Annual conference of the European Association of Peace Operations Training Centres (EAPTC), 7-9 June 2023
In times of global insecurity, strong, tailored partnerships both within and outside the EU are the only path towards a safer and more peaceful world. Under this guiding theme, the European Security and Defence College and the European External Action Service addressed more than 120 participants at the annual conference of the European Association of Peace Operations Training Centres (EAPTC) in Brussels. The annual conference brings together experts from military, police, diplomatic and civilian training institutions, think-tanks and universities to enhance training capacities and cooperation in the fields of peace, security and defence. This year, the three-day event was organised by the European Security and Defence College in Brussels. The opening panel took the 20th anniversary of the launch of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations as an opportunity to analyse the past and draw lessons for the future. A host of crucial perspectives were gathered, offering in-depth insight into the topic. Ms von Seherr-Thoß, Managing Director for Peace, Security and Defence, Mr Osterrieder, Head of the ESDC, and Mr Horvath, Chief of Staff of the EU Military Staff, represented the EU on the panel. Mr Keane, Head of the United Nations Peace and Security Liaison Office, represented the United Nations. Mr Alberoth, representing the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres, and Mr Feilke, the host of the founding conference of the EAPTC from the German Federal Police, were also part of this outstanding panel. The discussion benefited from the participants’ diverse backgrounds and insights. The perspectives of diplomats, international organisations, the military, police and civil society were all gathered, reflecting the multi-faceted nature of the Civilian CSDP Compact as well as the complexity of the topic. While the EAPTC covers training and capacity building for the Common Security and Defence Policy as a whole, this year’s conference offered highly qualified experts the opportunity to exchange views in specific working groups on priority topics of exceptional importance. The working groups benefited from the excellent quality and expertise of the participants. The newly updated Civilian CSDP Compact and its practical implications were the main topic of discussion in the first working group. The group was chaired by the Mr Ferhatović, training manager at the ESDC. The panel discussion opened with a keynote speech by Ms Huisman, Head of Sector Civilian CSDP in the EEAS. The new Civilian CSDP Compact was presented and explained, and particular attention was given to the deliverables for 2027. The panel, which was composed of experts from the EU institutions and three distinguished speakers from the Member States, then analysed the role of training as a tool for the practical implementation of the Compact. The panellists agreed that training will play a fundamental role in the practical implementation of the Compact, as it will enable mission participants to perform at a higher level and to contribute to the success of missions. Strong partnerships within and outside the EU will be an asset. The civilian CSDP Compact also provides direction on joint efforts to address the most pressing issues, such as countering misinformation and climate security, in training courses. A long-term training evaluation system needs to be established to better understand the positive impact of training on missions. The second working group focused on the practical implementation of leadership and management in the field in CSDP missions and operations, and provided important insights into the development of leadership and the skills required for it. Panellists called for a collaborative, inclusive and gender-responsive leadership, especially when it comes to the complex environment of CSDP missions. The inclusion of different perspectives is essential in the complex environments in which CSDP missions are conducted. This refers not only to professional backgrounds, such as civilian, police and military backgrounds, but also to other dimensions of diversity. At the same time, each individual has a responsibility to reflect on themselves and analyse whether their current role is the right one for them. Furthermore, the participants called for a system to evaluate training over the long term in order to better understand its impact. The European Security and Defence College was also delighted to host a working group dedicated to its core business – the training architecture of the EU. In line with the working group on leadership, participants called for a long-term evaluation of the impact of training. While acknowledging that freedom of method was crucial for training institutions, a certain degree of standardisation was also called for. However, the focus should be on the standardisation of decision-making rather than the standardisation of content. As international cooperation is one of the priority areas of the new Civilian CSDP Compact as well as of the ESDC, the fourth working group focused on knowledge management, with a particular emphasis on EU-UN cooperation. While individuals and teams are central to knowledge management, the philosophy behind it must be implemented in the organisation and formulated in concrete measures. This also applies to knowledge management between organisations – an area where there is still a lot to be desired. In addition, feedback and evaluation systems, although widely used, need to be strengthened and the results need to be better integrated into training planning. The fifth working group also dealt with international cooperation, focusing on the United Nations New Agenda for Peace and its implications for the EU peace missions and operations. A unified and coherent international community can make a real difference in setting a positive trend in peace, security and development in the world. The panel was chaired by ESDC Deputy Head Fergal O Regan and included the perspectives of Mr Rory Kean and Ms Anne Viken, from the UN Liason Office for Peace and Security, of Ms Melis Alguadis from the European External Action Service and of Jonas Alberoth from the Folke Bernadotte Academy. The fruitful discussion led to reflections about the evolving nature of peace and operations and on the best ways to proceed. Environmental peacebuilding and climate security were the focus of the sixth working group. Climate and security are becoming an increasingly important nexus, as reflected in the announced joint communication and in potential plans for joint training activities on this topic. In addition, CSDP missions will reflect on and make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, energy consumption, food waste and water consumption on the basis of the new Civilian CSDP Compact. While this must be done in all CSDP missions by 2025, the missions in Georgia, Iraq and Ukraine have already done so to some extent. The panel inspired a fruitful discussion in which participants were able to report on their institutions’ concrete efforts to close the gaps between policy and implementation in the area of climate security. The results of the working groups and the insights offered by the panels once again highlighted the importance of the conference. Not only were important synergies found in the working groups, but the critical engagement of the participants allowed for reflection on current positions and will inspire participants to further improve peace-training capacities. In particular, the evaluation of training activities was an overarching theme that emerged in several working groups. The ESDC would like to thank all participants, speakers and especially the conference organisers, ESDC training managers Mr Isak Enstrom and Mr Giuseppe Zuffanti.