Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

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Crisis Decision Making in the European Union Sara Larsson Eva-Karin Olsson Britta Ramberg

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Crisis Decision Making in the European Union Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson, and Britta Ramberg 91-85401-02-1 1650-3856 A Publication of the Crisis Management Europe Research Program Leif Arback Elanders Gotab 47325, Stockholm 2005 800

Table of Contents Acknowledgements ...................................................................................................


List of Abbreviations.................................................................................................


Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Crisis Management and the European Union Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson and Britta Ramberg ...........................


The Institutional Context Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson and Britta Ramberg ...........................


The Dioxin Scandal Eva-Karin Olsson ...............................................................................


The Sanctions Against Austria Sara Larsson and Jenny Lundgren .......................................................


The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination and the European Commission’s Preparedness Britta Ramberg ..................................................................................


EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson and Britta Ramberg ........................... 131


Acknowledgements The authors would like to express their gratitude to the many people that made this book on EU crisis management possible. First and foremost, we owe many thanks to all the interviewees who put their time at our disposal and kindly shared their experiences of various crises. We would also like to thank our colleagues at Crismart for reading and commenting upon several drafts of the individual chapters, and in particular Bengt Sundelius and Eric Stern for their support and knowledge. Paul ‘t Hart of Utrecht University deserves a special thanks for his persistence in pushing the book to completion. We hope we finally got the “bloody message.” Last, and certainly not least, we would like to thank Stephanie Young who copyread the entire volume. Sara Larsson Eva-Karin Olsson Britta Ramberg


List of Abbreviations


African, Caribbean and Pacific Region (Lomé Convention) Agence France-Presse Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU Commission of the European Communities The Permanent Representatives Committee (Comité des Représentants Permanents) Civil Protection Unit Directorate-General of the European Commission Industry Agriculture Internal Market and Financial Services Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre


Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council European Commission European Humanitarian Aid Office European Court of Justice European Foreign and Security Policy European Parliament European Security and Defense Policy European Union European Partial Agreement on Major Hazards Framework Partnership Agreement General Affairs Council International Federation of the Red Cross Euro-Mediterranean Partnership North Atlantic Treaty Organization Non-Government Organization Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Partnership for Peace Rescue and Preparedness in Disasters


List of Abbreviations



External Relations DGs of the Commission European Mediterranean Seismological Center Standing Committee for Animal Nutrition Social Development Fund Standing Veterinary Committee United Nations United Nation Disaster Assessment and Coordination United Nation Development Program United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations Children's Fund United States Department of Agriculture World Health Organization World Trade Organization

Chapter 1 Crisis Management and the European Union

Chapter 1 Crisis Management and the European Union Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson and Britta Ramberg 1. Crisis Management and Contemporary Governance A voluminous body of research exists on policy-making in the European Union. Many scholars have examined the power struggle between the Council and the Commission, the overlapping responsibilities between the General Directorates within the Commission, the interplay between the Member States and the EU bodies, and the influence of transnational lobby groups. Yet, there is virtually no analysis or investigation of EU crisis management.1 Little is known about EU’s performance with regard to transnational threats and emergencies within the area of ‘low politics,’2 such as animal and infectious diseases or major transboundary floods.3 This book will explore some ‘low politics’ crises that the EU has handled: the dioxin crisis, the “the 14’s” sanctions against Austria, and the EU’s response to the earthquakes in Turkey. We study the decision-making processes in these cases and search for some general conclusions about EU crisis management. This book will be a complement to the small but growing literature on the developing international crisis management capacity of the EU: that is, its capacity within the second pillar (the Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP). It is important to draw a distinction here; we are using the same vocabulary that is used in the existing literature on EU crisis management, but we do not cover the same domain.4 Knud Erik Jörgensen and Simon Duke look at ‘high politics’ issues confronting the Union: that is, issues addressed at EU’s highest political level (Jörgensen, 1997; Duke, 2002). Instead our aim is to investigate the internal decision-making processes within the EU at different levels when the Union is hit with a crisis. Our work contributes to the well-developed research on national crisis management. A magnitude of diverse literature exists on about how states organize their crisis capacity by, among other things, developing emergency management and contingency-planning functions. Many comparative case studies are now available on government performance in international and domestic crises, including disasters, riots, labor disputes, and terrorist acts (Haney, 1997; Comfort, 1988; Rosenthal et al., 2001; Stern and Sundelius, 2002).


Two exceptions are Jörgenson (1997) and Duke (2002), who have studied major international foreign-policy crises and the EU crisis management structures, respectively. 2 By ‘low politics’ we refer to the non-military field of crisis management. ‘High politics’ is defined as security policy in the traditional sense and refers to activities within the second pillar (EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy). We are, however, well aware of the ambiguity in this theoretical distinction. ‘Low politic’ crises easily escalate into highly politicized security issues on the top political level, while ‘high politic’ crises seldom involve solely military elements. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2 of this volume (2. Crisis Management as an EU function). 3 An important contribution was made by Grönvall (2000), who analyzed the EU’s management of the BSE crisis in 1996. 4 See further discussion on crisis definition in part 3 of this chapter.


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

The EU’s capacity to deal with internal non-military crises has not been the subject of much research or analysis. Some important empirical questions are whether there are any differences between national and EU crisis management, and if so what are the implications and consequences of such discrepancies. The EU significantly differs from the nation-state when it comes to structure, authority and competencies, and thus there are several comparative dimensions to consider.

2. Aims and Scope of This Book The aim of this book is to offer some insight into the ´black box’ of EU crisis management. Our main research question is how the EU handles ´low politics´ crises, that is, crises which are not urgent international issues at the highest political level. The decision-making process is analyzed through the investigation of three case studies. Central crisis management themes are discussed, and comparative conclusions are drawn in the hope of providing inspiration for further research. In order to provide a deeper understanding of EU crisis management, the three case studies in this volume were scrutinizingly selected. Each case refers to a distinct institutional arena of crisis management at the European level. The cases were not primarily selected with the intention for comparison, but rather to illustrate the vast scope and variety of EU crisis management practices. EU crisis management encompasses different parts of the EU system and cannot be reduced to any one ‘single pillar’s’ responsibility. The first case study is the Belgian Dioxin Scandal of 1999. This case illuminates the agricultural and health sector within the EU. It unveils the process of internal decision-making within the Commission as well as the dynamics between the Commission and a small but central member state (i.e., Belgium). The analysis of the decision-making process reveals conflicting interests and values, issues regarding credibility and legitimacy, and the impact of historical analogies. The institutional learning obtained from the Mad Cow (BSE) crisis was still fresh in the individual and institutional memory. Related to theories of European integration, the research question in focus is the Commission’s role as an actor in its own right or as an arena for the Member States. The second case is the European Commission’s management of the 1999 earthquakes in Turkey. This case sheds light on the European Commission’s ability to mobilize disaster assistance and coordinate its efforts internally as well as externally with other actors in the European humanitarian aid arena. The formal regulations and mandates are compared to the actions taken in practice. Strengths and shortcomings in the system of preparedness are scrutinized. From a theoretical point of view, the study aims at contributing to the understanding of the European Union as an external actor within the field of humanitarian aid. The third case is “The 14” and the sanctions against Austria in 2000. The Heads of Government of fourteen EU member countries wanted to prevent the right-wing party FPÖ from joining the Austrian government by threatening sanctions. While the other two crises fall within the EU’s first pillar, thereby presuming a certain degree of preparedness, the decisionmaking process in this case took place outside the formal EU framework. In fact, the decision to implement sanctions was formally “fourteen bilateral decisions.” Nevertheless, the EU Presidency played an active and important role in the decision-making process, since the intention of the sanctions was to protect the common values of the European Union. Since the


Chapter 1 Crisis Management and the European Union

actors were the Heads of Government, they were also formal members of the European Council. For our purposes, the important common aspect in all three cases is the fact that the decision-making was made under dramatic circumstances. Problems and challenges had to be managed in a fast and determined manner by the responsible actors. The assumption that this kind of decision-making, in certain aspects, differs from political and bureaucratic decisionmaking was an underlying theme for this book and for the selection of the case studies. From that assumption follows the conviction that although every crisis has unique characteristics and circumstances, there are recurrent patterns that unite decision-making features in crises (Stern and Sundelius, 2002). By choosing to study different policy areas and the similarities between them, we will be able to examine whether it is possible to speak of a specific EU way of crisis decision-making, and if such exists, of which elements it consists. To sum up, the underlying rational is that the more unique the case studies are, the closer we get to our aim: to examine the EU as a crisis management system.

3. Studying EU Crisis Management: A Decision-Making Perspective 3.1 CRISIS DEFINITION Well aware of the prevailing confusion surrounding the concept of crisis and crisis management, we start by defining what we mean by a “crisis.” In academia, as well as in government practice, the notion of a crisis has traditionally been used in the field of international security; the threat of war or conflict has been the main criterion for defining a crisis (Snyder and Diesing, 1977; Lebow, 1981; Brecher, 1993). Contemporary crises illustrate that modern governance is more than a political and administrative provision of effective public service. We live in a world of increasing complexity, connectedness and contingency. Governments are forced to recognize the limits of conventional planning, law making, and top-down modes of governing societies. Despite their increased technological capabilities in monitoring and controlling social behavior, governments are confronted by more and more surprises and threats at the local, national and transnational levels. Due to their increased technological capabilities, modern societies also produce new forms of risks, disturbances and threats (Beck, 1992). In the 90s Buzan and Weaver of the Copenhagen School complemented the traditional military-focused definition of a crisis so that it included other types of threats and risks, which challenge modern society (Buzan, 1991; Buzan et al., 1998; Eriksson, 2001). These challenges occur at different levels and in different sectors of society: for example, disruptions in technical systems, terrorism, and riots (Rosenthal and ‘t Hart, 1991). The subjective aspect of a crisis was included in the classic definition presented by Hermann (1972): surprise, restricted amount of time, and the threat to high-priority goals were included as necessary criteria. Government performance is, therefore to an increasing extent, tested not just in terms of conventional effectiveness in managing crises, but also in terms of resilience. Some crises can be prevented, but others will continue to occur and to surprise despite good preparedness (Rosenthal et al., 2001). A government’s capability to deal with the unexpected, adversity and crises is and will continue to be essential for the political survival


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

of a system. This applies not only to (sub)national governments, but also to intergovernmental and transnational governing institutions. As bodies like the EU take over functions previously performed by national governments and the more new functions they invent, the more these governing bodies will be confronted with resilience issues and challenges. Based on these different theoretical approaches, Sundelius et al. (1997) developed a crisis definition that included Brecher’s criteria regarding threat to basic values and limited time, and they broadened the concept of crisis to include non-military threats. Likewise, they included the subjective aspect developed by Hermann and expanded Rosenthal et al.’s ‘surprise criterion’ to include ‘uncertainty.’ Thus, this revised definition implies that a situation is a crisis when it is perceived by central decision makers that basic values are threatened, there is limited time available and there is a considerable degree of uncertainty (Sundelius et al., 1997:13; Stern, 1999:8; Rosenthal et al., 2001; Stern and Sundelius, 2002). The three case studies investigated in this book comply with Sundelius et al.’s crisis definition. The application of this crisis definition largely dictated our selection of case studies. Thus, the issue of a first or a second pillar crisis, an internal or external crisis, or a ‘high politics’ or ‘low politics’ crisis did not influence our selection. These aspects, of course, influence how a crisis is managed, since the managing occurs in very different institutional environments (in terms of actors, rules, roles, resources, and norms), but they were not important factors for the definition or selection of crises in this book. Instead, the perceptions of the actors were the guiding principle.

3.2 COGNITIVE – INSTITUTIONAL APPROACH Having made clear the broad crisis definition that we apply, the next question is how to go about increasing our understanding of crisis management practices in such a complex and multi-dimensional creature as the European Union. In order to understand the EU as an actor, we need to explore as much as possible the ‘black box’ of the European Union, not only by including the different states, institutions and departments, but also the individuals and the relations between the actors involved at different levels. By understanding the dynamics in the processes behind the formal decisions, we are able to comprehend what factors influenced the decision makers in acting the way they did. This approach is applied in each of the three case studies. The conceptual model used for analyzing the crisis decision making is based on the cognitive-institutional approach. This means that the interplay between the various actors (i.e., the institutions and individuals) at the different levels and in different sectors involved in the crisis management process is taken into account. (For an institutional description of the formal EU crisis management system, see chapter two of this volume.) The neo-institutional theory simply focuses on the interplay between the individual and the institution, where the institution provides possibilities as well as restrictions for the individual. Yet the cognitive approach sees the individual as more than just a carrier of the institutional structure, but also as an actor in his/her own right. The institutional part of the cognitive-institutional approach focuses on the organizational structures, processes and cultures. These institutional arrangements both constrain the individual as well as provide him/her with possible action plans. By dissecting an organization and taking into account its institutional parts can greatly contribute to a more comprehensive


Chapter 1 Crisis Management and the European Union

understanding of the dynamics that precede a final decision or a line of action. It is often assumed that during crises, where high values are at stake, the common purpose (organizational or national) of defending these interests are mobilized (Rosenthal et al., 1991:211). Yet even if everyone in an organization (or state) can agree upon the values at stake and even if there is a common interest in defending these values, all entities (i.e., institutions) in the organization (or state) cannot always agree upon how to reach the goal(s) in the best way. Depending on the different stakes, different competences, and access to different information, the problems and solutions can be defined in different ways (Stern, 1999:38; Rosenthal et al., 1991:212). What one actor perceives as a threat might be comprehended as an opportunity by another (Rosenthal et al., 1991:212). The cognitive aspect acknowledges an individual’s subjectivity, beliefs and expectations. It also takes into account the human cognitive limitations and capacity for processing information and the influence of stress in crisis situations. The point of departure is that actors do not act or react objectively in a given reality, but rather in a perception of reality. This constitutes the basis for interpretations of situations and definitions of problems (Stern, 1999:33). In order to understand why actors act the way they do, it is essential to include their subjective interpretations of a situation. One important part is historical analogies (Stern, 1999:33; Khong, 1992; Brändström et al., 2004). Previous events and experiences often impact the perceptions of a new event in such a way that the actors, consciously or unconsciously, exclude alternative explanations, causes and solutions (Stern, 1999:33). It is also important to remember that while the management of a crisis in hindsight might seem rather self-evident, the actors very seldom have a holistic picture of an entire crisis while it is occurring. Seemingly obvious decisions might not have been that obvious when taken. Actors seldom have the same information and mental picture of a crisis in the beginning stages as they do in the later stages of a crisis. In Allison’s classical work Essence of Decision (Allison, 1971; Allison and Zelikow, 1999), the Cuban missile crisis was studied from three different perspectives: 1. an aggregated state perspective, which assumes that state units are rational actors; 2. an organizational point of view, including the bureau-political games played by the various organizations and institutions; and 3. a governmental politics perspective, which highlights the bargaining and negotiating activities performed by the departments and agencies within a national government. The cognitive-institutional approach uses several different perspectives in order to develop a more holistic picture of a situation. Organizational and institutional structures are important, as they constitute the formal and informal framework of individual actions. But the organizations consist of individuals that in different ways and for different reasons impact decisions (Rosenthal et al., 1991:212). Instead of treating the different levels of analysis as separated models of explanation like Allison does, the cognitive-institutional approach combines aspects of the individual, the institutional, and to a certain extent the system in order to provide more complex explanations behind the seemingly evident decisions.

3.3 PROCESS TRACING THE EU Revealing the micro-level of decision making in the European Union can contribute to the existing literature on EU crisis management. A national system has several different levels and there is quite a bit of interaction between the actors at these levels. The EU system is even


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

more complex with “the existence of overlapping competencies among multiple levels of governments and the interaction of political actors across these levels” (Marks et al., 1996:41). The multi-level governance aspect of the EU differs from state politics, but it cannot be regarded as a totally autonomous or independent organization. The theoretical approach of penetrating the processes behind the decisions requires well adjusted methodological tools. The framework used for the three case studies in this book follows Stern and Sundelius’ analytical format (see Stern and Sundelius, 2002). These methods build upon “process tracing” and “structured focused comparison.” Bennet and George (1998) developed a method of ‘process tracing,’ which “attempts to identify the intervening casual process – the casual chain mechanism – between an independent variable (or variables) and the outcome of the dependant variable” (Bennet and George, 1998:2). Instead of accepting the decisions as obvious and a series of rational choices by the actor(s), the process preceding an actual decision is scrutinized. The entire decision-making process is assumed to consist of a number of inter-linked decisions; that is, a chain of events in a larger process. George calls this type of causality “path-dependency” (ibid.:11). George and McKeown define “structured, focused comparison” (1985) as drawing conclusions from a decision-making process in a single case study, developing a number of theoretically based themes and consequently applying these themes to a large number of other cases. Thus, comparisons and to some extent generalizations can be made in spite of the fact that the decision-making process of only one single case was thoroughly analyzed. The comparison is so focused that the researcher only deals with those aspects of the case that are believed to be relevant to the study’s research objectives and data requirements (George and McKeown, 1985:22). The comparison is further structured by definitions and the material is standardized so that general research questions can serve as guidelines for case studies (ibid p.41). The theories are then used to draw parallels to other cases and in that way discern eventual recurrent patterns. Stern and Sundelius’ methods consist of four steps. The first step is to place the particular crisis into its proper institutional historical and political context (Stern and Sundelius, 2002; Stern, 1999:45). This is based on the assumption that a crisis does not occur in a vacuum. A crisis is not an isolated event, but is part of an ongoing process. Long shadows from the past are likely to impact the management of a current crisis. In the same way, every crisis has the potential to produce long shadows for the future. How these shadows impact, and will impact the future, depend on the management of the crisis. The next step is to establish a time frame within which the most important decisions were made and outline the course of events. The ambition here is to reconstruct what actually happened. This chronology is then used in a more analytic way in the third step, the methodological process, by the selection of “decision-making occasions” (ibid.). Each crisis can be broken down into components and regarded as a sequential process. A decision-making occasion does not refer to the decision itself, but to the stimuli or event that forced the relevant actors into a position where they had to make a choice of action, either to act or not to act (Stern, 1999:47). A decision, or non-decision, causes new stimuli, and that is how the process continues. “By breaking a historical crisis experience down into a series of decision-occasions, complex decision-making processes can be traced in relatively close approximation to the reality perceived by the participants themselves” (Stern and Sundelius, 2002:77). In the selection of decision-occasions “lies a virtually unavoidable element of subjectivity […and…] access to source materials impacts the selection of decision-occasions.” (ibid.)


Chapter 1 Crisis Management and the European Union

Three criteria have been identified as crucial for selecting decision-occasions (ibid.): The first is its prominence in the crisis decision-making process (i.e., the problems that most troubled the decision makers and were most time consuming). The second is the post hoc importance (i.e., problems or decisions that in retrospect showed to have an impact on the course of event) and the third is the pedagogic value (i.e., episodes of best or worse practices that might constitute valuable lessons for future crises). The first criterion was most decisive in the selection of the decision-occasions in the dioxin case as well as in the case of “the 14’s” sanctions against Austria. The third criterion was most important in the earthquake case. After having dissected the decision-making processes in detail, all of the elements are reassembled and analyzed. The thematic analysis constitutes the fourth step of the methodological design. Instead of trying to place oneself in the middle of the event and understand the reality that confronted the actors in the heat of the moment, the analyst takes a step back here in an attempt to understand the rationale behind making, or not making, particular decisions. The ambition is to unveil certain patterns or specific aspects in a particular crisis situation that can help explain how it was managed and also why it was managed in this way it was and not in another way. The patterns in the thematic analysis provide a basis for comparison between different cases, sectors, and levels. The case studies in this book focus on the following themes from Stern and Sundelius’ research: preparedness, information management, coordination, symbolic crisis management, and learning/institutional reform. Although these themes were important in all three studies, the significance and emphasis on each theme differ in each study. When we look at preparedness we focus on to what extent crisis structures and planning were in place for dealing with the crisis. We assume that both the degree and the character of planning influenced the crisis management response. Since we are not only interested in institutional structures but also in cognitive aspects, this section will also deal with the level of crisis awareness among the decision makers and how it affected the outcome of the crisis. The next theme is information management, which involves a number of different aspects. During a crisis, information is gathered and interpreted in order to enable fact-based decision making. Information is then spread to key actors, both within as well as outside the organization. In the section on coordination, we examine another well-known aspect of crisis management and discuss the dynamic of bureau-politics within the EU setting and its effects on coordination. In the section on symbolic decision-making, we look beyond the more practical crisis management aspects and look at how the crisis was framed in various ways by the different actors. We assume that symbolic communication is of utter importance in understanding the dynamics of crisis management. Finally, the section on learning and institutional reform discusses whether the three crises stimulated long-term changes within the EU structure, and if so, how these changes could be understood.


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

4. References Allison, G. T. (1971) Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Boston: Little, Brown and Committee. Allison, G. T., and P. Zelikov (1999) Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, 2nd ed. New York: Longman. Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage Publications. Bennett, A. and A. George (1998) “Process Tracing with Notes on Causal Mechanisms and Historical Explanation.” Draft presented at the Diplomatic History and International Relations Theory Conference at Arizona State University. Brändström, A., F. Bynander and P. ‘t Hart (2004) ”Governing by Looking Back: Historical Analogies and Crisis Management.” Public Administration. Spring Issue 2004. Brecher, M. (1993) Crisis: In World Politics Theory and Reality. New York: Pergamon. Buzan, B. (1991). People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. Buzan, B., O. Waever, and J. de Wilde (1998) Security – A New Framework for Analysis. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc. Comfort, L., Ed. (1988) Managing Disasters: Strategies and Policy Perspectives. Durham: Duke University Press. Duke, S. (2002) The EU and Crisis Management: Developments and Prospects. Maastricht: European Institute of Public Administration. Eriksson, J. (2001) Threat Politics: New Perspectives on Security, Risk and Crisis Management. Aldershot: Ashgate. George, A. and T. McKeown (1985) “Case Studies and Theories of Organizational Decision Making.” Advances in Information Processing in Organizations. Vol. 2:21-58. Grönvall, J. (2000) Managing Crisis in the European Union: The Commission and ‘Mad Cow Disease.’ Stockholm: The Swedish Agency for Civil Emergency Planning. Haney, P. (1997) Organizing for Foreign Policy Crises: Presidents, Advisors, and the Management of Decision Making. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Michigan Press. Hermann, C. F. (1972) International Crisis: Insights From Behavioral Research. New York: The Free Press. Jörgenson, K. E. (1997) European Approaches to Crisis Management. The Hague: Kluwer Law International. Khong, Y. F. (1992) Analogies at War. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Lebow, R.N. (1981) Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crisis. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. Marks, G., L. Hooghe and K. Blank (1996) “European Integration from the 1980s: StateCentric vs. Multi-Level Governance.” Journal of Common Market Studies. 34, 3: 341-78. Rosenthal, U., A. Boin and L. K. Comfort (2001) Managing Crisis – Threats, Dilemmas, Opportunities. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publisher. Rosenthal, U., P. ’t Hart, and A. Kouzmin (1991) “The Bureau-Politics of Crisis Management.” Public Administration. Vol. 69:211-233. Snyder, G. and P. Diesing (1977) Conflict Among Nations: Bargaining, Decision Making, and System Structure in International Crises. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Stern, E. K. (1999) Crisis Decisionmaking: A Cognitive Institutional Approach. Stockholm: Political Science Dept., Stockholm University.


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Stern, E. K. and B. Sundelius (2002) “Crisis Management Europe: An Integrated Regional Research and Training Program.” International Studies Perspectives. No 3, 71-88. Sundelius, B., E. K. Stern, and F. Bynander (1997) Krishantering på svenska: Teori och Praktik [Crisis Management the Swedish Way: Theory and Practice]. Stockholm: Nerenius och Santérus förlag AB.


Chapter 2 The Institutional Context

Chapter 2 The Institutional Context Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson and Britta Ramberg 1. Decision Making in the EU Institutions According to EU Guy Peters, interplay within the EU takes place at three different levels. Firstly, the Member States try to push through their interests and gain as much as possible from cooperating with one another. Secondly, there is interplay between the various institutions. The Commission, in somewhat simplified terms, guarantees the rights of the European Union, while the European Council protects national interests (which is intimately connected to the interplay between the Member States). Thirdly, there is a bureaucratic play between the different Directorates-Generals (DG), which all have their own organizational culture, interests and views on different policy sectors. According to Peters (1992; 1996), the DGs are often involved in conflicts concerning who should take responsibility for borderline questions in their policy sectors. Conflicts also exist between different groupings and individuals. With this multi-level governance perspective in mind, we briefly present the different EU institutions that were directly or indirectly involved in the three crises. Some of these institutions were not directly involved in the decision-making process, but they are nevertheless relevant to the discussion and context of these three crises, in particular the division of competencies. Even though they did not play a direct vital role (or any role at all), they are all linked to the framework of the EU. Substantial changes are occurring within the EU and its institutions, and thus the competencies and division of labor between them are also changing. Therefore we describe the organizations and the treaties, as they appeared when the three crises occurred.

1.1 THE COUNCIL The Council is where decisions are ultimately made, and it is the highest predecessor for national interests in the member countries. The highest body is the European Council. It consists of the twenty-five Heads of State and Government from the Member States1 and the President of the European Commission. The European Council is not divided into special interests sectors, thus it is forum for all types of questions. The issues discussed in the Council tend, however, to focus almost exclusively on “high politics” (Peterson and Blomberg, 1999). The European Council has two main tasks. One is to give impetus to the EU and to define general political guidelines. The other is to coordinate and settle difficult questions and to help overcome political deadlocks (Council of the European Union, 7 February 2002).


At the time of the three crises, there were only fifteen Member States, but the EU now has twenty-five members as of May 1, 2004.


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

In contrast to the European Council, the Council of Ministers is divided into policy sectors (foreign affairs, agriculture, finances, etc.). Following the changes in the Nice Treaty, more and more decisions are made by qualified majority. The Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) is the preparatory body for the Council of Ministers and superintends the interests of the European Council between council meetings. COREPER consists of the Member States’ Permanent Representatives (Ambassadors) and is responsible (at a stage involving preliminary negotiations) for assisting the Council of the European Union in dealing with the items on its agenda (proposals and drafts of instruments put forward by the Commission). In this way COREPER works as a link between Brussels and the Member States, where national positions are debated and sorted out, and compromises are often made before the Council has its meetings (Peterson and Blomberg, 1999; Scadplus, 6 February 2002). As a result of the Maastricht Treaty (1993) the EU cooperation is divided into three pillars, each with a different type of cooperation. The Council represents the second pillar and the decision-making power is firmly based at the national level. The common crisis management capacity within the framework of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), which in turn is a part of the European Foreign and Security Policy (EFSP), institutionally falls under the second pillar. This means that decisions on EU crisis management operations can only be made after a consensus decision from the twenty-five Member States. This is a slow machinery to put into motion. From experience (for example, in Iraq in 2003 and in the Balkans during the 90s), it is evident that the EU has difficulties in uniting and reaching a common position when it comes to “high politics.” Decisions within the field of ESDP are made by the Foreign Ministers in the General Affairs Council (GAC) on the basis of recommendations from the Political and Security Committee (PSC), which consists of Ambassadors from the Member States. The PSC provides information from the civil and military committees (CIVCOM and EUMC respectively). Before a decision is made in the General Affairs Council, an issue is also passed on to COREPER. Traditionally COREPER is the last instance before a proposal reaches the Ministers in GAC. The Treaty of Nice (2000) allows the Council to delegate the decision-making power in day-to-day crisis management operation issues to the PSC. This was the first time a committee was given decision-making power in the Council. When a crisis situation falls under the European Security and Defense Policy, the PSC is under the authority of the EU High Representative of ESDP and the EU Presidency. The cases analyzed in this book do not fall under the security and defense policy, and the Council was not the main actor in any of the volume’s three case studies. The Council was never even involved in the dioxin scandal, since the Standing Veterinary Committee was unanimous regarding the issue. In the earthquake case, the Council addressed questions regarding economic issues, but this is not further elaborated in this study. Regarding the sanctions against Austria, the Council was not formally involved in the management, since the decisions were made “bilaterally.” Fourteen of the fifteen members of the European Council made the decision, using the network of EU Heads of State and Government, to threaten Austria with sanctions.


Chapter 2 The Institutional Context

1.2 THE PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL The Presidency of the Council plays a vital role in the organization of operations, notably as the driving force in the legislative and political decision-making process. It has to organize and chair meetings and work out compromises capable of resolving conflicts. The Council Presidency presides for a six-month period with each Member State holding the Presidency in accordance with a pre-established rota (Council of the European Union, 7 February 2002). The EU Presidency also has an important role in the decision-making processes within the Union. Anna-Carin Svensson (2000) asserts that the Presidency can contribute significantly to a decision-making process, since negotiations are often centered around the President. When it comes to leadership, acceptance for and confidence in the Presidency is crucial, especially when trying to formulate a common standpoint with many actors. Svensson also believes that the Presidency is an important forum for influence, and thus this institution to a larger extent should be addressed in studies concerning EU decision making (Svensson, 2000). Together with the High Representative for the Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP), the Presidency represents the EU in CFSP matters and is responsible for the implementation of CFSP decisions. When looking at the development of the EU crisis management capacity in the second pillar, the Presidency has been a strong driving force. Due to the nature of a rotating Presidency, the overall goals of a common foreign and security policy take on a more concrete form every six months. The Presidency was the main actor in the Austrian case. In fact the Presidency was the only EU institution involved in decision-making process regarding the sanctions. In the earthquake case the Presidency played a mere symbolic role, and the Presidency did not even participate in the dioxin crisis.

1.3 THE COMMISSION The Commission and the Council have a close relationship, since almost all legislative and economic issues demand cooperation between these two institutions (Edwards and Spencer, 1994). Accordingly they have a mutual dependency, where neither can act without the other. But this mutual dependency can lead to tensions between the two institutions. Turf battles are sometimes fought since the Council wants the Commission to put forward proposals that are in line with their own opinions and, likewise, the Commission wants their proposals to be enacted. The Commission is expected to be independent of national interests. It is supposed to act in accordance with common European interests. According to the treaties, the Commission has two main tasks: to initiate new legislative proposals and to ensure that they are implemented in the member countries (McCormack, 1999). The Commission is formally the only body with the right to initiate new legislation within the EU, and thereby has the opportunity to create guidelines for completely new policy domains. A Commissioner or an official within a particular DG can put forward proposals. If the Council and/or the Parliament approve(s) a proposal, it is up to the Commission to make sure that it is properly implemented although the Commission has no enforcing mandate for this. If a country chooses not to follow a decision, the Commission can bring the issue to the European Court of Justice or can initiate sanctions against a country. The Commission directly and indirectly has power in ad-


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

ministrative questions, since it can make binding declarations and draw up new rules, which indirectly have important policy implications. Another important function that partly lies in the hands of the Commission is the decision of which cases are brought to the European Court of Justice (Peters, 1997:103). The Commission has often proven to be an effective organization that responds fast to new policy problems. It has created a close and productive cooperation with different experts (Wallace and Wallace, 1996). It also has the capacity of putting new policy areas on the political agenda, and sometimes has been even criticized for being ‘too innovative.’ Even though the Commission is formally the only actor within the EU that sets the agenda, their proposals in reality are the result of demands from other actors: the Council, individual commissioners, members of the European Parliament or different interest groups (Edwards and Spencer, 1994). Many questions are of a technical nature, and since the Commission does not always have the right competence for such issues it has to consult different experts and interest organizations. There is a risk that close cooperation with interest groups and experts can influence the integrity of the Commission. Two different theoretical perspectives have influenced the fact that the Commission is either seen an arena or an actor (Mörth, 1997). The notion ‘arena’ is closely linked to the state-centered view of EU cooperation; the Commission plays a marginal role, and functions foremost as an arena for competing national interests. The role of the Commission in this context is to conciliate national interests and facilitate collective decision making. From the other perspective, the Commission has a role of its own to play with real political influence. This does not necessarily exclude the fact that the Commission tries to find fitting coalitions between the member countries or the fact that compromises are made. Whether the Commission takes on the role of an actor or merely of an arena in crisis situations is an empirical question, which requires further investigation. Looking at the Commission as a monolith has limited value. The Commission consists of three different parts: the Commissioners, their Cabinets, and the administrative part of the DGs (Petersson and Blomberg, 1999). Hence, the Commission is a highly fragmented institution, where the DGs have responsibility for different policy sectors. In spite of this division, the jurisdictions of the various DGs are often overlapping, and this makes it difficult to distinguish which DG should promote a matter. It also leads to competition about who is responsible for what (Edwards and Spencer, 1994:175). Even when it is clear which DG is leading a particular issue, there seems to be little cooperation with the other involved actors (e.g., the other DGs or interest groups). Each DG consists of a Cabinet and an administration of officials. The officials mostly focus on technical questions, and the members of the cabinet on the broader political perspective; yet this strict division is not always followed. The Cabinet is said to be “the juncture where political and technical considerations must be confronted” (Cini, 1996:113). The main task of the Cabinet is to advice the Commissioner before meetings and other events. In general, the fact that the Cabinet and the Commissioners are appointed by the member states illustrates the member countries’ difficulties in completely giving up their influence to the Commission. To avoid too much national influence, each Cabinet must consist of at least one person from another nationality than the Commissioner’s. The Commission represents the first pillar in the EU and after the Cold War it has increased its position in the field of foreign policy (Allen, 1998). The Maastricht Treaty formalized the Commission’s role in the European Foreign and Security Policy in the second pillar.


Chapter 2 The Institutional Context

The Commission was given the right of initiative and has a representative in the so-called “Troika” together with the EU High Representative for ESDP, the Presidency and the upcoming Presidency. The Commission has also been given the responsibility to coordinate foreign policy activities in the two pillars in order to ensure consistency. Together with the Presidency, the Commission informs the European Parliament of Common Foreign Security Policy issues and developments (Duke, 2002:115). Since foreign, security, and defense policies are traditionally closely associated with sovereignty, and thereby with the nation state, the Commission’s role vis-à-vis the Council and the Member States is complicated (Duke, 2002:115). To a varying degree the Member States are still uncomfortable with giving authority to the supranational level concerning these policy areas. The dioxin scandal as well as the earthquake crisis shed light on the internal operations of the Commission. The decision-making process regarding the sanctions against Austria did not involve the Commission at all. The Commission was informed about the decision to threaten Austria with sanctions at the very last minute, right before it was presented to Austria.

1.4 COMMITTEES Every DG has a number of committees, which also play important roles in the decision-making process of the Commission. The committees deal with different technical aspects in various policy areas and consist of national experts. The committee system could be regarded as a specific form of administrative interaction between the member countries and the EU administration (Wessels, 1998; Larsson, 2003). The committees serve as a link between the Council and the Commission and contribute to disarming institutional and national tensions. They provide a forum where policies can be worked out in a less politicized form (Peters, 1992). Since national experts (and not elected officials) are involved in the committees, decisions should theoretically be made according to technical standards and not national guidelines.2 There are both advantages and disadvantages with having committees under specific DGs. One advantage is that committees are financed, supported, and organized with the Commission’s existing resources. The disadvantage with having committees tied to a specific DG is that they do not have access to other DGs’ information or administrative systems. The borders between the different DGs tend to be very strict and rigid. The committees were originally established to help the Council. The Commission took over some executive power from the Council in connection with the 1987 Single Act and the system was revised. Different procedures for how different types of committees should function were set up. There are three different types of executive committees: consultative, administrative, and prescriptive. Consultative committees can only advise, administrative committees can block decisions, and prescriptive committees have to approve the decisions before they can go any further. The only committee that was discussed in any great detail in this volume was the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC), which managed the Belgian dioxin crisis. The SVC is a prescriptive committee. Since the Commission was not at involved in the decision-making


For an extended analysis of how the committee system works both formally and informally, see Torbjörn Larsson (2003).


