International organisations

This section contains information on the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU).

European Union (EU)

The European Union is responsible for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the EU Global Strategy, and civilian crisis management.
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Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

What is the CSDP?

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is an integral part of the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy, as stated in the Treaty of Lisbon. The EU has provided itself with an operational capability based on civilian and military resources of its Member States to maintain peace, prevent conflicts, and strengthen international security. To this end, Member States may decide unanimously to launch civilian missions or military operations outside the Union, among other things. Belgium actively supports the implementation of the CSDP and the various European common security and defence initiatives.

When was the CSDP created?

For many, the Saint-Malo Summit in 1998 was the catalyst for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).  The ESDP is officially created at the Cologne Summit the following year (1999), against the backdrop of the crisis in Kosovo. At this summit, the European Council set itself the objective of rapidly adopting the decisions necessary to assume its responsibilities in the context of the so-called ‘Petersburg tasks’:

  • humanitarian and rescue tasks,
  • peace-keeping missions,
  • tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making.

This European determination was then translated at the Helsinki summit (1999) and Santa Maria da Feira summit (2000) by setting out a level of ambition and the necessary capabilities (the "Headline Goals") in the military and civilian fields.

The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, in 2009, was a decisive turning point for the ESDP, which was renamed the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to reflect a broader field of action. In addition to the Petersburg Tasks, there are now:

  • joint actions in the field of disarmament;
  • military advice and assistance; 
  • conflict prevention;
  • post-conflict stabilisation operations.

The presentation of the Global Strategy for the foreign and security policy of the European Union (EUGS), in June 2016, gave a new impulse to the CSDP.

Who is responsible for the CSDP?

While the Common Security and Defence Policy is essentially intergovernmental in nature, it is under the responsibility of the Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The latter is also Vice-President of the Commission.

The High Representative relies on the European External Action Service (EEAS), established by the Treaty of Lisbon and still under the political control and strategic direction of the Political and Security Committee (PSC).

What are the missions and operations of the CSDP?

Since the first military operations launched in 2003, the EU has deployed around 35 civilian and military missions and operations, on land and sea, in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. You can find a detailed overview of the various missions and operations currently in progress.

The European Union Global Strategy and new security and defence initiatives

The first European Security Strategy (ESS) dates to December 2003, with the war in Iraq and a deeply divided Europe as the backdrop. In 2015, as a result of the radically changing security environment, High Representative Federica Mogherini was mandated by the European Council to develop a new strategy. In June 2016, the Global Strategy for the EU's foreign policy (EUGS) was presented to the European Council. 

It bases the EU's external action around five main strands:

  • the security of the Union;
  • state and societal resilience to the East and South;
  • an integrated approach to conflicts;
  • cooperative regional orders;
  • global governance for the 21st Century.

In the area of security and defence, the EUGS identifies three strategic priorities:

  • responding to external conflicts and crises;
  • reenforcing building capacities of partner countries;
  • protecting the Union and its citizens.

To realise this vision of EUGS, the Foreign Affairs Council drew up an implementation plan in November 2016, setting a new level of ambition in the field of security and defence. Almost simultaneously, the European Commission launched the European Defence Action Plan.

Ever since, the Global Strategy in the area of security and defence has been translated into various actions and initiatives, including:

  • the Military Planning and Conduct Capability established in 2017, as a permanent operational command echelon for non-executive military missions.
  • the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), that was launched in 2017 by 25 Member States. Its aim is to strengthen cooperation both in the development of military capabilities and in the operational provision of these capabilities. The implementation of the binding commitments is assessed annually.
  • the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, closely linked to PESCO, was created to improve transparency and coordination among all member states in the area of national defence planning;
  • the Civilian CSDP Compact, adopted at the end of 2018, through which the Council and the Member States have made around 20 commitments aimed at making the civilian CSDP more effective, responsive and integrated;
  • the European Peace Facility, a new (2021) financial instrument outside the EU budget, making it possible to finance operational actions under the CFSP with military or defence implications. This is particularly the case for the supply of the basic equipment required for training and instruction of the Armed Forces of the beneficiary countries of military training and advisory missions which cannot be financed from the EU budget.
  • the European Defence Fund, a new (2021) European Commission instrument to financially support the collaborative development of European defence capabilities (industrial and innovation policy).

More information can also be found on the official EUGS website.

In addition to providing support for these initiatives to strengthen European defence and security, Belgium attaches great importance to cooperation between the EU and NATO and to strengthening the 'European pillar' within NATO.

Civilian crisis management

Civilian crisis management is the stabilisation and/or the prevented escalation of a conflict or crisis by means of non-military actions. It can take place throughout the cycle of a crisis or conflict, both preventively and in later phases. It is primarily the European Union that has developed this concept since 1999 and further operationalised it through civilian CSDP missions on the ground. The mandate of these missions is essentially to strengthen the rule of law and democratically regain control over and stabilise the territory while respecting human rights.

Belgium's vision and priorities for civilian crisis management are laid down in the Belgian Strategy for Civilian Crisis Management approved by the Council of Ministers on 18 May 2017.

Belgium supports an integrated approach to crises, preferably within a multilateral context to increase the impact and the possibility of synergies. Belgium considers the EU to be the primary security provider, focusing on the implementation of civilian aspects of the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy and the contribution to the implementation of the Civil Compact. When other international organisations are better suited or complement each other in tackling a crisis, or when Belgium can provide specific expertise, deployment within the framework of the UN, OSCE or NATO is also possible.

The Council of Ministers approves the annual indicative planning, in which the priorities for civilian crisis management are set out, as well as an estimate of the number of experts that can be deployed. For implementation, a provisional appropriation is provided in the General Expenditure Budget to cover the costs associated with the secondment of experts.

The experts deployed in the missions in the context of civilian crisis management are primarily from the relevant public services (Federal Police, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance). The FPS Foreign Affairs can also send external experts with a contract of limited duration, provided that they have passed a specific test organised by the government's selection service (SELOR). This specific test is organised every two years. All experts must also have completed a 10-day basic training in civilian crisis management before their candidacy for a mission can be supported.

In this way, Belgium manages to develop an average of 20 to 30 experts per year in different missions.