EU CSDP missions in Palestine – Stakeholders and visibility as key aspects of effective strategic communication
This article analysis the stakeholder base of the European Union’s civilian crisis management missions in Palestine (EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS) and whether and to what extent stakeholders afford visibility to the missions through their strategic communications activities. It is argued that influence over the missions is concentrated among intra-EU stakeholders, which means that the missions are more exposed to intra-EU dynamics and resultant influences than to dynamics and influences arising on the ground. It is also argued that over the past years, the missions have largely been omitted from strategic communications activities by all kinds of stakeholders who otherwise routinely engage in such activities, especially stakeholders in a public service function. In this context, stakeholders in Palestine and Israel have tended to afford relatively higher levels of visibility to the missions than those in the EU.
Keywords: European Union, Common Security and Defence Policy, Palestine, stakeholder analysis, visibility, strategic communications
Jelen tanulmány elemzi az Európai Unió Palesztinában működő civil válságkezelési misszióiban (EUBAM Rafah és EUPOL COPPS) érdekeltek körét, valamint azt, hogy az érdekeltek láthatóvá teszik-e a missziókat – és ha igen, milyen mértében – stratégiai kommunikációs tevekénységükben. A tanulmány rámutat, hogy a missziók feletti befolyás az EU-n belüli érdekeltek körében összpontosul, ami azt jelenti, hogy a missziók jobban ki vannak téve az EU-n belül jelentkező dinamikáknak és ebből fakadó befolyásoknak, mint a műveleti területen keletkező dinamikáknak és befolyásoknak. A tanulmány rámutat arra is, hogy az elmúlt években a missziók javarészt kimaradtak az érdekeltek azon köre által folytatott stratégiai kommunikációs tevékenységből, akik egyébként rutinszerűen folytatnak ilyen tevékenységet, különös tekintettel a köztisztséget betöltő érdekeltekre. Ebben a kontextusban, a Palesztinán és Izraelen belüli érdekeltek általában relatíve nagyobb láthatóságot biztosítottak a misszióknak, mint az EU-n belüliek.
Kulcszavak: Európai Unió, Közös Biztonság- és Védelempolitika, Palesztina, érdekeltek elemzése, láthatóság, stratégiai kommunikáció
Most people with an interest in the external action of the European Union (EU) would probably know that the EU and its Member States are the world’s leading provider of development assistance or that the EU collectively is the leading donor of humanitarian aid in the world. However, it appears to be less well-known that, after the United Nations (UN), the EU deploys the second highest number of field missions in conflict-affected situations, currently including 11 civilian crisis management missions and six military crisis management missions / operations under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Source: https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/430/military-and-civilian-missions-and-operations_en. Accessed: 15.03.2021.
Civilian CSDP missions are typically mandated to promote the reform of the security and justice sectors in their host countries, working with local authorities on individual and institutional capacity building, supporting legislative reform, policy development and raising the standards of service delivery by the security and justice sector institutions.
The EU has two civilian CSDP missions deployed to (or destined for) the occupied Palestinian territory, namely the European Union Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (EUBAM Rafah) and the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS).
EUBAM Rafah is mandated to provide a Third Party presence at the Rafah Crossing Point in the Gaza strip, in order to contribute to the opening of the crossing point and to build up confidence between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (EU 2005a). The mandate of EUPOL COPPS is to contribute to the establishment of sustainable and effective policing arrangements under Palestinian ownership, in accordance with best international standards in the wider context of the security sector including criminal justice reform (EU 2005b).
Drawing on the author’s personal observations in the CSDP structures of the EU Council and the European External Action Service, as well as on the review of scholarly articles, official documents and European, Israeli and Palestinian media, this article analyses the stakeholder base of the EU civilian missions in Palestine as well as the missions’ visibility among its stakeholders.
Civilian CSDP missions are characteristically embedded in and depend on a complex web of EU and non-EU stakeholders who determine the entire lifecycle of the missions. In terms of stakeholder analysis, the aim of this article is to define and categorise stakeholders with an influence over planning, policy- and decision-making and mission implementation processes related to the CSDP missions in Palestine.
As regards visibility, this article aims to explore whether and to what extent stakeholders give an outward expression to their awareness of, interest in and engagement with the missions, including in their strategic communications activities. Visibility has been a constant issue in the realm of CSDP. CSDP field presences, including the EU missions in Palestine, have the attributes to qualify as the most visible dimension of EU external action: women and men in uniform with their “boots on the ground”, working in “hot-spot” situations on three continents. However, since the launch of the first CSDP mission in 2003, and despite the “proliferation” of CSDP deployments in the intervening period, CSDP missions have struggled to gain high levels of visibility. Analysing visibility aspects related to CSDP missions prepares the ground for further studies on the effectiveness of strategic communications efforts deployed by the missions, EU structures and other actors in the realm of CSDP. Examining manifestations of the missions’ visibility, including in the context of strategic communications, also paves the way for further research on perceptions, impact and influence in the CSDP domain.
