In the wake of the conflict in the Western Balkans in the 1990s, the EU and its Member States decided that the EU should be able to plan and conduct its own missions and operations. Steps were taken to set up the necessary decision-making bodies, planning structures and command and control arrangements.
In 2003, the first EU missions launched were the EU’s policing mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a military operation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Since then, the EU has launched and run 34 operations and missions on three continents. Of these 22 were civilian and 11 were military, and one – in Darfur – mixed. As of today, there are 16 ongoing CSDP operations, 10 civilian and six military.
Throughout these years the EU has continuously enhanced its structures, mechanisms and tools to promote stability and security in our wider neighbourhood as well as to increase European security. Although not deployed so far, the EU Battle Groups offer a further instrument which allows the EU and its Member States to independently and rapidly respond to emerging conflicts and crises.
In addition to diplomacy and development assistance, defence and security measures have hence become key elements of the EU response to crises in the immediate neighbourhood and beyond as well as to the global challenges, all of which directly affect also the EU´s own security.
SDP missions and operations are a unique tool in the EU’s toolbox allowing for direct action, rapidly and in less permissive environments if need be, to manage and help resolve a conflict or crisis. This is normally done at the request of the country to which assistance is being provided and always in full respect of international law. EU decisions to deploy a mission or operation also take into account the EU’s security interests and are tailored to the local circumstances and to the tasks that need to be implemented.
While decisions to establish these missions have been taken on a case by case basis, they are part of a strategic effort to provide security from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, to the Middle East, to provide maritime security along key routes, and to enable countries in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe to fully recover from conflict and enhance their own capacities to provide security. They aim at responding to external conflicts and crises when they arise, enhance the capacities of partners and ultimately protect the European Union and its citizens through external action.
CSDP missions and operations can be open to contributions of third States. Up to now 18 Framework Participation Agreements (FPA) have been signed in order to facilitate such participation.