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

process of the sanctions against Austria, the committee system was consequently not included in that study. The Humanitarian Aid Committee (HAC) coordinates the Member States in the area of humanitarian aid. It did not, however, play a leading role in the crisis management of the Turkish earthquakes, so it was not included in that case study.

1.5 THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT The European Parliament (EP) is the only directly elected institution in the EU system, and in fact the only directly elected international assembly in the world (McCormick, 1999:1012). The primary role of the EP is to exercise democratic control over EU decision making and it has three fundamental powers: legislative power, budgetary power, and supervisory power (European Parliament, February, 2004). From being a rather toothless institution, the EP has gradually increased its role and significance in various policy sectors (White, 2001:16-17). Although it cannot introduce legislation (which is the role of the Commission), the EP is indirectly involved in the decision-making processes of several policy areas. It writes reports, gives recommendations, and delivers amendments in a “co-decision procedure” (as initiated in Maastricht and extended in Amsterdam). This procedure gives the EP the right to a third reading on selected laws and thereby puts the Parliament and the Council on equal footing (ibid.; McCormick, 1999:105). The EP has a rather weak role within the area of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, although its influence has increased. The Presidency is obliged to consult with the EP on the main aspects of CFSP, and the Presidency together with the Commission are to keep the EP regularly informed about the developments. The EP also has the right to ask questions and make recommendations to the Council. Important in this context is the fact that the EP, together with the Council, constitutes the budget authority of the EU. This is a powerful role since “by exercising its budgetary power, the European Parliament expresses its political priorities” (European Parliament, February 2004). Another example of the EP’s strengthened role is its power to approve appointments to the Commission: the President as well as all of the commissioners. Perhaps the EP’s strongest tool in its supervisory role is its ability to dismiss the entire College of Commissioners through a vote of censure. So far this power has never been utilized. The European Parliament was not a significant actor in any of the three cases included in this book.

2. Crisis Management as an EU Function3 The EU will most likely increase its crisis management functions. Since many of the contingencies threatening European societies are more transnational in nature (origin, scope, etc.), much of the crisis management response will also have to be organized, or at least coordinated, at the transnational level. This simple fact has been recognized in some but not all areas of the EU.

3 This section builds mainly upon Grönvall and Olsson (2002) and Ekengren and Larsson (2003). For an excellent mapping of the developments, see Duke (2002).


Chapter 2 The Institutional Context

2.1 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Ideas of a European foreign and security policy existed already in the early seventies, and these ideas gained more footing after the Cold War. The Maastricht Treaty of 1993 was the official starting point. The Member States agreed that security policy belonged to the tasks of the Union, and the Maastricht Treaty established the three-pillar structure4 that prevails even today. The Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP), which includes the European Security and Defence Policy, was institutionalized and placed under the EU’s second (inter-governmental) pillar. Experiences from the Balkans highlighted the need for the EU to act swiftly and effectively. The next formal step in the developments of a European Security and Defence Policy was the Amsterdam Treaty in 1996, where the Petersberg Tasks were included. The Petersberg Declaration was signed in 1992 by the WEU members. The declaration includes humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks, and the use of combat forces in crisis management. By transferring the Petersberg Tasks from the WEU to the EU, the Amsterdam Treaty enabled all EU members (non-allied as well as NATO members) to participate in these operations. The French-British meeting in St. Malo in 1998 provided the political preconditions for the continued development of the ESDP. Great Britain, with its historical links to the US, showed a new interest in the European Security and Defense Policy. There were appeals in the St. Malo Declaration calling for the implementation of the Amsterdam Treaty and for the Union to establish “capacity for autonomous action (backed by credible military forces), the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so” (cited in Duke, 2002). A central goal for the EU was to meet conflicts and threats with civil and military means by utilizing its own crisis management capacity and by developing closer relations with NATO (Ekengren and Larsson, 2003). Since that time, each Presidency has steadily brought about developments towards this goal. We now take a closer look at the developments and existing capacities within each pillar.5

2.2 CRISIS MANAGEMENT CAPACITIES WITHIN EU’S THREE PILLARS Crisis management capacities exist within each of EU's three pillars: the European Communities (at the supranational level)Commission, the ESDP/CFSP (at the interstate level), and the Justice and Home Affairs (at the interstate level). The first pillar provides a framework for the community institutions. The European Commission is basically the main actor and essentially all discussions on the first pillar focus on the activities of the European Commission. Consequently, the crisis management capacity of the first pillar is more or less managed and financed by the European Commission. Although the Union’s crisis management capacity is often considered a new area of cooperation, the EU Commission has dealt with crisis management and crisis prevention for more than 50 years. Over the years, international crisis management tasks within the first pil-

4 The three-pillar system is explained more in the next section, 2.2 Crisis Management Capacities Within EU’s Three Pillars. 5 A word of caution is needed here since these developments are progressing very rapidly, and any attempt at describing the existing status of them is doomed to be quickly outdated.


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

lar have included trade, humanitarian and development aid, conflict prevention, and EU enlargement. Acute EU crisis management assistance started already in 1969 and concentrated on disaster assistance to the ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States). The Commission has also long been active in projects supporting human rights, free elections, civil administration, and law and order. Over the years, the EU Commission has worked on developing and expanding its crisis management capacities. For example, in 1991, ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Aid Office) was created with a broad mandate for acute disaster assistance, long-term humanitarian aid, and to a certain extent disaster prevention. Furthermore, in 2001 the Commission created a mechanism called the Rapid Reaction Mechanism (RRM) in order to speed up its bureaucratic budget procedures in times of crises. The RRM has an earmarked budget from the DG Relex and its primary aim is to facilitate rapid mobilization of financial means in the event of an upcoming or escalating ‘complex’ crisis. Additionally, in cooperation with the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) within the DG Environment, the Commission has established a Monitoring and Information Center (MIC) with around the clock service. The aim is to distribute early warning information and requests for assistance from countries in need. A catalog of available resources and experts in the Member States is also being compiled. This will help facilitate the rapid deployment of experts and assessment teams. The second pillar deals with establishing a common foreign and security policy for the EU. The aim is uniting the Member States on major foreign and security policy issues so that it is possible to execute joint actions. Likewise, the second pillar addresses issues regarding community values, international cooperation, defense, and European security. This is a challenge since many of the Member States have quite different security and defense policies (e.g., NATO, WEU, nuclear weapons, etc.). In order for the EU to strenghen its role as an international crisis manager, it is of crucial that the EU displays a solid, united front. Developments within the second pillar have traditionally focused on two capacities: military and civil. Conflict prevention was added as a third dimension to the EU security and defense policy at the Gothenburg Summit in 2001. Cooperation between the civil and military spheres is still quite underdeveloped in the EU, but this is often emphasized as an advantage for the EU as an international crisis manager. Most of the other international actors are either civil or military organizations. The fact that the EU has both dimensions means that it has a wealth of resources and experiences to utilize during crises. In 1999, the Member States decided to establish three new bodies for planning, decision making, and implementing of crisis management operations: the standing Political and Security Committee (PSC), the European Union Military Committee (EUMC), and the European Union Military Staff (EUMS). It was also decided that a High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy would be appointed. S/he is responsible for assisting the Council in CFSP-related matters and has the authority to act on behalf of the Council in matters concerning EU External Relations (European Union, downloaded in December 2004). In 2000 a special committee, CIVCOM, was established for addressing the civil aspects of crisis management. Like the EUMC, the CIVCOM gives advice to the PSC on issues related to their areas of competence. In order to help facilitate inter-pillar coordination, issues are also passed on to COREPER (the preparatory body for the Council of Ministers).


Chapter 2 The Institutional Context

The ESDP also has concrete operational crisis management capacities. The Military Headline Goals were formulated at the Helsinki Summit in 1999. The Member States agreed to build up a capacity of 60 000 soldiers within 60 days which would have the ability to stay operational for at least one year. The Member States have also decided to create a pool of 5000 police officers for international missions, of which 1000 could be available within 30 days. Strengthening civil administration, civil protection, and institution building are other prioritized goals for civil crisis management capacity. The challenges within this area have been to develop concrete goals and to earmark sufficient national resources (such as lawyers, civil servants and other expertise), as well as to develop the civil planning capacity (Ekengren and Larsson, 2003). The EU has accomplished two crisis management operations under the second pillar: in Macedonia (Concordia) and in the Congo (Artemis). Five other operations are currently being undertaken. These capacities within the second pillar constitute one of the EU’s machineries for international crisis management, with nation-state structures of defense and security serving as role models. Due to the CFSP’s small budget, the Member States finance the major of such operations. The third pillar (cooperation in justice and home affairs) focuses on cooperation between police and judicial authorities in the Member States in an attempt to eliminate crime, racism, and xenophobia (European Union, downloaded in December 2004). The US drama of September 11 resulted in a new EU perspective of the third pillar (the field of justice and home affairs). As a result of this tragic event, the Member States quickly reached a consensus on a common definition of terrorism and a harmonized criminal law concerning terrorism and the extradition of suspected criminals (Ekengren and Larsson, 2003:32). Furthermore, a team of national experts established the “Europol Task Force on Terrorism,” which functions as a coordination center for the exchange of information between the Member States. The goal of these new measures is to establish stronger common mechanisms for safeguarding the external borders of the growing Union.

3. Conclusion Within the EU, there are several crisis management machineries that overlap and compete in terms of capacities, decision-making procedures, competences, and financial resources. Thus, the need for a broad approach to crisis management is even more flagrant. Our focus in this volume is not on the formal arrangements regarding disaster response and crisis/conflict management but instead on how the EU system actually performed in crisis situations in three different policy areas. We take a decision-making perspective and trace how the EU institutions were involved in the management of critical contingencies, how they went about this, and what happened as a result.


Crisis Decision Making in the European Union

4. References Allen, D. (1998) “Who speaks for Europe? The search for an effective and coherent external policy.” In A Common Foreign Policy for Europe: Competing Visions of the CFSP, edited by J. Peterson and H. Sjursten. London: Routledge. Cini, M. (1996) The European Commission: Leadership, Organization and Culture in the EU Administration. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Council of the European Union (7 February 2002) Home page available at: cms3_fo/showPage.ASP?id=1&lang=en&mode=g Duke, S. (2002) The EU and Crisis Management: Developments and Prospects. Maastricht: European Institute of Public Administration. Edwards, G., and D. Spencer, Eds. (1994) The European Commission. Harlow: Longman Current Affairs. Ekengren, M. and S. Larsson (2003) Säkerhet och försvar i framtidens EU: en analys av försvarsfrågorna i det europeiska konventet [Security and Defense in the Future EU: An Analysis of the Defense Issues in the European Convention]. Stockholm: Svenska institutet för europapolitiska studier [The Swedish Institute for European Politics]. European Parliament (February 2004) Home page available at: home/default_en.htm European Union (downloaded in December 2004) “Structure of the European Union: The ‘Three Pillars’.” Available on the European Union’s home page at: eur-lex/accessible/en/about/abc/abc_12.html Grönvall, J. and E. K. Olsson (2002) “EU som krishanteringsaktör” [The EU as a Crisis Management Actor]. In EU som civil krishanterare [EU as a Civil Crisis Manager], edited by S. Myrdal. Stockholm: The Swedish Institute for International Affairs. Jarlsvik, H. and K. Castenfors (2004) Säkerhet och beredskap i Europeiska Unionen [Security and Preparedness in the European Union]. Part of the Swedish Emergency Management Agency’s publication series, 2004:3. Stockholm: Edita Ljunglöfs Tryckeri. Larsson, T. (2003) Precooking in the European Union – The World of Expert Groups. ESO report, Ds 3003:16. Stockholm. McCormick, J. (1999) Understanding the European Union: A Concise Introduction. London: MacMillan Press LDT. Mörht, U. (1997) Policy Diffusion in Research and Technology Development: No Government is an Island. Stockholm: Stockholm Center for Organizational Research, Stockholm University. Peters, G. (1992) “Bureaucratic Politics and the Institutions of the European Community.” In Euro-Politics: Institutions and Policy-Making in the “New” European Community, edited by M.A. Sbargia. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. Peters, G. (1996) “Agenda-setting in the European Union.” In European Union: Power and Policy-Making, edited by J. Richardson, pp61-76. London: Routeledge. Peterson, J., and E. Blomberg (1999) Decision-Making in the European Union. Basingstoke: MacMillan Press LDT. Scadplus (6 February 2002) Home page available at: Svensson, A.C. (2000) In the Service of the European Union – The Role of the Presidency in Negotiating the Amsterdam Treaty 1995-97. Uppsala: The Political Science Association in Uppsala.


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Wallace, H., and W. Wallace (1996) Policy-Making in the European Union. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. Wessels, W. (1998) “Comitology: Fusion in Action. Politico-Administrative Trends in the EU system.” Journal of European Public Policy 5:3 June: 209-34. White, B. (2001) Understanding European Foreign Policy. New York: Palgrave.


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal Eva-Karin Olsson 1. Introduction The dioxin scandal broke out in Belgium the summer of 1999, when the European Commission was interim after the European Parliament deposed it. Like the mad cow crisis (BSE) in 1996, the dioxin crisis put the spotlight on the vulnerability of the common European market, where foodstuff moves freely between countries. The absence of adequate controls in the feedingstuff industry once again posed problems. In the common market the Member States must fully trust each other and the safety of the products. Since the European Commission does not have any resources of their own for supervising the countries, it relies on the Member States to provide information regarding, for example, the outbreak of animal diseases and different forms of contamination. The crisis quickly became a scandal because Belgium had tried to hide the contamination from the Commission until information surfaced in the media. The scandal led to the resignation of two Belgian ministers and it seriously damaged the Belgian economy. Due to the common market, import restrictions were also put on other products from the EU. The contamination originated in a small company with only six employees, but it ended up producing severe economic consequences for the entire EU. When the new Commission took over in September 1999, the Commission was “still a little wounded by the past,” according to Jonathan Faull, the chief spokesman, and it was “not entirely steady on its feet” (International Herald Tribune, 19 September 1999). In addition to the scandal caused by a report exposing fraud, corruption and mismanagement at the senior level, the Commission was further scarred by its mismanagement of the BSE crisis in 1996. When Romano Prodi was appointed the new President of the Commission, he emphasized that “the EU could improve its popularity by undertaking such projects as ending the chaos at European airports or by taking the lead in ensuring food safety” (International Herald Tribune, 16 September 1999).

1.1 WHAT HAPPENED? On January 29, 1999, the feed company Verkest received a complaint from one of its customers stating that some of its chickens had became ill and died from Verkest’s feedstuff. Verkest contacted a veterinarian to investigate the matter on March 3. On March 19, the veterinarian informed the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture that he had sent feedstuff to a laboratory to be tested. On April 21, the same veterinarian reported his suspicion that dioxin might be the source of the problems after having traced and identified the concerned farms. The Belgian Ministry then informed its partners in the Netherlands and France, since the feed material had been sold to these countries. At this point in time the Belgian government was well aware of the situation at hand, but choose not to inform the public or the European


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Commission until a month later on May 27 after the information had surfaced in the Belgian media. The news created a storm in the Belgian media and among the Belgian public, as well as stirred up feelings in the Commission. The Belgian authorities were forced to take action; they tracked down the contaminated products, and as a result they put 417 poultry farms under suspicion since they had bought the contaminated feed. The Commission called the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) to an extra meeting on the issue on June 1, and it was decided that the Member States were obliged to trace and destroy the contaminated products. The Commission approved the decision two days later. On the very same day, new information reached the Commission stating that the contaminated feed might have also been sold to pig and bovine farms. The Commission decided that meat and animal products from these animals should also be restricted. With the restrictions in place, the implementation phase started. There was much confusion since Belgium gave contradictory information about which products had been contaminated, how they should be traced. Furthermore, the methods Belgium used to trace the products back to their original farms were problematic. As a result, many third countries banned all EU foodstuff imports. By that time the Belgian export was nearly non-existent. Belgian farmers complained about big financial losses and demanded compensation. The Belgium government thought that the measures were too hard and worked hard to get the restrictions lifted, especially the restrictions on bovine and milk products. Their first priority was to get the ban on milk lifted, which they succeeded in doing after a few weeks. It took much longer to get the other restrictions lifted. Slowly the situation improved, and by the end of July the Commission and the Belgian government considered the crisis under control. But on July 24 a new alarm was issued stating that contaminated feed might have been given to additional 200 Belgian pig farms and this highlighted the fact that the initial tracing system had not been effective. In order to solve the problem, the EU demanded a new certification system based upon real analytical tests, rather than a system based on simply tracing the products. In the autumn the EU gradually lifted the restrictions, even though the last one concerning the remaining food stocks containing poultry and pork was not lifted until April 18, 2000.

2. Decision-Making Occasions Four decision-making occasions in this crisis posed difficult choices for the Commission, and in particular the Agriculture DG: 1. Belgian chickens contaminated by dioxin. 2. Have bovines and pigs also been contaminated? 3. The implementation phase and the issue of milk 4. New methods for testing additional pig farms.

2.1 DECISION-MAKING OCCASION I: BELGIAN CHICKENS CONTAMINATED BY DIOXIN. Late Friday afternoon on May 27, 1999, the Belgian authorities sent a short fax to the Agriculture Directorate General of the European Commission (DG VI) with information about dioxin contamination of Belgian poultry. The spontaneous reaction of the civil servant who


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

read the fax was that the situation was serious and she described how a wave of panic hit her. After reading the fax she contacted the person responsible for food security within the DG, the Cabinet and finally the Commissioner Franz Fischler. Thereafter she began to sketch out some precautionary measures for dealing with the situation. As is routine procedure, her proposal was sent around to the other DGs for approval. There was no time for consultation, neither in nor outside the Commission, since the event occurred on a Friday afternoon and it was impossible to obtain an expert opinion within 48 hours.1 In her opinion, the event was more of a political matter rather than an expert issue, and she felt the submitted information was enough to make a decision. The Commission’s most important contact in a situation like this is the SVC, since they have to approve decisions. Even though there had not been any contact between the two, the civil servant felt confident that the SVC would approve the proposal, since “they always approve proposals directed towards one single member state” (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview). On Monday evening a meeting was organized at the Agriculture DG with the Belgian authorities and participants from Industry DG (DG III) and Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection DG (DG XXIV). Already in the beginning it was clear that the Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection DG should be involved in the crisis management of the dioxin crisis together with the Agriculture DG, even though the former had the formal juridical responsibility (Respondent D, 21 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent C, November 2000 e-mail correspondence). The inclusion of the Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection DG was logical since the crisis concerned health issues, but also because consumer confidence in the EU market was at stake, according to the Commission’s civil servants (Respondent D, 21 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent E, 20 June 2000 telephone interview). At the meeting, Belgium tried to explain the situation and the measures taken it had taken, which included tracing the feed material placing and some farms under observation. The members of the DG VI felt that the Belgian authorities were not able to produce any convincing data and that they were trying to downplay the risks (Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). Belgium was also heavily criticized for not using the official system of notification, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), for alerting the other Member States. The meeting participants described the meeting as “chaotic”; the Belgian authorities were unable to clearly explain the situation or the actual risks involved, and the Commission was unable to grasp the problem and its implications (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview).2 On the one hand, the Commission felt that the Belgian measures were not adequate (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/008), and on the other hand Belgium thought that the Commission was too strict and that the measures Belgium was imposing on the national level were sufficient (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The restric1 According to a civil servant this was not unusual, since there is often no time to establish external contact in a crisis which requires immediate action (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview). 2 According to one of the DG VI civil servants, one of the most important outcomes of the crisis was the fact that people within the EU began to understand the connection between animal feed and food (Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). As a result, a great deal of work was undertaken within the Commission focusing on the production of feed material, control of the involved substances, and control of contamination levels in food. The Standing Committee for Animal Nutrition (SCAN) was a driving force in this process and the issue was brought to the Council already on July 14, 1999. Another result of the crisis was that SCAN was granted the same mandate to act in accordance to “safeguard measures” as SVC (Respondent M, November 2000 personal interview).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

tions could have been even harder, since Germany was pushing the Commission to ban all export products derived from Belgian eggs and poultry3 (European Commission, 3 June 1999a: 1999/363/EC). According to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir, the Commission’s decision to also include products derived from chickens was a compromise to Germany’s demands for a total export ban (Le Soir, 2 June 1999). Belgium was unable to win the Commission’s confidence at the meeting so a new meeting was scheduled for the next day with the Belgian Veterinary Institute and the DG VI. Belgium was ordered to take appropriate action in every step of the food chain regarding poultry, egg and products derived from them (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/008). The same day the Belgian authorities made a decision that all contaminated foodstuff should be taken off the store shelves (Belgian Government, 2000). The Commission also informed the other Member States, in particular France and the Netherlands since they had probably received contaminated feed from the Belgian company.4 The Netherlands and France responded by taking the same measures as Belgium: that is, requesting consumers not to buy the products. It should also be said that both France and the Netherlands were informed by Belgium, respectively, on May 3 and 12, but neither of them had contacted the Commission. Both the Belgian media and the Belgian government were annoyed by the fact that Belgium was made into the scapegoat for not informing the Commission, when neither of the two other countries had either (Le Soir, 3 June 1999; Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 007/0018). The Commission responded to this criticism by stating that it was Belgium’s obligation, as the country where the original contamination occurred, to inform the Commission. In order for the Commission to get its proposal through it had to be approved by the one of the standing committees. There were two possible committees dealing with this issue: the SVC and the Standing Committee for Animal Nutrition (SCAN). SCAN had a meeting on May 31 where the matter was discussed with representatives from the Belgian government who presented a report on the contamination including the measures taken. On 1 June, the SVC held its first meeting on the dioxin crisis. In an attempt to keep the Commission from putting forward a proposal to “punish Belgium,” the Belgian Veterinary Institute had a premeeting with the SVC before they voted and they tried to convince the SVC to make a decision in line with the Belgian authorities’ decision (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/008:75). The appeal from Belgium had no effect on the SVC, which approved the Commission’s proposal with a qualified majority with two Member States abstaining (European Commission, 2 June 1999).5 Decisions were made that obliged the Member States to trace, take off the market, and finally destroy contaminated poultry, including egg and products derived from these. The decision covered all products dated between January 15 and June 1,1999, coming from producers using the contaminated


Already from the beginning, Germany was of the opinion that Belgium had mismanaged the situation. Germany had a special interest in the case since it imports a lot of Belgian food products (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview). In reality the restrictions served as an export prohibition, due to the great uncertainty regarding which products had been contaminated. According to members from the DG VI, there were never serious discussions about banning all products (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 personal interview; Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). 4 Germany was also notified but no specific actions were needed since it only had received a small amount of the feed, which had been given to animals not yet slaughtered. 5 On June 3, the Commission approved the decision taken by the SVC.


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

feed. The Belgian authorities were obliged to create a certificate that guaranteed the products were not contaminated (applied to products including more than 2 percent egg) (European Commission, 2 June 1999). On June2, the Belgian government implemented the decision taken by the Commission regarding poultry. The sale of poultry and egg-based products derived from the 400 farms suspected to be contaminated was forbidden. The ban would be lifted when the animal stock was guaranteed dioxin-free (Belgian government, 2000). In Belgium the event caused turbulence in the Government and two members (the Minister of Agriculture – Karel Pinxten and the Minister of Health – Marcel Colla) were forced to resign, since they had known about the contamination since April 26 (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 007/0018). The public protests against the Belgian government grew and the demonstrators on the streets of Brussels demanded the resignation of the Belgian government (Svenska Dagbladet, 2 June 1999). The Belgian authorities tried to assure that they were dealing with the problem, but contaminated products could still be found on the market (Göteborgs-Posten, 3 June 1999). The European Parliament got involved and demanded that Belgian chocolate be included in the restrictions since it contained egg. Meanwhile Belgian chocolate producers tried to explain that egg was not used in their products. Pauline Green, President of the Socialistic Group in the European Parliament said in a public statement, “If the scientific advice supports that the products must be withdrawn from the market, then that is what must happen and without delay. It is unthinkable that any risks be taken with public health” (Electronic Telegraph, 3 June 1999). Up to this point Russia, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal had decided to test and/ or to ban Belgian products (Reuters, 10 June 1999).

2.2. DECISION-MAKING OCCASION II – HAVE BOVINES AND PIGS ALSO BEEN CONTAMINATED At this point the Commission thought that the contamination was limited to the poultry sector. This picture changed on June 2, 1999, during a meeting between the Commission, the Belgian Minister of Agriculture and the Belgian Minister of Health, when the Commission was informed that the contaminated feed might have also been given to bovines and pigs (European Commission, 3 December: Eurolex Document 399D0788). According to one of the participants, one of the Belgian representatives received a phone call from the Belgian administration right in the middle of the meeting. When he came back, he explained that there were suspicions that bovines and pigs had also received the contaminated feed. The Commission felt that something ought to be done to deal with the issue for the sake of relations with the third countries.6 The Commission gave Belgium one day to come up with some convincing data that would verify that the products were not contaminated, but Belgium claimed that it would be impossible to get that kind of data in one day (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). According to one EU official, after receiving the new information about pigs and bovines Franz Fischler turned to Emma Bonino’s representative, who was sitting in for the Health Commissioner, and asked in a whispering voice, “What should we do? Should we


Similarly, during the BSE crisis in 1996 Franz Fischler defended the Commission’s decision as primarily “protecting Europe’s markets abroad.” This statement received much criticism due to its apparent lack of concern for public health (Ratzan, 1998).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

close? And if we do, will the Commission stand behind us?” Bonino’s representative assured Fischler that he had their support, and two minutes later the decision was taken (Respondent D, 21 December 2000 personal interview). Belgium had contested the Commission’s first decision, but that was nothing compared to its protests against this second decision. The first decision was more or less in line with the measures Belgium had imposed itself. Belgium fiercely claimed that it could take care of the bovines and pig problems all by itself, yet the Commission argued that without any solid evidence proving that the animals had not been given the contaminated feed, the Commission was forced to expand the restrictions. Uncertainty about whether Belgium had any control over the situation forced the Commission to take a hard line and to implement the most restrictive measures based on the “precautionary principle”7 (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). The decision was made official the day after by Commissioners Franz Fischler and Emma Bonino, who together had put forward a joint proposal for introducing appropriate safeguard measures for all products derived from pigs and bovines that might be contaminated. The proposal followed along the same line as the one for poultry; no contaminated products from the affected farms on the market, tracing the products that already were out on the market, information to the other Member States, export certificates, and so forth (European Commission, 3 June 1999). Thereafter the proposal was sent to the Commission for approval, and on June 4 the Commission officially announced that the restrictions against Belgium had been expanded to include pigs and bovines (European Commission, 4 June 1999). The Commission had made its decision, but the decision still needed to be approved by the SVC. Trade was declining, because imports ban from third countries8 were affecting not only Belgium, but also the other EU countries. For example, the US expanded its import restrictions from chickens and chicken products to also pork from all EU countries, which hit hard the big pork exporters like Denmark, the Netherlands and France (Glavin, 2 July 1999; Electronic Telegraph, 5 June 1999). Even though the import bans were expected by Commission, the situation was troublesome since it resulted in big economic losses for the EU countries (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). Another effect of the extended ban was that the Commission’s workload increased. The Commission needed to solve the actual crisis and to also settle the infected trade issue with third countries. In order to deal with the situation, the Commission held meetings with the third countries to inform them of the situation. The first such meeting was held already on July 4.9 During the meeting the Commission gave an account of the situation in Belgium and the other affected countries in an attempt to convince the third countries that measures were being taken to prevent contaminated products from reaching the market (European Commission, 9 June 1999a: MEMO/99/ 32).10 In order for the Commission to restore confidence, it was important that the EU

7 Similarly, during the BSE crisis the Commission initially referred to the “subsidarity principle,” meaning that the matter should be dealt with on the national level (in this case, by Great Britain) (Grönvall, 2000). 8 The countries that had imposed import restrictions were: The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Japan, US, Finland, Russia, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Great Britain, Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Rumania, Hungary, and the Netherlands (Financial Times, 9 June 1999). 9 All of the states acknowledged by EU were invited to attend and 58 of them participated in the meeting. 10 According to one DG VI civil servant, the meetings were extremely valuable since they provided an opportunity for the import countries to get direct information from the Commission as well as for the Commission to engage in a direct dialogue with them (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview).


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

Member States followed the Commission’s directives. Franz Fischler criticized France for underestimating the risks and for not acting fast enough. The French Minister of Agriculture, Glavany, responded by saying that: I find his way of accusing some countries as he does, publicly and without proof, detestable. Within 48 hours we had stopped the sale of products from several poultry farms (Electronic Telegraph, 7 June 1999).

Nevertheless, the Commission was more favorable in dealing with France and the Netherlands than with Belgium. According to one DG VI official, the main reason for this was that both of these countries had managed to quickly block off the potentially contaminated farms and test their products and thereby convey a feeling of control (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). Before the decision was taken to the SVC, Belgium desperately tried to convince the Commission that the poor beef test results were a product of increased background dioxin levels which could be found all over Europe and could be attributed to the industrial parks. In the words of a SVC member: Belgium knew from earlier dioxin and PCB test samples that the environment had been influenced by industrial parks and combustion chambers. But for the Commission and the Member States, it was more important at the moment to be consistent. Besides, at that point, Belgium’s credibility had already been damaged (Respondent G, 19 June 2000: e-mail correspondence).

From this statement it is clear that the Commission’s primarily aim was to have a decision that asserted its determination. The decision was approved by the SVC on June 7 (European Commission, 4 June 1999a: Decision 1999/368/EC). According to one of the SVC members, the atmosphere at the SVC meeting was “tense” since the Member States and the Commission were really upset about how Belgium was behaving. One thing that highlighted the seriousness of the situation was the fact that the Belgian Minister of Health was present and gave a long speech where he apologized for Belgium’s behavior. According to one of the SVC members (at least with his knowledge), never before had a minister attended a SVC meeting (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview). The main reason for the hard feelings was the fact that Belgium had delayed informing the Commission, and as a result Belgium was totally isolated in the SVC the first few months (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 007/0018; Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview). After receiving information from France and the Netherlands, the SVC concluded that the measures being taken in these countries were sufficient (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview).



Crisis management does not end with decision making; decisions also have to be implemented According to Rosenthal et al. it would be rather naive to think that, under critical circumstances, the implementation of decisions takes place in a mechanistic way since decisions taken in a crisis situation (involving characteristics as stress and information difficulties) are not


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

always well thought out when it comes to implementation. A fact that often results in new rounds of bureau politics (Rosenthal et al., 1991a). The implementation process is particularly sensitive within the EU. Decisions taken at the supranational level need to be implemented at the national level – sometimes by a government who (as in this case) strongly rejects the decision. The crisis hit the Belgian economy hard. Besides the 1459 farms that had been isolated, ice cream, cake and chocolate producers were forced to lay down large parts of their production. For example, Belgium’s biggest chocolate producer, Leonidas, which was described by Le Soir as “a monument of our economy,” temporary closed 350 shops due to the lack of consumer confidence (Electronic Telegraph, 10 June 1999). The heated feelings in Belgium and the forthcoming elections put great demands on the Belgian government to deal with the situation. Belgium started by presenting a list of the 445 chicken farms which were included in the restrictions and a preliminary list over the 746 pig farms and 393 bovine farms which might have been given the contaminated feed (European Commission, 9 June 1999a: MEMO/99/ 32). Still, there was a great demand for more information. Belgian shops and catering businesses lacked lists over which suppliers had received contaminated products. The reporting system introduced by Belgium did not function, and the lists were constantly changing. Burned by earlier experiences (i.e., accused for withholding information), Belgium wanted to get information out as soon as possible. As a result, new lists were published every day (Respondent M, November 2000 personal interview). The intention of creating confidence through openness might be good, but in reality this strategy created an impression of a government without control over the situation, which badly damaged Belgium’s trustworthiness (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The contradictory messages issued from the Belgian government and the inconsistency in the actions taken created even more confusion. For example, wholesalers were forbidden to even remove chicken, egg and later pork, beef and dairy products from the affected farms, meanwhile shops were still allowed to continue selling their stocks (Svenska Dagbladet, 9 June 1999). Another example was when the Belgian authorities announced that products with a high content of fat11 had to be withdraw from the market, while at the same time they were saying that no dioxin had been found in pork, beef or milk (TT, 5 June 1999), which violated the EU directives stating that all products should be called back (Lok and Powell, 2000). Another uncertainty that complicated the situation was the issue of compensation for products that had been removed from the shops. The Belgian farmers demanded compensation for up to 10 million Francs a day as a result of the crisis (Svenska Dagbladet, 9 June 1999). The first priority for the Commission was to get a clear picture of the situation. It tried to follow the developments in Belgium but had a hard time finding reliable information (TT, 9 June 1999). In many cases information was simply non-existent. At several meetings the Commission explicitly asked for information about various issues but the answers provided often just created more confusion. According to one civil servant, no one understood anything better walking out of the meetings. He characterized the Belgian presentations as “boring and worrying” (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). This view was


The percentage of fat was important because dioxin and PCBs have an attraction for fat.


