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EU Civilian Crisis Management: Law and Practice of Accountability

In early 2003, the European Union launched its first civilian police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, shortly after, deployed its first military operation to Macedonia. Since then, the EU has set up more than 30 peace operations of varying type and size under the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which is an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Civilian crisis management, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the Union’s peace operations, aims at contributing to the restoration of stability and security by enhancing the capacity of institutions key to the rule of law (police, judiciary, armed forces). Activities range from border assistance and monitoring over rule of law support, police training and police capacity building to assistance for reforming the security sector reform and military capacity building. Currently, some 2800 civilian experts act on behalf of the Union in eleven on-going civilian crisis management missions in Europe, Asia and Africa, the most prominent being EULEX Kosovo.

There is, of course, an institutional dimension to this operational dynamism. Since the early 2000s, Member States have created specific Brussels-based structures to steer, plan, and implement EU civilian crisis management activities. The present dissertation project is concerned with the fundamental question whether the conferral of powers by Member States to EU civilian crisis management structures has been matched with the establishment of appropriate accountability mechanisms at the European level. The idea underpinning this inquiry is rooted in our contemporary conception of public institutions, according to which authorities are expected to account on the exercise of the power which has been conferred to them.

In line with the definition provided by Bovens (2007), accountability is for the purpose of this dissertation project regarded as ‘a relationship between an actor and a forum, in which the actor has an obligation to explain and to justify his or her conduct, the forum can pose questions and pass judgement, and the actor may face consequences.’ Accountability is thus apprehended as a mechanism to hold agents ex post facto accountable with potential effects on ex ante policy making.

In the context of EU civilian crisis management, studying accountability is a challenging endeavour: the answer to the question ‘who is accountable to whom, how, for what, and on which basis?’ is not straightforward, not least because civilian crisis management takes place in a multi-level and multi-actor environment. The objective of this dissertation project is to disentangle accountability matters with regard to civilian CSDP by investigating both de jure and de facto accountability arrangements. This will then allow to highlight existing accountability challenges and inform suggestions about how to remedy potential shortcomings.

PhD candidate