Among the extant civilian CSDP missions, EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS are particularly well-placed for studying stakeholders and visibility for the following reasons: (1) these missions are the two longest-standing field presences in civilian CSDP; (2) while EUBAM Rafah has not been able to carry out its core mandate in the Gaza Strip since June 2007, EUPOL COPPS has progressively intensified its activities since its deployment in 2006; (3) the missions are deployed to a conflict situation which prompts involvement, from afar and on the ground, by the EU as well as a range of bilateral and multilateral players, non-state actors, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.
The article proceeds in the following way: first, it defines stakeholders and analysis the missions’ stakeholder base through a non-exhaustive stakeholder matrix. Secondly, it provides an analysis of the missions’ visibility across their stakeholder groups. Thirdly, in the conclusion, it summarises main findings and implications for future research.
The stakeholder base of the Palestine missions is visualized, in a non-exhaustive manner, in the matrix below. For the purposes of this analysis, the following definitions have been used. “Stakeholders” are defined as any institution, group of individuals or individual who can affect or be affected by the activities carried out by the missions. “EU (internal) stakeholders” are defined as EU institutional actors and public and private entities established in EU Member States, some of which operate in Israel and/or Palestine, as well as the general public residing in EU Member States. “Non-EU (external) stakeholders” are defined as public and private entities, multilateral organisations and non-state actors established or operating in Israel and/or Palestine as well as the general public residing therein. “Direct influence” is defined as possessing a consultative, contributory, decision-making, enabling or prohibitive capacity in regard of the planning, establishment and implementation of the missions. “Indirect influence” is defined as possessing an observational-commentatory, facilitatory or obstructive capacity in any of those regards.
|EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS – Stakeholder matrix
|EU (internal) stakeholders||Capacity||Non-EU (external) stakeholder||Capacity|
|EU Council (EU Member States’ governments)||Decision-making||Palestinian Authority government;
Government of Israel;
|EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy||Contributory / Enabling||Palestinian Authority police, judicial and border authorities (beneficiaries);
|Enabling / Prohibitive / Contributory|
|European External Action Service||Contributory / Enabling||Non-state actors involved in the conflict (Hamas de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip, armed groups etc).||Prohibitive|
|European Commission||Contributory / Enabling|
|EU Member States’ police, judicial and border authorities (personnel contributors)||Contributory / Enabling / Prohibitive|
|EU presences in host country (EU Delegation to Israel, EU Representative Office to West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNRWA, EU Special Representative for the Middle-East Peace Process)||Consultative / Contributory|
|EU (internal) stakeholders||Capacity||Non-EU (external) stakeholder||Capacity|
|EU Member States’ diplomatic missions to Israel and the Palestinian Authority||Facilitatory / Obstructive||Parties involved in conflict resolution (UN, Middle East Quartet, Egypt and other Arab states etc);||Facilitatory / Obstructive|
|EU Member States’ operational presences in Palestine (development offices, technical assistance programmes etc)||Facilitatory / Obstructive
|Third states’ and multilateral organisations’ political and operational presences in host country (diplomatic missions, UN special political mission and peacekeeping operations, US Security Coordinator, humanitarian aid operations etc.)||Facilitatory / Obstructive|
|Political actors in EU Member States (parliamentary bodies, political parties etc)||Facilitatory / Obstructive
|Political actors in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (parliamentary bodies, political parties, movements etc)||Facilitatory / Obstructive|
|Civil society organisations (EU)||Observational-commentatory||Civil society organisations (Israel, occupied Palestinian territory)||Observational-commentatory|
|Observational-commentatory||Media (Israel, occupied Palestinian territory)||Observational-commentatory|
|Scientific and academic community (EU)||Observational-commentatory||Scientific and academic community (Israel, occupied Palestinian territory)||Observational-commentatory|
|General public (EU)||Observational-commentatory||General public (Israel, occupied Palestinian territory)||Observational-commentatory|
It is important to note that the Palestine missions’ stakeholder base has not been static, it has rather evolved in line with broader dynamics in EU external action and in pace with developments in the conflict situation. For instance, important changes have occurred in the situation of the two stakeholders with the strongest influence over the missions: the EU Council and the host country government.