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

shared by an interviewee from the SVC who recalled that the information provided was “more confusing than clarifying” (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview). The fact that the parties did not understand each other also complicated the matter. One example being when the Belgian Prime Minister, Jean-Luc Dehaene, said after a meeting with the Commission that only a few products had been contaminated and that this opinion was shared by the Commission; a statement that, in public, was strongly rejected by the Commission (TT, 7 June 1999). The Commission was frustrated by the overall situation and a spokesperson for the Commission made a statement saying that the restrictions from the EU would be extended if the situation did not improve (TT, 7 June 1999). No further restrictions were ever imposed, but the Commission threatened to sue Belgium in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for withholding information. In an attempt to get some control over the situation, the Commission implemented its own initiatives: for example, demanding the names and addresses of all of the companies and farms that had bought the contaminated feed. The Commission was hoping that a more effective crisis management would convince the world to limit or even lift the import restrictions on Belgian products. Several of the European Ministers said that they would like to give the EU more power in controlling the food production in the Member States (Svenska Dagbladet, 9 June 1999). In addition, the Commission heavily criticized the fact that not all of the contaminated products had been recalled and was especially worried that Belgium had not implemented the restriction on dairy and chocolate products (TT, 9 June 1999). The Belgian Health Minister responded by pointing out that Belgium had the right to decide for itself on how to deal with the products on a national level. A spokesperson for the Commission responded by reiterating the fact that “Belgium is a part of the internal market and thus forced to obey the rules decided by the EU” (Göteborgs-Posten, 9 June 1999). Belgian newspapers, even though they had heavily criticized the Belgian government’s former position, now supported them and asserted that Belgium should not submit to the EU. As a result, the Commission clearly questioned to what extent Belgium had implemented its decisions with one spokesperson saying, “We are not convinced that the European decisions have been fully applied by the Belgian authorities” (Financial Times, 6 June 1999). Commissioner Fischler made a public statement describing the Belgian behavior as “inexcusable.” Health Commissioner Bonino expressed concerns about the diminishing trust in the Union among its citizens and accused Belgium for this (The Age, 10 June 1999). The Belgian Health Minister said that Belgium planned to follow the EU regulations even though “We did not act as we should have done, but the Commission has been overcautious in its actions” (European Information Service, 5 June 1999). The Minister was referring to the decisions on pigs and bovines which according to him did not need to drown the market. As a response the Commissioner for Industrial Relations, Padraig Flynn, stated, “This is not the case. The Commission has not overreacted but acted with public safety in mind. The Commission was presented with a crisis” (European Information Service, 9 June 1999). Commissioners Franz Fischler and Emma Bonino jointly defended the action of the Commission and described Belgium’s handling of the crisis as “chaotic.” Bonino compared it to the actions of the British government during the outbreak of the mad cow disease (European Information Service, 17 June 1999). On June 9, after a meeting between the Commission and the Belgian authorities, the Commission emphasized that even though it could understand Belgium’s practical problems,


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

it still had to deal with the matter. There was no other way to solve the problems than for Belgium to follow the decisions of the Commission. The Commission would assist Belgium but the full responsibility rested with Belgium (European Commission, 9 June 1999b: Press release IP/99/386). The situation was strongly colored by the election campaign, and the opposition used the crisis as a weapon in the debates. In an attempt to mitigate the effects of the crisis and in the light of the coming election, the Belgian government tried to reestablish trade. The decision to lift the ban was seen by many as an attempt to avoid a catastrophe on the election day. Trade with non-contaminated chickens was opened on June 8. The decision to allow two thirds of the country’s poultry farms to sell their products was partly based on the registration of purchase of feed and partly on the owners’ solemn vow that they had not bough contaminated feed (Göteborgs-Posten, 10 June 1999). On June 11, the Commission decided that Belgian exports must have official certificates guaranteeing that the products were not contaminated.12 In order to meet the demands from the Commission, large-scale testing was necessary. Thus, technical issues had to be solved and the question on whether Belgium should be allowed to just test for PCB instead of dioxin (which takes two days) considering the fact that PCBs could be considered the “markers” of dioxin (Agriculture DG, June/July 1999). Belgium wanted the former since they are cheaper and faster. According to one Belgian official, there were no objections from the Commission since it wanted to resolve the crisis as soon as possible, but there were objections from the Member States which were actually benefiting from the crisis since their industries were filling in for the missing Belgian products (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). On June 12, pork trade could be resumed with the condition that the meat was marked with the place of origin. The decision to lift the ban was soon halted when 760 poultry farms were found contaminated the same day. Belgium did not succeed in persuading the other EU countries to lift their import restrictions, and Belgian consumers were buying foreign products before domestic ones (Svenska Dagbladet, 13 June 1999). On June 13, the sitting Government lost the election. In general Belgium tried to follow the directives from the European Commission, but there was one specific issue that complicated the implementation process: that is the decision to put milk under the restrictions. According to what could be seen in the second decisionmaking occasion, bovines and milk came under the restrictions, which were strongly rejected by Belgium and it therefore refused to implement them13 (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent J, 11 December 2000 personal interview). Even though Belgium opposed the decision of putting pigs under the restrictions, the decision was implemented right away since Belgium suspected that pigs could have been given the contaminated

12 Belgium had enormous problems with conducting the tests. They did not have a national lab capable of doing the analyses and therefore the first tests had to be sent to the Netherlands (International Herald Tribune, 10 June 1999). Belgium eventually set up a central program for data analysis, but there were still a number of obstacles: 1. Finding adequately trained personnel and computers, and getting the labs set up. 2. Finding good methods for identifying and tracing the contaminated products. 3. The lack of a harmonized EU dioxin limit (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). 13 Belgium rejected the restrictions based on the knowledge that very few bovine breeders had bought the contaminated feed and the fact that bovines also eat grass and hay – in contrast to pigs which only eat processed feed (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview).


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

feed. This later proved to be correct; on June 15–16 tests confirmed that contaminated feed had been given to pigs (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). On June 13, Belgium was forced to include milk in the restrictions and also to develop certificates for milk and products including milk (Belgian government, 2000). Milk was considered to be the most controversial issue in the dioxin crisis (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). Belgium’s highest priority was to get the milk restrictions lifted since milk had a high emotional value for the public and was of great importance for the Belgium export market: for example, chocolate exports (Respondent M, November 2000: personal interview). On June 15, during a SVC meeting Belgium presented a report on milk and dairy products stating that dioxin levels were not dangerous since the contaminated milk products had been mixed with non-contaminated milk during the industrial process (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/14). The EU maintained that all dairy farms should be tested (Scientific Committee on Food, 16 June 199l). Belgium refused to test every farm and it conducted analyses on milk mixed from different farms. In the opinion of the Commission, “dilution is not the solution” since it just spreads the contaminants to more people and products (Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). Since Belgium had not implemented the decision on bovine, other countries did not trust Belgium either on the milk issue. For example, several milk trucks were held up by the French authorities along the French-Belgium border (Europe Information Service, 19 June 1999). A spokesperson for Franz Fischler responded to the event by saying, “The milk has been held up, owing to conflicting interpretations of how the Commission’s decision should be implemented” (European Information Service, 17 June 1999). European consumers were troubled by the conflicting information and they turned to the Commission for an answer on whether or not it was safe to drink Belgian milk. A spokesperson for Emma Bonino responded by saying that Bonino herself did not drink Belgian milk (International Herald Tribune, 10 June 1999). During a crisis meeting in the European Parliament, Franz Fischler threatened Belgium with another infringement process if Belgium did not implement the Commission’s measures regarding milk. The new Agriculture Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, said that Belgium had performed 300 tests on milk from March to May 1999 and the results indicated low dioxin/ PCB content. With that in mind he felt that “The European Commission ought to admit that it has been exaggerating a bit” (Europe Information Service, 19 June 1999). As a result of the tension between the EU and Belgium, the Commission started an infringement process against Belgium in the ECJ on June 16. Belgium was accused of not properly informing the Commission (and the other Member States) immediately after finding out about the contamination. In addition, the Commission claimed that Belgium had failed to take the appropriate measures to protect the common market and consumer safety14 (Europa Newsletter, June 1999: 6/15).

14 Belgium was sued under article 226 in the Treaty for not complying with directives 89/662/EEC, 90/425/EEC and 1999/389/EEC.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

The new Belgian government utilized different means for establishing order in the crisis management (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview).15 An important decision taken by the new government was the appointment of a crisis manager on the top political level. Frederik Willockx16 was called upon to solve the many information and co-ordination problems17 with the Commission and the SVC (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview). His primarily goals were to improve Belgium’s contact with the Commission, co-ordination within the Belgian government and lobbying efforts in the other Member States (which he explained as providing more information so that the Member States did not overreact or profit from the situation in Belgium). The overarching task was to organize the dioxin dossier in order to improve Belgium’s relations with its European counterparts (Willockx 5 June 2000). After one month and a couple of reports later, Belgium succeed to convince the SVC and the Commission to lift the restrictions, even though they still were obliged to keep the sector under strict supervision and continue testing products (Agriculture DG, June/July 1999). The dairy restrictions were the first to be lifted.

2.4. DECISION-MAKING OCCASION IV: NEW METHODS FOR TESTING ADDITIONAL PIG FARMS. By the end of July there was a general belief that the acute crisis was over and that all of the contaminated farms had been identified. Thus, the Commission and the Belgian administration focused on solving the remaining issues so that the restrictions could be lifted. But on July 23, 1999, Belgium stated that additionally 233 pig farms had been taken into custody (The International Herald Tribune, 31 July 1999). Premier Minister Guy Verhofstadt announced that 60000–80000 tons of pork had been confiscated. The farms had not been discovered earlier because the farmers had bought the contaminated feed in March from another company, Versele, which in their turn had bought the feed from Verkest. Since Versele did not receive the feed in January (the established time of contamination), they were granted a certificate from the former government. The fact that Versele received contaminated feed was discovered when the new government extended inspections (Lok and Powell, 2000). Even though the situation was not as serious as the first two decision-making occasions, the alarm put an additional burden on the already very strained Belgian economy. It hit just when the Belgian industry was beginning to recover from the previous wave of panic. The

15 The new government was significantly delayed in the crisis management since the former government had moved all of the information concerning the crisis so it took some time to find it all, read through it and get into gear. It was not until July 12 that the new government could actually start working on the case (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). 16 According to one Belgian official a big advantage with appointing Willockx as a crisis manager was that he knew the EU system well. He was a former EU Parliament Member and had a lot of personal contacts in the Commission (Respondent L, November 2000: personal interview). 17 In the former Belgian administration such matters were divided into two ministries (agriculture and health). The crisis management was deteriorated by the rivalry between these two ministries and “The measures subsequently taken were fragmented, incomplete and sometimes incompatible, changing from one hour to the next, without any apparent overall strategy” (Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection, 8–11 June 1999). According to one Belgian official, there were at one point over 15 people involved in the crisis management – all pursuing their own agenda (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview).


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

Belgian Agriculture Minister explained the situation as “The most serious economic crisis Belgium has known since the war. Our country is totally discredited at the international level. The dioxin crisis has hit us again like a cold shower” (The Guardian, 24 July 1999). Two of the DG VI officials who were interviewed had heard about situation on the TV news. One of them said that his spontaneous reaction was “Oh no, not again!” (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). 18 Again Belgium had failed to first inform the Commission. The Commission was extremely frustrated since it was working very close with the Belgian authorities on a daily basis. A DG VI official did not regard the new contamination to be so severe; but rather he considered it to be more of communication problem. Although the alarm clearly indicated that Belgium did not have control of the situation, the Commission knew that not all of the feed had been contaminated (via controls made in the US and the Member States) and that appropriate measures for dealing with the crisis were already in place to deal. Furthermore, they knew that very little of the contaminated products were still on the market and that exports were limited at that time (Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview). One indicator that the situation was not perceived as a major crisis outside the EU is that the US lifted its restrictions on poultry and pork from France, the Netherlands and Spain after extensive testing (Food and Drink Weekly, 26 July 1999). The Commission received the information on Friday morning and later the same afternoon there was a meeting with the Belgian authorities (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The purpose of the meeting was to overhaul the reporting system. The Commission felt it was acceptable that the lists changed but not that they were expanded, and this forced the Commission to take action (Respondent C, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The Commission’s decision to overhaul the reporting system had to be approved by the SVC. Two days later the SVC had a meeting where Belgium was given the opportunity to explain the situation. Besides pork, high levels of dioxin and PCB had been found in poultry that had been given the feed from Versele. After the Belgian presentation, there was a long discussion. “The Member States considered the situation to be very confusing and questioned the validity of the certification of the goods based on traceability” (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/22). One main reason for the confusion was the fact that during the meeting the Belgian delegation received a phone call from the Prime Minister saying that the Government had decided to test all the products. Later on a fax came signed by the Belgian Minister of Agriculture, but the fax lacked the signature of the Health Minister. Nevertheless, everybody assumed she was present when the Belgian government had made the decision to test all products. The Belgian delegation assured the SVC that the Belgian government was in unison, but a Belgian civil servant also at the SVC meeting said that the Health Minister did not support the government’s decision. As a result, the Chairman of the SVC said that they could not take the decision under such circumstances and that the matter had to be solved the fol-

18 Belgium was especially vulnerable since the EU administration is actually situated in the country. This meant that they naturally accessed the Belgian media on a daily basis. During the crisis it often occurred that the EU civil servants were informed about the latest developments by the Belgian media, and thereafter they would phone the Belgian government for a confirmation. This situation was often very embarrassing for the Belgian administration (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

lowing day. Despite the fact that it was true that the Health Minister did not had support the Government’s decision to test all products, she had to accept it anyway (even though she did it reluctantly) (Respondent I, 2000 personal interview). Belgium promised to develop new certificates that included egg, egg powder, chicken, pork and cattle – this time based on results from analytical tests performed on consignment. The decision was in line with the initial discussion between the Commission and Belgium. These new certificates were valid from August 31, 1999, and the old certificates based purely on traceability (i.e., where the manufacturers guaranteed that their products were not contaminated) became invalid. The proposal to change the reporting system came this time from Belgium (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview). On August 3–4, the SVC held a meeting where Belgium gave an update on the restricted farms and the latest test results. The decision to get rid of the certificates based on traceability was confirmed and the Member States were granted the right to send back products based on these certificates. At the SVC meeting Belgium tried to urge the Member States to release beef from the restrictions, but they did not. Belgium also put forward a proposal aimed at getting an exception for bovines on the new certificates (i.e., using the old traceability certificates); an appeal that was also turned down by the Member States (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/23). Even though this last decision on changing the reporting system was done with a spirit of co-operation, it was still not totally free of conflicts. A conflict rose when the Commission wanted Belgium to test all products that contained more than 2 percent fat; meanwhile Belgium thought that it was sufficient to test products containing over 20 percent fat. According to the English newspaper the Guardian, the “2 percent fat” proposed by the Commission would have significantly stopped most of Belgium’s food exports. The Belgian Health Minister, Magda Aelvot, maintained that Belgium should refuse to implement the decision, yet she later changed her mind after having a meeting with representatives for the Belgian industry. They warned her that the Government’s hard line might lead to a total export ban. Thus, on August 9 the Belgian authorities backed down and informed the Commission that they would follow the Commission’s restrictions and test all food for export (The Guardian, 9 August 1999). This decision could be considered a breaking point for the tense relations between Belgium and the Commission; the Commission started to change its opinion of Belgium as soon as Belgium agreed to test all products, even though the first month Belgium was only capable of testing the products that were designated for export (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). The decision to test all products had enormous consequences for the labs in Belgium, since Belgium had limited possibilities for conducting such tests (Financial Times, 5 August 1999). In order to solve the problem Belgium sought help from other labs throughout Europe, and even considered sending samples to be tested in the US and Canada (but due to transport difficulties, they decide against this). By the end of August there were 25 labs in the EU testing Belgian products (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). There were a number of significant delays in getting accurate lists on the contaminated feed. One problem originated from the fact that the food sector is comprised of many small companies, which often do business without receipts. The Minister of Agriculture for the French-speaking part of Belgium commented the situation by saying “It is impossible to trace products that are listed as non-existent” (International Herald Tribune, 2 August 1999). Tracing the products was even more difficult since many of them were far down on the prod-


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

uct chain, and this created problems for identifying which products had been contaminated19 (European Information Service, 5 June 1999). Furthermore, in an open market like the EU, a product can be composed of different subproducts from different countries. When it comes to feedstuff, the EU market has limited control in the member countries (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). At this point, Belgium announced that it was starting an infringement process in the ECJ against the Commission for imposing measures that were inconsistent with the principle of proportionality (Financial Times, 10 August 1999). Belgium maintained that the restrictions on milk and dairy products were totally unnecessary since dioxin did not have an effect on milk (because it is diluted in the production process). Despite the fact that the Commission finally lifted the milk ban after a couple of weeks, the Belgian dairy industry suffered financially and lost its credibility on the foreign market (Willockx, 22 December 1999). The infringement process was also a reaction to the process started by the EU against Belgium.

2.5. AFTERMATH The acute crisis phase came to an end and the Commission focused its efforts on closing the dossier. Two important issues remained: lifting the restrictions on beef and compensating the affected farmers. Belgium continued to argue, as it had the entire time, that beef had not been contaminated. They worked hard to convince the SVC and the Commission of this so that the restrictions on beef could be removed as soon as possible. In the beginning Belgium did not have enough test results to support its claims, but as time went on the Belgian delegation was able to point to tests showing that only a few bovines had increased dioxin levels (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/21). After having performed thousands of tests on Belgian beef stocks, there were only two cases, which exceeded the standard PCB levels. Furthermore, neither of the two cases could be explained by contaminated feed, since they were situated in industrial or dock areas (European Parliament, 4 October 1999).20 The second big issue to sort out was the issue of compensation. The Commission claimed that if Belgium compensated the affected farmers it would distort competition in the common market. Belgium tried to argue that the event should be characterized as a “crisis” and therefore treated in the same manner as the BSE crisis (EU Secretary General, 29 July 1999). The Commission rejected this argument by arguing that it was not a “crisis” but rather a “criminal act.” Belgium then changed its strategy and tried to get the crisis characterized as an “extraordinary event” in order to receive compensation for health and judicial matters (Willockx: 22 December 1999). In general, the EU was reluctant to give any form of compensation, but on August 16 the Commission finally approved the plan Belgium had put forward labeling the event as an “extraordinary circumstance” (European Commission, 16 Au-


For example, just the number of products containing more than 2 percent egg was roughly estimated to be 400– 800 (European Information Service, 5 June 1999). 20 This situation is a common problem for the EU countries.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

gust 1999: Press release IP/99/630).21 The decision meant that Belgium could compensate its farmers. In practice it meant that the Belgian state provided loans to the farmers to cover up to 50 percent of their losses; the remaining 50 percent was provided by the bank in terms of favorable loans with generous interest rates (EU Secretary General, 29 July 1999). One Belgian official summed up the decision by saying that “they finally let us pay our own farmers, with our own money” (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview). Belgium continued to work on getting the beef restrictions lifted, and at the next SVC meeting they asked the Committee to exempt bovines breed biodynamically. The Member States again refused (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/24). The next meeting was held September 7–8 and again the SVC stated that no progress had been made by Belgium worth justifying a change in the restrictions.22 At the SVC meeting, the Belgian delegation reported an incident at a slaughterhouse where a veterinarian had issued certificates to beef that had not been tested (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/25). The Commission chose to follow up the information by performing their own investigation, which confirmed the presence of pre-written certificates for untested products. The Commission was furious at Belgium, but relented when the Belgian government promised to take strong measures to deal with the matter. On September 11, another source of contamination was found in Belgium. This time the Commission was informed, but choose not to act, with the explanation that they thought Belgium had been punished enough (Respondent I, 2000 personal interview). On September 15, the new Commission took over and September was considered a turning point for Belgium. According to Frederik Willockx, September would go in the history books as the ending of the dioxin scandal. What he was alluding to was the SVC meeting on September 21–22. The meeting was preceded by intensive diplomacy: three Belgian Ministers had traveled to Madrid, London and Rome, and a fourth had worked on strengthening Belgium’s relations with the Agriculture Council (Willockx: 22 December 1999). These efforts proved to be fruitful. At the meeting, the SVC approved, 14 to 1, to let Belgium export beef without having been tested for PCB or dioxin, but certificates were still required for poultry and pork (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/26). Italy was the only country that opposed lifting the bans, and according to Willockx, the reason was that the Italians were still “traumatized by the Seveso incident”23 (Willockx: 22 December 1999). Despite Italy’s disapproval, the restrictions were lifted. On February, 22, 2000 (more than half a year after the dioxin scandal broke out), Belgian producers could finally resume selling eggs, egg-based products, and animal feed without having special certificates, even though special certificates were still required for raw chicken


In mid August the Belgian government decided to go directly to the Belgian Commissioner Karel van Miert and Commissioner Fischler, who both agreed to classifying the dioxin crisis as an “extraordinary event.” According to a member of the Belgian delegation, this decision would have never been taken if the matter had gone through the “bureaucratic mill,” especially since the bureaucrats were on vacation (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview). Willockx’ good relations with the Commission, and especially with Karel van Miert, were significant; the otherwise slow-moving Commission reacted quickly and even prioritized the Belgian case (Respondent K, 22 December 2000 telephone interview). 22 At the same meeting the Commission advocated a general debate in the Union regarding dioxin in foodstuffs, an assignment given to the Scientific Committee for Food. 23 The Seveso disaster was an industrial accident that occurred in Seveso, Italy, on July 10, 1976. A chemical plant released large amounts of the dioxin TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) into the atmosphere and the chemicals were spread over a large area in the Lombard Plain between Milan and Lake Como.


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

and pork (Standing Veterinary Committee, 2000: Short Report 2000/05). On April 18, 2000, the Commission eventually decided to lift the last remaining ban on pork and products derived from it (Standing Veterinary Committee, 2000: Short Report 2000/12). The last chapter in the dioxin crisis was, thus, closed, and both parties withdrew their infringement processes in the ECJ. The Commission argued that Belgium had tried hard to manage the crisis the best it could, and in turn Belgium stated that the Commission had displayed goodwill by closing the dossier24 (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview).

3. Thematic Analysis The thematic analysis focuses on two aspects of the dioxin case. The first aspect deals with the logic behind the measures the EU took against Belgium. By the time the news reached the Commission, most of the contaminated food had already been consumed. This points to the fact that the crisis management response concerned several other issues, not just the issue of public health. An attempt is made at providing some of the motives behind the EU crisis management response and the actions taken in order to restore the threatened values. Besides the obvious health aspects, the economic and political concerns that affected the crisis management response are discussed. The second aspect focuses on the bureaucratic world of the European Commission. This section begins by identifying the main actors and looks into how the different actors affected the crisis management response. The analysis on the decision-making occasions confirmed the fact that the EU crisis management response relied on a close cooperation between the Commission and the SVC. This poses intriguing questions regarding the distribution of power between the SVC and the Member States, on the one hand, and the Commission, on the other.


3.1.1. Value conflicts This section aims at describing how the Commission perceived the crisis in order to understand its motives behind the actions it took. How a problem is perceived often determines which values are threatened. Rochefort and Cobb (1994) claim that policy alternatives are always an expression of values. Values shape the way problems are perceived and direct our attention to the problem as something that could be solved rather than a condition that has to be accepted (Guttman, 2000). In the dioxin case there were several other values at stake other than the most obvious, public health, such as economic and political ones. Ulrich Beck speaks of the new modern risk society: The decisive factor here is not, or at least not only, the health consequences, the consequences for the life of plants, animals and people; but the social, economic and political

24 The decision to drop the case against Belgium was influenced by a visit made at the end of December when Belgian representatives went directly to Romano Prodi to “close the dioxin file and rebuild its [Belgium’s] relationship with the Commission.” Prodi was receptive and promised to push the Commission to drop the case against Belgium in the European Court of Justice (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

side effects of these effects: market collapses, devaluation of social capital, creeping expropriations, new responsibilities, market shifts, political pressure, checks on plant decisions, recognition of compensation claims, gigantic costs, legal proceedings, and the loss of face (Beck, 1992:77).

Beck argues that it is not primarily the health aspects that are the most important, but rather the negative effects that occur as a result of a crisis or a risk – where confidence is an essential aspect. As a consequence of the dioxin crisis, confidence needed to be restored in different arenas, both within and outside the Union, since both political and economical values were affected. What were the Commission’s core values in the dioxin crisis? According to the treaties, the Commission was designed to defend “European interests” and “the EU perspective.” This means that the Commission should, among other things, protect the interests related to the common market. But according to Cini (1996), the Commission also has an agenda of its own and that any study of the Commission needs to take into account that the Commission has: A distinct internal Commission interest, a reflexive interest that relates much more to the self-preservation and even expansion of the Commission than to the collective interests of the EU Member States or a distinct pro-European line (Cini, 1996:15).

The institutional values of the Commission are discussed further in this chapter under section 3.1.3. How can one then, on an empirical basis, make sense of the abstract concept “European interests” or the interests of the Commission in general? One way to understand the goals of a particular organization is to study the process and the objectives that the organization puts forward. Organizations influence the prioritization of purposes into a definition of their “mission” and are especially influential when the mission is translated, for a specific task, into more concrete, operational objectives (Allison and Zelikow, 1999:151).

Based on the main decision-making occasions, the most threatened values for the Commission seemed to have been a mixture of health concerns, economic issues, and institutional values. The most obvious value at stake was the fact that the hard measures taken resulted in devastating effects for the Belgian economy and its reputation as a provider of quality food, and thus affected the entire EU’s reputation. How do crisis managers in general cope with these types of conflicts? Previous research shows that decision makers often feel split between the different values and strategies for crisis resolution (Rosenthal et al., 1989:13). According to Alexander George, there are mainly three strategies decision makers can use to resolve value conflicts: 1. Try to solve the conflict by considering all of the values, 2. Accept the value conflict as inevitable (which can be satisfactory if the actor can display strong leadership), or 3. Simply avoid the conflict (George, 1980:18). Was there any evidence indicating that the Commission perceived the decisions as problematic or unproblematic? According to one DG VI official, the first decision (regarding the contaminated poultry) was much easier than the second (the issue of contaminated bovines and pigs) since the Commission more or less followed the Belgian restrictions (Respondent


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview). The reason why the second one was more problematic was due to the fact that the Commission lacked information on the issue and Belgium strongly opposed the proposed measures. Even though the second decision might have seemed unfair in that it put the entire burden on Belgium (especially regarding the milk issue), it was necessary to do so in order to protect EU interests (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). It seems like the Commission applied the second strategy; that is, accepting some value conflicts in order to display strong leadership. Even though the Commission was tough on Belgium in the beginning, their relations gradually improved throughout the crisis.

3.1.2. Protecting the market The European Union has since its establishment spoken with one voice in international trade relations, which distinguishes the Union from other forms of trade arrangements (Meuiner and Nicoladis in Cowles and Smith, 2000). This means that the Commission has a huge responsibility for handling crises affecting trade issues. In the dioxin case, the Commission devoted a lot of time and energy into managing third country reactions, since many countries had imposed import bans already in the beginning of the crisis. One export market that closed its borders early was the US, with which trade relations were already sensitive. This was illustrated in an article in Time magazine: The EU would certainly rather have avoided the embarrassment of a food fight on their own turf when they were challenging the US over hormone-treated beef and genetically modified foods (Time, 2 June 1999).

The US is an important market with a strong symbolic value, and other countries imposed restrictions on affected products from all over the EU. When restrictions are in place, they are hard to remove. Even though the Commission lifted all restrictions in April 2000, some countries one year later still had restrictions in place despite the fact that they were illegal according to the World Trade Organization (World Trade Organization, 2000). A fact that shows what long-term effects a crisis can have. The import restrictions did not come as a surprise for the Commission, which expected reactions from third countries, especially the most sensitive countries like the US, Canada, Southeast Asian countries, and Saudi Arabia. The motives behind the restrictions from third countries were a mixture of political, trade and opinion issues. For the US and Poland, it was clearly a political issue, especially since Poland wanted to protect its own market25 (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). In a speech, Commissioner David Byrne expressed his disappointment in that the precautionary principles, which had been developed by the EU in order to resolve trade conflicts regarding food security, were being used by other countries against the EU. While the EU

25 One EU official described how a Polish veterinary expert said to the Commission that he fully agreed with the EU position, but for political reasons it was impossible to convince the Polish government to lift the bans. According to the same official, some countries had the attitude that they wanted to put the EU in its place: “Okay, you are so good in Europe, but this time we will ban your products” (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

recognised the rights of third countries to take stringent measures against products which might possibly have been contaminated by the incident, and indeed we did not even protest against measures which pushed the concept of precaution to the limit. But when a country banned olive oil because it is an oil, and oil fats were at the origin of the problem, we considered that beyond the level of acceptability. Similarly, did you know that at least one country banned champagne because of the dioxin issue (David Byrne, 1 December 1999).

A lesson learned from the BSE crisis, experienced by both the SVC and the Commission, was the importance of informing third countries on a regular basis. After the SVC meetings, the Commission directly arranged press conferences and meetings with third country delegations to explain the results and the proposed measures (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview; Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The goal was to give all third countries the same direct information in an attempt to limit or ultimately lift the restrictions against EU products (Respondent E, 20 June 2000 telephone interview). The main problem for the Commission was the confusion within Belgium regarding which products had been contaminated. This created huge problems in providing reliable information. This was one of the reasons why the Commission firmly pushed Belgium to react quickly and to develop a sound crisis management plan. Furthermore, it could be argued that the crisis decision making was in itself an important (if not the most important) weapon in restoring confidence. In order to win the consumers’ and third countries’ trust, crisis managers needed to act in a reliable manner. Imposing restrictions was not only a way of protecting public health but they also helped to convey a feeling of control to the outside world. Even though the decisions regarding bovines and milk were based on false grounds, the Commission’s prevailing attitude was that the cost of not acting would have resulted in even bigger consequences for the Member States since third countries would have initiated their own measures, which would have likely been even harsher. With that in mind, the Commission did not think its measures were too hard (Respondent D, 21 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent E, 20 June 2000 telephone interview). Nevertheless, the Belgian government felt that the Commission was overreacting. The same was true of the BSE crisis; the EU banned British beef not only for public health reasons but also for the purpose of re-establishing consumer confidence abroad for EU agricultural products. In the beginning of the BSE crisis there were different opinions on how confidence should be resurrected. The Commission emphasized that Great Britain had to follow its decisions, while Great Britain emphasized that confidence could be re-established if the Commission lifted the restrictions (Ratzan, 1998). A similar conflict emerged during the dioxin crisis regarding who had the authority to guarantee credibility and quality to the third parties (i.e., the Commission or Belgium). In the end, Belgium had to yield to the Commission. According to one Belgian official, one important explanation for this was the fact that the third countries had turned to the Commission for information since the Commission was seen as the most reliable actor. With the passing of time, Belgium became well aware of the power of the Commission in this area, and it finally accepted that there was no other way around it than to cooperate (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent E, 20 June 2000 telephone interview). Successful crisis management often relies on consistency. Countries are often forced to play a two-level game internationally, in which they need to unit internally in order to display a common external front (Putnam, 1983). In this regard, the Commission has a harder task


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

to perform than a single nation state, since there are more actors that need to be coordinated both within the Commission and between the different Member States. During the dioxin crisis, the Commission made a huge effort to maintain a united front in the international arena. Compared to other policy areas, the Commission is quite powerful when it comes to issues concerning the internal market. Here it has a monopoly on initiative, legislation, and implementation, and the Member States are more or less forced to follow the decisions of the Commission because of the existing treaties. Despite the Commission’s firm measures on the dioxin issue, some third countries and even some of the Member States imposed more far-reaching restrictions: for example, France, Italy and Greece26 (Respondent F, November 2000 personal interview; European Parliament, 22 July 1999; Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). Franz Fischler strongly criticized these independent initiatives in the European Parliament: Unfortunately, certain Member States used the crisis as an excuse to erect trade barriers against non-contaminated Belgian products, thereby infringing the principle of the free movement of goods (European Parliament, 22 July 1999).

According to one DG XV (Internal Market and Financial Services) civil servant, it was perfectly clear that the mentioned Member States had economic motives for imposing import bans on non-contaminated Belgian products. This problem was quite easily resolved after three weeks27 (Respondent F, November 2000 personal interview). The fact that these Member States imposed their own measures increased the Commission’s workload and made it harder for the Commission to hold a united front to the outside world. According to the Belgian Health Minister, who resigned immediately after the outbreak of the dioxin crisis, it was clear that the measures against Belgium were a result of economic interests and that the other Member States tried to use the crisis to their advantage to promote their own food industries (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/007:230). If there are suspicions that some Member States have an interest in pro-longing a crisis situation, there is a risk that the EU crisis response is undermined, especially in the eyes of the affected country. To sum up, the Commission was faced with a situation that it had a hard time controlling, despite its overarching responsibility for the internal market and external relations with third countries. Its main task was to impose directives together with the SVC that would force Belgium to take action quickly and firmly in order to show the world that the situation was being taken seriously. In comparison to the BSE crisis, the Commission took an active part in the dioxin crisis management process right from the very beginning, well aware of the symbolic aspects, and this gave the Commission an advantage in shaping the crisis response. This was important for providing consistent information and coordinating internal affairs so that the EU appeared to be a single united actor in the eyes of the third countries.

26 After the Belgian government presented their complaints regarding the Member States’ restrictions, the DG XV contacted the respective countries. Representatives from the DG XV and the DG VI visited the countries in question to discuss the matter. The crisis was then resolved the very same day (Respondent F, November 2000 personal interview). 27 The restrictions involved products that were not included in the EU directives: for example, textiles (Respondent F, November 2000 personal interview).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

3.1.3. Protecting the institutions After having discussed how the Commission acted to restore the market, I will now take up the more institutional aspects. During a crisis, actors often struggle over the right to define it since this provides the opportunity to describe what had happened and why (Rochefort and Cobb, 1994). In addition to managing crises, decision makers are occupied with creating a favorable interpretation of their actions to the public and in political debates. Crises can improve and even strengthen one’s power (Rosenthal et al., 1991b). Since a crisis always contains elements that can undermine or strengthen legitimization, “Crises, then should be viewed as dynamic forces in the ongoing dynamic processes of legitimization, de-legitimization and re-legitimization” (’t Hart, 1993:40). According to ’t Hart, symbolic crisis management is closely connected to values since a crisis can be defined as “a breakdown of familiar symbolic frameworks legitimating the pre-existing sociopolitical order” (’t Hart, 1993:39). Since the beginning of the 90s when EU integration was a highly politicized issue, the issue of legitimacy has been a central issue in the EU discussions (Shore, 2000:19). The Commission has an important role to play in this process since from an outside perspective it symbolizes the entire EU. Despite its important role, the Commission has a difficult position in this respect since it is often used as a scapegoat by the member countries making it “hard for the Commission to win credit, but easy to attract blame” (Wallace and Wallace, 1996:58). According to Edwards and Spence: The Commission might have been successful in the institutional game, shifting decision making to the European level, but it has not yet won for itself, or for the Union, that sense of legitimacy that has been the traditional claim of the nation state and its executive (Edwards and Spence, 1995:19).

This section investigates in what way the Commission’s institutional values were threatened and the actions it took in order to deal with the situation.28 The Commission’s legitimacy as an institution was at its lowest level ever when the dioxin crisis broke out. After heavily criticizing its management of the crisis, the Parliament unseated the Commission and a new Commission was appointed in the shadow of two major food crises (the BSE crisis and the dioxin crisis). In his first speech to the European Parliament after being appointed Commission President, Romano Prodi highlighted the need to re-establish European consumers’ confidence for food. Romano Prodi made one of his first policy statements on food safety yesterday in the European Parliament. It may seem surprising that with such issues as East Timor, Kosovo, EU enlargement, and the Euro in the news the Commission President chose this issue as one worthy of a major policy statement (Irish Times, 6 October 1999).

28 Institutions as a whole as well as individuals can benefit from successful crisis management. According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the Commissioners running for new posts (Franz Fischler, Neil Kinnock, Liikanen, and Monti) were met with great suspicion. The Members of the European Parliament in charge of approving the new Commission threatened to vote against to all of them, since they felt that these individuals shouldered a large part of the collective blame for the Commission’s mismanagement in the past (Dagens Nyheter, 2 September 1999). Within the Belgian administration there was a widespread suspicion that the crisis was being used to promote individual political careers. Belgium publicly criticized both Bonino (who at the time was running for the European Parliament) and Fischler (who was re-elected as the Agriculture Commissioner) for personally profiting from the crisis at Belgium’s cost (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/007; Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent M, November 2000 personal interview).


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

That food safety was one of the most pressing issues for the new Commission says something about of how serious these issues are taken, both by the Commission and the EU, and probably even the European general public. The dioxin crisis provided the Commission with a good opportunity to redeem itself after a series of scandals and to prove that it was able to take action. It was important that the new Commission demonstrated that it could deal with a crisis. Since the Commission was interim at the time, the crisis provided it with an opportunity to break with the past and resurrect in a new and improved form. As one of the civil servants in the Commission expressed it, “It was not a real crisis for public health but rather for consumer confidence.” According to him, it was primarily an issue of trust since most of the contaminated food had already been eaten, but felt nevertheless that “We had to deal with it like it was a real crisis (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). According to March and Olsen, decision making within organizations does not only involve rational aspects but also functions at a deeper level by defining the organization as such. Decision making is an opportunity to: Fulfill role expectations, duties, or earlier commitments; an occasion for defining virtue and truth, during which the organization discovers or interprets what has happened to it, what it has been doing, and what it is doing; an occasion for glory and blame; for discovering self and interest groups; and a good time (March and Olsen in Allison and Zalikow, 1999:154).

Crisis decision making can then be a way of making up for earlier mistakes. The BSE crisis analogy was constantly repeated during the dioxin scandal. The fact that almost all of the respondents mentioned the BSE crisis, and the impact it had on the crisis management, implies the dignity of the crisis. Often these events transform the way actors perceive a problem. They attribute to themselves and their peers a new and more mature insight into the realities of the situation, especially with respect to value priorities; there is a powerful sense of instant learning and shared wisdom (Vertzberger, 1997:865).

