Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to mark the opening of the European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management (CoE)

17.09.2020 - Speech

How do you teach a Portuguese police officer to read Ukrainian customs documents?

And how do you prepare an Irish coast guard to work in Mogadishu?

One could think that these are technical questions.

But getting the answers to such questions right is crucial to the success of EU missions abroad.

Today, we are officially opening an institution that will help us answer such questions: the European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management.

It will help the EU and its Member States to improve their civilian missions. This means recruiting the right people, but also giving them the best training possible.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are setting up the Centre at a critical moment.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic will most likely create further instability in our neighborhood.
  • We are dealing with destabilizing actors in a number of countries – just think of Ukraine, Syria or Libya.
  • And the United States is retrenching – from Afghanistan, but also from Africa.

For the European Union this can only mean one thing: we need a toolbox to solve the conflicts in our own neighborhood.

And this toolbox, ladies and gentlemen, is our Common Security and Defence Policy.

Making it more effective is therefore a central goal of our EU Council Presidency.

  • Recently, we have started work on the Strategic Compass that will outline our level of ambition in the field of security and defence.
  • And we will continue our defence cooperation via PESCO.

But if the crises from Bamako to Benghazi and Donezk have taught us one thing, it is this: they cannot be solved by military means alone.

Building sustainable peace requires an “integrated approach”.

Therefore, civilian crisis management must be at the heart of European foreign and security policy.

We know that this is easier said than done.

  • Well-trained advisors with political experience and diplomatic skills are hard to find.
  • Trust in the justice system cannot be established overnight.
  • And building democratic police forces in a country plagued by corruption remains an uphill battle.

In 2018, Member States made a political commitment to move forward in the Civilian CSDP Compact. Today, we are filling this commitment with life.

The Centre of Excellence is Germany’s central contribution to the Compact. But more importantly, it is a joint European project – at the service of Member States and the European External Action Service. Eighteen EU Member States are already part of it – with more to join. The Centre is also open to NATO partners.

It will pool knowledge, offer practical advice and answer concrete needs to improve EU civilian missions.

Above all, this means getting the right people to do the job.

And we all know that often women are the right people to build peace and to mediate in conflicts.

This is why it is so important to attract more women to join EU civilian missions – one of the key goals of the Compact that the Centre will pursue.

Dear friends,

I know that many of you who are here today or following us via the livestream have been working for years towards this day.

And while I already had the pleasure to inaugurate the Centre’s premises on Monday – the opening would not have been complete without you, its pioneers and supporters:

  • the Member States who responded with enthusiasm to our initiative,
  • the European External Action Service as the Centre’s “Preferred Partner”,
  • the Bundestag, which made additional financial resources available,
  • the community of experts, who gave important guidance,
  • and, of course, the Centre’s Founding Director, Volker Jacoby, and his great team.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a challenge for a Portuguese police officer to work in Ukraine and for an Irish coast guard to move to Somalia.

But it is their commitment that will make the Centre of Excellence truly excellent.

And it is their efforts – and the efforts of all men and women serving in EU missions abroad – that allow Europe to manage the crises in its neighborhood.

They have our full support.

Thank you very much and the best of luck and success in your work!


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