When the EU Council decided on the establishment of the missions in 2005, the external relations configuration of the Council was still presided by the Member State holding the rotating EU presidency. This meant that the rotating Presidency’s political priorities were liable strongly to determine policy- and decision-making in EU external action. Aside from the political opportunity presenting itself in the Israeli-Palestinian context in 2005, the interest of the then-UK Presidency of the EU Council, under the leadership of Tony Blair, was instrumental in prompting the Council to launch two civilian CSDP missions in Palestine in the space of six months. The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, permanently reattributed the presidency function in the area of EU external action to the (newly-instituted) EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This means that the rotating EU Presidency has lost most of its influence over the missions, while the EU High Representative has gained very strong influence in this regard.
Concerning the situation of the host country executive, the Palestine missions have been operating under special circumstances form the outset. The missions’ area of operations is not a proper state, rather the occupied Palestinian territory, which under international humanitarian law is considered territory under military occupation, with Israel as the occupying power. It follows that the mission’s existence is not only contingent on the request of the government of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but also on the agreement of the government of Israel. The intra-Palestinian rift between the dominant Fatah and Hamas factions and the EU’s listing of Hamas as a terrorist organisation add further layers of complexity to the situation of the host state. Following Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and the subsequent formation of the Hamas-led PA government, the then newly-launched EUPOL COPPS mission had to refrain from any contact with Hamas political appointees in the Palestinian security and justice sectors, and limit itself to working with local authorities at the technical level. In June 2007, a violent split took place between the Fatah and Hamas factions, which culminated in the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, while an internationally recognized PA government was established in the West Bank. Hamas de facto authorities took control over the Gaza Strip and the legitimate PA security and justice authorities got constrained to operating in the West Bank. This reconfiguration of the local stakeholder landscape proved debilitating to EUBAM Rafah in particular, which was withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, and has remained unable to carry out its mandate at the Rafah Crossing Point ever since.
For the purposes of this analysis, we define “visibility” as stakeholders giving public expression to their awareness of, interest in or engagement with the missions, for instance through integrating the missions in their strategic communication activities. On this basis, we take under review the visibility of the EU CSDP missions in Palestine across their main stakeholder groups.
EU stakeholders with a direct influence are arguably best-placed to grant visibility to EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS by integrating the missions in their strategic communication efforts. This behaviour was typical of the EU Council in the period 2006-2015, when the Palestine missions were afforded visibility in several high-level political declarations (Council conclusions). These were rather formalistic and short references, mainly pertaining to the possible reactivation of EUBAM Rafah, but also to the support provided by EUPOL COPPS to PA institutions. Further, the EU Council’s General Secretariat has maintained the practice of issuing succinct and factual press releases on the occasion of the yearly extensions of the missions’ duration. In recent years, the European External Actions Service has occasionally published news features on the missions’ support to PA authorities as well as notices of vacancies in the missions. When it comes to other EU stakeholders with a direct influence, it is only on very rare occasions that they grant visibility to the missions.
With regard to non-EU stakeholders with a direct influence, they do not typically use their position to raise the missions’ visibility. It is very infrequent that these stakeholders publicly engage with the missions. Despite its overwhelmingly positive perceptions about EUPOL COPPS in particular (Tartir and Ejdus, 2018), the PA leadership does not seem to address the missions in its strategic communications. On the side of the Israeli leadership, there are sporadic and rather disapproving references to the missions in a strategic communication context: Bouris quotes then Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman declaring his opposition to the reactivation of EUBAM Rafah in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011 (Bouris 2012, p. 263). The Hamas de facto authorities exhibit a similar behavior towards EUBAM Rafah: Bouris and Reigeluth quote a Hamas official arguing in 2011 that that “there is no need for them [EUBAM Rafah’s Officials] at this time” (Bouris and Reigeluth 2012, p. 6).
As regards EU stakeholders with an indirect influence, those based in the missions’ areas of operations routinely conduct strategic communication activities, yet the missions do not appear to be covered. Among EU stakeholders with an indirect influence who are based in EU Member States, there are indications of the missions’ visibility within the scientific and academic communities, the media and civil society organisations. In absolute terms, this means rather low levels of visibility, while in relative terms it coincides with typical levels of visibility accorded to civilian CSDP missions. Regarding political actors outside the executive branch and private citizens in the EU, there are no outward signs of them being aware of, interested in or engaged with the missions.