Threats that were marginal before can be transformed into central ones during a crisis event. In the dioxin case, this was illustrated by the fact that already from the beginning many discussions were prevalent about not repeating the same mistakes from the BSE crisis and the fact that the official who received the Belgian fax about the contaminated feed immediately framed the event as a crisis29 (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview, Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent D, 21 December 2000 telephone interview). The Cabinet at the DG Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection perceived the dioxin scandal as a serious political crisis, since there was a risk of severely impacting consumer confidence (Respondent D, 21 December 2000 telephone interview). European food issues had become highly politicized. Belgium’s former Prime Minister criticized the Commission for being too harsh, which according to him was a result of the criticism directed at the Commission in connection with the BSE crisis. According to the Bel-

29 The people with the DG VI “core group,” which was handling the dioxin crisis, often referred to the BSE crisis in one way or another, despite the fact that only one of them had actually been working in the Commission during the BSE crisis. Thus, one can say that the lessons learned from BSE crisis were not just limited to the persons directly involved in it.


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gian government, the Commission was obsessed with avoiding the same mistakes from the BSE crisis and thus it was over-reacting in the dioxin crisis (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/007). It is clear that the BSE crisis had a strong impact on the Commission’s crisis awareness since the BSE crisis had weakened its institutional creditability. During the BSE crisis the Commission was heavily criticized for focusing on the interests of the food producers instead of the consumers’ interests. Thus, the dioxin crisis was an opportunity to promote concerns for European consumers. During the BSE crisis the crisis management was an exclusive concern for the DG VI, and information sharing relied on previously established contacts30 (Grönvall, 2000). In general, policy changes occur when a policy sector no longer corresponds to the expectations in its surroundings (’t Hart et al., 2001). According to one of the DG VI officials, the BSE experience illustrated how secretiveness and departmentalization created problems within the Commission and this was harmful (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview).31 During the dioxin crisis, the Commission was able to assert its new priorities for consumer values. Symbolic politics can be described as a way “to ascribe political issues, importance, and properties that go beyond the concrete qualities of the issue” (Santesson-Wilson, 2000:7). This aspect was illustrated by the fact that the dioxin file was divided between the DG VI and the DG XXIV. A distinguishing aspect of the Commission’s organizational life is the tension between the policy priorities and the methods used by the different DG cultures (Nugent, 2001). This tension often creates difficulties for cooperation and coordination within the Commission (Mörth, 1997). According to a DG XXIV civil servant, the Commission was very eager to show its new concern for the consumer, where the interests of the food producers were sacrificed for the consumers’ interests. Franz Fischler’s early decision to work with Emma Bonino should be seen in the light of the concern for the Commission’s external image (Respondent D, 21 December 2000 telephone interview). In short, institutional values are symbolic since they are about institutional survivor on a long-term basis. In order to protect those values, symbolic actions were taken during the dioxin crisis. In addition to using the crisis as an opportunity to display the Commission’s crisis management capacity, the Commission also used symbolic politics by promoting consumer values.


3.2.1. Bureaucratic decision-making units This section aims at describing the relationship between the SVC and the Commission, and the interaction these two organizations had. It is not a complete description of the process since it is impossible to track down all of the discussions, meetings, and interactions that took 30 In 1996 during the BSE crisis, information sharing and communication was mainly limited to the DG III and former officials from the DG VI who had been transferred to the DG III. 31 According to one DG VI official, the main reason was because the DG VI officials, who had veterinarian backgrounds, had difficulties working with other types of people (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The fact that decision makers tend to limit their discussions to their usual partners is not an exclusive problem for the Commission, but rather a common occurrence. A fact that often becomes problematic when there is a need to get new ideas (March, 1994).


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

place at various levels in the system.32 In general terms, bureaucratic politics is the involvement of many actors where no one actor has total dominance in the decision-making process. This tends to create decisions based on compromises and as a result implementing these decisions can be difficult (Rosenthal et al., 1991:214b). As a multi-level governance, the EU lacks a central core comparable to a nation state, and thus bureau-political struggles are more commonplace in the decision-making process. The bureaucratic politics within the EU appear at different levels. According to Peters, the main aspects are: The apparent fragmentation of policymaking within the Commission and the increased linkage of the components of the Commission to components of national bureaucracies are the crucial aspects of decision making within the EU (Peters in Sbragia, 1992:77).

Peters maintains that “the politics of the EU is best understood as bureaucratic politics” (Peters in Sbragia, 1992:77). Bureau-political analyses aim to weed out the process in order to identify the key players (Rosenthal et al., 1991:214b). The first step in my analysis will be to take a look at the actors involved in the process in order to see where the decisions were made. A general tendency in national and corporate crisis management is the centralization of the decision-making process. ’t Hart et al. warn, however, that this should not be taken for granted, but rather should be empirically scrutinized (’t Hart et al., 1993). Three of the four main decision-making occasions33 (the first two and the last one) in the dioxin crisis can be illustrated as such. Decision-making occasion

Initiated by

Decision-making process

1. Belgian chickens contaminated by dioxin.

a DG VI official

SVC → Commission

2. Have bovines and pigs also been contaminated?

Commissioner of DG VI

Commission → SVC

3. New methods for testing additional pig farms.

DG VI officials

SVC → Commission

As seen in the table, the initiative and the decision-making process illustrate a typical centralization crisis process, where the structure changes with the heat of the crisis. The first decision was drafted at the administrative level of the DG VI, was formally taken by the SVC, and was finally approved by the Commission. This is the normal procedure within the Commission for a case like this. This picture changed during the second decision-making occasion. It was characterized by centralization at the highest level since the Commission both initiated and adopted the decision. It can be described as an up-scaling process, which means that in a crisis situation decision-making is pushed up to the highest level. An unusual aspect in this decision-making occasion was the fact that the Commission took the decision itself, and only afterwards was 32 The process was in many ways informal. According to one official in the SVC, “There are no limitations regarding how proposals come up and are discussed at the meetings. It becomes a joint effort, where everybody contributes various proposals and poses constructive questions” (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 e-mail correspondence). 33 The reason for not including the third decision-making occasion is that it is of another character; it is a phase consisting of several decisions. For that reason it is not described here.


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approved by the SVC. This could be seen as pragmatic behavior since “when the degree of perceived time pressure is high, structures that appear to enable rapid response are adopted,” and formal rules and forms for consultation are often transgressed in order to get a direct response (’t Hart et al., 1993:32b). In the third decision-making occasion there was downscaling of the crisis. The decisionmaking process was on the administrative level as was the case in the first decision-making occasion. These decision-making occasions seem to support the centralization theory, meaning that the decision-making power was centralized both within the Commission and the SVC. The impact this had on the relationship between the Commission and the Member States/ SVC and the role of the SVC in a crisis situation are discussed in the following section.

3.2.2. The role of the SVC This section aims at describing the interplay between the Commission and the Member States. The Member States’ safety concerns are channeled through the SVC into the Commission, and together they make a decision. If the SVC and the Commission cannot agree on a decision, then the Council gets involved. One might ask then in what way, or if at all, does it matter that the SVC takes a decision instead of the Council? Earlier research points out that the Council is dominated by special interests rather then a tradition of problem solving (Scharpf, 1998). This is, to some extent, in contrast to the committee system, which is a salient feature of the EU institutional setting. One main reason being that the committees focused more on functional and technical issues rather than political discussions (Peters in Sbragia, 1992:119). According to one DG VI official, it is easier to speak to the members of the SVC than to the Council members, because they “speak the same language” since most of them are veterinarians (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). In addition to having a similar professional background, they have gotten to know each other fairly well through years of cooperation. According to March, social processes are often processes of convergence, since people’s attitudes and values tend to get closer with time and where “Imitations, compromising and bargaining, for example, are all processes that tend to reduce differences among people” (March, 1994:118). It was an advantage that the SVC was dealing with the dioxin crisis, since they had common crisis experiences, and “Each delegation present at these meetings knew the delegations of the other Member States and a certain level of confidence was necessary during a crisis” (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). The question is thus whether the SVC functioned as an expert committee or as representatives for their respective national governments in this particular case? In a crisis situation like this it is obvious that the civil servants take into account their governments’ views (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview). This was confirmed by a member of the Commission, who argued that the SVC members were representing their governments and that they had a clear mandate from them to do so. During the dioxin crisis the SVC members were often in favor of the same solutions being proposed by the Commission, but they had received firm directives from their governments which made it impossible to agree in public (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). One of the Belgian representatives argued that it was easier to talk to the SVC members since they had similar professional back-


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

grounds and conversations were held on a more technical level. Nevertheless, dialogue in the SVC was quickly broken when it came to voting, because the SVC members received other directives from their national governments (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). Thus, one can see how the SVC was used as a channel for the interests of the Member States. Since Belgium is represented in the SVC, like all of the other Member States, one could assume that the issue might be solved within the SVC, but Belgium was rather isolated in the SVC during the first critical months. One of the SVC officials described how Belgium was “left standing in the corner.” The indignation in the Committee was mostly caused by the fact that Belgium had not informed the Commission about the contamination earlier (Respondent G, 19 June 2000 telephone interview; Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 3 March 2000: Document 50 0018/007). According to Belgian officials, the SVC tried to punish Belgium by isolating it in the SVC, and was directly hostile to Belgium up until August (Respondent L, November 2000 personal interview; Respondent J, 11 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview; Willockx, 22 December 1999). Civil servants within the Commission also noticed a harsh attitude from the SVC members towards Belgium (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). All of this certainly affected Belgium. In the EU, it is of utter importance that the Member States participate in the political process. Even though they “could not be excluded from participation as interest groups might be in a single nation, they could be isolated and barred from informal stages of policymaking” (Peters in Sbragia, 1992:113). It was impossible for Belgium to truly influence the process in the SVC because of hard feelings.

3.2.3. Interaction between the SVC and the Commission One way to discuss the role of the Commission and its motives is to use the concepts ‘actor’ and ‘arena.’ In terms of ‘arena,’ the Commission can be seen as a forum for the power struggle between the Member States. The term ‘actor’ implies that the Commission has an agenda of its own that it pursues to influence EU decision making (Moravcsik, 1991). The Commission can take on both roles at different times in the very same decision-making process. For example in the BSE crisis the Commission first functioned as an arena, but later took an actor role when the Member States disagreed upon the issue of gelatin (Grönvall, 2000). This finding corresponds with Mörth who argues that the role of the Commission tends to be stronger when the Member States are either uncertain or divided on an issue (Mörth, 1997). The Commission acted both fast and determined with the dioxin case. The Commission formulated the dioxin proposal that the SVC considered. Does this imply that the Commission was more of an actor then an arena? Even though it may seem like this, it is important to note that the unanimity between the Member States and the Commission was high (everybody was in agreement except for Belgium). This meant that the SVC could allow the Commission to take the lead. Generally the Commission avoids putting forward legislation before it has thoroughly investigated whether it has support among the Member States (Demmke, 1998). It is also common procedure that the Commission runs its proposals by


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

the SVC before they are made public (Respondent G, 19 June 2000: e-mail correspondence). This was not done in the dioxin case. The DG VI officials knew beforehand that the Member States have a predilection for going against a single disobedient country, and thus they counted on support from the Member States without consultation. In the words of one civil servant, “they [the Member States] act like sharks” (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview). In the beginning, there did not seem to be any conflicts between the Member States (with the exception of Belgium, of course) and the Commission. According to one SVC official: It was a common aim for both the Commission and Member States to show that we were able to take forceful and responsible action against a threat to public health. This was of particular importance after the BSE crisis since strong criticism from the Parliament and the public had been directed to the Commission (Respondent G, 19 June 2000: e-mail correspondence).

In the first two decision-making occasions (concerning the potential contamination of chickens, bovines and pigs), one can thus see that the Commission took an active role as an actor. Since there was no conflict between the SVC and the Commission on these issues, the decision-making occasions did not reveal anything about the power relations between these two. After the decisions were taken, the next step was implementation. Here the Commission faced a classical problem: how to make sure the countries implement the decisions? In general the Commission needed support from the Member States in order to carry out the implementation phase. The Commission took an active role, even though its capacities were limited. In the beginning of the crisis, Belgium and the Commission fought over implementation matters (the most serious being on whether or not to include milk), and the Commission more or less threatened Belgium to push through its decisions. The problem was not resolved simply because Belgium accepted the Commission’s decisions. It is common in the EU that the ‘losers’ in a policy struggle refuse to implement the decisions either by simply ignoring the decision, or by making it look like they are complying and hoping that the Commission does not have enough resources to check it up (the so called “tick the boxes implementation style”) (Richardson, 1996:282). Belgium tried using the first strategy on the milk issue, but was caught and on June 13 was forced to follow the Commission’s decision. Belgium even tried using the second strategy in other areas: for example, by issuing prewritten certificates in Belgian slaughterhouses (Respondent I, November 2000 personal interview). In order to increase control over the situation, the Commission sent out its own veterinary inspection teams, who confirmed that the directives were not being applied as they should (European Commission, 9 June 1999a: MEMO/99/32). The Commission was well aware of the masking problem and tried to closely follow the process with all means: mainly, pressing Belgium for information. There are even public statements that bear witness of these worries: “We are not convinced that the European decision has been fully applied by the Belgian authorities” (Financial Times, 9 June 1999). The Commission was also under constant pressure from the Member States demanding information and lists on the contaminated products (Standing Veterinary Committee, 1999: Short Report 99/15). As a last resort, the Commission handed in an application to the ECJ against Belgium for informing the other parties of the situation too late and for not implementing the first directives (Europa Newsletter, June 1999). During this phase, the Commission took an active role, even though that


Chapter 3 The Dioxin Scandal

does not say anything about its relations with the other Member States (except for those with Belgium). Slowly, the Commission changed its attitude towards Belgium once the situation seemed under control (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview; Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). One example of this change is the fact that the Commission eventually tried to convince the SVC to lift the restrictions. This was not done openly since relations were still sensitive, but the Commission, for example, helped Belgium with their preparations and presentations for the SVC meetings. In more vague terms, one official says that the Commission tried to influence the Member States (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). Formally, the Commission does not put forward proposals regarding lifting restrictions until it is sure it is supported by the Member States. According to one official, creating restrictions is considerably easier to decide upon than lifting them (Respondent A, 12 December 2000 telephone interview). The Commission, in contrast to other administration agencies at the national level, has an intermediate position in balancing the common EU position against the interests of the Member States. “This dual responsibility results in its using bureaucratic politics in order to preserve its position” (Peters in Sbragia, 1992:89). Ideally, authority is divided and balanced between the Member States and the Commission since they are both dependent upon one another (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). In the best case, cooperation functions well, but in reality the system is paralyzed by nationalistic tendencies and the Commission is too weak to defend the common European interests (Ludlow in Keohane and Hoffman, 1991). This tendency is illustrated by the fact that it was difficult to get the restrictions lifted. The intense diplomacy efforts directed to the most reluctant Member States regarding lifting the restrictions on beef showed that the bilateral contacts between the national governments created an important arena for resolving the conflict. Even though the Commission had an agenda of its own, it is hard to say if or how much that contributed to lifting the restrictions.

4. Summing Up The dioxin crisis proved that a crisis in the agricultural sector was addressed, not only in terms of public health, but also in terms of putting demands on the EU to restore confidence in the international market. The main weapon for the Commission in this struggle was to act fast and to provide the third countries with information. In the institutional setting of the EU, the Commission is dependent on the affected Member State to give it much needed information and to handle the crisis in a reliable manner. When this does not happen, the Commission can pressure the affected country with tougher measures and even threaten to bring the case before the ECJ. Both of these measures were used in the dioxin crisis and eventually the Commission succeeded in convincing Belgium that it had to follow the Commission’s directives. Belgium caved in when it recognized that all the other parties supported the Commission and that it was the only way to get the restrictions lifted. The dioxin case confirmed the fact that earlier experiences (in this case, the BSE crisis) heavily influence crisis management. The traces from the BSE crisis were profound. The Commission had learned the importance of informing third countries on a regular basis and this helped to protect the EU market. The significance of acting fast and determined in order


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

to protect both economic and institutional values was a lesson learned from the BSE crisis. On the institutional level, symbolic politics were used as a way of showing that the Commission prioritized consumer concerns. In addition, the dioxin case raised issues about the balance of power between the Commission and the Member States. Even though both parties (with the exception of Belgium) agreed on the course of action regarding implementing restrictions in the first phase, the Commission later changed its position whereas the Member States were more prone to keeping the restrictions in place. The issue was immediately politicized, and the SVC members had to take off their expert hats since they were given firm directives from their respective governments. This demonstrates that in a crisis, the Member States can strengthen their power over the Commission. To sum up, it seems like the Commission has a lot of power in handling a crisis like this, but in general the Member States act to protect their own interests rather than the common European interests.

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Edwards, G. and D. Spencer, Eds. (1994) The European Commission. Harlow: Longman Current Affairs. Electronic Telegraph. 3, 5, 7, 10 and 13 June 1999. Various newspaper articles. Europa Newsletter. June 1999a. Agriculture (7/15), 1.2.122. Commission decision 1999/ 419/EC amending decisions 1999/363/EC and 1999/389/EC on the protective measures regarding the contamination of certain products with dioxins. Available on Europa’s home page at: Europa Newsletter. June 1999b. Consumer policy and health protection (8/10), 1.2.154. Commission decision to issue a letter of formal notice to Belgium on the infringement proceedings 99/2141. Available on Europa’s home page at: European Commission. 2 June 1999. Press release regarding the decision on dioxin contaminated poultry and poultry products. IP/99/366. Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids at: European Commission. 3 June 1999a. Decision 1999/363/EC on protective measures with regards to dioxin contamination of certain animal products intended for human or animal consumption. Notified under document number C (1999): 1500. Text with EEA relevance. Official Journal L 141, 04/06/1999, p. 0024 – 0026. Also available on Europa’s home page at: European Commission. 3 June 1999b. Press release regarding the proposals to extend safeguard measures for dioxin contamination. IP/99/372. Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids at: European Commission. 4 June 1999a. Decision 1999/368/EC on protective measures with regards to dioxin contamination of products intended for human or animal consumption derived from bovine animals and pigs. Notified under document number C (1999): 1538. Text with EEA relevance. Official Journal L 142, 05/06/1999, p. 0046 – 0047. Also available on Europa’s home page at: European Commission. 4 June 1999b. Press release regarding the decision to extend safeguard measures for dioxin contamination. IP/99/376. Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids at: European Commission. 9 June 1999a. MEMO/99/32. Meeting minutes concerning the contamination of feedingstuffs for poultry, pigs and cattle with dioxin in Belgium. European Commission. 9 June 1999b. Press release asserting the Commission’s position that Belgium must fully comply with the Commission’s decisions regarding dioxin contamination. IP/99/386. Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids at: European Commission. 16 August 1999. Press release stating that the Commission approves aid for measures addressing the dioxin scare in Belgium. IP/99/630. Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids at: European Commission. 3 December 1999. Eurolex Document 399 D 0788, 99/788/CE, on protective measures with regards to dioxin contamination of products intended for human or animal consumption derived from pigs and poultry products. Official Journal L 310, 04/12/1999, p. 0062–0070. Also available on Europa’s home page at: European Information Service. 5 June 1999. European Report “Contaminated poultry: Commission takes safeguard measures in dioxin scandal.”


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European Information Service. 9 June 1999. European Report “Health Council: Future health framework met with apathy at session hijacked by dioxin scandal.” European Information Service. 17 June 1999. “Parliament gets though on dioxin contamination.” European Information Service. 19 June 1999. European Report “Food safety: Scientific Committee tightens up tests on suspect Belgian milk.” European Parliament. 22 July 1999. Debates European Parliament (4 October 1999) Overview. Available on Europa’s home page at: European Secretary General. 29 July 1999. (99) D/5879. Brussels. Cover letter and report about state aid for dealing with the dioxin crisis. Farnham, B. (1997) Roosevelt and the Munich Crisis: A Study of Political Decision Making. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Financial Times. 6 and 9 June 1999. 5 and 10 August 1999. Various newspaper articles. Food and Drink Weekly. 26 July 1999. A newspaper article. George, A.L. (1980) Presidential Decision Making in Foreign Policy: The Effective Use of Information and Advice. Boulder, Colorado: Westview. Glavin, Margaret. 2 July 1999. Statement by the Associate Administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Available at: Göteborgs-Posten [The Gothenburg Post]. 3, 9 and 10 June 1999. Various newspaper articles. Grönvall, J. (2000) Managing Crisis in the European Union: The Commission and "Mad Cow Disease." Karlstad: The Swedish Agency for Civil Emergency Planning. The Guardian. 5 June 1999. 24 July 1999. 9 August 1999. Various newspaper articles. Guttman, N. (2000) Public Health Communication Interventions, Values and Ethical Dilemmas. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. ’t Hart, P. (1993) “Symbols, Rituals and Power: The Lost Dimensions of Crisis Management.” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management. 1 (1): 36–50. ’t Hart, P., U. Rosenthal, and A. Kouzmin (1993) “Crisis Decision Making: The Centralization Thesis Revisited.” Administration and Society 25 ( May):12–45. International Herald Tribune. 10 June 1999. 31 July 1999. 2 August 1999. 16 and 19 September 1999. Various newspaper articles. Irish Times. 6 October 1999. A newspaper article. Janis, I.L. (1989) Crucial Decisions, Leadership and Policymaking and Crisis Management. New York: The Free Press. Le Soir. 2 and 3 June 1999. Various newspaper articles. Lok, C., and D. Powell (1 February 2000) “The Belgian Dioxin Crisis of the Summer of 1999: A Case Study in Crisis Communication and Management.” Technical Report #13. Dept. of Food Science, University of Guelph. Ludlow, P. (1991) “The European Commission.” In The New European Community. Decision Making and Institutional Change, edited by Keohane and Hoffman. Harvard University: Westview Press. March, J.G. (1994) A Primer on Decision Making: How Decisions Happen. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International.


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Moravcsik, A. (1991) “Negotiating the Single European Act.” In The New European Community, Decision Making and Institutional Change, edited by Keohane and Hoffman. Harvard University: Westview Press. Mört, U. 1997. EU Policy-Making in Pillar One and a Half – The European Commission and Economic Security. Report submitted to the Swedish Agency for Civil Emergency Planning. The Observer. 6 June 1999. A newspaper article. Peters, G. (1992) “Bureaucratic Politics and Institutions of the European Community.” In Politics, Institutions and Policymaking in the New European Community, edited by M.A. Sbragia. Washington, DC: Euro Brookings Institution. Ratzan, S.C., Ed (1998) The Mad Cow Crisis: Health and the Public Good. London: UCL Press. Respondent A. An official from the DG VI, telephone interview, 12 December 2000. Respondent B. An official from the DG VI, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Respondent C. An official from the DG VI, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Respondent D. An official from the DG XXIV, telephone interview, 21 December 2000. Respondent E. An official from the DG III, telephone interview, 20 June 2000. Respondent F. An official from the DG X, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Respondent G. An official member of the Standing Veterinary Committee, telephone interview, 19 June 2000 and e-mail correspondence. Respondent I. An official from the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Respondent J. An official from the Belgian Ministry, telephone interview, 11 December 2000. Respondent K. An official from the Belgian Ministry, telephone interview, 22 December 2000. Respondent L. A cabinet member of the Belgian government, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Respondent M. Director-General of the Federal Information Service, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Reuters. 10 June 1999. A newspaper article. Richardson, J. (1996) “Policy Making in the EU: Interests, Ideas and Garbage Cans of Primeval Soup.” In European Union: Power and Policy Making, edited by J. Richardson. London: Routledge. Rochefort, D.S. and R.W. Cobb, Eds. (1994) The Politics of Problem Definition, Shaping the Policy Agenda. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. Rosenthal, U., M.T. Charles, and P. ’t Hart, Eds. (1989) Coping with Crisis: The Management of Disasters, Riots and Terrorism. Illinois: Charles C Thomas. Rosenthal, U., P. ’t Hart, and A. Kouzmin (1991a) “Experts and Decision Makers in Crisis Situations.” Knowledge 12:350–373. Rosenthal, U., P. ’t Hart, and A. Kouzmin (1991b) “The Bureau-Politics of Crisis Management.” Public Administration 69 (2): 211–233. Santesson-Wilson, P. (2000) ”Att studera symbolpolitik: fyra problem och tänkbara lösningar. [Studying symbolic politics: Four problems and possible solutions].” A report presented at the Political Science Association’s [Statsvetenskapliga föreningen] annual meeting in Uppsala, Sweden.


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Scharpf, F.W. (1998) “Negative and Positive Integration in the Political Economy of European Welfare States.” In Governance in the European Union, edited by G. Marks, F.W. Scharpf, and P.C. Schmitter. London: Sage. Scientific Committee on Food. 16 June 1999. Final opinions expressed on dioxins in milk derived from cattle fed with contaminated feed from Belgium . SCF/CS/CNTM/PCB/ 4. Shore, C. (2000) Building Europe: The Cultural Politics of European Integration. London: Routledge. Standing Veterinary Committee (1999) Short Reports 99/14, 99/15, 99/21, 99/22, 99/23, 99/24, 99/25, and 99/26. Standing Veterinary Committee (2000) Short Reports 00/05 and 00/12. Stern, E.K. (2000) Crisis Decisionmaking: A Cognitive Institutional Approach. Stockholm: Stockholm University. Svenska Dagbladet [The Swedish Daily Paper]. 2, 9 and 13 June 1999. 29 July 1999. Various newspaper articles. Time. 2 June 1999. A magazine article. TT. 5, 7 and 10 June 1999. Various newspaper articles. Vertzberger, Y. (1990) The World in Their Minds: Information Processing, Cognition and Perception in Foreign Policy Decision Making. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Wallace, H. and W. Wallace, Eds. (1996) Policy-making in the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press. WHO European Centre for Environment and Health. 2000. Information about some of the Belgian food products contaminated with dioxin. Available at WHO’s homepage: Willockx, Frederik. 22 December 1999. “Cinq Mois de Gestion de Crisis, Un Apercu de Lápproach de Problematique de la Dioxine” [Five months after the crisis: An overview of the dioxin problem]. Available in the Europa Newsletter at: newsletter/index_en.htm Willockx, Frederik. 5 June 2000. “Gestion de Crise par le Gouvernement” [The Crisis Management of the Government]. Available in the Europa Newsletter at: World Trade Organization (WTO). 2000. Home page available at:


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria Sara Larsson and Jenny Lundgren 1. Introduction On October 3, 1999, parliamentary elections were held in Austria. Before the elections, the Prime Minister of Austria said that he would do everything in his power to keep the controversial right-wing party Freiheitliches Partei Österreich (FPÖ) out of the Austrian government. The election results were catastrophic for the Austrian Social Democrats (SPÖ), even though they were able to keep their position as the largest party in the country. About 27 percent of the Austrians voted for the FPÖ, which made the party the second largest in the country. After the elections, the Conservatives (ÖVP) and the SPÖ began government negotiations, but three months later (on January 21, 2000) these negotiations collapsed. As a result, on January 25 the ÖVP started government negotiations with the FPÖ instead. The fourteen EU Member States feared that the FPÖ was going to disregard Article 6.1 of the Amsterdam Treaty once in power. Article 6.1 defines the principles upon which the European Union is built: such as the principles of freedom and democracy, respect for human rights and for basic human privileges, and the notion of the constitutional state. “The 14” (as they were eventually referred to) could not act within the institutions of the EU, because the EU Treaty did not support any action against a Member State until something actually had happened. In this case, the FPÖ had not yet done anything. “The 14” were therefore forced to look for another way to act in order to prevent the FPÖ from becoming part of the Austrian government and to preserve the community values girding the EU. On January 31, Antonio Guterres (the Portuguese President of the European Union) presented an ultimatum to Austria on behalf of the fourteen EU countries. The threat consisted of political sanctions, which would be initiated if the FPÖ became a member of the Austrian government. “The 14” considered this joint threat as several bilateral decisions, and therefore did not regard it as a collective EU action. Every government had made the decision to participate in the joint action on the national level. Nevertheless this was the first time in the history of the EU that one of the Member States interfered with another Member State’s democratic elections. This issue tested the cohesion and integrity of the EU.

1.1 THE ACTORS In this case, it was very easy to define the main actors. Fourteen Prime Ministers and Presidents made the joint decision to threaten Austria with sanctions. One can directly draw the conclusion that this was a group decision, since they made the decision together and since it was extremely important that everyone participated. António Guterres, the Portuguese Prime Minister and EU President at the time, was the group leader. The problem is whether this


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action could be defined as an EU decision or a decision made by fourteen independent countries. “The 14” strongly asserted that the decision was strictly bilateral. The actors’ own understanding of a situation can play an important part in explaining the behavior of a state (King, Keohane and Verba, 1994:44-45). According to Paul ’t Hart et al., many important decisions relating to foreign policy are made in relatively small decision units, where the decision makers personally meet all together and confer. To understand why a group acts the way it does, it is important to look at the internal structure and the construction of the group. All groups or small social units consist of, for example, political leaders, experts, or political party representatives who gather and exchange information, debate, and finally reach a shared opinion or decision (’t Hart, Stern and Sundelius, 1997:4-5). When looking at the internal structure of a group, it is important to determine first who the group members are, and secondly why these persons constitutes a group. Even though the group in this case consisted of “the 14” Heads of Government, the focus of this study will mainly be on António Guterres since he acted as the coordinator and representative for the group. Guterres’ role was defined by the fact that he was President for the EU, which in itself implies an active role in the decision-making process. The EU, as an institution, was not an actor, and thus this case does not focus on any other EU institution than the presidency. Then the question arises whether “the 14” should be considered one or fourteen actors? If one considers the decision as fourteen bilateral decisions, there were fourteen independent actors. Yet “the 14” operated as one actor in the sense that the decision about the sanctions was made collectively and unanimous. The decision about raising the sanctions was also taken on common grounds. This means that it was politically difficult for one country to break the joint resolution without being considered a “betrayer.” Decision makers are influenced by the institutions in which they work and represent. “The 14” are used to working together within the EU, and thus the decision-making process was highly influenced by these procedures. Hence, there was confusion and uncertainty in handling this crisis. According to “the 14,” the sanctions were bilateral and ‘these fourteen decisions’ were taken outside the sphere of the EU. At the same time they stated that the reason for the sanctions against Austria was to protect the community values of the EU. In principle, bilateral decisions should not influence the work of the Union since the normal procedure for making bilateral decisions is via a national government. In this case “the 14” did not use the traditional working routines, but choose to cooperate with their colleagues in the Council instead. They maintained that there was not enough time to operate in any other way. “The 14” could not act within the framework of the Amsterdam Treaty. To be able to do that the country in question must have already violated the principles in Article 6.1: the principles of freedom and democracy, respect for human rights and for basic human privileges, and the notion of the constitutional state. Austria had not violated any of these principles; “the 14” only feared that it might and they wanted to prevent that from happening. With this in mind, one can draw the conclusion that although “the 14” meant that the decision was strictly bilateral, the EU in general and the Presidency in particular were very important in crystallizing and shaping the decision. Therefore it can be justly argued that the EU played a very important role in “the 14’s” decision to discipline Austria with sanctions.


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1.2 WAS THIS A CRISIS? It is important to make clear if and how the government formation in Austria in 2000 was a crisis for “the 14.” In this study, a crisis definition consisting of three criteria is applied (See 3.1 Crisis Definition in Chapter 1 for further explanation). The three criteria are: Important values are at stake, the decision-makers have limited time at their disposal, and the circumstances are characterized by a great deal of uncertainty (Stern, 2001:5; Sundelius, Stern and Bynander, 1997:13). The government formation in Austria was in fact a creeping crisis. In some situations warning signals appear very early for decision makers. Often it is not a lack of warning indicators, but the problem is that decision makers often ‘ignore’ the beginning of a crisis and are passive until the situation turns into a full-blown crisis. It is often in the best interests of a decision maker to react early to warning indicators, although decision makers has a deeply rooted predilection to delay hard decisions (George, 1999:11). After the Austrian government election it was clear that the FPÖ was the second largest party in the country, and at this time the heated debate about the FPÖ was taken up both nationally and internationally (Document I, 31 January 2000). When the government negotiations between the ÖVP and the SPÖ collapsed about four months later, it was more than clear that there was a considerable risk that the FPÖ could take a seat in the Austrian government. In spite of that the issue was not discussed among the EU Ministers, and the ÖVP started negotiating with the FPÖ. Despite these strong warning indicators, some of the decision makers were very surprised when Antònio Guterres phoned them on January 30 and asked them to decide right away if they would implement sanctions in a joint action against Austria. Important values were at stake for “the 14.” The risk that the FPÖ would become a part of the Austrian government was something that threatened the decision makers’ highly prioritized values (Stern and Bynander, 1998:324). According to “the 14,” the protection of human and minority rights were the central, most important principals for the EU. They believed these fundamental EU values would be jeopardized if the FPÖ were in the Government; that is, “the 14” assumed that the party would violate these highly prioritized values if they came to power (Lipponen, 7 March 2000; European Parliament, 2 February 2000). In a crisis situation, decisions are almost exclusively made by a few key people. These people believe that an action of some kind is so important that there is no time to consult lower administrative officials or even the public (Holsti, 1995:263). The key people in this case were the Heads of Government in the fourteen EU countries. On Sunday, January 30, Guterres asked them all to quickly take a position. They could either accept or refuse the proposal (Lindh, 14 April 2000). There was no time for extra national meetings (e.g., foreign relation committees) or to consult other party leaders or experts. Guterres wanted their answers immediately, since he feared that the ÖVP and the FPÖ would present a government proposal already the following day. The purpose with threatening Austria with sanctions would be to deter the ÖVP party leader, Wolfgang Schüsselm, from cooperating with the FPÖ and in that way preventing the possible entrance of the FPÖ in a government coalition. In order for the threat to be effective, it had to be presented before there was a complete coalition deal between the ÖVP and the FPÖ. The Swedish Vice Prime Minister Lena Hjelm Wallén strongly believed that if “the 14” would have waited one more day with making the decision,


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the situation would have been completely different. One day would have given them more time to consult with each other and with external experts (Hjelm Wallén, 29 May 2000). Some of “the 14”, especially those who were contacted last, felt a great uncertainty regarding what it would have meant for them if they had not accepted Guterres’ proposal. Guterres told them that all the others already had accepted it and therefore they feared being seen as an outsider who “supported the FPÖ and Jörg Haider” (Lindh, 14 April 2000; Lipponen, 7 March 2000; Rasmussen, 13 March 2000). The Austrian case created political confusion within the EU institutions. The community’s democratic values were put up against the sovereignty of a national state (Gustavsson, 3 February 2000). There was a great uncertainty among the decision makers on several issues. A decision about bilateral sanctions should, as a rule, be made outside the EU framework, since the EU constitution does not support this kind of action. Yet in some ways, the decision about implementing sanctions did fall inside the framework of the EU. One reason was the fact that fourteen of the EU Member States were challenging the fifteenth member and no country outside the Union was invited to participate. In addition, Portugal, in holding the EU Presidency, was given the coordinating and representative role. The fact that the sanctions were implemented to protect the “community’s values” is also a fact that makes it look like an EU action. “The 14” were uneasy about how outsiders would view a right extremist party receiving government control in one of the Member States. In conclusion, the three criteria of a crisis formulated by Stern, Sundelius and Bynander (limited time, uncertainty, and values at risk) were fulfilled in this case. Thus, it can be established that the government formation in Austria constituted a crisis for “the 14.”

