EU seeks more prominent international role for European para-military police force
The European External Action Service is seeking "strengthened cooperation" with the European Gendarmerie Force, a paramilitary policing organisation made up of forces from seven EU countries, in the hope that it can play a bigger role in the EU's "crisis management" missions abroad and plug the gap left by a lack of commitments from individual Member States.
Crisis management in Africa
The EU has so far this year launched two "crisis management" missions in Africa - the first a military mission in the Central African Republic (EUFOR RCA) and the second a civilian mission in Mali (EUCAP Sahel Mali). The European Gendarmerie Force (EUROGENDFOR or EGF, made up of gendarmerie units from France, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain) is involved in both.
In the Central African Republic, the EGF is providing "a gendarmerie-type Integrated Police Unit, in order to reinforce the rule of law, to maintain public order, and to fight against impunity." 
Less is known about its role in Mali. The EUCAP Sahel Mali mission is intended to "support the internal security forces" and ensure "the full restoration of state authority throughout the country",  and follows EUTM (EU Training Mission) Mali, launched in February 2013 to train the Malian armed forces.
An EGF presentation contained in a document produced by the European External Action Service (EEAS, essentially the EU's foreign office), obtained by Statewatch, states that the EGF's Permanent Headquarters (PHQ, based in Vicenza, Italy) assisted the EEAS with "strategic and operational planning" for the Mali mission.  EEAS documents from July 2013 and December 2013 note the EGF's "participation in the exploratory mission to Mali." 
According to the EGF's presentation, its support "demonstrated that the police expertise held by the Staff in Vicenza can be mobilised quickly in favour of the European Union."
In September 2013 Statewatch reported on the EEAS' attempt to obtain more information from Member States on national police units available for "robust" missions abroad, with a document noting that in order to address shortfalls in national provision, the Service was examining "the scope for a cooperation agreement" with the EGF. 
A more recent "explanatory brief" produced by the EEAS' Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CPMD), contained in the EEAS document obtained by Statewatch, notes that a "potential strengthening of EU links with EGF has long been considered," and outlines plans for "strengthened cooperation between the EEAS and EGF, and to secure faster participation of EGF in CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] related activities."
Calls for closer links go back at least as far as June 2008, when the 'Informal High Level Advisory Group on the Future of European Home Affairs Policy' (also known as the 'Future Group') said:
"Future reflections should also include the integration of the 'European Gendarmerie Force' and civilian police units from Member States into the legal framework of the European Union. Common education and training of those forces would be appropriate." 
Head of the EEAS Catherine Ashton stated in last year's annual report on the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) that a "formal declaration" in relation to the EGF was expected by the end of 2013, which would "facilitate appropriate support when rapid deployment of robust policing assets is at stake." It is unclear whether this "formal declaration" has been issued, but cooperation between the EU and EGF is clearly advancing.
The legal basis for cooperation between the EU and EGF is Article 42(3) of the Lisbon Treaty: "Those Member States which together establish multinational forces may also make them available to the common security and defence policy."
More practical arrangements are laid down in a "Framework paper for EGF's participation in CSDP Crisis Management Operations," mentioned in the EEAS' document but currently secret. This "delineates the nature and scope of EGF engagement in CSDP and may be used as a basis [for] an administrative arrangement."
The "administrative arrangement" will cover the exchange of EU Classified Information (EUCI) between the EEAS and EGF. This "may provide for the release of EU CONFIDENTIAL" information generated as part of EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUFOR RCA.
In order to speed up the process of exchanging this classified information, the EEAS will "explore whether the host State of EGF (i.e. the National Security Authority of Italy) could assume responsibility for an EUCI released and act as a sponsor to EGF," prior to a formal agreement being reached.
Furthermore, "if need be" this will be followed by "the establishment of mechanisms to facilitate EGF engagement in CSDP, in full transparency with Member States and in compliance with existing procedures." This would appear to indicate an intention to make EU-EGF cooperation more systematic, but the Member States are cautious.
The EEAS document recounts a meeting held on 18 March this year between Maciej Popowski (Deputy Secretary General for the EEAS), Denis Favier (head of the French Gendarmerie) and the Council of the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC, made up of Member States' representatives and responsible for "the definition of and follow-up to the EU's response to a crisis").  Member States' delegations stated that cooperation with the EGF "should continue on a case-by-case basis," although they did request that work continue on:
"[E]stablishing a formal framework to govern such cooperation, covering financing, recruitment, the involvement of Member States, and cooperation with non-EU countries that are observers to EGF."
"Robust policing" with "military means"
The EGF presentation notes that the organisation's objectives are "three-fold":
- to provide Europe with a police asset capable of undertaking various police functions and tasks required in the context of international crisis management operations;
- to provide European - and potentially other - States intent on joining EU missions with a multinational operational platform to that effect; and
- to contribute to the various crisis management initiatives of international organisations.
The presentation notes the extra benefits of having available a gendarmerie force - it is able "to provide more robust policing (including with military means) when the threat scale is approaching the grey area before a military response."
As well as seeking greater access to paramilitary policing units, the EU is also hoping to increase its information and intelligence-gathering in civilian and military missions outside the 28-member bloc, with the aim of contributing to "comprehensive situational awareness and intelligence support to the EU." 
These efforts are set to continue for some time to come. The European Council's "strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning for the coming years within the area of freedom, security and justice" state:
"The answer to many of the challenges in the area of freedom, security and justice lies in relations with third countries, which calls for improving the link between the EU's internal and external policies. This has to be reflected in the cooperation between the EU's institutions and bodies." 
- Statewatch recently published a November 2013 progress report on the wider project of "strengthening ties" between the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy and home affairs policy, referred to as "Freedom, Security and Justice". For background, see: 'Plans emerge for the collection of personal data outside European borders to obtain "comprehensive situational awareness and intelligence support"', Statewatch News Online, October 2012
- 'EU wants access to more national police units for "robust" missions outside European borders', Statewatch News Online, September 2013
- Tim Schumacher, 'The law will bring peace - a view on the European Gendarmerie Force (EGF)', Statewatch Journal, vol 20 no 3/4, July-December 2010
 European Gendarmerie Force, 'EUROGENDFOR mission in Central African Republic'
 European External Action Service, 'EUCAP Sahel Mali'
 European External Action Service, 'Cooperation with the European Gendarmerie Force (EUROGENDFOR) under the Common Security and Defence Policy - Explanatory brief', 16 June 2014
 High Representative, 'Interim Report', 24 July 2013; High Representative, 'Annual Report', 15 October 2013
 'EU wants access to more national police units for "robust" missions outside European borders', Statewatch News Online, September 2013
 Future Group, 'Freedom, Security, Privacy - European Home Affairs in an open world', June 2008, p.6
 Council Decision of 22 January 2001 setting up the Political and Security Committee
 'Plans emerge for the collection of personal data outside European borders to obtain "comprehensive situational awareness and intelligence support"', Statewatch News Online, October 2012
 European Council, 'Conclusions', 27 June 2014, p.1
Support our work by making a one-off or regular donation to help us continue to monitor the state and civil liberties in Europe.
Search our database for more articles and information or subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates from Statewatch News Online.
We welcome contributions to News Online and comments on this website. E-mail us, call +44 (0) 207 697 4266, or send post to PO Box 1516, London, N16 0EW.
Home | News Online | Journal | Observatories | Analyses | Database | SEMDOC | About Statewatch
© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.