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Managing the Civil-Military Interface in the EU: Creating an Organisation Fit for Purpose

Keywords: civil-military relations , CFSP/ESDP , CFSP/ESDP , CFSP/ESDP , CFSP/ESDP , CFSP/ESDP , security/external , institutionalisation , benchmarking , political science

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The establishment of ESDP/CSDP in 1999 has been accompanied by the anticipation that the European Union will represent a unique strategic actor because of its ability to mix civilian and military crisis management instruments as part of a comprehensive approach. But to what extent is this characteristic reflected in the EU’s civil-military organisation? The EU is clearly not a state, but it does embody certain non-intergovernmental characteristics that set it beyond a 'normal' inter-state organisation or alliance, the expansion of the role of the administrative level being one of them. The development of a well-functioning civil-military organisation is important in this regard, but appropriate benchmarks for what such an organisation would look like are missing from the current EU debate. A problem is that, when focusing on the novelty and uniqueness of the EU’s comprehensive approach, institutional change is often treated as a good in itself. However, by contrasting and using two classical models for organising civil-military relations – Samuel Huntington’s so-called 'normal', or separated model, and Morris Janowitz’ 'constabulary', or integrated model – as benchmarks, the article shows that institutional innovations have largely sustained a separation of the civil-military interface, despite the stated objective of developing an EU 'culture of coordination'. This situation reflects the inherent tension between a traditional civil-military culture with deep roots in the Member States, on the one hand, and an evolving 'in-house' civil-military culture within the Council Secretariat, on the other. When it comes to ESDP/CSDP, certain Member States have used institutional reform as a way to push through national agendas, producing frequent but often ineffective institutional change. At the same time, there has been a lack of attention inside the Council Secretariat paid to effective measures for breaking down professional and cultural barriers between military officers and civilian personnel.


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