2. The Decision Occasions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Belgium demands that the EU President takes action “The 14” take action Finding out if Austria did anything wrong The report of the “Three Wise Men” Italy – A new challenge?

2.1 BELGIUM DEMANDS THAT THE EU PRESIDENT TAKES ACTION António Guterres confers with the Portuguese Minister of European Affairs, Francisco Seixas da Costa, about the situation in Austria on January 28. This discussion takes place after Guterres has received a fax from Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgium Prime Minister (Agéncia de Information, 28 January 2000). Verhofstadt suggests that Guterres, in his position as the President for the European Council, should try to quickly arrange a joint response from “the 14” concerning the FPÖ’s possible government position in Austria. The Belgium Prime Minister is worried about the Austrian nation and the EU (Verhofstadt and Michel, 27 January 2000). Seixas da Costa recommends that Guterres consider the Belgium proposal with caution. Seixas da Costa says that Austria is a country that has strictly followed its obligations within the EU, and there was no need for concern at that time. He also feels that they should follow the


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developments in Austria, but should not jump to any hasty conclusions (Agéncia de Information, 28 January 2000). At lunchtime the very same day the Danish Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, phones Guterres. Rasmussen’s is also worried about the possible political development in Austria. Guterres asks Rasmussen what he thinks about a statement asserting: (1) Strong concern for the political development in Austria. (2) That EU cooperation does not only involve a common market, but also shared values. (3) That all EU members shall respect these values. Rasmussen thought this statement sounded reasonable, and told Guterres that he accepted the content. No references to sanctions against Austria were mentioned during this conversation (Rasmussen, 13 March 2000). At this point, Guterres only has a proposed common statement on behalf of “the 14,” where they express their common concern for the Austrian situation. This statement clearly marks the standpoint of “the 14,” but does not contain any direct measures against Austria. At 6 p.m. (Portuguese time), Guterres’ diplomatic counselor sends a fax to all of “the 14.” The fax contains the Belgian fax to Guterres, a press statement from Guterres, and a request to everybody to give their opinions on the Belgium initiative regarding a common response (Verhofstadt and Michel, 28 January 2000; Guterres, 28 January 2000; Freitas Ferraz, 28 January 2000). Guterres has now chosen to act in line with the Belgians, but wants reflections from the other “14.” The differences in how “the 14” perceive the importance and content of the fax as well as the request for a quick reply are crucial factors in the formation of the final proposal.

2.2 “THE 14” TAKE ACTION On January 30, 2000, Guterres is on a private visit at the German Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s home in Hanover. During the weekend he receives a couple of phone calls about the situation in Austria from, among others, the French President Jaques Chirac (Svenska Dagbladet, 7 February 2000; Vestring, 1 February 2000). Just a few of “the 14” actively take part in these discussions. A concrete proposal for a joint action against Austria is finalized later that same day. Guterres presents this proposal over phone to the rest of “the 14.” At this point in time there is not much time for consideration from “the 14” and their respective national governments since Guterres wants their final answer on the proposal within the next hours. The proposal is pushed through because Guterres and several of the other “14” fear that the ÖVP and the FPÖ will soon finish their government negotiations and present them to the Austrian President for an approval. “The 14” have to make a fast decision on the proposal about the sanctions, and this means that the decision makers do not really have time to reflect upon the consequences of the decision. The decision states: • The Governments in the fourteen countries will not accept any bilateral contacts on the political level with an Austrian government containing the FPÖ. • The fourteen countries will not support Austrian candidates for international posts. • Austrian Ambassadors in the capitals of the fourteen countries will only be contacted for technical matters (Portuguese Presidency, 31 January 2000).


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The purpose with threatening Austria with sanctions is to make Schüssel reconsider negotiating with the FPÖ. “The 14” simply want to prevent the FPÖ from getting a government position in Austria, and thus they want to firmly and quickly influence the government formation which they fear will soon take place (Lindh, 14 April 2000). Antònio Guterres is aware that the sanctions can have a counter effect in Austria. Regardless, Guterres firmly believes that the common response is the right thing to do. If “the 14” would just stand passively on the side, it could be perceived that they accepted the political developments in Austria, which in turn could create additional political problems for Europe (Rasmussen, 13 March 2000). “The 14” believe that the common response against Austria will have fewer political ramifications for Europe than if they would to do nothing. Guterres discusses the proposal with the Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who expresses his views on Guterres’ draft proposal. Lipponen feels that they should be more cautious with what they state in the proposal. Guterres tells Lipponen that some Member States have suggested even harder measures and that the proposal was not negotiable. Guterres further states that he intends to present this joint response to the Austrian President on Monday, January 31, without any publicity (Lipponen, 7 February 2000). The Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen gets a telephone call from Guterres later the same evening, and he is surprised by how quickly the proposal has circulated. Guterres tells Rasmussen that there is a broad consensus for the proposal among the other Member States, and that some countries want to go even further than the proposal. Apparently, only one country has expressed some doubts, but is now ready to accept what the others decide. At this point the Danish Prime Minister accepts the proposal. Rasmussen is of the understanding that Denmark would put itself in an awkward position if it was not a part of the joint action. It could be interpreted as consenting to the political developments in Austria and seriously damage Denmark’s European position (Rasmussen, 13 March 2000). In a conversation with the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, Guterres pushes him for an immediately answer on the proposal (Nilsson, 16 February 2000). Persson quickly understands that there is no room for debating at this point and that Guterres wants a simple yes or no. If he should reject it, Sweden would stand together with Austria against the other thirteen EU Member States. Persson and the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh figure that they have only two choices: to stand with the other thirteen Member States or with Austria. They also feel that the situation does not allow for deliberation, and that the other countries cannot wait for a Swedish decision (Lindh, 14 April 2000). Göran Persson is put under extreme pressure with little time, and there is no time for doubting (Hammargren, 7 April 2000). “The 14” are convinced that Austria will cave in after being notified of “the 14’s” joint threat. “The 14” never discuss what they will do if Austria disregards the threat and goes its own way. On February 4, the Austrian President Thomas Klestil approves the new government coalition, consisting of the ÖVP and the FPÖ. “The 14’s” joint threat has not fulfilled its purpose and can therefore be seen as a failure. The threat about sanctions must be carried out now. Guterres announces that the conditions of the sanctions are valid now and that no additional meetings are necessary (Andersen, 5 February 2000). This could be seen as a non-decision. “The 14” do not reflect on the matter, despite the fact that they never actually met to discuss what the sanctions in practice would imply.


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

The purpose with the sanctions is to force the FPÖ to leave the Austrian government. In other words, the sanctions should be kept in place as long as the FPÖ is a member of the Austrian government (Lindh, 14 April 2000).

2.3 FINDING OUT IF AUSTRIA DID ANYTHING “WRONG” On July 12, the European Council elects “three wise men” to investigate the political situation in Austria and the sanctions. The three men elected for this task are the former Finnish President and diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, the former Foreign Minister of Spain Marcelino Oreja, and a German professor of international law Jochen Frohwein (TT-Reuters, 13 July 2000). Their task is to investigate whether Austria is behaving according to the common European values; “in particular concerning the rights of minorities, refugees, and immigrants” announced Guterres. The political nature and development of the party FPÖ should also be investigated (TT, 30 June 2000). This independent observation would report directly to the EU and France as the country holding the Presidency (TT-Reuters, 13 July 2000). Depending on the conclusions in the “wise men’s” report, “the 14” will reevaluate their bilateral relations with Austria. There is no deadline for the “three wise men’s” report, and this disappoints many Austrians who fear that it will be a long-drawn out process. Austria’s situation in the EU is worsened after the country decides that a popular vote regarding the sanctions should be taken, if the sanctions are not lifted before October 2000 (TT-Reuters, 13 July 2000). Nevertheless, Wolfgang Schüssel asserts that Austria is prepared to cooperate with the investigators (TT, 30 June 2000). Jörg Haider does not like the investigation. Haider says, “One has to be careful with the three wise men, because not even a visit from them could have prevented the crucifixion of Jesus” (TT, 30 June 2000).

2.4 THE REPORT OF THE “THREE WISE MEN” The ”three wise men” present their report on September 8, 2000. According to the report the situation for minorities, refugees, and immigrants is similar to that in other EU countries. In some areas, especially those concerning the rights of minority populations, the conditions in Austria can be considered superior to those within the Union. Shortcomings are, however, observed in the situation for the refugees. The situation for asylum seekers in Austria is reportedly similar to the other member countries, and “the present government continues the traditional Austrian immigration policy.” The report of the “three wise men” concludes that the Austrian government’s policy towards immigrants “shows a responsibility towards the common European values” and that the present government is committed to fighting racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination, and xenophobism (Björk, 9 September 2000; Cramér and Wrange, 2001:33-34). The report also shows that the FPÖ, even after taking place in the Austrian government, continues to be a right-wing populist party with extremist tendencies. This does not apply to the FPÖ party members already seated in the government, who strictly had followed the declaration that was signed on February 3, 2000. Nevertheless, the wise men feel that the party


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should still be monitored, since the governments of the Union can directly influence human rights, democracy, and ethnical discrimination (Cramér and Wrange, 2001:33-34). It is also established that further sanctions could have the opposite effect than those wished for. This marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions. The French President Jaques Chirac, in his position as the President for the EU, is now responsible for coordinating “the 14.” Chirac has phone contact with the other thirteen decision makers and sends out a questionnaire to get additional feedback on the subject. Some of the questions are: Shall the sanctions be lifted? Shall they be lifted permanently? Shall the EU countries continue to monitor the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)? Despite the fact that all of “the 14” answer the questionnaires and send them back to France, it is unclear for a long time if all of the EU countries are positive to lifting the sanctions. The biggest question mark is Belgium, which want to delay de-escalation until after its municipal election on October 8. They fear such a move might give support to the Belgium right-wing party Vlaams Block. But when the Belgian government on September 11 states that it will not alone delaying the lifting process, the situation turns (Lindgren, 12 September 2000). It is seen as important that the lifting of the sanctions occurs simultaneously in the fourteen Member States. The Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson says, “We went into this together and we should leave this together.” The existing collaboration would be threatened if one country would withdraw or put pressure on another country; conflicts could appear and the lifting of the sanctions could be delayed. “We ought to be unified in our circle,” Persson says meaning there is no reason to panic (Göteborgs-Posten, 12 September 2000). On September 12, 2000, “the 14” announce through the EU President that they are going to lift the sanctions against Austria. They claim that the report of the “three wise men” indicates that the sanctions have had an effect. They also state that they intend to continue monitoring the FPÖ and its influence in the Austrian government. “The 14” mean that thanks to EU pressure and the sanctions, the Austrian government has not caved in to the FPÖ. For example, Göran Persson says, “The report from the ‘three wise men’ shows clearly that the measures taken had an effect but should now be taken away” (Nilsson, 13 September 2000). The report of the “three wise men” has an unwanted effect. In a way the report legitimatizes the Austrian ÖVP-FPÖ coalition. The report on the whole is published on the Austrian government’s web site and the Government uses it to prove its “innocence.”

2.5 ITALY – A NEW CHALLENGE? The government formation in Italy in May 2001 is also controversial, just like the one in Austria, although it is not followed by any measures from the other EU member countries. Instead a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach is taken. It is soon clear that it is going to be a conservative government in Italy, not only containing Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia but also the right-wing party Lega Nord and the former fascist party Alleanza Nationale. The EU President at that time, Göran Persson, announces that no measures are going to be taken by the EU member countries in the matter. Persson asserts that the Treaty of Nice is going to be strictly observed and that no one is going to jump to any hasty conclusions. He does, however, stress that it is very important to follow the political developments in Italy and to what


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extent the Forza Italia, Lega Nord, and Alleanza Nationale influence the government’s program (Borchert, 15 May 2001). France says that it accepts Italy’s election results, but also points out that it will monitor the political developments in the country. The European Minister of France, Pierre Moscivici, calls the Italian election “an unfortunate piece of news,” but is also quick to say that the situation in Austria and the one in Italy cannot be compared. Moscivici means that the leader of Alleanza Nationale had a fascist past, but has now dissociated himself from it, something that Jörg Haider has not. He also adds that the leader of Lega Nord, Umberto Bossi, “is not a Haider” (Borchert, 15 May 2001). What exactly the French Minister means by that is not further explained, but he does state that the Alleanza Nationale is now a fairly “common” conservative party. Others do not see a big difference between Umberto Bossi's Lega Nord Party and Jörg Haider’s FPÖ, and thus disagree with Moscivici’s claims. It becomes clear that there is not total unity among “the 14”1 on this issue. The Belgium Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, is partly in favor of introducing sanctions against Italy. Michel feels that the Government in Italy should be treated in the same way as the one in Austria. Michel asserts, ”Bossi is a right-wing extremist, who has fascist ideas” (Vestring, 14 May 2001). Austria is the only country that under no circumstances supports any kind of sanctions against Italy. Thus, any future sanctions against Italy would, in the best case, be supported by only thirteen of the fourteen EU member countries (Vestring, 12 May 2001). The Austrian government even goes one step further and publicly congratulates Berlusconi on his victory.

3. Analysis If the researcher could only be diligent enough…at some point the real center of decision making could be found, and the individuals, groups, and institutions exerting the real influence could be located (Rosenthal, 1975:12).

3.1 PROBLEM FRAMING Decision makers are influenced by the environments they work in (the institutions), by their perceptions of what is real, and by earlier experiences (cognition). Subjectivity is a determining factor for how decisions are made. When many actors cooperate in a decision-making process, the actors’ cognitive maps can vary and some actors are more influenced by certain factors than others. To understand the behavior of an actor in a particular situation, one has to understand the actor’s own framing of the problem (Stern, 1999:38). The starting point for this problem framing is the subjective picture that “the 14” had of the situation, both as a group and as individuals. The problem framing of “the 14” gives us a picture of why they acted the way they did and why they decided to threaten Austria with sanctions. “The 14” felt they were put into a tight spot. The purpose with threatening Austria with sanctions was to put pressure on Wolfgang Schüssel. The goal was to get Schüssel to reconsid-


“The 14” in this case includes Austria, and excludes Italy.


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er forming a government with the FPÖ. “The 14” feared that Schüssel would present a final government proposal with the FPÖ already on Monday, January 31, if no intervention was made. When presenting the threat, Antònio Guterres said, “I hope the participation of Haider can be avoided” (Black, 1 February 2000). Thus “the 14” believed that if they together went out with this joint resolution of threatening Austria with sanctions, Schüssel would terminate the government negotiations with the FPÖ. Despite the threat by “the 14,” the government negotiations in Austria continued, and on February 4 a new government coalition between the ÖVP and the FPÖ was approved. “The 14” had overestimated their influence in the matter. They had had a false interpretation and understanding of how Austria would react to the threat of sanctions. The fact that Wolfgang Schüssel and Jörg Haider signed a declaration, in which they promised to respect exactly those values that “the 14” feared that they might break, made no difference for “the 14’s” final decision to put the sanctions into effect. They did not even see it as an option to discuss the matter further, and the sanctions were initiated at the same time the new ÖVP-FPÖ coalition took power in Austria. The goal of the sanctions was to put so much pressure on Austria that the FPÖ would resign from government, and the sanctions would not be lifted until the FPÖ was no longer a member of the Austrian government. “The 14” clearly felt that the FPÖ was a threat to them individually and to the EU collectively. They believed that they had to act in some way, even though they had differing opinions about what was the best way to act. Those who really saw this as a serious threat wanted to act quickly and firmly, while the others wanted to take a more ‘wait and see’ approach. Most of the member countries agreed that some kind of assertion or action was desirable, but there were many differing opinions on to formulate the joint action. Only a few of the Member States participated in the intense discussions that weekend, and the final decision was a compromise which resulted in the proposal that Guterres presented to “the 14” on January 31. By establishing the sanctions, “the 14” asserted the fact that they did not trust the ÖVPFPÖ coalition’s declaration on respecting the EU’s principle values. Even after “three wise men” had submitted their report to “the 14” in September 2000, they maintained that the sanctions had been successful and that they had had an effect on the Austrian policy. These claims were made despite the fact that the FPÖ was still a member of the Austrian government. The original goal of the sanctions was to remove the FPÖ from government and it is clear that they had failed. How could “the 14” now claim that the sanctions had been successful? By making this claim and referring to the report by the “three wise men,” “the 14” could easily remove the sanctions without much questioning and to some big extent preserve their credibility. Austria had not violated any point in the signed declaration, which could be one reason to state that the sanctions actually had had an effect, but this can in no way be proved. Therefore “the 14” cannot say with complete certainty that Austria had conformed to the European values thanks to their sanctions. There are other factors that might have influenced and maybe forced “the 14” to re-evaluate their sanctions. For example, Austria’s Federal Chancellor publicly announced that Austria was going to take a popular vote on the sanctions. This referendum would occur if the sanctions were not lifted before October 2000. Another factor was that the upcoming meeting in Nice in December 2000; a lot of important issues were scheduled to be taken up and Austria could disturb the negotiations. Furthermore, many of “the 14” had also started to consider the situation to be volatile and had stated openly that they wanted to lift the sanc-


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tion. Some countries, for example Denmark and Finland, felt that they had been forced into the decision by Guterres; they had feared that they would be considered Haider supporters if they had not accepted Guterres’ proposal. They felt that there had been a tremendous amount of group pressure on how the situation was framed (i.e., that the government formation in Austria was a big threat to EU values and that a decision had to be made fast).

3.1.1 Time Pressure To be able to prevent the FPÖ from reaching governmental power in Austria, “the 14” felt that they had to act fast if they were going to act at all. According to the Swedish Vice Prime Minister, Lena Hjelm Wallén, a decision about the sanctions probably would not have been finalized if “the 14” had waited one more day (Hjelm Wallén, 29 May 2000). Particularly relevant in the study of decision making in highly pressured situations is how psychological stress influences an individual’s cognition. High stress does not necessarily need to degrade performance- cognitive or otherwise- if it is balanced by a high degree of coping capacity. A small level of stress can even improve an individual’s decision-making capacity (Stern, 1999:36). It is common that individuals temporarily shift their focus to short-term concerns under stress. Another tendency is that stress pushes individuals to conservatism; individuals tend to narrow and deepen their span of attention, and are often prone to irritability (Stern and Sundelius, 2002:39). Antònio Guterres was subjected to great pressure from, among others, Belgium and France. As a result, Guterres chose to act swiftly in the matter. Already before this crucial weekend, there had been some apprehension among the EU decision makers about this unwanted situation and the need to take a common stance. However, the real feeling of stress appeared on January 29 when “the 14” decided they should act before the ÖVP and the FPÖ had finished their government negotiations, since the purpose was to influence and pressure Schüssel into terminating them. That would have been the easiest way to prevent the FPÖ from receiving a government post. Guterres’ proposal was not drafted until January 30 so there was just one day to contact and persuade the other thirteen Member States to accept the sanctions. The decision had to be quick and decisive. The proposal came as a surprise for some of “the 14.” They had not had time to prepare themselves for this kind of decision, and they did not have time to consult their experts or colleagues. Despite the fact that the sanctions were supposedly “a set of bilateral decisions,” the Heads of Government were more or less forced to abandon their normal national decision-making routines. They had been well aware that the Austrian government negotiations were up on the agenda and they had taken the matter seriously, but they had had no idea that a decision had to be made so soon. Some of “the 14” had been involved in the weekend deliberations and were more prepared for the content in the proposal. Thus, this situation was not as pressing for them as it was for those who had not been involved in the weekend discussions, although there was limited time. It is clear that there were different conditions for the different group members in making the decision. When forced with making a decision, decision makers can satisfy their cognitive needs by turning to experts. Since a political leader is expected to consult others on important issues, it can strategically be more politically legitimate to do so (George, 1997:48-49). As


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

mentioned above some of “the 14” had to abandon their normal decision-making routines when making this decision. In particular, the Nordic leaders had to respond to strong criticism for doing so and there were major discussions about whether their national constitutions had been violated. The Swedish and the Danish Prime Ministers were criticized for not consulting their respective Advisory Councils on Foreign Affairs, which they are supposed to do when making these kinds of foreign policy decisions. In both cases, the Prime Ministers claimed that there was no time for this; either they immediately accepted the proposal or they would be left out. In Finland, the Finnish Prime Minister is supposed to consult the President before making important decisions. When Guterres phoned Paavo Lipponen, the Finnish President was on a plane and could not be reached. Therefore, Lipponen accepted Guterres’ proposal and informed the president about this as soon as he could be reached. It was also argued in the Finnish case that it was impossible to wait for a decision. Often there are already clear early warning signals for decision makers. The problem is not the shortage of early warning indicators; the problem lies in the fact that governments often ignore the beginning of a crisis or are passive until the case has escalated into an acute crisis. The problem with the FPÖ had been observed and discussed since the parliamentary elections in Austria on October 3, 1999, when it was clear that the party had become the second largest in the country (Document I, 31 January 2000). There were obvious warning signals that the situation would get worse. When the government negotiations between the Austrian Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP collapsed on January 21, a much more vivid discussion on the issue was generated. The chances that the FPÖ would influence Austrian policy were very likely now. Despite all of these warning signals, uncertainty and time pressure prevailed that weekend.

3.1.2 Perception of Threat The main reason for threatening and later implementing sanctions against Austria was to prevent the FPÖ from gaining government power and to “protect EU values”. After the sanctions were lifted, Göran Persson said that, “Two things were very important. One thing was to prevent the right-wing party from blocking the eastern expansion of the EU, which they have been strongly against. The other was protecting EU values; the EU is not only about economic cooperation (SVT, 13 September 2000). These were perceived as serious threats to the EU despite the fact that the ÖVP-FPÖ government stated that Austria was for an expansion as long as “Austrian vital interests are not altered” (Swiecicki, 2 March 2000). The Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen asserted that the protection of human rights and minorities is one of the central principles for the EU. This is the main reason that so many countries, including “the 14”, strongly reacted to the political development in Austria in the beginning of 2000. Because the FPÖ openly spoke out against these principles, the EU member countries had good reason to assume that in a governmental position the party would work against these values (Lipponen, 7 February 2000). The term “community values” was frequently been used by “the 14” to motivate their decision making. They believed that all member countries in the EU must fulfill the criteria of the community values. This confirms the fact that the sanctions were not really fourteen individual bilateral measures, as “the 14” maintained, but rather a strong statement to Austria from the fourteen member


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

countries. Lipponen’s and Persson’s statements illuminate the changing conceptions of the EU; the member countries no longer see the Union purely as an economic cooperation project, but also as a community of shared values. The decision about threatening Austria with sanctions was based on the idea that “the 14” had stronger morals and more positive qualities than the FPÖ did. The FPÖ was attributed with negative qualities, with which legitimized and justified “the 14’s” action. Actors usually tend to ‘see’ what they expect in a situation. It is also usual that individuals pay more attention to certain aspects and ignore other aspects. What is on the cognitive agenda at the moment is of great importance for how signals are controlled and sorted out from the surroundings and how they are interpreted (Stern, 1999:34). “The 14” were so busy with drawing attention to the community values and considered them an obvious element of the EU that they had little or no understanding for the arguments emphasizing other values. The reasoning was that since the FPÖ’s policy was ‘contrary’ to the EU’s policy, the party should not be allowed to participate at the government level. A decision is not just made based on shared goals, ongoing individual or group competition, cultural differences, or personal grudges also influence decision making (Stern, 1999:39). Among the actors that expressed the greatest detest for Jörg Haider and his party (the FPÖ) were Belgium and France. Haider had openly and strongly criticized these two countries, and their leaders personally, prior to the sanctions proposal. Also the Portuguese had been the target of Haider’s sharp tongue; he had called them “the lazybones of the south.” Haider was not a liked man in the EU. The already negative picture “the 14” had of Haider and of the FPÖ was strengthened by his sassiness and his politically incorrect statements. This contributed to the fact that many wanted to distance themselves from his policies, and this eventually led to the sanctions proposal (Schneider, 2000:136).

3.1.3 Analogies Prior experiences are likely to impact one’s interpretation of a situation. Expectations are highly significant and under conditions of ambiguity, one tends to “see” what one expects to occur (Stern, 2001:36). In the Austrian case parallels were, for example, drawn between Jörg Haider and Adolf Hitler, which naturally created strong feelings. Among other things the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak referred to the fact that Adolf Hitler was born in Austria when he was talking about the worrying situation in the country. These kinds of statements drew parallels to Austria’s Nazi past. At the Holocaust Conference in Stockholm in the end of January 2000, the crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II were discussed. The main purpose of this conference was to remind people of past atrocities in an attempt to prevent them from happening again. Representatives from all of “the 14” were present at the conference, and among them seven Heads of Government. They spoke about the importance of taking a clear stand against right-winged extremism and similar forces. In connection to this theme, conversations about the upcoming government negotiations in Austria were mentioned (Hjelm Wallén, 29 May 2000). Anna Lindh believed that the Holocaust Conference was significant for the fact that a joint decision against Austria was later reached. She said, “It is even harder one week after the ceremony speeches to accept a xenophobic government in Europe again” (TT , 31 January 2000).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Ehud Barak was one extern actor that had strongly influenced the fourteen actors into making a decision about the sanctions. In particular, his presence and speeches at the Holocaust Conference had made a strong impact. The German Federal Chancellor had openly said that he was very much affected by Barak. So much so that Schröder admitted that he in turn tried to influence Guterres into acting against Austria (Berliner Zeitung, 27 January 2000). One explanation for the fact that Germany reacted so strongly to Israeli’s request was most likely the “collective blame” the country has carried for the Jewish people since World War II. Barak’s emotional pressure most likely strengthened these feelings. There was a great fear of making a similar mistake by not being proactive or by not preventing certain developments from happening. Decision makers do not approach each new problem empty handed. Rather historical analogies and past experiences play an important role in shaping how a particular problem will be perceived and handled (Stern, 2001:41). When actors use analogies, it is common that they tend to see common characteristics in certain situations and tend to oversee other aspects (Stenelo, 1980:112-115). In this case, “the 14” did mention World War II and the Holocaust when they were discussing the situation in Austria. “Many people compare Haider with Hitler, their conviction is that Haider has followed in Hitler’s footprints. This analogy is one of the main reasons for implementing the sanctions,” stated the German Professor Rudolf Hrbek (Hrbek, 26 April 2000). When drawing direct comparisons with earlier incidents, it is important that decision makers consider the consequences, since one situation is not identical to another despite significant similarities (Stenelo, 1980:112-115). Using analogies incorrectly can also limit decision-makers since they do not then reflect upon or comprehend other important factors or they do not look at the situation from many different perspectives. Accordingly, a decision maker should be careful not to get caught up in this type of thinking. At the Holocaust Conference, many issues regarding World War II and Nazism were discussed, and it was repeatedly said that this should never be allowed to happen again (i.e., to passively allow negative forces to gain political control). Quite understandably in this context, “the 14” felt that they had to act in some way. Decision makers have a tendency to compare earlier events and experiences with the situation they are facing at the moment. A cognitive map builds expectations on how an event will develop since it is being compared with how earlier events developed. We, as individuals, are always striving to make sense of what we experience. We seldom remember things exactly the way they were, and we therefore try to make events more easily understood and recognizable (Schultz Larsen, 1996:107-111). “The 14” had no similar current event to refer to when dealing with the Austria case. They all understood the seriousness of a right-wing party gaining influence in European politics. Many of “the 14” had their own right-wing parties growing in popularity back home. Thus, the Holocaust Conference in Stockholm hit a soft spot for many. Therefore, it felt natural to discuss this topic in this forum and to draw parallels from the Nazi past to the present. Rightly so, the conference’s motto was “Don’t forget the past!” The discussions at the Holocaust Conference contributed to the fact that the decision makers were ready to act when Guterres phoned them on January 30 and asked them to take a stand (Hjelm Wallén, 29 May 2000). The conference solidified a common sentiment among the fourteen decision makers in that they did not feel they could “say no” to the proposal about the sanctions against Austria. Saying no would have meant rejecting the EU community values.


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

An example of a historical event that “the 14” did not pay much attention to during this decision-making process was the “Waldheim case.” Kurt Waldheim was known to the world as the UN General-Secretary in 1972-1981. In 1986 he participated in the Austrian presidential election representing the ÖVP. During the election campaign it was unveiled that Waldheim had kept considerable secrets regarding his past. It was discovered that he had not been a law student at Vienna University during World War II, as he had stated, but had worked as a translator and secret intelligence officer for the German army. The unit Waldheim had worked for had, among other things, been involved in brutal actions against the Partisans and the civil population in Yugoslavia. They were also responsible for the fact that most of the population in Thessaloníki was deported to Nazi death camps in 1943. Waldheim confessed that he had not been honest regarding his past and admitted that he had been on the Balkan Peninsula during the time in question, although he denied all knowledge about and participation in the cruelties that were exposed (Encyclopedia Britannica, 31 October 2000; Höglund, 1997:16-24). The world reacted very strongly to these new facts about the former UN General-Secretary. The Austrians did not like the fact that the international community felt that it could interfere with its internal affairs. Despite all protests, Waldheim was elected as president. The Austrians wanted to show that they would not allow external actors to determine who was going to be Head of the State in Austria (Pick, 7 February 2000). Under the slogan “We Austrians choose whoever we want,” 54 percent voted for Waldheim. The questionable past of Kurt Waldheim made him persona non grata in most western countries during his presidency. As a result, Austria was in part isolated internationally for six years while Waldheim was in office (Höglund, 1997:16-24; Åhman, 1997:237). By making reference to the Waldheim case, “the 14” could have possibly predicted that the Austrian people would turn against the EU countries and choose to support Haider instead. Thus, Haider’s possibilities for support and sympathy from the Austrian people would simply increase (Pick, 7 February 2000). Although “the 14” stated that they respected the Austrian election results and that the intention was not to interfere in another country’s internal affairs, it was clear that “the 14” disapproved of one third of the Austrian population, who had voted for the FPÖ. From the Austrian perspective, one third of the Austrians did not belong to the “European family.” On February 11, 2000, Göran Persson said in a meeting with the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs that “the 14’s” sanctions were similar in nature to those implemented by the Heads of State against the former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim (Hammargren, 12 February 2000). This indicates that Persson remembered the Waldheim case and that he even drew parallels between the two cases. When thinking in these lines, it is natural to consider what had happened and what the results were in past crises. This exemplifies how a decision maker can use analogies to defend an act and at the same time, intentionally or unintentionally, ignore other important factors.

3.2 DECISION UNITS Like in many other cases, this crisis was characterized by urgency and uncertainty. A rather small group consisting of fourteen Heads of Government from the EU countries managed the decision making process. When “the 14” made the joint decision about threatening Austria


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

with sanctions, they formed a “closed” group in the sense that the decision-making process was restricted to a limited number of insiders and it was not made accessible to a wider range of stakeholders (Stern, 2001:47). They felt that they had common values and were united. All of “the 14” were a part of the decision-making process, although to varying degrees. The group leader Guterres had phoned all of the fourteen Heads of Government before the decision was finalized. Some were more active than others in trying to influence Guterres in formulating a joint response against Austria: for example, France, Germany and Belgium. They constituted the “core” of this group and heavily influenced the decision-making process. On the other hand, some did not take any initiative in the matter. This was possible because all of the negotiations were informal and not everyone knew what was being discussed. Since no formal meeting was ever held on the matter, the decision makers worked out a proposal without ever discussing opposing opinions. Perhaps the decision would not have looked any differently if “the 14” had had formal meetings and negotiations on the issue. Considering the heated atmosphere at the time, it is very likely that ‘group thinking’ would have prevailed, encouraging everyone to think similarly. Yet on the other hand, many of “the 14” have stated that they felt forced into taking this decision. So perhaps further discussions on the matter might have resulted in another outcome. When discussing the idea of lifting the sanctions, power within the group was more balanced and everyone was more or less operating “on the same level.” Everyone had been informed of what was going on and had had an opportunity to take part in the “three wise men’s” report. Furthermore, they were not operating under the same amount of pressure.

3.2.1 Leadership The only EU institution involved in this decision-making process was the Presidency. Antònio Guterres, as President for the EU, had a coordinating role despite the fact that it was outside the framework of the EU. According to the Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, the Portuguese Presidency had the right “on behalf of ‘the 14’” to politically react against the participation of a right-wing party in an Austrian government. He said that the EU was a political institution and therefore had the right to threaten Austria with political means (Lusa, 14 February 2000). This statement clearly reinforced the idea that the EU President should act as a spokesperson for the Union and should be responsible for coordinating such an action, despite the fact that the sanctions were essentially ‘several bilateral actions.’ In spite of this it was argued that the EU as a political institution had the right to act on its own. In fact, the EU Commission was not even consulted or informed until the decision about the sanctions was made. The President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, was only briefed about the intention of “the 14” in the last minute (The Economist, 5 February 2000; Fletscher, 2 February 2000). Consequently, the Commission had nothing to do with threatening Austria with sanctions. This decision was solely made by “the 14.” Nevertheless, the Commission chose later to give their support to this decision, emphasizing it as strictly bilateral, and stressed that the Commission did not intend to take any additional action since the Amsterdam Treaty did allow room for such measures. Yet after the sanctions were removed, Romano Prodi said “I am very happy that the sanctions against Austria are being lifted. The European Commission never wanted to isolate Austria” (Sveriges Television, 13 September 2000).


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

The EU Presidency plays an important role in the Union’s decision-making process. Negotiations are often centered around the President, who can explain how a decision is made (Svensson, 2000:Abstract). In spite of that the decision about the sanctions against Austria was bilateral, the President played a very prominent role. Guterres acted as coordinator in the negotiations, and his actions contributed to the fact that a decision was finally made on January 30, 2000. The EU Member States were strongly influenced by the belief of ‘EU cooperation’ and acted in accordance with EU procedures when making what was supposed to be ‘bilateral decisions.’ In this way, the decision became a kind of EU decision, even though not an ordinary one. Lena Hjelm Wallén agrees that the EU Presidency is of great importance and says that a lot depends on what a member country dares and does not dare to do. Hjelm Wallén is convinced that if “the 14” had just waited one day, the decision would not have been made (Hjelm Wallén, 29 May 2000). Since Portugal was holding the Presidency, Antònio Guterres as the EU President was a very important person in this decision-making process. Many different actors were pressuring Guterres into acting against Austria. Thus, his interpretation of the situation was of vital importance for how the decision eventually formulated. If another country had been holding the Presidency, it is possible that the outcome would have looked different. One can only speculate how the decision could have been if managed by another EU President. Perhaps the sanctions would have come about anyway since Germany, France and Belgium were so determined and influential in the matter. Regardless of this, the perceptions of the central actor (i.e., the leader) can be very important in a decision-making process that is characterized by urgency and uncertainty. Guterres stated on February 4, when the sanctions came into force, that there was no need for any further meetings on the matter (Andersen, 5 February 2000). The fact that Jörg Haider and Wolfgang Schüssel had signed a declaration where they agreed to respect and act accordingly to the EU’s “community values” did not change this. Guterres’ statement demonstrated that he considered it a closed book and that there was nothing more to discuss. “The 14” had at this point never met all together to discuss the sanctions, and Guterres did not feel this was necessary. He felt the phone conversations had been sufficient. In this sense, Guterres’ opinion and interpretation of the situation was significant. He completely ruled out the possibility to assemble before the sanctions were initiated and in spite of the fact that the conditions in Austria had changed. The argument that the Presidency as an EU institution was very important in this case is strengthened by the fact that France took over this responsibility when the Presidency shifted. When France held the Presidency, Jaques Chirac acted as a coordinator regarding the issue of lifting the sanctions. The report by the “three wise men” was handed directly to France, and it was Chirac who took the initiative on how the decision about lifting the sanctions was going to be handled and formulated. It was Chirac who declared that “the 14” had decided to resume normal bilateral relationships with Austria.