Even though the missions maintain working relationships with a number of non-EU stakeholders with an indirect influence (third states and multilateral actors based in Israel and Palestine), these stakeholders do not give expression to their engagement with the missions in their own strategic communication activities. There is evidence of the missions’ visibility within the scientific and academic communities and civil society organisations in Palestine, not least through the missions’ collaboration with these actors (Bouris and Reigeluth 2011; Müller and Zahda 2017; Bouris and Isleyen 2018). Similarly to the situation in the EU, the levels of the missions’ visibility among these communities in Palestine is rather limited. As Shapovalova points it out, only a few out of nearly 300 non-governmental organisations which try to influence EU policy towards the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have ever focused on the CSDP missions in Palestine (Shapovalova 2016, p. 340). It is more difficult to make a judgement on the missions’ visibility with the general public in Palestine. On the one hand, as Tartir and Ejdus argue, the majority of private citizens do not tend to distinguish among international actors involved in security sector reform in Palestine (Tartir and Ejdus, 2018, p. 148.). On the other hand, EUPOL COPPS has almost 42,000 followers of Facebook and more than 1,000 on Twitter, and it is safe to assume that many of these followers are Palestinians (EUBAM Rafah has no social media accounts). Both Palestinian and Israeli media provide higher visibility to the missions than EU-based media, mostly covering EUPOL COPPS on the Palestinian side and EUBAM Rafah on the Israeli side. Other than the media, Israel-based stakeholders with an indirect influence do not appear visibly to engage with the missions.
This article has examined the stakeholder base of the EU civilian CSDP missions in Palestine as well as the missions’ visibility across their stakeholder base.
As regards the missions’ stakeholder base, the main observation is that the number of EU actors with direct influence over the missions is considerably higher than the number of non-EU actors with such influence, indicating that influence is concentrated on the EU side. This means that even though the missions’ primary orientation is to help reform the Palestinian security and justice sectors, where local ownership is a precondition to success, EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS are more exposed to intra-EU dynamics and resultant influences than to dynamics and influences arising on the ground. Paradoxically, the case of EUBAM Rafah reinforces this observation. The mission has been unable to carry out its core mandate for close to 14 years due to dynamics arising on the ground (the absence of acceptable local counterparts in Gaza), however, intra-EU dynamics have prevailed and kept the mission alive and running all this time.
Regarding visibility, the main observation is that the missions have largely been omitted, especially in recent years, from strategic communications activities by all kinds of stakeholders who otherwise routinely engage in such activities. This is typifying of almost all stakeholders in a public service function: EU, Palestinian, Israeli and international actors alike. In this sense, EUPOL COPPS does not appear to enjoy privileged attention over EUBAM Rafah despite the fact that EUPOL COPPS has maintained and even increased its operations, while EUBAM Rafah has largely been inactive. It can be observed as well that over the past years, stakeholders in Palestine and Israel have tended to afford relatively higher levels of visibility to the missions than stakeholders in the EU.
To date, little scholarly attention has been devoted to stakeholder analysis and visibility aspects in CSDP. By refocusing on these basic issues in the case of EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS, this article can produce relevant knowledge and complement and inspire broader scholarship on civilian CSDP in general and on the Palestine mission in particular, including around the themes of strategic communications, perceptions, impact and influence.
Bouris, D. 2012. The European Union’s role in the Palestinian Territories: state-building through Security Sector Reform? European Security, 21:2, 257-271, DOI: 10.1080/09662839.2012.665804
Bouris, D. 2019. Unintended Consequences of State-building Projects in Contested States: The EU in Palestine, The International Spectator, 54:1, 89-104, DOI: 10.1080/03932729.2019.1555910
Bouris, D. and İşleyen, B. (2020) The European Union and Practices of Governing Space and Population in Contested States: Insights from EUPOL COPPS in Palestine, Geopolitics, 25:2, 428-448, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2018.1552946
Bouris, D. and Reigeluth, S. 2012. Introducing the Rule of Law in Security Sector Reform: European Union Policies in the Palestinian Territories, Hague journal on the rule of law. 4:1, 176-193
Doyle, K. and Desta, T. 2020. An Analysis of Common Security and Defence Policy’s (CSDP) Strategic Communication (StratCom). Journal of Politics and Law, 14:2, 56-73, doi:10.5539/jpl.v14n2p56
EU Council. 2005a. Council Joint Action 2005/889/CFSP of 12 December 2005 on establishing a European Union Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (EU BAM Rafah).
EU Council. 2005b. Council joint action 2005/797/CFSP of 14 November 2005 on the European Union police mission for the Palestinian Territories.
