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Europa in der Krise

European Union Crisis Management Simulation
at the European Parliament, 20. – 21.04.2006

The European Security and Defence Policy has for the last years been the most rapidly growing policy field of the Union. From humble and cautious beginnings, the ESDP has progressed into a premier foreign policy tool of the EU, giving the Union the ability to make a lasting and positive hands-on impact in crisis ridden areas of the world. It is also turning the European Union into a security actor unlike any other, combining military and civilian capabilities under one coherent roof.
But how are the decisions to launch an operation under the European flag reached? What factors have to be taken into account and how does one find appropriate answers to a crisis amongst 25 member states?
To understand the inner workings of the Council, the main decision-making body in ESDP, one has to gain an in-depth look into a world that is, even in times of transparency, mostly hidden from the public eye
Thus, on the 20. – 21.04.2006 assistants to Members of European Parliament, accompanied by colleagues from NATO, were invited by MEP Sepp Kusstatscher (The Greens/EFA) to participate in an extracurricular learning session on the subject of multinational decision-making within the framework of ESDP.

foto
Assistants of the EP and NATO negotiate a solution to the crisis


The participants adopted their respective roles as Foreign Ministers in the Council and EU-Commissioner and simulated the arduous way towards a unanimous decision to answer the challenge posed by an international crisis.
They were prepared for the subject and their respective role in the simulation in an intensive studying session before the actual simulation conducted by Mr. Tamir Sinai (Center for applied Policy Research, Munich), the author and developer of this and other simulations. After this in depth briefing they received their role profiles, background information and materials, forms, etc. and were asked to individually define their starting position regarding a possible EU-response to a crisis in the Unions’ near abroad that had actually spread to the continent.
The next day, the participants arrived at the European Parliament, the venue of the event, well prepared and eager to use their knowledge and try their negotiation skills.

The Simulation was opened by MEP Sepp Kusstatscher who gave encouraging words of greeting and wished the event all the success. He especially welcomed the guests from NATO, Miss. Antje Knorr and Miss. Arya-Marie Ba Trung, pointing out that it could only be fruitful to bring participants from different security cultural background together. He should prove to be spot-on as the two participants turned out to be highly qualified and eloquent – fitting in with the whole group right from the start.
Than the simulation should start in earnest with the opening statements of the member states, led by France, on which behalf the emergency session had actually been called. The Presidency of the EU, here Finland, than opened the floor to the different arguments brought forward by the member states. While it seemed from the beginning that the EU would get actively involved in the crisis region, the actual modalities and intensity of the involvement were not at all clear. Now the different country positions, influenced by diverging national interest came to the fore. The discussions soon heated up – only interrupted by periods of informal caucus which proved to be excellent opportunities to come up with drafts and counter-drafts.
Still, when the situation was threatening to reach an impasse, the Presidency strong-handedly took over the helm and steered the Council back into constructive waters by pointing out the large areas of agreement. The mood improved even more over lunch and came afternoon the main area of remaining contention was identified and worked on with all the diplomatic skills that this acutely politically aware group of people could muster.
As it was, the Council did agree on two declarations and launched a Fact Finding Mission to the crisis area, choosing an even-handed approach that would not see the Union rush into a potentially high-risk area but also not ruling out active civil and military intervention in the area. One cornerstone of possible EU-involement should be the protection of Internally Displaced Persons within the crisis region, a goal very much in line with the intentions of the current, actual, Austrian Presidency.

Security policy, and especially multinational decision-making is a complex and challenging policy-field that can easily turn into a slippery slope if one does not keep a clear head and weigh all the options. That even the perception of the crisis, or if it was a crisis at all, was not the same amongst all the members of the council was pointed out early on. Also the difference between ‘crisis’ and ‘conflict’ became clearer – but what was or could or should be the role of NATO and what about the United Nations? How could one include neighbouring states and the regional organization in the planned EU involvement? Even the fact that the crisis ridden state had called on a member state for help and not the Union was an issue. All in all the whole range of facets that security policy can offer was explored by the participants.
In sum the simulation was concluded with the general feeling of achievement and of having gained an unusual glimpse into a world that is largely, and maybe understandably, very much closed to public scrutiny.
The agreement was that this pilot-project was well worthwhile and a welcomed addition to educational events offered by the Parliament.

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