3.3 POLITICAL COOPERATION AND CONFLICT “The 14” Heads of Government experienced the decision-making processes differently. Guterres was the key player in developing the proposal. Since Guterres was visiting Gerhard Schröder in Germany that weekend, one can assume that the German Federal Chancellor was


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

well informed and had quite a bit of influence in the decision-making process. In addition, France and Belgium actively participated in the discussions that weekend, since they had very clear standpoints on what should be done. Germany, France and Belgium had already discussed the situation in their respective countries and were strongly convinced that action must be taken in order to avoid the FPÖ from gaining a foothold in the Austrian government. Consequently, they did perceive the situation as stressful as the other member countries. Several of the other decision makers from the other Member States were surprised and unprepared for Guterres’ proposal, which demanded an immediate response. Among ”the 14” there were some who advocated stronger measures against Austria than the proposal suggested, while others proposed more moderate ones. For example the Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen thought that the right way to go was to follow a more moderate line. However, Guterres let all of “the 14” know that there was no possibility to change the existing proposal, since it was already a compromise. Lipponen felt he made the right choice not to dissociate Finland from the member countries at this stage in time, since it could have affected Finnish as well as the Union’s interests (Lipponen, 7 March 2000). The Irish decision makers felt that Guterres put them in a hard spot and that they could not opposed the sanctions proposal (Schneider, 2000:129). The smaller EU countries (e.g., Finland, Ireland and Denmark) were more skeptical to the idea of making such a big decision so quickly and had difficulties in questioning the bigger countries that had been involved in making the proposal. These decision makers felt pressed to make a fast decision, and several felt that the consequences would have been great if they had gone against the flow. Unity was of great importance in this case, even if one can claim that the decision was not made by true consensus. Sweden, which also is a small EU country, also experienced pressure from the bigger countries when making this decision, although the Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, did not feel that it was a hard choice to make. Persson understood that it was political impossible to ask Guterres for more time so he could phone and inform the other Swedish party leaders about the proposal. Guterres demanded a fast answer from Sweden, as he did from all of the other countries. After recently hosting the Holocaust Conference, Persson would have discredited himself and Sweden and he would have been pointed out as a FPÖ supporter if he had expressed any doubts about the sanctions or if his reply was delayed. That was never really another option for Persson (Hammargren, 7 April 2000). Persson said, “The reason why we made this decision on Sunday evening was, for what I considered, a completely natural and proper judgment from our side. We would not have been able to stand alone in Europe seemingly sympathizing with the right-wing extremism that has been expressed in Austria” (Persson, 14 April 2000). Likewise, the Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said that he would have put Denmark in an outsider position if he had asked Guterres for more time in order to contact the Danish Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. If Rasmussen had not accepted the proposal at once, he was of the opinion that it could be understood that Denmark supported Haider (Larsen and Thobo-Carlsen, 25 February 2000; Schmid, 12 May 2000). Many countries felt this dilemma: either they accepted the proposal as it was or they would be considered FPÖ supporters. On the surface, it seemed as if “the 14” cooperated well and had a perfect understanding of the issue at hand. Yet group pressure is probably the best term to use when describing this part of the decision-making process. There was a fear of having a different opinion and of ending up outside the community. All of the decision makers considered the


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

political developments in Austria serious and wanted to show that they did not approve of this development, but the question was how to show this. Only a few countries actively participated in the decision-making process regarding the proposal against Austria. The fact that disagreements and doubts started to pop up after the sanctions had been implemented indicates that conflicts had existed in an earlier stage, but were perhaps not invisible. Or perhaps some countries had changed their views after having some time to consider the measures more properly. Guterres had told many of the smaller countries in the Union that they were among the last or the last country to decide on the proposal. Getting this information created additional pressure. Guterres said that all of the other countries had accepted the joint action and there was no time for further deliberations. Any conflicting opinions were suppressed by group pressure. In international literature on foreign policy decision making under crisis-like conditions, two main types of challenges are mentioned: the political/ideological and the organizational. The best-documented literature in this area can be found in the USA. American foreign policy is often ideologically charged, quite the opposite from, for example, the stable operative Swedish consensus tradition. In the US, the tendency is to isolate a core of decision makers from a relatively narrow political and organizational field. This often causes criticism from the opposition and the press. In Swedish security policy, well-established forums (e.g., the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs and party leader deliberations) work towards reaching a common position and in that way legitimizing their action. As a result, a lot of pressure can be avoided for the individual decision makers. Thus difficult choices are well anchored by party politics and the public (Sundelius et al., 1997:150-151). Looking at how “the 14” handled the Austrian situation, it is obvious that they acted in line with the American example of an ideologically charged decision. Regarded as an EU decision, the Heads of State and Government acted as a narrow group and did not use well-established forums during the decision-making process. Besides the Presidency, no other EU institution was involved or even informed of “the 14’s” intentions during the decision-making process.

3.4 INFORMATION MANAGEMENT This decision-making process shed light on both the problems and possibilities of our hightech society. Technical developments progress very quickly and they provide us with new possibilities for managing things. Personal meetings are not necessary anymore, not even for important foreign policy decisions. Bringing everybody together for a meeting to discuss the sanctions proposal would have taken a long time, much longer than desired. So Guterres chose to use e-mail, faxes, and his cell phone to contact the other Heads of Government. By doing so, he controlled how the problem was handled so there was little room for alternative opinions or an open discussion. In turn, this created groupthink or more correctly “telegroupthink.” The fact that “the 14” primarily communicated via telephone and fax during the acute phase lead to the fact that some of the group members were excluded from the decision-making process. Some did not even know that a proposal existed until late Sunday evening, when the final decision had to be made.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Deliberations on this issue had started already when government negotiations between the ÖVP and the SPÖ had collapsed. But nothing concrete was ever said about a joint action until Friday, January 28, when Antònio Guterres had received a fax from the Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. After that the decision-making process went very quickly. Guterres took the fax very seriously and forwarded it to the other Heads of Government with the hope of getting some feedback. Along with the fax, he sent a press release in which he, in very general terms, expressed his own concern for the political developments in Austria (Rizau, 14 February 2000). Problems arose with the distribution of the fax, since it was sent Friday evening. Neither the Swedish nor the Danish Heads of Government had received the fax before Guterres had called them on Sunday (Nilsson, 17 February 2000; Rasmussen, 14 February 2000). In the Swedish case, the fax had been sent to the Swedish Cabinet Office after 6pm on Friday evening. No one was there to take care of the fax and to forward it to the Swedish Prime Minister. Everybody had gone home for the weekend and the fax was not found until Monday morning, after the decision had already made. The fax should have been sent to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, where there is always someone on duty to take care of important messages (Nilsson, 17 February 2000). The Danish Cabinet Office also received the fax Friday evening, but in the Danish case the Prime Minister did not get the fax until February 9 because of a mistake made by a clerk (Rasmussen, 14 February 2000). If Rasmussen had gotten the fax and known of its content earlier, he would have had time to contact the Danish Advisory Council on Foreign affairs (Rasmussen, 13 March 2000). According to the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, the fax and its content would not have made a difference in her or Göran Persson’s actions. The Swedes and the Danes had differing opinions about the importance of the fax. Nevertheless, there was a gap in the information process, which resulted in the fact that some countries did not receive all of the available information. All of “the 14” were aware of the political developments in Austria, and most of them had ventilated their concerns to one another. Despite the fact that an issue is identified as important and attention is devoted to it, crucial information may be missing or uncertain (Stern, 2001:37). The information management in this case shows clear shortcomings. Spreading important information to and between the EU member countries puts high demands on having the right channels for data processing. Since this was an unusual decision for the group that was managed outside the ordinary Union routines, it is not strange that there were a few glitches: some of the decision makers did not receive crucial information, the degree of urgency was interpreted differently, and some of the information was uncertain. The issue of data distribution is an important one, but equally significant is the one about how decision makers interpret a situation. Effective data distribution provides better conditions and a foundation for decision making, but the various actors can perceive the information differently. This dilemma is intensified when the actors do not receive the exact same information or if it does not reach everybody at the same time. Individuals have great limitations when it comes to monitoring and analyzing highly complex physical and social environments. Our cognitive structures (frame of references, scripts, analogies, metaphors, etc.) often enable us to “go beyond the information given” in order to interpret the world and to make necessary judgments and decisions. In order to cope with information overload and deficiencies, we often take short cuts. It could be argued that cognitive limitations do indeed affect individuals, but that they are likely to be compensated by collective “backstopping” in groups or organizations. Yet there is the risk that groups and organizations are liable to their


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

own peculiar pathologies, which may interfere with vigilant decision making (Stern, 2001:37-38).

3.5 LEARNING The EU had never been faced with the dilemma of a government formation in an EU Member State until the issue concerning Austria arose in 2000. Therefore, the EU did not have any clear guidelines on how to act, and it was unclear what the Member States were authorized to do in such a situation. “The 14” understood that something had to be done. The Holocaust Conference in Stockholm had highlighted the importance of acting swiftly and firmly against right-wing extremist forces. The lessons from World War II were many. Neville Chamberlain’s failure to negotiate with Hitler had left a big impact on world politics, and appeasement politics were long despised (Cheney, 16 December 1999). This reinforced the idea that the best way to deal with the FPÖ and Haider in Austria was to act quickly and with forceful means. “The 14” justified the sanctions by claiming that they were protecting the European community values, which they believed were being threatened by the FPÖ and Jörg Haider. Although when the sanctions were lifted about eight months later, the FPÖ was still a member of the Austrian government. Thus, the EU, as an institution, was questioned by some of the member countries. There were concerns that the EU would start interfering in national sovereignty issues. “The 14” realized that this problem could not simply be ignored. More clear and distinct guidelines, based on findings from the “three wise men’s” report, were later added to the Nice Treaty. A more flexible “wait and see” approach was encouraged in similar situations. This new approach was put to the test in May 2001, after the elections in Italy. The Member States implemented the new EU policy at that time. Göran Persson, who was holding the EU Presidency at that time, expressed his concerns about what was happening in Italy, but added that no measures would be taken at that time. A “wait and see” approach would be implemented, but at the same time the Member States would keep a close eye on the situation in Italy. After a big crisis-like situation, crisis managers are usually put under harsh public scrutiny. This immediate phase of identifying guilt can be an important part of a democratic, lawgoverned society. Official debates and internal evaluations can sometimes become so critical and polemical that they serve to ‘check and balance’ the actors’ crisis communication and crisis learning. The public’s expectations after a crisis can create strong political pressure and stimulate immediate reforms. Yet this pressure can lead to ill-considered and defective measures, rather than to productive collective learning. It is always a risk when something has to be done in a hurry or when something is not built on a solid analysis of the crisis management (Sundelius et al., 1997:42). In “the 14” case there was certainly a lot of political pressure, but at the same time they received a great amount of support from many in the Union and around world. The decision makers were never put in an especially unfavorable light. This contributed to the fact that “the 14” had more opportunities and freedom to act as they saw fit, and as a result they were able to internally evaluate and remodel their routines. Despite the fact that the demands connected to the sanctions were never fulfilled, “the 14” claimed that the measures had an effect on the Austrian policy. Without having to officially acknowledge a failure, “the 14” were able to draw lessons from the experience and in-


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tegrated them into the Treaty of Nice. The sanctions policy against Austria provided the EU with some constructive feedback. The decision makers realized the shortcomings in the existing structure and the importance of sorting out the obscurities in this area. This kind of crisis-like situation can stimulate fast organizational learning, which can be hard to obtain under more normal, everyday operative conditions. It can have a catalytic effect and increase the otherwise slow processes that normally characterize bureaucratic work. The Austria case is an excellent example of a situation that led to fast organizational learning. Because of the problems created by the implementation and the lifting of the sanctions, the EU decision makers realized the necessity for new routines. The “three wise men’s” report laid the foundation for learning and the remodeling of the existing structure. The report highlighted the fact that Article 7 in the Amsterdam Treaty was insufficient for dealing with such situations and therefore it had to be elucidated and reworked. “The 14” were aware that similar situations existed some of the other EU member countries, so a quick change was desirable. The lessons were implemented without delay, but not hastily. The amendments to Article 7 state that a working group, similar to the “three wise men,” should be appointed in internal disputes before any measures are introduced. In this way, the decision makers would receive less subjective information. Also the risk would be lower that they would be accused of making a hasty decision without reflecting upon it first. The new amendments also enable the decision makers to fine-tune their measures, either by strengthening or reducing them depending on how situation develops. In the Austria case, there were no intermediate positions; “the 14” went from normal circumstances to sharp measures and then back to normal again. During the government negotiations in Italy in 2001, “the 14” were put to the test. They were in a very similar situation to the one in Austria in 2000, and attention was quickly drawn to how they were going to respond. Göran Persson, the President for the EU at that time, soon established new guidelines for the Nice Treaty and said that they would be strictly followed. One can conclude that “the 14” had learned their lessons from the Austria case, although some might argue that “the 14” “could” not have implemented these kind of measures against a country like Italy, one of the founding countries of the EU, for policy reasons. Austria, a late member and a smaller country, was probably an easier target for implementing such measures.

4. Conclusions This study has demonstrated that the perceptions of “the 14,” and the institutions they act within, were determining factors for the way the situation with the government negotiations in Austria was handled. The subjective perceptions and the existing institutional structures greatly affected the decision-making process, which eventually led to sanctions against Austria. “The 14” felt that the FPÖ and Haider were a threat to EU community values. The fact that they felt something had to be done quickly and that there were no existing guidelines for dealing with such situations resulted in a crisis-like situation. Selective perceptions played an important role in the policy carried out by “the 14.” The Heads of Government said preserving the European community values was the most important reason for their action, and they felt that legitimatized the sanctions. Their cognitive map caused them to repudiate the critique against the sanctions and they never reflected on


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

the situation from a different angle. “The 14” got caught up in their own thinking and thereby disregarded other important aspects. “The 14” continuously claimed that their actions in no way interfered in Austrian domestic policy, although they clearly sent a message to the Austrian people that they had voted for the “wrong” party. “The 14” threatened and then later implemented sanctions against Austria for electing in a democratic election a legitimate party which “the 14” did not consider a worthy political party. The former strict economic cooperation within the EU belonged to the past. This case exemplifies that the Union is increasingly becoming an association of shared basic values and regulations in more than just economic terms. Furthermore, this study highlights the importance for decision-makers to consult with experts and advisers when making principal decisions. This is of crucial importance in situations of urgency, when decision makers do not have time to go through all of the supporting data. Listening to critique and reflecting upon alternative lines of action are helpful for reaching “the right” decisions. In the Austrian case, it is clear that “the 14” did not give much thought or consideration to the eventual consequences of their actions. They had only focused on their aim: keeping the FPÖ from entering the Austrian government. The EU Presidency, as an EU institution, played a significant and determining role in the management of this case. It was understood that President Antònio Guterres should have the coordinating role, even though this was legally an action that should be performed outside the EU framework. The desire for EU cooperation and unity was so strong that the decision makers were willing to mix EU business with national affairs. Despite pressure from the larger EU countries, this study revealed that Guterres was the most important actor in the decision-making process (until the Presidency was handed over to France on July 1, 2000). Guterres’ perceptions and interpretations of the situation, first and foremost, influenced the decision-making process that crucial weekend. If another country, and thereby another individual, had been holding the EU Presidency at that time, the situation could have turned out differently. Formally “the 14” constituted a group during this decision-making process, but they never met all together to discuss the matter. The most important communication tools during the most critical stage of the decision-making process were telephones and fax machines. Some Heads of Government (above all Belgium, France and Germany) had very clear opinions about what kind of action should be taken and openly expressed these ideas. Others kept a low profile during the decision-making process. Despite the differing opinions, “groupthink” was a strong determining factor in this case. First of all, the Holocaust Conference had greatly affected the decision makers and thus they were very motivated to take firm action against right-wing parties. Also, “the 14” felt they had certain redeeming moral qualities, which the FPÖ was lacking. This resulted in a kind of ‘good guy’ versus ‘bad guy’ mentality. Yet the main reason why they succeeded in reaching this joint decision so quickly was the fact that many of “the 14” did not want to be left out or seen as an outsider. As an outsider, they felt others would perceive them as supporters of FPÖ and Haider. There was no middle way in this hasty decision-making process. The fact that all of the opinions on the subject were delivered to Guterres over the phone, and not openly ventilated at a meeting, supports the fact that “tele-groupthink” was present. Tele-groupthink is different from “ordinary” groupthink because it occurs under different circumstances: that is, through the use of telecommunications. The group never physically met to discuss the issue, and many only heard the ideas presented by Guterres who


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

could not have possibly communicated all of the respective decision makers’ opinions. Thus, Guterres and the initiating countries had an advantage in framing the problem and its solution by selectively expressing their own opinions and filtering out the opposing ones. Another determining factor for why tele-groupthink was so strong and influential in this case was the perceived urgency. Those who had not taken part in the weekend negotiations had had no or very little time to consider the proposal, and thus Guterres’ description of the situation was decisive. Group loyalty was defined by accepting the proposal, since Guterres’ proposal included “everyone’s” opinion. In this way, those persons “holding the reigns” could manipulate the situation. The smaller EU countries, in particular, felt run over since it was hard to go against the bigger countries. When a decision is made outside the ordinary decision-making procedures, it becomes even more important that the entire decision-making process is handled properly. In the Austrian case, there were fourteen sovereign states that all had different regulations and procedures for making foreign decisions, and this put increased demands on Guterres, the person with the coordinating role. The Finnish Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, shed light on the mistakes made in this decision-making process. Lipponen said, “It is important that the exchange of information among the involved parties works at an early enough stage, that is when the unofficial lines for the final decision are still under development (Lipponen, 7 March 2000). The decision-making procedure surrounding the lifting of the sanctions was also exclusively handled over the telephone and by fax, but this time with Jaques Chirac as the coordinator. There was less urgency in this situation and more time for making a decision. At this time, the decision makers were more informed about the situation at hand since they had all received the “three wise men’s” report, and by that time they all knew the standpoints of the other countries. They had also had time and the possibility to digest all of the information. After the “three wise men’s” report was presented and the sanctions were lifted, “the 14” did not simply put the question aside. Their findings revealed that the Amsterdam Treaty did not properly address how such matters should be handled in the Union. The issues were discussed at a summit meeting in Nice in December 2000 and Article 7 was reworked to include the lessons of the Austrian case. The EU member countries wanted to be better prepared for similar situations in the future, since they felt there was a high likelihood it could happen again in another EU country. This illustrates fast and flexible learning. The election results in Italy confirmed their apprehensions. Once again right-extremist and populist parties were participating in government negotiations in an EU member country. Sweden was holding the EU Presidency at this time and Göran Persson reacted by saying that “the 14” would strictly follow the guidelines in the Nice Treaty. Article 7 in the Nice Treaty never needed to be “activated” since a ‘wait and see’ approach was taken, but this line of action (or non-action) reinforces that the lessons of the Austria case were taken into consideration. As of yet, the amended Article 7 has never been activated, and thus it is impossible to know how effective it would be in a similar situation to the one in Austria. So this is a challenge for future EU decision makers.


Chapter 4 The Sanctions Against Austria

5. References Agéncia de Information [The homepage of the Portuguese EU Presidency]. 28 January 2000. ”Suggested prudence over Austrian Rightists.” Was available at: Now see: Åhman, Tor (1997) Utrikespolitisk Uppslagsbok 1998 – Personer, rörelser och partier under 1990-talet [The 1998 Foreign Policy Reference Book – People, Movements and Parties in the 1990s]. Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag AB. Andersen, Peter. 5 February 2000. ”Haider går stärkt ur krisen – opinionsmätningar visar att FPÖ är starkare än någonsin” [Haider comes out of the crisis strong: Public opinion surveys indicate that FPÖ is stronger than ever]. Göteborgs-Posten [The Gothenburg Post] – a daily Swedish newspaper. Berliner Zeitung. 27 January 2000. A German newspaper. ”Mögliche Koalition mit FPÖ löst Kritik und Besorgnis aus – Österreichs Kanzler Klima sieht Demokratie nicht gefährdet”[Possible coalition with FPÖ creates criticism and concern – Austrian Chancellor Klima does not believe democracy is being threatened]. Björk, Lars. 9 September 2000. ”EU bör lyfta sanktionerna – Motverkar syftet i Österrike” [EU should lift the sanctions: Measures are counterproductive in Austria]. Nerikes Allehanda – a local Swedish newspaper. Black, Ian. 1 February 2000. “Europe issues Haider ultimatum to Austria.” The Guardian – a British newspaper. Borchert, Thomas. 15 May 2001. ”Paris reagiert skaptisch, Wien hocherfreut” [Paris reacts with skepticism – Viennese delighted] Berliner Zeitung – a Danish newspaper. Cheney, Alexis. 16 December 1999. ”An Appeasement History.” Available at: http:// Cramér, Per and Pål Wrange. 2001. “The Haider Affair, Law and European Integration.” Europarättslig tidskrift (a Swedish journal on European law). 4(1): 28–60. Document I (31 January 2000). The EU Presidency’s sanctions proposal regarding the formation of the new Austrian government, which included the FPÖ party. Stockholm: Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Economist. 5 February 2000. “A conundrum for Austria – and for Europe.” Available at: Encyclopedia Britannica. 31 October 2000. ”Kurt Waldheim.” Available at: European Parliament. 2 February 2000. “Unionens reaktioner på regeringsbildning i Österrike” [The Union’s reaction to the formation of a government in Austria]. EP-Veckan. Available at: Fletcher, Martin. 2 February 2000. “Brussels at odds with Member States.” The Times. Freitas Ferraz de, José. 28 January 2000. Fax from the Portuguese Prime Minister’s diplomatic advisor. George, Alexander L. (1997) “From Groupthink to Contextual Analysis of Policy-Making Groups.” In Beyond Groupthink – Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy-Making, edited by Paul ’t Hart, Eric K. Stern, and Bengt Sundelius, p. 35–53. USA: University of Michigan. George, Alexander L. (1999) ”Strategies for Preventive Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution.” Nordic Journal of International Studies – Cooperation and Conflict, 34 (1): 9–19.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Göteborgs-Posten. 12 September 2000. A Swedish newspaper article. ”Enighet krävs om Österrike” [Unity on Austria is needed]. Gustavsson, Rolf. 3 February 2000. ”Grundlag ställs mot politik” [Constitution up against politics] Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper. Guterres, Antònio. 28 January 2000. A press release from the Portuguese President of the European Union. Hammargren, Bitte. 12 February 2000. ”M-krav på stoppad samövning, kyligt när Österrikes socialminister talade” [M demands that joint exercises are stopped, cold when Austria’s Minister of Health and Social Affairs speaks]. Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper. Hammargren, Bitte. 7 April 2000. ”KU-förhör – Utrikesråd försvarar Persson” [Standing Committee for the Constitution hearing – Head of Dept. of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs defends Persson]. Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper. ’t Hart, Paul, Eric K. Stern and Bengt Sundelius (1997) Beyond Groupthink – Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy-Making. USA: University of Michigan. Hjelm Wallén, Lena. The Swedish Vice Prime Minister, personal interview, 29 May 2000. Södertörn University College in Huddinge, Sweden. Höglund, Lena (1997) Österrike – Länder i fickformat nr.414 [Austria- Countries in Pocket Size, no. 414]. Stockholm: TryckOffset AB. Holsti, K. J. (1995) International Politics: A Framework for Analysis. New Jersey: PrenticeHall, Inc. Hrbek, Rudolf. Professor in Political Science at Karl-Eberhards University in Tübingen, Germany, personal interview, 26 April 2000. Södertörn University College in Huddinge, Sweden. King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba (1994) Designing Social Inquiry. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Larsen, Steen and Jesper Thobo-Carlsen. 25 February 2000. ”Nyrup uden indflydelse i Östrig-sagen” [Nyrup without influence in the Austrian case]. Berlingske Tidene – Danish newspaper. Lindgren, Jonas. 12 September 2000. ”Snabbt slut på Österrikesanktioner – Chirac och Frankrike går i spetsen för ett beslut redan idag.” [Quick decision on Austrian sanctions – Chirac and France take the lead for a decision already today]. Nerikes Allehanda – a local Swedish newspaper. Lindh, Anna. 14 April 2000. (10:45–12:05pm) Extracts from a hearing with the Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, regarding the Government’s duty to discuss the Government’s execution of appointed power with the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. Standing Committee for the Constitution. Lipponen, Paavo. 7 February 2000. Report submitted to the Swedish Parliament by the Finnish Prime Minister. Lusa (Portugese news agency) 14 February 2000. “Gama affirms Member States’ political right to react to Austria.” Was available at: Now see: http:// Nilsson, Ylva. 16 February 2000. ”Persson hade tid att möta nämnden” [Persson had time to meet the council]. Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper. Nilsson, Ylva. 17 February 2000. ”Fax från EU låg oläst hela helgen” [Fax from the EU left unread the entire weekend]. Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper.


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Nilsson, Ylva. 13 September 2000. ”EU-länderna häver Österrikesanktioner” [The EU countries revoke the sanctions against Austria]. Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper. Persson, Göran. 14 April 2000. Extracts from a hearing with the Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, regarding the Government’s unwillingness to discuss the issue of Austria with the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. Standing Committee for the Constitution. Pick, Hella. 7 February 2000. ”Haider: Stand by and watch him self-destruct.” New Statesman. Portuguese Presidency. 31 January 2000. “Statement from the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union on behalf of the 14 Member States.” Was available at: Now see: sv&mode=g Rasmussen, Nyrup Poul. 14 February 2000. ”Dokumentation – Offentliggörelse af fax fra Portugal om Östrig” [Documentation – Fax from Portugal on Austria made public]. Berlingske Tidene – a Danish newspaper. Rasmussen Nyrup, Poul. 13 March 2000. Extracts from a hearing before the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs regarding the Danish government’s management of the sanctions against Austria. The Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. Renate, Jacob. 17 August 2000. E-mail from a member of the Cabinet Office. Stockholm: The Swedish Cabinet Office and Ministries. Rizau (German news agency). 14 February 2000. ”Dokumentation – Offentliggörelse af fax fra Portugal om Östrig” [Documentation – Fax from Portugal on Austria made public]. Berlingske Tidene – a Danish newspaper. Rosenthal, Glenda Goldstone (1975) The Men Behind the Decisions – Cases in European Policy-Making. Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company. Schmid, Herman. European Parliament Member for Sweden in the “European United Left, Nordic Green Left” (the GUE/NGL European Parliamentary group), personal interview, 12 May 2000. The Central Train Station in Stockholm, Sweden. Schneider, Heinrich. 2000. ”Österreich in Acht und Bann – ein Schritt zur politisch integrieren „Wertegemeinschaft?” [Austria is under fire – one step towards political integration]. Integration, 2, 120–148. Schulz Larsen, Ole (1996) Psykologiska perspektiv [Psychological Perspectives]. Århus, Denmark: Forlaget Systime A/S. Stenelo, Lars-Göran (1980) Foreign Policy Predictions. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Stern, Eric K. (2001) Crisis Decisionmaking: A Cognitive Institutional Approach. Stockholm: Stockholm University. Stern, Eric K. and Fredrik Bynander (1998) Crisis and Internationalism – Eight Crisis Studied from a Cognitive-Institutional Perspective. Stockholm: The Swedish Agency for Emergency Planning. Stern, Eric K. and Bengt Sundelius. 2002. “Crisis Management Europe: An Integrated Regional Research and Training Program.” International Studies Perspectives, 3, 71–88. Sundelius, Bengt, Eric K. Stern and Fredrik Bynander (1997) Krishantering på svenska – teori och praktik [Crisis Management the Swedish Way: Theory and Practice]. Stockholm: Nerenius & Santérns förlag AB. Svenska Dagbladet. 7 February 2000. A Swedish newspaper article. ”Chirac och Schröder tvingade Guterres att agera” [Chirac and Schröder forced Guterres to react].


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Svensson, Anna-Carin (2000) In the Service of the European Union – The Role of the Presidency in Negotiating the Amsterdam Treaty, 1995–97. Uppsala: Statsvetenskapliga föreningen [The Political Science Association]. Sveriges Television AB [Swedish Television]. 13 September 2000. ”14 länder i bojkott mot Österrike” [14 countries boycott Austria]. Available at: Swiecicki, Jakub. 2 March 2000. ”Haider går, men hotet mot EU består” [Haider leaves, but the EU still feels threatened]. Utrikesanalyser [Political Analyses]. Stockholm: The Swedish Institute for Foreign Affairs. TT. 31 January 2000. ”Sverige stödjer uttalande” [Sweden supports declaration]. Brussels. TT. 30 June 2000. ”Österrike går med på EU-granskning” [Austria accepts EU inspection]. Svenska Dagbladet – a Swedish newspaper. TT, Reuters. 13 July 2000. ”Tre vise män granskar Österrike – Ska avlägga rapport om landet förtjänar att slippa sanktionerna” [The three wise men inspect Austria – Will submit a report about whether the country deserves an exemption from the sanctions]. Nerikes Allehanda – a local Swedish newspaper. Verhofstadt, Guy and Louis Michel. 27 January 2000. Letter to Antònio Guterres, the Portuguese President of the European Union. Vestring, Bettina. 1 February 2000. ”EU-Staaten drohen Österreich mit dem Abbruch offizieller Kontakte” [The EU states threaten to interrupt official contacts with Austria]. Berliner Zeitung – a German newspaper. Vestring, Bettina. 15 May 2001. ”Belgiens Aussenminister für Sanktionen” [Belgium’s Foreign Minister is for the sanctions]. Berliner Zeitung – a German newspaper.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination and the European Commission’s Preparedness Britta Ramberg 1. Introduction On August 17, 1999, at 03:02 local time, a devastating earthquake hit northwestern Turkey. It measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and the epicenter was located near the industrial city of Izmit. The disaster cost the lives of at least 18 000 people and approximately 40 000 people were injured (ECHO, 1999a: 14). Less than three months later, another earthquake hit the city of Duzce, close to the previously hit area. This earthquake measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, but it was not as devastating since the area was not as densely populated. About 790 people were confirmed dead and approximately 5000 were injured (UNDP, 3 December 1999). When the Turkish government went out with an official request for international assistance, international teams were ready and a massive rescue force successively poured into the country. One of the major contributors was the European Union, which supported Turkey with humanitarian assistance and other financial support totaling € 60 million.

1.1 AIM OF THE STUDY The European Union has a relatively young tradition of humanitarian aid and a strengthened position in the international aid arena. Hence, it is interesting to study the existing capacity of the European Commission to manage a large-scale natural disaster abroad. The fact that other international organizations overlap the Union politically (i.e. considering the mandate to act in humanitarian disasters) and in terms of member states is significant in understanding the mechanisms for coordination on the international level. The aim of this study is to analyze the European Commission’s preparedness for managing the earthquakes and its ability to internally and externally coordinate. Based on this aim, it is possible to discern two overriding issues. The first issue is the Commission’s preparedness to manage a large-scale natural disaster in a country like Turkey and, related to this, how the division of labor and coordination looked, at this time, between the different departments within the Commission. The first question is, therefore: What strengths and weaknesses can be discerned in the Commission’s existing disaster management preparedness by analyzing the possible discrepancies between policy and practice?


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

The second issue is about coordination on the international level. In addition to the Commission, three other major international actors were in different ways involved in the management of the earthquakes in Turkey. One was the United Nation’s organ for coordination of humanitarian aid, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). The second was the EADRCC (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center): a NATO institution with the aim of coordinating assistance from the EAPC (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) partners. The third was the Council of Europe, which among other things contributed with distributing technical facts about the earthquakes. The second question is, therefore: Based on the formal policies and the common practices, what obstacles and opportunities for coordination can be discerned between the four international organizations? This devastating disaster was indisputably a crisis for all of the people directly affected by it, especially those who lost family members and friends. It was also a crisis for the Turkish government, which was harshly criticized for not being sufficiently prepared for managing it. Although the earthquakes were not a crisis for the European Union, it was certainly an event that fell under the responsibility of the EU, and more specifically the European Commission (EC). Without delay or a formal request from the Turkish government, the humanitarian actors assumed responsibility of managing the crisis, since it was seen as an obvious part of their humanitarian mandate (OCHA official, 13 and 24 January 2001 telephone interviews; EADRCC official, 20 February 2001 telephone interview; ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview).

1.2 SOURCES The materials used for conducting this study consisted mainly of official documentation (such as policy documentation, reports, regulations and evaluations) and interviews. In November and December of 2000, interviews were conducted with seven officials involved in the management of the Turkish earthquakes from the European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), DG Relex (‘relations exterieur’), DG Environment of the European Commission, the EDDRCC (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center), and the European Parliament. A number of telephone interviews were also conducted with representatives of the Commission’s Delegation in Ankara, the UN-OCHA (United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) in Geneva, and the International Federation of the Red Cross. The interviews were conducted using “open” questions, facilitating in-depth conversations about the respondents’ experiences. The interviews lasted approximately one hour each. Besides the invaluable information that personal interviews provide, there are some obvious shortcomings that must be addressed. First, although many of the central decision-makers at the mid-level were included in this study, it does not sufficiently include top-level officials (for example, the Commissioners’ cabinet) or people who worked in the field (i.e. from the implementing organizations). Another problem is the issue of time. The interviews were conducted one year after the earthquakes occurred. People tend to forget things over time and to (consciously or unconsciously) alter their descriptions. Yet the occurrence of unanimous statements from different respondents removes the uncertainty about the accuracy of such claims. It should be noted, however, that oral material is but one of the many sources used in


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

this study. But by comparing the content of the interviews with that found in the official documents, it was possible to countercheck the oral sources with a critical eye. As requested, the respondents’ names have been protected. Since emphasis is on the institutional structures and practices, and not primarily on single individuals, I do not see this as a major obstacle to the reliability of the study. The media was an important source of information for the decision makers (Official with the EC Delegation in Ankara, 31 July 2003 e-mail correspondence; ECHO official, 2 September 2003 e-mail correspondence). Due to various limitations, the role of media will not, however, be discussed in this study.

