The European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

Logo of the EU Training Mission in Mali

Germany is participating in the EU Training Mission in Mali, © dpa


Through its CSDP, the EU uses civilian, police and military instruments to cover the full spectrum of tasks to perform crisis prevention, crisis management and post-conflict peacebuilding.

For Europe’s security

The EU member states are working together to ensure Europe’s security. The CSDP was launched at the Cologne European Council in June 1999. The EU began its first mission in 2003, namely Concordia, in what is today North Macedonia. Since then, civilian experts, police officers and soldiers have helped foster peace and stability in some 40 CSDP missions, with 21 civilian and military missions and operations currently underway worldwide. Here, the European Union is pursuing an integrated approach and is cooperating closely with its partners.

Civilian and military instruments

The CSDP, ultimately designed to ensure Europe’s security and ability to act, focuses on crisis prevention, crisis management and post-conflict peacebuilding. The EU has civilian, police and military instruments at its disposal to this end. Every crisis brings with it its own challenges. EU experts are in great demand for monitoring to ensure ceasefires are respected (example: the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia). They are helping set up rule-of-law structures (EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo)). They are training police officers (EU Police and Rule of Law Mission for the occupied Palestinian territory (EUPOL COPPS)) and also soldiers (EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Mozambique) to international standards so they can underpin security in their own countries. EU soldiers are also directly helping to guarantee a secure environment (EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina).

During Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Peace Facility (EPF) was launched in 2020. The EPF serves to finance the joint costs of military CSDP missions and is used for capacity-building with a view to strengthening capabilities in partner countries’ military and defence sphere and for peace support operations run by international and regional organisations. Since February 2022, the EDF has been playing an important role in supporting Ukraine as it defends itself against the illegal war of aggression waged by the Russian Federation.

Germany’s contribution

Civilian experts, police and customs officers from Germany, as well as Bundeswehr soldiers, are involved in almost all CSDP missions and operations. In recent years, Germany has worked comprehensively to lay the groundwork for such involvement: the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), the Secondment Act for seconding German experts, as well as a joint training platform for civilian, police and military personnel.

Further development of the CSDP: the Strategic Compass

Together with the other EU member states and the EEAS, the Federal Government is also pushing ahead with implementing the European Union’s Strategic Compass. Building on a joint threat assessment, this security policy framework fleshes out the EU’s strategic goals in the fields of security and defence. The some 80 concrete actions listed in the Strategic Compass are designed to make EU external action faster, more effective and more plannable and to strengthen EU resilience and defence readiness. Immediately after the start of Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine in early 2022, the Council of the European Union for the first time approved a strategic reference document drawn up by the member states on the future shape of European security policy.

The Strategic Compass thus strengthens the EU’s ability to act. It is an important landmark in the work to breathe life into European sovereignty. EU crisis management, capability development and resilience are to be developed in such a way as to complement NATO. Furthermore, the Strategic Compass also sets standards for supporting the security sector of third countries using the European Peace Facility (EPF).

The European Union’s defence initiatives

In the light of the changed security policy environment, the EU member states decided to strengthen the EU’s ability to act and dovetail cooperation in the field of security and defence further. This increased engagement also strengthens NATO’s European pillar.

In 2017, 25 EU member states established Permanent Structured Cooperation (known as PESCO) in the field of security and defence policy. The emergence of PESCO is a milestone in the development of CSDP and is flanked by a number of defence initiatives. Denmark has also since joined.

PESCO is closely linked to the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). By systematically monitoring national defence spending and activities, CARD helps identify avenues for cooperation and is headed by the European Defence Agency (EDA). Since 2021, the European Defence Fund (EDF) has been coordinating, enhancing and strengthening investment made at national level in research, prototype development and the procurement of defence goods and technologies.

The European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management

During Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2020, the European Centre of Excellency for Civilian Crisis Management, designed to strengthen civilian CSDP, was opened in Berlin at Germany’s initiative. To date, 23 EU member states have joined the Centre of Excellency (CoE). Its main task is to help members implement the ambitious goals the EU laid down most recently in May 2023 as part of the civilian CSDP Compact. These goals include flexible and targeted work in civilian CSDP missions, an increase in the share of civilian personnel seconded directly from the member states, as well as improved training and preparation for this personnel. Increasing the proportion of women in the missions is also a major priority.

The CoE team draws up concrete proposals on how to further develop the EU’s civilian crisis management both in theory and in practice. Furthermore, it promotes the exchange of knowledge, national models and lessons learned between its members.

The Centre of Excellence functions as an adjunct to the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) which, as a state-owned enterprise, is responsible for recruiting, selecting, training and seconding civilian experts for peace missions.


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