The 48th annual Vienna Seminar took place on June 5, 2018, with the focus, “European Contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Lessons Learned and the Way Forward.” In the face of ongoing geopolitical shifts and national political pressures, the seminar examined the prospects of sustainable European participation in current and future UN peace operations as well as the operations’ effectiveness.
Co-sponsored by IPI, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration of Foreign Affairs, and the Federal Ministry of Defence, the seminar presented different perspectives on European participation in UN peacekeeping operations. Participants included experts from IPI, the European External Action Service, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, as well as government officials from the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, and France, along with leaders from UN peacekeeping missions and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
In session one on strategic context for UN peacekeeping, speakers noted that recent European engagement in peacekeeping missions—outside of longstanding contributions to missions like UNIFIL—has been driven by specific crises, and influenced by concerns regarding counterterrorism, migration flows, and humanitarian issues. They agreed that European countries have provided niche capabilities to specific missions, and there is currently little appetite to expand to other operations.
Participants noted that Europe is experiencing a rise in “Euro-isolationism.” Some countries, like the UK and France, have reaffirmed their commitment to collective security, but many European countries are increasingly focused on territorial defense. These trends take place amid a seeming retreat from multilateralism.
Session two offered space for diverse perspectives on European participation in UN peacekeeping operations. A key discussion point was that European Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) generally bring both the capacity and willingness to project and use force, a high level of professionalism and standards of training and preparedness, as well as, of equipment and niche capabilities that may otherwise be in short supply. While these traits are not unique to European troop contributing countries, they are generally shared by European peacekeepers.
Session three addressed the challenges of contemporary UN peacekeeping. The UN has adapted to European expectations regarding intelligence and medical capacity based on their experience with NATO, participants stated. But European countries have also adjusted to UN operations. While operational challenges and gaps still remain, including in areas of logistics, enablers, alignment of responsibility with authority, and security in hostile environments, there has been significant innovation in technology that aids peacekeeping missions, measurement of performance, and efforts to improve medical response.
In the final session, speakers discussed ways to move forward in sustaining European involvement in UN peacekeeping. European contributions to UN peacekeepers do appear sustainable in the near future, they said, but may be influenced by national political considerations, including the tensions emerging between internationalists and more-populist political constituencies. In this light, communicating success is important—less to incentivize participation than to prevent diminishment.
Recent European contributions embody innovative approaches to supporting UN peacekeeping. From employing multinational rotations to engaging through bilateral, trilateral and regional mechanisms, European countries successfully mobilize diverse capabilities to help the UN address clear needs. However, sustainable and comprehensive European engagement must move beyond short-term deployments of specialized troops and capabilities. Although Europe’s interests in UN peacekeeping will be driven largely by those crises that impact its security, European countries can nonetheless offer even more to the UN.
Europe can channel sustained diplomatic and financial support to political processes in host countries and to negotiations over peacekeeping budgets and UN reforms. Ensuring troops from across the continent are trained on UN peacekeeping standards and guidelines can greatly improve interoperability and cohesion in the field. Recognizing the added value of EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) deployments, partnerships and tailored configurations will be increasingly important for mobilizing European commitment to the values and practice of collective security.
The event was held in the Austrian National Defence Academy. Lieutenant-General Karl Schmidseder, the Director General of Operations at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Defence, gave welcoming remarks, and IPI Vice President Adam Lupel introduced the event.
Other participants included:
- Major-General Michael Beary, Force Commander and Head of Mission of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
- Damien Cole, Director of the Policy Planning Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland
- Diane Corner, Former Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)
- Koen Davidse, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)
- Clara Ganslandt, Head of Division, Partnerships & Agreements, Crisis Management and Planning Directorate, European External Action Service
- Richard Gowan, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations
- Manuel Lafont-Rapnouil, Head of the Paris Office and Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations
- John Karlsrud, Senior Research Fellow, Peace and Conflict Research Group, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
- Corinne Kitsell, UN Co-ordinator, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom
- Joachim Koops, Dean of the Vesalius College, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- Rolf Landgren, Senior Police Advisor to the Civilian Operations Commander, Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, European External Action Service
- Alexandra Novosseloff, Senior Visiting Fellow, International Peace Institute
- Andreas Riecken, Director-General for EU and Multilateral Affairs, Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs
- Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet, Deputy Director, United Nations, International Organizations, Human Rights and the Francophonie, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France
- Jake Sherman, Director of the Brian Urquhart Center for Peace Operations, International Peace Institute
- Adam Smith, Chief, Policy and Best Practices, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
- Brigadier-General Reinhard Trischak, Head of the Military Policy Division, Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence
- Oliver Ulich, Head of the UN Policy, Evaluation and Training Division, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)
- Peter van der Vliet, Director of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands