European Union External Action

EUMS and ESDC – 15 years of Cooperation

05/08/2021 - 13:40

20 years after the establishment of the European Union Military Staff (EUMS) and 15 years after the establishment of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), Head of ESDC, Mr Dirk Dubois and ESDC Training Manager, Mr Alin Bodescu discuss the cooperation and collaborative relationship both organisations have in advancing training and education in the area of CSDP.



The European Union Military Staff (EUMS) and the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) contributed to a large part of the Common Security and Defence Policy's (CSDP) development over the last 15 years.

By the time of the ESDC’s establishment in 2005, the EUMS was a relative young entity. Set up in 2001, the EUMS had already been consolidating its position in the newly established CSDP framework, alongside the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the EU Military Committee (EUMC). This was in the aftermath of the historic European Council decision at its Helsinki meeting on 10-11 December 1999.

It was not a surprise that, at the time, the ESDC needed support from a more experienced partner in terms of resources and the ability to reach out to relevant training audiences. From the outset, the EUMS recognised and promoted the ESDC as the main CSDP training contributor, tasked with providing training and education on CSDP matters and facilitating the development of EU security and defence culture.

In practical terms, the EUMS has provided the ESDC with continuous and essential support. In particular, the EUMS has provided speakers for most of the ESDC courses. In addition, it has provided external evaluation, facilitators for the High Level Course and delivered lessons learned from military operations and exercises, and provided recommendations for curricula review. The EUMS has also facilitated a reach-back capability for the ESDC in terms of existing expertise in a multinational context (e.g. EUROCORPS or Multinational Joint HQ Ulm). Furthermore, it has supported an initiative promoting the exchange of young officers, inspired by the Erasmus programme. At the same time, the ESDC has supported the EUMS by providing access to the e-learning environment and by organising the CSDP orientation course and EU HQ Foundation Training.

The EUMS plays a leading role in terms of the number of participants in ESDC courses. It is very important to note that, although the EUMS is attached to the EEAS, almost all staff are seconded National Experts who spend a limited period of time on the job. From this perspective, we can regard the EUMS not as an EU entity but as an extension of the Member States (MS) in Brussels. It is therefore well placed in ensuring that personnel are trained through a wide variety of ESDC courses. For example, over the last three academic years (2018-2021), the ESDC has trained almost 450 participants from the EUMS. This represents roughly 5 % of the personnel trained by the ESDC for the period in question.

The EUMS is one of the main providers of CSDP orientation courses under the ESDC. Currently, the ESDC training programme includes 10-12 CSDP orientation courses per year. However, in 2012, this course was rare and the ESDC was looking for solutions to increase the number of times the course was run. Accordingly, the EUMS offered to co-host the course with the ESDC Secretariat on an annual basis. Since 2012, the EUMS has therefore run a CSDP orientation course every year (traditionally in September) as part of its training plan for newcomers. This course is open not only to all MS and EU institutions (a default option for ESDDC courses) but to NATO and 3rd countries.

In 2019, the EU HQ community decided to convert EU HQ Foundation Training into a CSDP orientation course. The aim was to standardise training in terms of the EUHQ database and facilitate access to the Advanced Modular Training programme. The ESDC Steering Committee agreed to the EUMS proposal. Since that time, the EUMS has run, under the ESDC umbrella, two additional CSDP orientation courses on an annual basis. This raises its contribution to almost 25% of EU-level provision of this course. It is worth noting that the EUMS and ESDC will co-organise their 10th iteration of the CSDP orientation course in September 2021. This is another good cause for celebration.

The ESDC and the EUMS also cooperate on the running of seminars and conferences on security and defence with various partners around the world (e.g. China, Association of Southeast Asian Nations - ASEAN). The focus is on military issues and the aim is to promote mutual trust, which could eventually lead to closer military cooperation in the longer term. These events aim to increase our partners’ knowledge of how the EU works. Particular attention is devoted to how the military contributes to both Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the CSDP.

Ever since the establishment of the EU Military Training Group (EUMTG), the ESDC has, in consultation with the EUMS, actively contributed to various work strands. The ESDC’s training managers regularly attend EUMTG meetings. Through these they contribute to various workshops and so help carry out training requirements analysis for discipline leaders (i.e. Civil-Military Cooperation, Multinational Logistics, Cyber Defence, and Military Role in Border Management). They also help in the design of integrated, feasible training solutions. The recently reviewed EUMTG Terms of Reference now clearly acknowledge the role of the ESDC: ‘The ESDC plays a central role in coordinating and conducting the CSDP military training at EU level. […] The ESDC may act as a facilitator between the EUMTG and the EUCTG [EU Civilian Training Group] as far as civilian-military training is concerned’.

Since 2018 and on an annual basis, the ESDC, the EUMS and other crisis management structures have organised the ‘CSDP Training and Education Conference’.  The event brings together staff from CSDP missions and operations (Deputy Heads of Mission/Mission Commanders, Heads of Training Units, Heads of Human Resources as well as Press and Public Information Officers), training experts from various MS ministries, representatives of relevant EU institutions and agencies, as well as training providers in the crisis management field.

Following a request from the Chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUMC) in 2016, the ESDC and the EUMS, in a combined effort, developed and delivered two important initiatives: the Advanced Modular Training (AMT) and Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Military Officers (SQF-MILOF).

The first pilot AMT was carried out in 2018. It was then continued on an annual basis, with the last 2 iterations (2020, 2021) conducted in virtual format. The aim of the AMT is to provide civilian and military senior officers with the skills and knowledge needed to help them perform their duties in the CSDP area. The EUMS and the MPCC are the main training audience for this course, contributing almost 50% of the participants.

The SQF-MILOF was completed in December 2020 after more than two years of work conducted within a dedicated working group, with direct support from the EUMS and extensive consultation with MS. It was in the context of validation that the ESDC Secretariat invited the EUMS to test specific elements of the SQF-MILOF. Thirty-six officers (with the rank of Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel), assigned to the EUMS from twenty-six MS, answered the ESDC request and informally validated the SQF-MILOF.  The aim of the informal validation was to verify to what extent the learning outcomes described by the SQF-MILOF and MILOF-CORE cover the actual knowledge, skills, responsibility and autonomy acquired by individual officers in the MS during their career.

We take this opportunity to thank EUMS for the steady, professional and outstanding cooperation.

Congratulations to the EUMS on its 20 year anniversary!