CMC Finland and Sipri organised jointly a roundtable discussion at the Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development in May 2023 on the topic “Contributing to resilience in Ukraine: What role for civilian CSDP?”
The roundtable discussion aimed to identify opportunities for the European Union (EU) and its member states to continue their support to Ukraine through the civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission in the country: the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Ukraine. EUAM was established in 2014 in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of armed conflict in the Donbas region to support civilian security sector reform in Ukraine. Following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the mission received additional tasks and quickly restored its physical presence across Ukraine, demonstrating its ability to adapt to changing needs and extreme circumstances. The roundtable reviewed these internal developments of the mission and explored what further adaption of EUAM may be required in the short and medium term, taking into account the comparative strengths and complementarity of CSDP missions vis-à-vis other EU and non-EU actors and instruments that are being mobilised in support of Ukraine. The discussion focused mainly on the internal possibilities of the CSDP organisation to support resilience, while acknowledging that Ukraine has proved to be extremely resilient in the face of the conflict.
The discussion followed the Chatham House rule. The participants included senior staff members from EU member states’ seconding agencies and the European External Action Service (EEAS), former EUAM mission members, staff form other international organisations as well as NGOs and Ukrainian civil society organisations among others. Head of Research Jyrki Ruohomäki and Research and Development Specialist Johanna Hakanen from CMC Finland moderated the discussion.
Adapted EUAM mission mandate
The EUAM Ukraine mandate is to support Ukraine in its commitment to security sector reform, through mentoring and advising relevant Ukrainian bodies in the elaboration of renewed security strategies and in the consequent relevant comprehensive reform efforts.
In March 2022, following the military aggression by the Russian Federation, the Mission’s mandate was expanded to include border support activities for Ukrainian authorities. These have been widened further to include support for the implementation of Integrated Border Management and customs reform measures.
In April 2022, the Mission’s mandate was further expanded to include support to the Ukrainian authorities to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of International Crimes committed in the context of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine. 
The roundtable discussion noted how EU member states succeeded in adapting the mandate twice in a short timeframe, responding to needs created by the war in Ukraine, although challenges remain in the operational environment. More importantly, the discussion recognised Ukraine’s strong resilience and strength in the face of the aggression.
Recruitment shaped by local needs
Adapting the EUAM mandate reflected in the need to recruit suitable staff members to fulfil the new tasks which were given to the mission. It was highlighted in the discussion how crucial is for member states to be able to recruit competent experts whose skills respond to the local needs. More focus was also called for good leadership and results-based management as a key factor for resilient and effective missions. It was also emphasised that in harsh times the EU should maintain staff on the ground and carry out continuous dialogue with local partners in order to adapt its support and cooperation according to needs expressed by locals.
Duty of care aspects for seconding states
As the security situation has changed drastically in Ukraine after the outbreak of the war, member states seconding staff to the country have needed to adapt to the more demanding and riskier environment. Seconding organisations have a duty of care responsibility for their staff members working abroad. This actualised, for example, when the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission had to rapidly evacuate all staff from Eastern Ukraine in February 2022 following the Russian aggression.
In the case of Ukraine, already the COVID-19 pandemic increased risks for staff and also affected the mission’s capacity operate effectively, although the general security situation was calm.
The roundtable noted that a future challenge in will most likely be to provide safety for staff, local and international, working in the newly liberated areas of Ukraine.
At the moment in May 2023, the security situation varies greatly across the country, other areas being calm and relatively safe, but the others being at high risk. Regarding the latest amendment to the mandate which included supporting the Ukrainian authorities to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of international crimes, forensic investigation may be required to carry out in war zone. However, it was pointed out that criminal investigators may contribute to the investigation also from the office and not all staff are required to work in the field.
Gender in war and EUAM as resilience enhancer
Despite challenging times, also some positive experiences from the field were brought up in the discussion from the past year. For example, one person had observed a change in how the gender thematic was perceived. The outbreak of the war showed the roles of different genders at the time of conflict, making gender and also gender-themed trainings to be perceived more relevant than before the war.
It was also noted that while the Ukrainians have proved to be extremely resilient during the conflict, also the EU has found it important to be present in the country, demonstrating continuous support.
Future prospect on CSDP support in Ukraine
Should the EUAM mandate be adapted further when the environment changes?
It was discussed that resilience should not be delegated to a sole project of the mission but supporting resilience in Ukraine should be mainstreamed similarly to other cross-cutting themes like good governance, gender and human rights. Moreover, it was noted that these cross-cutting issues contribute to resilience as such. The participants pointed out that the EU should already look beyond the immediate needs, as reconstruction of the country has already started.
It was emphasised that the EU has other tools as well, and CSDP should bring added value to Ukraine among various other tools and international actors in the field. The need to coordinate and cooperate between these different tools and actors was also highlighted. Compared to the funding and support which the European Commission, for example, is able to provide to Ukraine, CSDP has very limited resources, although it can provide specialised expertise.
It was concluded that joint efforts from the European Union, applied in a well-coordinated manner, could have the ability to provide assistance and advisory support that meets the Ukrainian needs. This support is important to be designed in close cooperation with Ukrainians. A special emphasis should be placed on the ability to adapt to the changes that will probably continue changing as the situation on the ground develops.
Text: Julia Evans