The European rapid reaction force: Implications for democratic accountability

Release date: 2002-08

This study aims to provide an overview of democratic accountability aspects of the European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF), taking into account that the development of an operational European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) and the further fine tuning of the ERRF are part of a dynamic process. In this context, this study examines aspects of the ERRF where a growing gap in democratic accountability is identified and recommends measures of bridging this gap. Given that the ERRF is still at its initial stages and has not been officially utilized in any international crisis, the author borrows a narrow definition of democratic accountability developed by Robert Behn. According to this definition, a governing body is accountable when it explains and justifies its specific actions or inactions. In this framework, the author addresses the questions of how the European Union (EU) acts; what it has set to accomplish on issues relating to the ERRF; and, who it answers to. Accordingly, this study looks at the divergent and vague definitions of the Petersberg Tasks that have prevailed among the EU member states as well as within the European Union. The paper concentrates primarily on the role of France and the UK, the leading states in ESDP issues, without which an EU military operation could not take place. It proposes prescribing precise limits to the Petersberg Tasks, both in terms of geographical reach and the intensity of the operations. Another aspect of democratic accountability of the ERRF is assessing EU decision-making processes and coordination mechanisms. In this context, we address such questions as, how do the European Parliament (EP), European Commission and Council of the European Union work together on defense issues? What are relations like between the EP and the newly (trans)formed Interim European Security and Defense Assembly? More importantly, how do EU citizens feel about efforts at militarizing the EU? The last section explores the transparency of the ERRF from an international perspective. It therefore assesses EU-NATO relations; considers the possibility of creating an autonomous EU planning apparatus; looks at relations between the EU and non-EU ‘partners’; deals with American concerns regarding EU military capabilities; and, addresses the relevance of a UN mandate in EU military operations.
This paper is part of a series of literature reviews prepared for the Research Training Network (RTN) project on “Bridging the Accountability Gap in the European Security and Defense Policy”, which is funded by the European Commission’s Fifth Framework Program. The purpose of the literature reviews is to create a common understanding on basic issues regarding the ESDP among project partners.