In this article we approach the functioning of bureaucracy in ESDP from a governance perspective that also focuses on informal patterns of interaction between the relevant bureaucratic actors. Following the governance and related network governance approaches, the interplay between formal and informal patterns of interaction can help to overcome deadlock in policy-making and to procure effective problem-solving. This perspective is applied to security sector reform (SSR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). SSR is one of the major emerging fields of activity within the civilian crisis management dimension of ESDP, that also in the DRC became a focal point in the EU’s new security and defence policy since its inception. However, as the EU involvement in the Congolese security sector reform policies illustrates, coordination and negotiation among European actors to overcome deadlock and produce effective problem-solving is not self-evident or even desirable for all actors. In the case of the EU’s SSR policies in Congo, coordination indeed occurs between the actors that are dependent upon each other in terms of resources and have the willingness to jointly tackle the problems related to the SSR in the DRC. However, it is also often undermined by actors that prefer to engage bilaterally because they possess the resources to do so and the personal relationships with the Congolese authorities to act more efficiently and effectively.