2. Contextualizing the Crisis The management of the earthquakes in Turkey did not take place in a vacuum. A brief overview of the EU’s institutional setting is sketched out in order to clarify how the EU and other international actors managed the earthquake disasters and why there were managed that way. In the international context, a large number of organizations are involved in humanitarian crisis management through different institutions and various mandates. This context provides the preconditions to which every single actor has to relate. The Commission or more specifically its office for humanitarian aid, ECHO (European Humanitarian Aid Office), is responsible for the Union’s humanitarian aid outside the EU. ECHO was created in 1991 as a result of the increased need for specific instruments for humanitarian aid (ICEA/DPCC, 1999:4). The tasks of ECHO include emergency aid and more extensive humanitarian aid in natural disasters as well as human-made crises. A framework for the EU’s humanitarian aid was established in the Council Regulation in 1996 (Council Regulation, 2 July 1996:1257/96).1 Aid was to be given rapidly without geographic, ethnic or political considerations. ECHO was created to assist people in acute emergency situations regardless of the EU’s economic and political interests in the respective country or region. In addition to the freedom ECHO has been given, it is responsible for coordinating activities with the Member States. Coordination is to be established by exchanging information. The aim is to increase efficiency both in the field and at the headquarters (Council Regulation, 2 July 1996:1257/96). The Member States can formally influence ECHO’s work through the Humanitarian Aid Committee (HAC), which consists of representatives from the Member States. HAC has an overriding responsibility for ECHO’s work and functions as a link between ECHO and the Member States. In addition to ECHO, there are four Directorate Generals in the Commission dealing with external affairs: DG Development, DG External Relations (hereafter DG Relex), DG Enlargement, and DG Trade. A number of other directorates have smaller external functions. The DG Environment should also be mentioned here; the DG Environment’s Civil Protection Unit (CPU) is involved in coordinating assistance and circulating information to the EU


The Council Regulation does not mention ECHO explicitly, but refers to the Commission as a whole.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Member States in the event of a natural or technical disaster. The CPU also mobilizes expertise for the Member States.2 The Council of Europe was created 1949 with the specific aim of working for human rights (Merrills, 1998:260). In addition to the 170 conventions that regulate the relations between the Member States, the Council of Europe has established a number of Partial Agreements, which are not binding for the Member States. Since 1987, the Council of Europe has administrated an intergovernmental agreement on natural and technical disasters, the EUROPA Major Hazards Agreement. This agreement includes issues on the prevention, protection and organization of rescue efforts in the event of a disaster. The European Commission, twenty-three Member States, and OCHA are involved in this agreement (Naja, 2000:1). EAPC (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) is a political umbrella and forum for PfP (Partnership for Peace). As a result of EAPC’s summit in 1997, the EADRCC (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center) was created (NATO, 1999:1). EAPC perceived that the UN organization, OCHA, was a dominant international coordination actor and that the EADRCC should function to support and complement it (ibid.).3 Just like OCHA, the EADRCC is involved in the initial emergency phase of a crisis or disaster, but does not have the mandate to deal with reconstruction. EADRCC’s headquarters formally opened in Brussels on June 3, 1998. After a request for assistance, the primary role and responsibility of the EADRCC is to contact the stricken country to confirm the request and if necessary clarify what the needs are. EADRCC should consult with the UN and the other relevant international organizations on what actions it should take. The request and other available information are then distributed to all of the Member States. Necessary measures are to be taken with the UN and other relevant international organizations in order to avoid duplication. At least one person from the EADRCC should participate in the UN led Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) and communicate the results back to the Member States (NATO, 1999:3). OCHA (UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid) was created in 1992 (then known as the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs). It is the UN organ responsible for the coordination and mobilization of international rescue efforts. OCHA supports the mobilization of international rescue operations by starting up requested operations and monitoring the results (OCHO, 2000). OCHA also supports coordination in a country by sending UNDAC teams. The ReliefWeb4 is OCHA’s main information system; it is a database consisting of 170 different sources and has users in 150 countries. In addition, there are a number of other organizations that get involved one way or another: inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and UN agencies.5 An overview is given of these organizations and the roles they played. Each actor con2

The CPU’s mandate and capacity was extended and developed after the earthquakes in 1999, as a result of the poor coordination during this event (CPU official, 11 February 2003: personal interview). This is not discussed further here. 3 The awareness of the need to increase international coordination only partly explains the background of the creation of the EADRCC. Another aspect is the political ambition to include Russia and the NIS countries in the transatlantic security cooperation. By doing so, the EADRCC could secure support from the UN. The problem is that the EADRCC lacks full support from all of its partners. Not all EU Member States want this capacity within NATO; some prefer this capacity within the framework of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. 4 Available at: 5 The World Bank played an influential role. This role is mentioned in the analysis, but is not exclusively dealt with in this study.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

tributed in a way that attempted to increase the efficiency of the crisis management. Thus, it is interesting to see not only what each of the actors did in practice, but also how they related to each other.

3. Decision-Making Occasions Often we do not see a crisis as one single event, but rather as a series of interlinked events and decisions. In order to select and scrutinize the events of particular importance, the so called “decision making occasions” (Stern, 1999) highlight the course of events and provide a deeper understanding of how the decisions were actually made and under what circumstances. What were the internals and external factors that influenced the way in which the impending problems were managed? One of Stern and Sundelius’ criteria (2002) for selecting a decisionmaking occasion is whether an event has a particular pedagogic value which can be used to highlight worst and best practices. This criterion was used to select five important decisionmaking occasions in this case study.

3.1 TURKEY IS HIT BY AN EARTHQUAKE Information about the earthquake that had hit Turkey reached the different international actors on the morning of August 17. The decision makers at EU/ECHO (European Humanitarian Aid Office), UN-OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), NATO/EADRCC (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center) and the Council of Europe had heard about the earthquake in the morning news or were immediately informed about it at work. The information that the Turkish authorities gave at this time was that at least 200 people had lost their lives. The Turkish Minister of Internal Affairs announced this on public television (Agence France-Presse, 17 August 1999). After consulting with ECHO’s highest political organ (the cabinet), the Acting Director of ECHO decided to launch funding proposal to support the victims of the earthquake in Turkey. The desk officer at ECHO’s Turkey desk was asked to prepare the text for the decision. The text was short and simple. It was forwarded to the Director, the Cabinet, and ECHO’s finance department (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). After being circulated internally at ECHO, the document was sent inter service, which means that other relevant Directorates were contacted. In this case it meant the DG External Relations (hereafter DG Relex), which was responsible for the Turkey file, and the DG Budget, which must give its approval for all financial decisions. By lunchtime on August 17, the formal decision-making procedure was finalized and a first-aid package of two million Euros was approved by the Commission (ibid.). In connection with having the aid package approved, the ECHO desk officer immediately contacted OCHA and the IFRC in Geneva in order to get more information on the situation in Turkey (ibid.). No exact information could be given at this time considering the scale of the disaster and the amount of chaos.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

The ECHO official also contacted the DG Relex, since it was responsible for the Turkey file.6 The DG Relex’ Turkey desk provided ECHO with general background information on the relations between the EU and Turkey. They also explained the structure of the Turkish government and who was responsible for what in Turkey (DG Relex official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). The European Commission’s delegation is its formal channel in a third country. The EC delegation is equivalent to a national embassy and in the Turkish case was the responsibility of the DG Relex. Initially the DG Relex worked as a link between ECHO and the EC delegation in Ankara, but as time passed ECHO cultivated direct contacts with the delegation (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview; official with the EC delegation in Ankara, 15 January 2001 telephone interview). The first task of the EC delegation was to define the needs in Turkey. This information was primarily obtained from the local NGOs in Turkey (official with the EC delegation in Ankara, 15 January 2001: telephone interview). ECHO also received information from the coordination meetings arranged by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and attended by the EC Delegation. As time went on, the EC delegation became a more important source of information. In the very initial phase, however, OCHA had provided most of the information. ECHO continuously upgraded its information through OCHA’s ReliefWeb and through its situation reports (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). Since ECHO is an aid donor, and thus does not implement humanitarian assistance, a decision on how to implement the aid to Turkey had to be taken. The regulations governing humanitarian aid (Council Regulation, 2 July 1996: 1257/96 art.7) stipulate a number of conditions that have to be fulfilled in selecting an implementing actor. Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of freedom for interpretation within this legal framework, and final decisions have to be made on a case-to-case basis. The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) took the initiative to apply for ECHO funding in Turkey7(ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). ECHO decided that the IFRC was capable of rapidly activating operations in the field,8 and therefore its application was immediately approved. After the formal application process, the ECHO official responsible for the case decided that IFRC would receive 1 800 000 Euros for “shelter, relief, health and water sanitation assistance [and] [d]elivering of family hygienic parcels” (ECHO, 13 November 2000). The remaining 200 000 Euros was to be implemented through Medicines du Monde by establishing “an advanced medical unit and dispensary” (ibid.). According to the ECHO official, at the time of the decision there were no disputes at the ECHO office on whether the Red Cross should be given such a large sum of money (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). There was a conviction that the


As a result of Prodi’s reformation of the Commission, a new DG was created (the DG Enlargement) in order to deal with the applicant states and states in the process of receiving applicant status. The DG Relex’ Turkey team, together with the Turkey file, was consequently moved to the DG Enlargement during the fall of 1999. 7 The IFRC sent medical equipment and staff to Turkey before ECHO formally approved the project (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview) 8 One of the criteria outlined in the regulations for selecting implementers is their pre-financing ability. It is understood that potential implementers are able to quickly start operations and thereafter report the details (costs and activities) in a project proposal. The project proposal is then examined at the ECHO headquarters and is accepted or rejected after due consideration (ECHO official, 2 September 2003 e-mail correspondence).


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

IFRC was the most suitable implementer, and there were not many alternatives since most of ECHO’s partners were engaged in Kosovo at the time. According to the Council of Europe, the EUR-OPA (European Partial Agreement on Major Hazards) activated its European Alert System immediately after receiving information of the earthquake. The information came from the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (SCAM), which is a part of the EUR-OPA, at 02:59:29 (Official at the Council of Europe, 10 November 2000 e-mail interview). Details and damage assessments were sent to the operative units in the Member States and in the EU, the UN, UNESCO, and WHO (Council of Europe, 19 August 1999). This technical information reached ECHO as well as the EADRCC, but it was perceived only as a minor part of the growing flow of information and the decision to act was not based upon it (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview; EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). More important than technical information, details on the social and humanitarian consequences were needed at this stage in order to properly direct assistance. Immediately after news of the earthquake, the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Lord Russel-Johnston, distributed a press release, where on behalf of the Parliament of the Council of Europe he expressed his sympathies with the Turkish people (Council of Europe, 17 August 1999). This was the only immediate reaction from the Parliamentary Assembly. This is not unusual considering its role as primarily advisory. After some time, however, a number of motions were presented and suggestions on more longterm engagements were discussed. The Council of Europe’s Social Development Fund (SDF) was alerted. It prepared to assist the financing of the reconstruction, despite the fact that no formal request from the Turkish Government had been made yet. The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC) received information about the earthquake through the Turkish Ministry of Interior, which is EADRCC’s formal contact in the country (EADRCC official [former], 24 November 2000 telephone interview). The responsible official at the EADRCC first contacted the OCHA in order to get additional information about the situation in Turkey (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). Different from ECHO, EADRCC has no formal mandate to act before an official request, but informal inquires were made to some EAPC partner states regarding capacity and willingness to assist. This was not done by regular means (i.e., via fax or e-mail to all of the Member States), but the responsible officials at the EADRCC office in Brussels phoned individuals in the Member States with whom they had established personal contacts (EADRCC official [former], 24 November 2000 telephone interview; EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). The UN organ for disaster coordination, OCHA, also activated its mechanisms for managing the situation. Thanks to its Disaster Response System in Geneva, OCHA was one of the first international actors to have information about the disaster. Situation Reports were immediately produced on the morning of August 17 and were distributed to all of the relevant actors. In addition, OCHA mobilized an UNDAC team (United Nation Disaster Assessment and Coordination) in order to better facilitate coordination in the field. To sum up, it can be said that the first decision-making occasion (i.e., news of the earthquake reaching the actors) led to the mobilization of their respective decision-making and response systems. In general, the actors followed their mandates and formal procedures for making and implementing decisions in the initial phase of the crisis. There was a lack of exact


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

information regarding the scale and the consequences of the disaster, but efforts were made by all of the actors to gather information and establish reliable information sources. In updating the ReliefWeb and Situation Reports, OCHA played an important role in distributing information. It seemed natural for ECHO and the EADRCC to turn to OCHA for information. The fact that OCHA did not have much information to give is another problem, mainly due to the situation on the ground in Turkey.

3.2 REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE FROM THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT When the preliminary numbers indicated 600 deaths and 4000 injured, Turkey applied for international assistance to manage the disaster (OCHA, 17 August 1999). The request was distributed by OCHA. The most acute needs were listed, and OCHA requested that all actors should clarify what help they could send or were planning to send. Four members of the international search and rescue teams arrived in Turkey the first day after the earthquake (Liljegren, 22 August 1999). In addition to these, there were Turkish rescue teams, mainly the local Red Crescent and the military, which had already begun extensive rescue work. Within the EU system, ECHO has the unique mandate to initiate and decide about emergency aid irrespective of a formal request: Humanitarian aid operations financed by the community may be implemented either at the request of international or non-governmental agencies and organizations from a Member State or a recipient third country or on the initiative of the Commission9 (Council Regulation, 2 July 1996: 1257/96 art.6).

Despite this, ECHO felt it was necessary to first get a picture of how the situation was perceived by the Turkish Government before making decision about aid (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). So it is not uncommon that political considerations are taken into account even during a disaster. When going public with the aid decision of two million Euros, a spokesperson for the Commission announced, “This is, of course, just a preliminary emergency response … it is by no means ruled out that this first package will be followed by an additional package” (Agence France-Presse, 18 August 1999). Yet after the two million Euro aid package, there was only ten million Euros left in the ECHO’s budget for emergency aid. Through its Civil Protection Unit (CPU), the DG Environment has the mandate when a stricken country outside the Union asks for expertise. The DG Environment than distributes a focused request to the contact persons in those Member States known to have such expertise (CPU official, 29 November 2000 personal interview). Turkey asked for expertise, mainly for managing the secondary consequences (such as the fire in Tupras), but it did not directly ask the DG Environment for assistance. Thus, the DG staff did not take the initiative to investigate whether there was such a need, and consequently no measures were taken (ibid.). These routines can be compared to the more proactive approach of OCHA; the Member States’ networks and channels of communication function as lobby groups in trying to convince the decision makers in government to send out a request for international assis-


Emphasis added by the current author.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

tance (UNDAC team member on the Swedish Rescue Board, 17 January 2001 telephone interview). Since the requested assistance consisted of search and rescue and the Council of Europe does not have that sort of capacity, it was not an important actor at this stage. A formal request for support was given to the Council of Europe during the reconstruction phase. The EADRCC activated its coordination and information system immediately after the request. The EADRCC has no operational resources itself, but activated its capacity to coordinate the transport of such resources in case they were needed (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). The exchange of information and various contacts were maintained between OCHA and the EADRCC (OCHA, 17 August 1999), while no contacts were made between ECHO and the EADRCC (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview; ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview).

3.3 IS THERE A RISK OF AN EPIDEMIC? On the fourth day of the crisis, the management of the secondary consequences was most crucial. All actors were aware of the potential health problems, but until this point they were not considered a real threat. Turkey’s needs and the demands changed: from search dogs and rescue personnel to medicine, sanitary products and tents. The lack of water in combination with temperatures of +35°C increased the potential health problems. The Turkish Minister of Health said to the APF that staff members were working to “establish a hygienic environment to prevent contagious diseases” (Agence France-Presse, 20 August 1999). The Prime Minister said that the major threat now was infectious diseases (Reuters, 20 August 1999). During the health phase there were conflicts and discrepancies between the demands and the needs and between economics and ethics. While search and rescue work is something obvious, considering how it is conducted10 and prioritized, there are different views on when and how efforts for preventing an epidemic should be made. Firstly there is the question of when it is defendable to disrupt the search work and rechannel resources to preventing an epidemic. Most of the professional actors agreed that after 72 hours the hope of finding survivals was minimal (WHO, 18 August 1999). Miracle rescues happen occasionally, but rationally it is indefensible to spend resources for such a small chance, especially when it means that other operations suffer. People know that when search efforts are terminated, all hope of finding survivors is gone, and thus this decision is hard to take. The second problem is about defining the problem. How probable were the risks of an epidemic breaking out in Turkey? How far could an epidemic spread? Could an epidemic in Turkey spread to other countries? In the literature it is evident that there was a discrepancy among the actors. Some argued that the unburied bodies could pose a serious health problem. A doctor from the hospital in Golcuc said: What is important right now is that the bodies be recovered from underneath the ruins so that microbes from the corpses do not spread (Reuters, 20 August 1999).


This is somewhat of a simplification. There are desires of a international standard for search dogs etc. (OCHO, 14 November 1999:12), but the degree of agreement is higher than when it comes to the management of secondary consequences.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Others felt that clean water and mobile toilets were more important in preventing an epidemic. The Swedish Ambassador in Ankara wrote that: The number of deaths is estimated to over 45 000. Thousands of people are injured. The hospitals are overfilled. The mortuaries are not sufficient. The sanitary conditions are indescribable. There is a risk of an epidemic (Liljegren, 22 August 1999).

Still others played down the risk of an epidemic, at least one involving the dead bodies. The WHO at an early stage went out with the following information: One of the most common myths associated with natural disasters is that cadavers are responsible for epidemics. In many cases the management of cadavers lays on the false belief that they represent an epidemic hazard if not immediately buried or burned. […] In fact the health hazard associated with dead bodies is negligible (WHO, 18 August 1999).

WHO argued that burying or cremating dead bodies would pull valuable resources away from other needs. What was important to prioritize instead was clean water for the survivals (WHO, 18 August 1999). The problem of defining a valid and accurate picture of a crisis is difficult The third problem concerned how to manage the health problems that existed, despite the overestimations. What were the needs and what should be prioritized? Concerning the fact that 17000 people had lost their lives, it is clear that the large number of unburied bodies in the stricken area posed two concerns. First of all, according to Muslim tradition, a body must be buried within 24 hours after death, and of course family members wanted to be able to do this in a dignified way. Secondly the heat (day temperatures of +35°C) meant that the sanitary concerns regarding the dead bodies had to be addressed. The fact that there was so much disagreement about what the real problems were cost valuable time. If everybody had agreed and supported the idea that the dead bodies were a health threat, resources could have been quickly mobilized for this effort. In addition to this, the situation was characterized by chaos. Thousands of people did not know whether their family members were dead or alive, even less where they were: under the ruins, in a mass grave, in a field hospital, or in some provisional tent village? The bodies needed to be identified before they could be buried. The ‘solution’ to the problem, which the actors did not even agree upon as a problem, was to dump the corpses into mass graves in order to eliminate the risk of an epidemic (Tweedie, 1999). The changed environment did not result in a new decision from ECHO. The fact that the IFRC and Medicines du Monde were chosen to implement the first emergency aid package can be interpreted as a sign of preparedness and long-term thinking in the initial phase. The health risks were not perceived as a major threat at the OCHA headquarters. After a request from the Turkish government, the UN expert organ WHO became involved and they quickly toned down the risk of an epidemic and played an important expert role in suppressing the escalating fears. At this stage OCHA framed the problem based on WHO’s conclusions (OCHA official, 13 January 2001 telephone interview).


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

3.4 HOW TO RECONSTRUCT THE REGION? Ten days after the earthquake hit, the situation was considered stable. No more lives could be saved and the risk of an epidemic was over. Assessments on the economic effects of the earthquake showed that material damages were extensive. Approximately 100 000 families were estimated to be homeless (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 1999: doc. 8594:2). The already weak economy of Turkey was confronted with a huge challenge in managing these costs and thus the Government looked to the international community for support in reconstructing the region. Yet providing aid to Turkey was not an easy issue either. Some questioned how much support Turkey really needed, and whether the country should even receive assistance at all. The UN urged the international community to continue to support Turkey, while some individual countries felt that the Turkish Government was taking advantage of the situation. A well-developed economic actor such as Turkey should, according to Great Britain, be able to cope on its own (Moberg, 31 August 1999). The Commission as well as the Council of Europe officially and immediately supported the UN. The Council of Europe saw no reason to contest the issue, and the situation provided an opportunity to strengthen its position in the international arena. The Council of Europe Parliament underlined the importance of longterm assistance with the motivation that it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of the number of casualties immediately after an earthquake (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 1999: doc. 8594:2). A loan from the Social Development Fund (SDF) was approved for the reconstruction work. The Commission approved ECHO’s proposal for another two million Euros in humanitarian aid to Turkey. A decision on how the aid was to be implemented and who best could implement the aid was to be taken after a more extensive investigation of the needs in Turkey. A number of NGOs received 200 000–300 000 Euros each. The President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, declared that the new Commission would continue to support Turkey, politically as well as economically. He underlined that the EU was prepared to support Turkey in the reconstruction work (Europa, 26 August 1999:Press Release IP/99/639). The European Parliament became an important actor, not for being directly involved in the aid decision process, but for accepting the Commission’s proposal for an extended aid budget. After negotiations with the Council, the Parliament approved a compromise. A new budget was worked out and external expenditures for Kosovo were reallocated so that other aid would not suffer from the exceptional extended humanitarian aid expenditures for 1999. The EADRCC had no role in the reconstruction phase of a disaster, so it pulled out from Turkey. This is in accordance to its formal policy, as there are no resources or ambitions to coordinate assistance other than in the emergency phase.

3.5 ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE OCCURS On November 12, 1999, the actors received information about another earthquake hitting Turkey. This time it was important that the actors showed what lessons had been learned from the previous earthquake. In particular the Turkish government had acted slowly in the initial phase after the August 17th earthquake and it had learned that this had delayed the rescue operation. Consequently, the Turkish government immediately dispatched a general re-


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

quest for international assistance after the November 12th earthquake. This resulted in a large-scale mobilization of search and rescue teams from all over the world. Approximately 2000 rescue workers were quickly on spot in Turkey (OCHA, 14 November 1999: p. 4). The fact that the earthquake occurred on a Friday night meant that none of the officials were at work. However, this did not seem to delay the decision process. The officials were in agreement about working when something happened, irrespective of the time or the day. At least at the ECHO office this seemed to be part of the organizational culture, which one accepted when choosing to work there. The Director of ECHO’s Turkey desk called the desk officer at home to inform him of the earthquake. He had already been in contact with the Cabinet and the process of issuing an emergency aid package had already been started (ECHO official, personal interview 27 November 2000). On November 15, the Commission’s decision of three million Euros in emergency aid to Turkey was made official. Again, the formal request from the Turkish government was considered important (ibid.). The workload at ECHO’s emergency unit was already heavy at the time, because of its extensive involvement in Kosovo. Furthermore, the second earthquake came as a “disturbing moment” in the ongoing reconstruction work in Turkey. The Director felt that the management of the situation was too much for one person and decided to establish an informal task force. An ECHO official contacted the OCHA office to get more information, but generally speaking OCHA was of considerably less importance for ECHO’s information gathering this time. The ECHO already had an office established in Istanbul, and contacts were already made with the EC delegation, the Turkish authorities and various NGOs. Generally that was the major difference between the earthquake in August and the one in November; contacts were established, structures within the Turkish system had crystallized, and NGOs were in the field. Also the EADRCC contacted OCHA, but the division of labor between the two was slightly different than after the previous earthquake. They both agreed to inform their respective contact points in Turkey with the purpose of exchanging information. OCHA’s telecom system was being updating, so the coordinator at the EADRCC office in Brussels took on the responsibility of gathering information and distributing a joint situation report (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). Different from the earthquake in August, the one in November was not perceived as so overwhelming. The actors were already involved in Turkey. The focus was there, and the appropriate structures in Turkey were in place. The Turkish government’s responsibilities had crystallized. The NGOs were still in the country, and therefore could immediately be called upon to start the rescue work. At the time of the August earthquake, ECHO did not have an expert in Turkey, but he was in Istanbul and available when the November earthquake hit. This meant that ECHO had a natural contact point, and the practical prerequisites for coordination between the field and the headquarters were already in place.

4. Thematic Analysis After having dissected and analyzed the most central decision-making occasions of the crisis, it is now time to put the decision-making process back together and theoretically analyze the interesting aspects and general patterns of this process. The analytical themes used to fulfill


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

this specific aim are problem framing, preparedness, organizational coordination and information management.

4.1 PROBLEM FRAMING The situation for the international actors in the initial phase was marked by stress generated by fragmented and poor information as well as limited available time. Earthquakes are no new phenomenon and thus different from environmental disasters, which always have unique causes and problems (Ullberg, 2001), or from a crisis like the mad cow disease (Grönvall, 2000) with unknown components and consequences. Thus after an earthquake, there are existing conceptions and established ‘solutions’ for how the event is perceived and should be managed (Rochefort and Cobb, 1994:21). The knowledge of what problems can occur after an earthquake is rather sound, although this does not necessarily mean that the efforts and priorities are uncontroversial. The actors know that information in the initial phase is often insufficient and incorrect. They know that most lives can be saved within the first few days after the disaster. They also know what secondary problems usually appear after a serious earthquake: namely, a lack of clean water, a lack of electricity, and communication and sanitary problems. Hence, there is a certain degree of preparedness, mentally as well as administratively, but the standards and demands for this preparedness are higher than for a ‘new crisis.’ This implies especially for ECHO, OCHA and the EADRCC, which were created with the purpose for managing humanitarian disasters. One aspect of the initial problem framing was crucial for the management of the event, namely the lack of comprehensive information. On the morning of August 17, all of the actors had received news about the earthquake in Turkey. Many had heard about it through the media and were ‘prepared’ by the time they came to the office. But the information was poor. Basically they just knew that a powerful earthquake had hit Turkey’s most industrialized region, but at this point they could not imagine the extended consequences of it. Nevertheless, it seems as if the actors had prepared themselves for managing a serious catastrophe. The fact that the ECHO Director already in the morning contacted the cabinet and informed the necessary staff members that a first aid package of two million Euros would be given to Turkey indicates that ECHO was ready to take initial responsibility. Praxis and previous experience in providing aid after earthquakes facilitated a quick initial reaction from ECHO. By looking at ECHO’s other decisions regarding earthquakestricken states, it seems to be ECHO’s praxis to relatively quickly mobilize a first aid emergency package (see for example: India in 2001, El Salvador in 2001, Afghanistan in 1998, and Iran in 1997). Even if a first aid emergency package is more or less an incorporated praxis in ECHO’s routines, the amount of aid seems to be more of an ad hoc decision and does not consequently appear to be based on the degree of seriousness of the earthquake, in terms of deaths. In India, it was feared that up to 100 000 people had been killed and ECHO’s first aid decision consisted of just three million Euros (Europa, 27 January 2001). The same amount was given to Iran four years earlier, where 1 560 people were reportedly killed and 6000 injured (Europa, 14 May 1997). Likewise, Afghanistan was initially supported with two million Euros at a stage where more than 4000 people were feared to have lost their lives (Europa, 9 February 1998). Thus, the number of victims does not necessarily correlate with the size of the aid


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

package, and this strengthens the conclusion that ECHO in the initial phase, when there is a lack of information, acts upon routines and experiences rather than on focused, knowledgebased problem framing. Hence, previous experience and knowledge is of great importance in determining how a situation is interpreted (Sundelius et al., 1997:146). One aspect of this is the use of historical analogies. This means actors assume that when two separate events resemble one another in one aspect, they may also resemble one another in another aspect (Khong, 1992:6; Brändström et al., 2004). It is rather natural that actors in a stressful decision-making situation relate their judgment of a situation to previous experiences. What is interesting, and which is made possible by distinguishing possible historical analogies, is that individuals under stress and in situations marked by uncertainty tend to draw rash conclusions of what appears to be parallel cases (Stern, 1999:34; Khong 1992:13; Brändström et al., 2004). Khong argues that analogies contribute to the defining of the problem, to the judging of the efforts, to valuing alternatives in terms of prospect for success, to moral justifications and to risks (Khong, 1992:9). In light of Khong’s arguments, I take a closer look at how historical analogies could have influenced ECHO’s line of action. Starting with the possible impact of historical analogies in the problem definition, is common knowledge that basically the entire Turkish territory is a risk area for earthquakes (OCHO, 14 November 1999). Turkey has suffered a number of earthquakes before, although the one in Izmit was the most devastating in the country’s modern history. ECHO has previously sent humanitarian aid for the earthquakes in Adana in 1998, Afyan-Dinar in 1995 and Erzinican in 1992 (Liljegren, 19 August, 1999; ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). These experiences influenced the actors’ perception and definition of the problem in such a direction that they quickly and seriously considered the information, although there was a lack of information regarding the extension of the earthquake. When it comes to judging the efforts, ECHO typically chooses the same actors to implement the aid package, with the historical praxis of using the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) in the initial phase. According to an official at ECHO’s headquarters, the decision to use the IFRC was unitary and apparently no other real alternatives existed (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). There was a lack of NGOs in Turkey at the time, partly because of the situation in Kosovo and partly because Turkey is not a third-world country “in need.” The IFRC had for a long period of time had an office in Ankara, but it was closed down in April the same year, as it was not considered needed. In other words, the IFRC was not present in Turkey at the time of the first earthquake in 1999. Nevertheless, ECHO’s decision was motivated by the fact that no other actors were in the country. By looking at other decisions concerning aid package implementation (e.g. Turkey in 1995; Iran in 1997; Turkey, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan in 1998; India in 2001; and El Salvador in 2001), it seems to be ECHO’s praxis to use the IFRC in the initial emergency phase.11 According to an official at ECHO’s headquarter, this in practice was not a problem, since there was a Red Crescent there (ECHO official, 2 September 2003 e-mail correspondence). According to an IFRC official in the field, the removal of the IFRC delegation in April had had a negative impact on IFRC’s work (IFRC official, 1 February 2001 telephone


Especially after 1996, it seems somewhat routine to use the IFRC to implement the initial aid.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

interview). Problematic relations and a lack of good contacts with the Turkish Red Crescent made cooperation between the two difficult (ibid.). As for valuing the alternatives, the idea of not supporting Turkey was not even an issue in the initial phase. Previous experience and praxis combined with ECHO’s basic values and mandate would have made it very difficult to justify a non-decision in this case. On the other hand, waiting for a formal request from the Turkish Government indicates that the aid issue was politically sensitive. The delay was considered necessary in order to clarify the Turkish government’s perception of the disaster. The Turkish government did not ask for international assistance after the earthquake in Adana in 1998. With this in mind, the responsible ECHO official emphasized the importance of waiting for a formal request before going official with the emergency aid decision (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). This choice is an obvious example of how historical analogies impact value alternatives in terms of risk. The decision to wait for a formal request also confirms the fact that there was a lack of detailed information at the ECHO office. If the actors had known at this stage the serious consequences of the earthquake, then the views of the Turkish government would not have been as important and the event would have been classified as “serious” from the outset. Since ECHO did not want to risk an ‘unneeded’ and undesired intervention into something perceived as a Turkish internal matter and since the top ECHO officials did not know the seriousness (i.e., the earthquake was so extensive that it was impossible for the Turkish actors to solely manage it), the Turkish request was defined as an important, formal necessity before going public with the decision. Although I do not question that the involved persons at the ECHO office in Brussels took the earthquake in August seriously, I will argue that the first quick decision regarding emergency aid was based on praxis rather on insight of the seriousness of the situation. Another fact that supports my claim is the fact that an ECHO field expert was not sent to Turkey until August 27, that is, ten days after the disaster. At the time of the earthquake, the expert was formally stationed in Tirana in Albania, but was on a short mission in Azerbaijan. The idea was that he would stop in Turkey for a week on his way back to Albania in order to try to get an overview of the situation and to estimate the needs. Rather soon, the expert realized that this was not just a one-week mission. When he informed the headquarters of the situation, he was given the mandate to stay and establish an office in Istanbul (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). After two weeks, the office was set up and in operation until April 2001. What was first thought to be a quick stopover, ended up being a year and half mission. The problem framing of the second earthquake was also affected by the fact that the first bit of information on what actually had happened was imperfect; just as it had been after the first earthquake. This did not, however, change ECHO’s behavior in waiting for a formal request. The fact that ECHO decided on emergency aid of three million Euros was explained by an ECHO official as being partly based on the different needs in Turkey and partly as a result of the fact that at the time ECHO had the financial means, which was not the case in August (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). I will argue that the second, rather than the first, reason was of superior weight. ECHO’s staff had recently visited Turkey and the Director was informed about the identified needs. But detailed information on the consequences of the earthquake, and thus the needs, did not exist at that time. What was know, however, was that 30 million Euros would be transferred from DG Relex to ECHO


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

(ibid.). This money had to be allocated by December otherwise it would be lost. Knowing this, the amount of three million Euros was rather unimportant at the time, since 30 million Euros had already been earmarked for Turkey. To sum up, it can be said that even in the management of a ‘well known’ crisis, the framing of a problem and of the options for addressing it are not made in a vacuum, but are a result of previous experiences, interests, and available resources.

4.2 PREPAREDNESS As was shown in the previous section, despite mental preparedness and routines for crisis decision-making, it is possible to discern some typical crisis related reactions among the involved actors. The formal level of preparedness within the different institutions are looked at more closely. An administrative process for managing a crisis exists within the EU’s organ for humanitarian aid, but was this preparedness sufficient for the earthquakes in Turkey? And how did preparedness look within the other institutions? What are the strengths and weaknesses in the existing system of preparedness? ECHO’s implementation process for humanitarian aid is usually initiated by an NGO, an international organization, a government or the Commission; alternatively, ECHO can also apply for aid (Council Regulation, 2 July 1996:1257/96 art. 13). Thereafter ECHO goes through the application process and contacts the officials at the responsible unit, DG Budget, the Commission’s delegation in the recipient country, and other relevant DGs. If the application is approved, the Commission as a whole makes a proposal and then it is passed on for approval to the Commission’s departments; this is the formal written procedure. However, there is also an action plan for decision-making in acute crisis situations, where the formal written procedure can be overridden. If the sum does not exceed ten million Euros, ECHO has the mandate to decide about aid after going through an inter service process, meaning that the decision text is forwarded to the relevant DGs. A decision like this can be made after a request from a stricken country, an NGO, an international organization, or ECHO itself (ECHO, 1999b). After the decision is made, the implementing organization is informed and an agreement is signed. An ECHO project within the framework of emergency assistance normally lasts three to six months and thereafter is taken over by another relevant DG. A final evaluation is then sent to ECHO from the implementing partners.12 In practice this process looked slightly different. On August 17, when time was limited, the IFRC took the initiative to implement the aid from ECHO (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). The application was simplified and the IFRC was immediately informed that they would receive the requested financial means and the process of having the aid package formally approved was started. When making the decision about giving emergency assistance to Turkey, the other involved actors in the Commission did not know how the aid package was to be implemented, only that it would go to Turkey. The IFRC project was completed in July 2001, and the final evaluation arrived on ECHO’s desk on November 17, 2001: that is, one year and three months after the first earthquake (ECHO, 28 November 2000). When necessary and in the interest of the project, the

12 The procedures have been further adjusted and clarified since 1999. See Europa’s article “Information Pack for Humanitarian Organizations: ECHO Partners Primary Emergency Aid” (June 2002).