EU Council. 2006. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 13-14 November 2006
EU Council. 2007. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 23 July 2007
EU Council. 2008. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 26-27 May 2008
EU Council. 2009a. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 26-27 January 2009
EU Council. 2009b. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Luxembourg, 15 June 2009
EU Council. 2009c. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 8 December 2009
EU Council. 2010. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 13 December 2010
EU Council. 2011. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 23-24 May 2011
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EU Council. 2012b. EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, Brussels, 10 December 2012
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Shapovalova, N. 2016. The power of informality: European Union’s engagement with non-state actors in Common Security and Defence Policy, European Security, 25:3, 326-345, DOI: 10.1080/09662839.2016.1193487
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 The EU and its Member States collectively provided 55% (or EUR 75.2 billion) of global Official Development Assistance in 2019.
 In 2020, combined EU and Member States’ funding for humanitarian aid amounted to EUR 7.577 billion.
 The only civilian CSDP mission ever to have held executive functions, beyond those related to security and justice sector reform, is the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo), which still retains a limited residual executive capability. And the only ongoing civilian CSDP mission which is not focused on security or justice sector reform is the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM Georgia), mandated to monitor the implementation of the EU-mediated Six Point Agreement which ended the August 2008 hostilities in Georgia.
 Following the evolution of EU official language, the terms “occupied Palestinian territory” and “Palestine” are used interchangeably in this article.
 The term European Security and Defence Policy, or ESDP, was in use until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009.
 To date, 36 EU CSDP missions and operations have been launched, and partly completed.
 There is scope for different categorisations when analysing stakeholder groups, for instance along the axes of “levels of power” and “levels of interest” respectively. It should also be noted that overlaps may occur between stakeholders in the below matrix, for instance EU Member States may also be involved in conflict resolution on their own right.
 Certain stakeholders not included in the matrix may have either direct or indirect influence over the Palestine missions. For instance, the European Court of Auditors may address the situation of the missions in its audits and thereby exert indirect influence over the missions, and the Court of Justice of the EU may rule on cases brought before it in relation to the missions and thereby exert direct influence. However, these actors rarely take the initiative or are called upon to apply their influence over the mission.
 As for any other civilian CSDP mission, the establishment of EUBAM Rafah and of EUPOL COPPS in 2005, as well as each extension of their initial duration to this day, was contingent on the request of the host country as well as on the unanimous decision of the EU Council. This internal and external conditionality means that the EU Council and the host country government hold the strongest influence over the mission.
 The year 2005 opened up political space for renewed international efforts on state-building in Palestine, and the international community attached high priority to security sector reform.
 Tony Blair later held the function of Representative of the Middle East Quartet in the period 2007-2015.
 In mid-2005, Israeli dismantled its settlements and military bases in the Gaza Strip, and pulled out is military forces from the territory. After this disengagement, Israel made a declaration to the UN that it no longer considered itself as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the UN and the majority of the international community continues to consider the Gaza Strip occupied territory, given that Israel still controls the land and maritime borders of the Gaza Strip (save the border with Egypt where the Rafah Crossing Point is situated), its airspace and retains certain civil registry functions.
 In accordance with standing EU policy on Hamas, the EU does not maintain relations with Hamas, including the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip.
 In principle, EUPOL COPPS’ area of operation also includes the Gaza Strip, yet the mission’s local counterparts (the PA police and judicial authorities) are fully accessible in the West Bank, so EUPOL COPPS’ mandate implementation was not disrupted in any important way due to the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip.
 The website of the European External Actions Service currently contains 28 news features on EUPOL COPPS and 1 news feature on EUBAM Rafah. Almost all of these features have been produced and originally published by the missions and then re-published by the European External Actions Service.
 One such occasion was the period of large-scale hostilities between Israel and Gaza-based militants in 2014 (Operation Protective Edge), when the leaders of France, Germany and the UK went public on an initiative for a monitoring mission in Gaza, which would have been based on EUBAM Rafah. The initiative was never realised.
 During the yearly open days at the European institutions in Brussels, the general public is invited to the European External Actions Service to familiarize itself with EU external action through exhibitions and stands. CSDP missions and operations have their own stands, where mission staff engage with passers-by and hand out flyers and small gifts to visitors. Each year, the Palestine missions tend to have a rather high level of visitor engagement at their stands, which may be explained by the relatively high level of interest generated by the missions and their operating environment among the visitors. It may also be explained by the deft public diplomacy measure taken by the missions of offering Middle-Eastern delicacies to visitors stopping at their stalls.
 The PA’s official news agency (WAFA) has published 65 features on EUPOL COPPS since 2015.
 The term “state-building” is often used to characterise security and justice sector reform interventions in Palestine.