order to have a positive impact on the peace process. All these instruments were used in parallel under tight time constraints.
Second, Hybrid Threats were included in the scenario, especially cyber-attacks as well as unexpected events severely affecting the security of the EU Delegation in "Ranua".
Third, more than 600 players took part in the exercise. They were spread between the EU institutions and the European Defence Agency in Brussels, the EU Delegation in "Ranua", the Operational Headquarters in Potsdam, the Force Headquarters in Strasbourg, the Satellite Centre in Madrid and the Agency for Network and Information Security in Athens. The size of the training audience has never been so large.
Fourth, the EEAS Crisis Response Mechanism was tested with non-expected events affecting the security of the EU Delegations and EU citizens in "Ranua".
Finally, in terms of international partnerships, for the first time the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross were closely associated with the exercise from the beginning and contributed to a strategic analysis on a Security Sector Reform planning, showing once again EU's commitment to multilateralism as part of its approach to crisis management.
With Multilayer 16, the EU has shown increased determination to strengthen its role as an international actor, ready to use all means at its disposal to protect its interests and play a positive role on the international scene.