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

time frame of a project can be extended. In ECHO’s disaster plan, the typical project is three to six months, but one ECHO staff member admitted that this is somewhat optimistic (ECHO official [policy unit], 28 November 2000 personal interview). The concept of a ‘relevant DG’ is not clearly stated. In a developing country, the question of ECHO’s successor is more obvious (i.e., the DG Development), although it is not clear when the changeover should be done. In a country like Turkey, it is more problematic. There is no given successor since no one has the given mandate to fill in the gap. The problems regarding this are discussed in more detail in the next section. As for implementation, the Commission outsources this in order to provide a more flexible system. ECHO has existing agreements with the implementing organizations stipulating that they should be prepared to implement aid from ECHO (so called Framework Partnership Agreements, FPA). The earthquakes in Turkey revealed the vulnerability of this system in practice. No NGO was in Turkey at the time and many were already heavily engaged in Kosovo. As a result, ECHO was more or less forced to use the IFRC since it was the only available implementer, and in the heat of the moment there was no time to think about or even contact other suitable implementers. One conclusion of this could be that the system of implementation is not adjusted to a fairly modernized and industrialized county like Turkey, but is more suitable for, and in practice adjusted for, developing countries where NGOs are already in place. The competition between the Kosovo crisis and the Turkey crisis is an interesting aspect that illustrates a weakness in using NGOs. Volunteer organizations are non-profitable, but their existence hinges on incomes from external financiers. Therefore, the organizations must find situate themselves where the prospects for aid are good. This raises the question of whether an NGO primarily operates where the greatest needs are or where the TV cameras are focused, considering the fact that public attention often demands that certain countries receive aid before others despite varying degrees of needs. If a choice between a ten-year project in Kosovo and a short-term project in Turkey exists, it is likely that an NGO would choose to remain in Kosovo. Another problem, in combination with the previous, is that the volunteer composition of an NGO makes it formally very difficult to coordinate the different NGOs, because an NGO is per definition an independent actor and cannot be forced to act in a certain way. ECHO can focus assistance by selecting certain NGOs, but it cannot force the different organizations to cooperate or coordinate their efforts.13 The fact that the earthquake coincided with the resignation of the old Commission and the establishment of the new one did not seem to impact the problem framing or the decision process. The previous Commissioner for ECHO, Emma Bonino, had already left her position and the DG Relex Commissioner at that time, Hans van den Broek, was temporarily responsible for the post until someone was formally appointed. At the time of the earthquake, Broek was on vacation, but had daily telephone contact with the Deputy Head of Cabinet at the DG Relex. Thus he was involved and was able to give instructions (DG Relex official, 15 January 2001 e-mail interview). There is apparently a functioning ‘back up’ system for tem-

13 According to a former ECHO official, there is an informal and ‘self-adjusting’ system of coordination, which means that if an implementing organization does not attend the coordination meetings in the field or refuses to coordinate with other actors in some other way, it has a much smaller chance of getting an ECHO contract in the future (ECHO official –former desk officer, 6 June 2002 personal interview). This statement was not supported by the other informants from ECHO.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

porarily vacant positions. Although there is some discrepancy between policy and practice, one can conclude that there is a formal system of institutional preparedness within the Commission and it was more or less followed during the earthquake crisis. By scrutinizing the system of preparedness in light of the crisis management in this case, it is clear that there is a well-developed institutional capacity for dealing with natural disaster outside the Union. Some things still, however, need to be improved. Especially when it comes to crisis management in a relatively well-developed country in EU’s backyard. The other actors also illustrated clear and formal preparedness. The Council of Europe immediately activated its European Warning System. This system is activated in the event of an earthquake with the strength of 6.0 or more on the Richter scale. A standby team at the Council of Europe activates the system, which consists of more than 20 centers; the European Commission and a number of UN organs are a part of this system (Council of Europe, 2000; Tondre, 1998). With this warning system, the power of an earthquake anywhere can be measured, no matter where in the world it occurs. There are, however, a number of other factors that impact the intensity of the quake; for example, how much damage it causes (Wijkman and Timberlake, 1984:85). Other factors are the distance between the epicenter and the stricken area, the quality of the building foundation, the type of buildings, and the size and density of the population. To exemplify how misleading the Richter scale can be as a source of judging the impact, it can be mentioned that an earthquake in China in 1976 measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and 242 000 people died. Another earthquake, in Alaska, with a death toll of 100 people measured 9.2 on the Richter (ibid.). In light of what we know (namely that neither Turkey nor the Council of Europe had access to the updated Geographical Information Systems, city planning, or other tools), it is clear that an early warning system based on the Richter scale cannot provide the type of reliable information on which the actors can base a decision regarding emergency assistance. OCHA’s main responsibility is to coordinate the assistance sent from the nation states. OCHA has developed operational capacities of its own, as well. In terms of formal preparedness, OCHA issues situation reports that are produced immediately after a disaster. An important ambition with the situation reports (which is OCHA’s most important tool for coordination) is to urge the actors to report to OCHA on what type of assistance that has been sent or is planning to be sent out (OCHA, 2000). The problem is that OCHA does not have the mandate to force the actors to do this, but nevertheless it is able to convince them. This seemed to function well after the earthquakes in Turkey since ECHO, EADRCC and the Council of Europe are described in the situation reports. OCHA has also an Early Warning System, more sophisticated that the one the Council of Europe has. Within a couple of hours, information about a natural disaster reaches OCHA’s headquarters in Geneva. The information does not only include seismological facts, but also figures about the population in the area around the epicenter (OCHA official, 24 January 2001 telephone interview). Regarding the earthquake in Izmit, the EADRCC was involved and activated its coordination system immediately after the formal request from the Turkish Government. The EADRCC has no operational resources of its own, but was involved in coordinating the transportation of rescue teams to Turkey (EADRCC official, 2 March 2000 e-mail interview). Even though the EADRCC may send staff members to a stricken country in order to define the needs, it decided not to do so in the Turkey case. According to the EADRCC,


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

there were already enough international representatives in place in Turkey and the EADRCC did not want to add to the burden of the Turkish government (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). Furthermore, the staff at the EADRCC headquarters was in agreement that OCHA was a reliable source of information and that they already had representatives in Turkey. So instead of sending its own staff, the EADRCC relied upon OCHA for information in the initial phase. Later on, it established its own contacts with search and rescue teams on field.


4.3.1 Coordination in a multi-level setting (I): Coordination among international agencies It is often assumed that in times of crises, and especially when human lives are at stake, conflicts and rivalries between actors are set aside and priority is given to resolving the problems at hand in a pragmatic way. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case in practice. Different actors have different values at stake. What might be a threat to one actor can be an opportunity for another. Coordination can be studied from different levels and include a variety of aspects. Here the focus lies with coordination at the meso level: that is, between the different international institutions. In this case, coordination means the sharing of information (Comfort, 1999:1920) and the exercise of leadership that facilitates the adjustment of organizational priorities in order to avoid duplication. I take a closer look at the formal division of responsibilities between the actors and, in light of this, see how their actions were actually coordinated. Formal division of labor Looking at capacities and regulations that guide the functions of the different actors, I will argue that today there is a formal division of labor between the international actors. In Table 1, we can see that ECHO’s financial resources are used for humanitarian aid. The system of implementation is based on partnership agreements with a large number of NGOs and international organizations. ECHO has no explicit coordination function, but it, of course, has an interest in coordinating efforts in order to meet the identified needs and to optimize results. Implicit coordination is facilitated by the selection of NGOs. The Council of Europe’s resources are, with the exception of the technical warning system, limited to loans for the Member States needing to finance reconstruction. It is more difficult to draw a clear dividing line between the OCHA and the EADRCC. Different from the OCHA, the EADRCC has no financial resources to directly assist a stricken country, but the main function of both actors is to coordinate assistance from others. The difference regards geographical scope rather than function and system. Both systems are based on national resources in the Member States. They have no juridical mandate to instruct the Member States on which assistance to send. The OCHA’s and the EADRCC’s existence is heavily dependent upon the Member States and their willingness to provide resources (under the PfP or UN flag).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

Table 1: The European actors’ resources and mandates RESOURCES


Council of Europe



Yes, in the reconstruc- No tion phase










Via recipient state

National resources

National resources


Humanitarian aid

Warning system and loans to Member States

Coordination of EAPC assistance

Coordination of UN assistance

Accountable to:

Commission and EU Member States

Member States

EAPC partners

UN and Member States Relations in practice What is the problem then? On the surface, it seems perfect complementarily. Each and every actor contributes with different pieces to the puzzle. One finances emergency assistance, another reconstruction. A third coordinates national assistance on the regional level, and a fourth manages global coordination. Firstly, it must not be forgotten that each individual system has its own dynamics. Each actor presented in Table 1 is in turn just a small part of a much larger and more complex organization. Therefore the puzzle is not truly complete. A number of other pieces must be added in order to complete the puzzle. ECHO is responsible to the Commission, which in turn is responsible to the Member States. OCHA and the EADRCC feed off of intra-organizational legitimacy and their existence relies on support from the Member States. Thus, it is not only a question about whether these actors are willing to cooperate in order to increase coordination, but also about how much the Member States are willing’ to be coordinated’ and in that case by whom. Secondly, the actors are not aware, for different reasons, of the formal division of labor and thereby cannot properly facilitate coordination at the international level. The problem is that the four systems are partly used as if they existed in four separate spheres, despite the fact that they are working towards the same goal: that is, to support a stricken country with humanitarian assistance. The European Union and the Council of Europe formally have a willingness to develop such relations. In April 1998, the Council of Europe issued Recommendation 1365 to the Committee of Ministers regarding cooperation with the EU (Council of Europe – Committee of Ministers, 1998). It was argued that the Amsterdam Treaty had increased the EU’s authorities to include competence areas in which the Council of Europe traditionally had been active: human rights as well as social and cultural issues. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe proposed more systematic cooperation and urged the EU to sign all conventions and some partial agreements, above and beyond the ones already signed: for example, increased contact between the Minister Committee and the High Representative for ESDP (ibid.) regarding the ambitions for a common foreign policy. The question of cooperation regarding disaster relief and preparedness is, however, excluded.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

Relations between the EU and the EADRCC are different. According to an official at the EADRCC, cooperation with the UN-OCHA is well developed. According to the same official, relations with the EU are, however, “less developed” and a formal agreement for cooperation or coordination between the two does not exist (EADRCC official, 2 March 2000 e-mail interview). On the question of whether there is any clear division of labor between the different EU actors and the EADRCC, the answer is no. No contacts were made between the EU and the EADRCC during either of the earthquakes in Turkey (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview; EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). How can we then understand the fact that two large international actors with overlapping member states have no formal contact points, hence no cooperation or coordination in emergency efforts during a disaster response? Is it because they have different functions and, thus, have no reason to coordinate resources and efforts? For a number of reasons the answer to that question is no. Firstly, when looking more closely at the formal structures, there are no clear divisions of labor between ECHO and the EADRCC. This can, in principal, mean that the two actors do the same kind of work and thus duplicate one type of assistance, probably at the cost of another type of assistance. Although we are not talking about the same operational actors (ECHO has its partners, and the EADRCC only turns to its EAPC partners), there are two overlapping mechanisms for coordinating assistance based on identified needs. ECHO selects its partnership organizations based on information from various sources: such as field experts, the Commission’s delegation, OCHA, and NGOs. From that information there is a notion of the needs, and these needs build the foundation for deciding who will be implementers. It is about coordination in the sense that efforts are made to distribute assistance. If an organization has applied for and received financial means from ECHO for establishing, for example, a field hospital, another organization cannot receive means for the same purpose if the need is already satisfied. The risk of duplication is obvious when the EADRCC, via OCHA and the contact point in the affected country, identifies needs and distributes requests to the EAPC partners without contacting ECHO. Similar to ECHO, the EADRCC focuses on the requests for satisfying the identified needs, not on approving or rejecting different types of assistance. On the issue of coordination redundancy, in the EADRCC’s formal policy it ironically states that the EADRCC is responsible for maintaining close contact with the OCHA, the EU and other international organizations regarding requests for international assistance from a stricken country (NATO, 1999:2). At the ECHO office, the staff has limited knowledge about the existence of the EADRCC (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview; ECHO official [desk officer], 28 November 2000 personal interview). Likewise, few officials at the EADRCC knew that ECHO was involved in Turkey (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). The conclusion of this must be that formally (on the policy level) there is an ambition for closer cooperation, an ambition that has not been heard in practice. A possible explanation is the absence of contact points and undeveloped relations as a result of organizational competition between the two large actors: ECHO which is relatively more established in the arena, and NATO which has not consolidated its preparedness and experience in civil crisis management. The threat to the EU would be the EADRCC through EADRU (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit) developing the exact same capacity that is cur-


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

rently under development in the EU at the DG Environment’s Civil Protection Unit (see Ramberg, 2002).14 By including still another actor to the international structure of capacities, the picture gets even more complicated. OCHA can be seen as the dominant actor within the field. All of the other institutions, at least in their policy documents, describe cooperation with the UN and the OCHA as well developed. A link between ECHO and OCHA is the ReliefWeb, which ECHO has supported economically since 1997 (Commission of the European Communities, 1998:17). According to ECHO’s own evaluation report, the UN is their main cooperation partner and this has apparently worked well in the past. However, it is important to note that ‘the UN’ does not necessarily include OCHA. Even though the UN organ UNHCR is the major recipient of ECHO’s financial aid, it is difficult to really know what ECHO’s opinion is about its cooperation with the UN as a whole. ECHO was criticized in the latest independent evaluation because of its poor cooperation with the different UN organs (ICEA/DPCC, 1999:30). Coordination – obstacles and opportunities I will argue that the problem of coordination in the initial phase was not a result of weak leadership within each individual organization (that is, the UN, NATO, EU and the Council of Europe); rather the problem was the lack of legitimate leadership between the actors. It is difficult to identify any formal or informal leadership among the actors. The UN has a leading coordination position in terms of resources and geographical scope. That is not, however, to say that the other actors are ready to give OCHA full leadership. ECHO as well as the EADRCC work well and have developed good cooperation with OCHA regarding coordination (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview; EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview), but I think it is important to considerate the fact that ‘coordination’ can mean different things to different people. At the top level, coordination between ECHO and OCHA meant that ECHO used part of the information OCHA distributed via its ReliefWeb and Situation Reports. ECHO in turn informed OCHA of the aid decisions as they were made. In order to increase coordination between the UN and the different EU actors, there is a formal agreement that the actors in the field, the Commission’s delegation in the recipient state, and the national embassies shall send a fax to OCHA with information about the aid decisions that have been made (ECHO, 10 December 1996). How well this worked in practice is, of course, difficult to say. According to the information that the author used, no fax was sent to OCHA from the Com-

14 The developments of a common crisis management capacity, within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), is not exclusively dealt with in this study, but it is an important part of the context since these developments imply the establishment of a similar regional system that is also under development in NATO by the EADRCC and the EADRU. It is important to identify and make an inventory of the resources in the Member States in order to quickly mobilize assistance for a country requesting it (Helsinki European Council, 1999:34f). As both systems are based on national resources and against the background that all EU members are also EAPC partners, it is not without reason to suggest that there is a scuffle going on between the two actors, a scuffle that eventually is about where the member states want this crisis management capacity to be. Under which flag do these states want to mobilize their resources? It appears unlikely that any country has the interest of mobilizing two different forces. It also looks as if there is quite a bit more to be done before the EADRCC and the EU Commission start to cooperate on a practical level.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

mission’s delegation in Turkey (official at the EC delegation, 15 January 2001 telephone interview), but ECHO published the decisions on the ReliefWeb.15 Despite the fact that coordination between ECHO and OCHA, in practice, was limited to the exchange of information, it is important to note that there is a system or at least the two actors have ambitions for coordination (Commission of the European Communities, 1998:17). On the other hand, coordination between the EADRCC and OCHA appeared to be more developed. Although on a formal level there is competition due to their overlapping mandates and responsibilities, no such tendencies were found in the earthquake case. Not only did the two institutions exchange information, they also cooperated in distributing information and the EADRCC based its requests for resources on the information received by OCHA. Between these actors, we can thus talk about coordination in terms of adjusting assistance in order to avoid duplication. For understanding this, we must go back to the political context of the establishment of the EADRCC. The awareness of the need for increased international coordination of disaster assistance was only one reason for the creation of EADRCC. The other reason was to get Russia involved in the PfP. This was something for which the EAPC received full support from the UN and OCHA. The involved actors were aware of the fact that the policy and procedures of EADRCC overlapped those of OCHA. But with the blessing from the UN, the EADRCC was seen as a regional complement to OCHA. Thereby, deliberate efforts were made to establish cooperation and EADRCC received increased significance. One of these efforts was the establishment of an OCHA liaison officer at the EADRCC headquarters in Brussels. This person was to ensure that contacts were maintained and that information was exchanged between the two organizations. This procedure was written into the formal policy document when establishing the EADRCC, and arguably it was a deliberate measure to nip the problem in the bud and avoid competition between the sister organizations.16 While both ECHO and EADRCC acknowledged good relations with OCHA, organizational competition seemed to exist among the relatively smaller actors: ECHO the EADRCC and the Council of Europe. ECHO and the EADRCC confirmed that no contacts were made during the two earthquakes: neither on field, nor at the headquarter level. In response to a question about whether any contacts were made between the ECHO actors and EADRCC actors in the field, an EADRCC official replied that there was reluctance for such contacts (EADRCC official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). Again it is necessary to considerate the swarm of informal and overlapping information channels, which could have possibly altered the sharp dividing line between ECHO and the EADRCC in some aspects. But as long as no one is aware of this, it might not be helpful in facilitating formal coordination. There is organizational competition between the EU and the Council of Europe on the macro level, where the Council of Europe has for long been subordinate to the EU. On an institutional level, we should look at the lack of initiative to increase cooperation, rather that 15 It should be underlined that the formal procedures for this might have been replaced by a more informal exchange of information: for example, when staff from OCHA’s headquarters visited Turkey, or via the UNDP which had close relations with the Commission’s delegation. It was not possible with the available sources to map out the information channels in such detail. 16 It should not be forgotten that personal relations can sometimes be more important than a policy document. My impression from the personal interviews is that cooperation between the two directors at OCHA and EADRCC respectively worked very well due to their good personal relationship.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

explicit competition. Formally ECHO (as well as the EADRCC) is connected to the early warning system of the Council of Europe, which in practice means that they receive information and technical facts as soon as an earthquake strikes. On the policy level there is a general agreement that in order to effectively use humanitarian efforts, they must be properly coordinated. The primarily problem is not mobilizing resources; everybody wants to help the victims of a natural disaster. But all help is not valuable if it is not organized and directed in order to match the needs. The creation of EADRCC and OCHA is witness to this awareness. One major problem is that everybody wants to coordinate, and no one wants ‘to be coordinated.’ In my opinion, the division of labor that was described in the introduction of this section could constitute a foundation for increased international coordination between these institutions, but there are massive barriers in doing so, on the political level as well as in practice. In practice there are, as I see it, three interrelated problems that restrain coordination. One is visibility, another is leadership, and the third is the willingness to put words into action. Resources can be mobilized for altruistic reasons, but they are often used to justify an organization’s existence. It is, therefore, important for the actors not only to mobilize assistance, but also to make sure that the mobilization is visible. This is often discussed as a critical aspect for the NGOs, which have an increasingly important role in the aid arena. Although the problem is more evident for NGOs, I think the phenomenon could also apply to bilateral and international aid. It might not be so much about being where the TV cameras are, but about showing the voters that the government is ready to offer public means for victims in other countries. The political leadership of any government must be able to justify its actions to the public. From a short-term perspective it may be more beneficial to show that assistance has been sent, even though it was not requested, than to explain why the country’s resources have not been requested for this particular disaster (that is, they are not needed because other international aid is available). The issue of legitimacy and credibility is of utter importance for international organizations, even though they are not directly accountable to the public. Considering these circumstances in combination with the lack of compulsory mandates for international institutions, it is evident that coordination is difficult to accomplish in practice. The second barrier concerns leadership on the international level. In a sense there lacks an ability to take a leading position and there is an unwillingness to give away the leadership role to someone else. As already stated, there is competition among the four organizations. Each institution strives to strengthen its own position, both internationally and within its own organization. There is no institution today that has the capacity to actually shoulder the leading role. The only actor close to this is OCHA, but still there are problems, not the least when it comes to internal and external legitimacy. Another problem is that the capacity of OCHA is based on a voluntary system. What happens in a situation when states are not ready or willing to give resources to OCHA? Bennett argues that “[o]ne reason international leadership is constrained is that there is no international constituency to lead” (Bennett, 1995:430). He means that such a capacity must come from the member states, while I will argue that it is also about legitimacy and confidence between the institutions, as such, on the international level. The idea of the institutions as tools for the member states is too simplistic for the complex dynamics that characterize the partly autonomous institutions. The impetus that comes from the member states definitely impacts policy shaping, but it has limited value for the measures that are taken in practice, as long as it does not coincide with the attitudes, the political game, and the informal relations in the international arena.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

As mentioned above, competition is mainly horizontal: that is, between the equally large actors. Although no one is ready to give OCHA full leadership responsibilities, in my opinion OCHA’s role is not necessarily threatened by the development of regional coordination systems. OCHA’s scope is global, and its weak juridical mandate is partly balanced by the political legitimacy it receives under the UN umbrella. It is, however, more difficult to see how the civil crisis management capacity of EAPC and the EU will manage to work in parallel in the future. To whom shall these states answer? To the EU, to EAPC or to the UN? The third barrier is the lack of action on the practical level. As illustrated in this study, there is an ambition for increased coordination at the policy level, but the discrepancy between the high political policy level and the formal and informal decision-making levels tend to somewhat large. One of the most important preconditions for increased coordination is a genuine knowledge of one’s own organization as well as of the other international actors that are activated during a natural disaster. The present situation indicates that focus is on the performance of one’s own organization rather than on the positive effects of a joint effort, and this is confirmed by the absence of contact between ECHO and the EADRCC. To sum up, by looking at the official documents we can discern a division of labor between the four actors regarding mandates, resources, and systems of implementation. This division of labor can be seen as a possible foundation for increased coordination; whereas, ignorance and competition hinder coordination. Three other barriers to coordination efforts are visibility, the lack of formal and legitimate leadership, and not putting policies into action.

4.3.2 Coordination in a multilevel setting (II): Coordination within the Commission Now a discussion on the coordination issues and relations within the Commission will be presented. ECHO most frequently consulted the DG Relex regarding the division of labor within the Commission (ECHO official, 24 May 2000 e-mail interview). In the initial phase this division of labor was clear and perceived as obvious by the actors themselves. Immediate contact was taken with the DG Relex to get information about the EU’s relations with Turkey and about the other actors in Turkey. From an institutional perspective, there were no doubts in the EU about which actor should take responsibility and act immediately. Externally it was the Commission as a whole, and within the Commission ECHO had the first task. That also went for the second phase, while the responsibility and the division of labor changed and became more diffuse in the third phase (i.e., the reconstruction phase). This is interesting and touches upon to the “gray zones” between the Commission’s departments (Peters, 1996). This is a potential source of tension between the departments, especially in terms of humanitarian aid and long-term reconstruction. In analyzing the coordination efforts in disaster relief, I take a closer look at this gray zone. In principle, humanitarian aid can be expected to be followed by reconstruction and developing programs initiated and implemented by other units (ICEA/DPCC 1999:30). ECHO was already from the start given the task of managing the other phases, the so-called “gray zones,” making it possible for ECHO to intervene in certain circumstances where other aid tools were not suitable. Although this might appear both convenient and acceptable in


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

many situations, there are also problems with it (ibid.). One problem is that the unclear division of labor has complicated ECHO’s relations with the DGs. Typically there is an ECHO fund earmarked for emergency aid. The idea is to prevent delays and discussions about from where the resources should be taken. At the time of the earthquake in Izmit, this fund was almost empty because of several other large expenditures that year: more specifically the Kosovo crisis, Hurricane Mitch, and the East Timor crisis (ECHO official, 31 March 2000 e-mail interview). Only ten million Euros were left, which is not a lot considering the time of the year. However in the beginning of September the situation in Turkey was considered so serious that the Council and the Parliament, after a request from the Commission, decided to reserve 30 million Euros for Turkey (ibid.). This money was transferred to ECHO from the DG Relex’ budget (ECHO official, 24 May 2000 e-mail interview). This decision may have seemed rather straightforward, but it was marked by political interests, tough negotiations, and a division of mandates. On August 26, the then Commissioner of the DG Relex (Hans van den Broek) went to Turkey together with the Finnish Foreign Minister17 (Tarja Halonen), and two officials from DG Relex and ECHO respectively (Europa, 27 August 1999). The official aim of the visit was to meet representatives from the Turkish government and to discuss Turkey’s needs. The visit can arguable be interpreted as an important symbolic action where the EU took the opportunity to demonstrate its engagement in Turkey and sympathy with the victims by sending two high level representatives. Before the trip, van den Broek initiated a proposal stating that the Commission should support Turkey with 25–30 million Euros. The proposal was discussed with the other Commissioners but no formal decision was made. When meeting the Turkish government, van den Broek gave the promise on the behalf of the Commission that 30 million Euros would be given to support Turkey. All of the people in this informal group were well aware of the fact that this money was not really available, either in the DG Relex’ budget for Turkey Office or in the regular DG Relex budget. Nevertheless, there was a strong conviction that the money could be mobilized (DG Relex official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). By convincing the other DGs that aid to Turkey was more important than anything else at the time, they succeeded relatively quickly in collecting 30 million Euros (ibid.). Then the Turkey Office at the DG Relex was confronted with the next problem, namely how to implement the aid. Three alternatives were discussed, of which the selection is said to have been rather easy (ibid.). The first alternative was to transfer the money directly to the Turkish government, an alternative that was never really seriously discussed, as they did not think the Turkish government had the ability to channel the resources to cover all of the needs (ibid.). The DG Relex has an aid program covering the region of which Turkey is a part (MEDA Euro-Mediterranean Partnership). The second alternative for implementing the aid concerned using MEDA. The problem with this was that it can take up to two years to implement a project within the framework of MEDA and a two-year-old emergency aid package to a disaster stricken region is seldom very relevant. The only actor within the Commission that had the mechanism to handle the finances relatively quickly was ECHO. Thus, in the beginning of September the DG Relex contacted ECHO, and asked if ECHO could imple-


Finland at the time held the EU Presidency.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

ment 30 million Euros available (ibid.; ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). Normally ECHO gives five or six million Euros in humanitarian aid to similar cases (ECHO official, personal interview 28 November 2000). Now they suddenly had 30 million that had to be spent by the end of the year or it would be lost. This meant a dramatic increase in ECHO staff’s workload (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). When one scrutinizes the gray zone between the DGs and the units within the Commission, two weaknesses are revealed in the procedures and regulations for humanitarian aid. One weakness is the diffused division of labor in the reconstruction phase and the second is ECHO’s budget for emergency aid. The Commission has a mandate and a specific budget for dealing with reconstruction. The problem concerns ‘who owns the mandate?’ Today, there are no obvious regulations about this. The question of responsibility is solved on a case-to-case basis. In the earthquake case, ECHO was given the responsibility, not because of its competence or resources, but because no one else had the mechanism for quickly implementing the aid. At the end of 2000 and in beginning of 2001, DG Enlargement18 was able to take over the responsibility of implementing aid for reconstruction. The problem is not only about the question of responsibility, but also about the definition of humanitarian aid and the implications it has. It can be argued that definitions and implementers are not important as long as the aid reaches those who need it. In a reality with scarce resources, so called “tragic choices” sometimes have to be made between those in need and those in even greater need. This means that if ECHO is still involved in delivering humanitarian aid a and a half year after a disaster, this affects what resources (both human and financial) can be used for other disasters. Another problem is how the other actors in the international aid arena perceive the EU actions as a result of ECHO’s long projects (European Parliament official, 1 December 2000 personal interview). If ECHO has an ongoing project, for example, to build a school, this project can be conducted relatively fast. A corresponding project within MEDA takes considerably much more time. When two identical reconstruction projects both under the EU flag differ considerably regarding duration and organization, there is a risk that the other actors question the efficiency, coherence and legitimacy of the Union. Correspondingly, an increased ability in coordinating the wide range of tools that the European Commission utilizes would increase coherence. This is something that in the long run could contribute to the idea of the EU as a significant actor in the humanitarian aid arena.19 ECHO’s management of the aid to Turkey was to a high degree shaped by its financial situation at the time. In August, its budget was almost empty and an aid package exceeding four million Euros was not possible. As Turkey is a politically interesting country, the issue of financial aid became highly politicized. Aid was reallocated and instead of the usual five to

18 The Turkey file had been taken over from DG Relex by DG Enlargement, since Turkey had become an applicant state. 19 When talking about the EU as a crisis manager (referring to the capacity building within the second pillar), it is often argued that the added value of the EU (in comparison to the UN, NATO and OSCE) is that it possesses a wide range of capacities: from conflict prevention to reconstruction. In using a much broader definition of crisis management, it is clear that the EU has a large toolbox. A future challenge for the EU is coordinating these tools and creating explicit links between the parallel machineries. For an in depth analysis of this, see Sundelius and Ramberg (forthcoming).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

six million Euro package, Turkey received 30 million.20 The mandate of ECHO is based on political objectivity. Thus whether a country is politically, economically or strategically important for the Union as a whole should not impact ECHO’s management of the case. In the earthquake case, I argue that ECHO was used as a tool for the interests of the DG Relex, which did not have the mechanisms to pursue its interests. The dilemma was that ECHO could not refuse the money, but at the same time ECHO was taking a risk by accepting the money because of its apolitical mandate. What is the value of an apolitical mandate if other more politically oriented actors within the Commission are allowed to channel their interests via ECHO? And what will happen when ECHO is totally without financial means to immediately assist the victims of a disaster? ECHO’s, as well as the Commission’s, budget is far from flexible. In order to reallocate means from one budget to another, the Council and the Parliament have to approve it and this is a long and time-consuming process. In short, the gray zone between the rapid and apolitical humanitarian aid pursued by ECHO and the political interests of EU enlargement on the DG Relex’ agenda reveal an interesting dynamic of the EU as an external crisis manager. Bureaucratic rivalries between the Commission’s departments threaten both legitimacy and effectiveness. The ability to coordinate a wide range of resources and competences within the Commission opens up a variety of opportunities for coherence and can strengthened the Commission’s role in the future.

4.4 INFORMATION MANAGEMENT Based on the theoretical assumptions of a cognitive-institutional approach, the official version of how decisions are made and by whom is not sufficient for a comprehensive understanding. Naturally an organization or an institution has to communicate a unified approach, but in order to understand the underlying dynamics that precede this unity, we have to dig deeper into the processes. In other words, it is not enough to know where the decisions were supposed to be taken. We must pose the question of where they were made in practice. One way of doing so is to trace the flow of information. I start by examining the formal channels of information and the actors’ functions, how they worked in practice, and how they have impacted our understanding of the Commission and the humanitarian aid office as crisis managers. Figure 2: Formal channels of information DG Relex







Commission's delegation in Turkey

ECHO's expert


Turkish gov.

field actors

Turkish gov.

Turkish gov.


Another 30 million Euros was allocated for reconstruction for the 2000 budget year. This money was administrated by the DG Enlargement. Turkey received a total of 60 million Euros from the EU.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

According to the figure above, the overriding decisions were taken at the headquarter level: at the DG Relex, ECHO, OCHA and EADRCC. Between these entities there was an exchange of information. OCHA provided ECHO with information concerning the disaster (number of deaths and injuries, rescue efforts undertaken, needs in the field, etc.). ECHO received other type of information from the DG Relex: background facts on the structure of the Turkish government, and EU’s relations with Turkey. On the middle level, the Commission’s delegation in Ankara worked as a link primarily between the DG Relex and the Turkish government. Even though the Commission’s delegation in Ankara is formally the DG Relex’ channel, ECHO also had direct contact with the delegation. ECHO’s expert, who arrived in Istanbul on August 26, was the direct link at this level. This expert channeled information from the field (from the cooperation partners and other actors established in the region) to ECHO’s headquarters in Brussels. In cooperation with the ECHO expert and on the basis of the information from the delegation in Turkey and the OCHA’s ReliefWeb, the ECHO official selected applicants for the aid projects from the existing partners. This worked according to plan, but it does not give the whole picture. By making a distinction between strategic and operational levels and by focusing on the actors’ geographical and hierarchical positions, it is possible to discuss the different perspectives in the field and in Brussels. Their physical and social distance to the actual events is different. Actors at the two levels hold differing degrees of knowledge about the operational and socio-political environments. Although “local presence” may be the key to operational effectiveness, successful crisis management at the strategic level requires a keen understanding of public and political perceptions of the situation (’t Hart et al., 1993:19).

The expert was in the middle of the disaster. He experienced the miserable situation in the field and in the overcrowded tents. He talked to the aid workers in the field and got a picture of the needs and problems. The ECHO official was in Brussels. The strict hierarchy and the extensive bureaucracy limited her line of action. The media pressure was hard and it was important for ECHO to convey engagement and an ability to take action. Further the official was responsible for compiling the incoming information from the field as well as managing the large amount of applications that ECHO received.21 The applications were to be read, forwarded to the expert, modified if necessary, approved, and signed by the official, the expert, the ECHO Director and the implementing organization (ECHO official [desk officer], 28 November 2000 personal interview). Before that, a formal approval could not be made. The expert and the ECHO official did not see eye to eye. The ECHO official is an administrative official, while the expert is a technical advisor, in this case an engineer. Already from the outset, the two had different backgrounds and perspectives. Although the expert was initiated in the ‘rules of the game,’ he felt a certain degree of frustration over the amount of bureaucracy at the headquarter level which led to delays in greatly needed assistance. Another more functionalistic way to distinguish the strategic level from operational is to focus on the actors’ relative importance for the decisions (’t Hart et al., 1993:20). In this sense the strategic level represents the choice of the different decision-making routes and the general decisions that are made. The Commission’s Cabinet and ECHO’s directorship are 21 Applications were received from many different parties, but only those organizations included in the Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) can be contracted.


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

included on this level. The operational level refers to the decisions that focus on technical issues and details regarding implementation. The ECHO official can be seen as the link between the field expert (which in turn is ECHO’s link in the field) and the directorship. This perspective reveals how central decisions in practice are often made at a lower level (ibid.). Hence, one can assume that the ECHO expert and the Commission’s delegation had real insight into the situation, something the actors on the headquarter level did not have. Since the people on the operational level do not have the mandate to make decisions, they cannot be seen as decision-makers in the formal sense. But since they have access to important information and play a key role for the strategic decision-makers on the headquarter level, to some extent they might have an impact on the actual decisions. The distinction between decision-making on the operational and the strategic level can be connected to what Bouchard (1991) writes about different types of delegation. In an organization there are certain structures and routines for how decisions are made. Bouchard argues that decision making never exclusively happens on the top level, but that there is a certain degree of delegation in all types of organizations. The types of delegation are divided into rule-based and arbitrary delegation (Bouchard, 1991:4). Arbitrary delegation occurs when because of a crisis situation, rule-based delegation is insufficient and the workload for the people on top level becomes too heavy. The assumption is strengthened by what ’t Hart et al. argue regarding that “No serious threat can ever be dealt with in a routine-like manner” (’t Hart et al., 1993:14). Are there then any signs in the empirical material pointing to the fact that the earthquakes increased the workload for the ECHO Director? Surely they did to a certain extent since his signature must confirm all decisions, but the burden landed primarily on the officials. Hence, I assert that the rule-based delegation was maintained in the earthquake case. In the normal routine ruled-based delegation means that a certain type of decision-making is taken according to formal procedures by lower officials and that the director or the politicians at the highest level do not necessarily control the situation (Bouchard, 1991:4ff). This is a result of routines which are worked out in a way that the practical tasks are under the responsibility of a lower official: for example, to write decision documents, inform the public, search and interpret incoming information, select implementers, and follow up operations. The informal channels of information, in terms of cross-relations and overlapping contacts, can say something about how the central decision makers’ decisions unconsciously are impacted by the problem definitions at the field level. During the earthquake crisis, the channels of information were not as straightforward as those illustrated in Figure 3, but were considerably more complex in practice.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

Figure 3: The informal channels of information, not necessarily conscious among the actors.


One problem in the initial phase was the question of who identifies the needs. Although many international aid workers were on their way to Turkey, there were not very many already there. The first actors in Turkey later became an important source of information for the actors on the headquarter level. In the initial phase ECHO had the Commission’s delegation to rely upon, but the delegation consists of diplomats who are no experts on disaster assistance. Instead they identified the needs on the basis of information mainly from the local NGOs (Official with the EC delegation in Ankara, 10 January 2001 telephone interview). Despite the fact that this information was said to be inconsistent, it was still a valuable source of information (ibid.). Of the four organizations included in this study, the only organization that could rapidly organize experts in the field was OCHA through the establishment of the UNDAC teams.22 The UN Development Program (UNDP) established an office and arranged meet-

22 The World Bank also managed to mobilize rapidly with a team of experts. The assessment report presented by the World Bank on September 2 was used by ECHO as well as by the UN (Official at EC Delegation in Ankara, 31 July 2003 e-mail correspondence).


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

ings. The aim was to work as a link between the Turkish government and all the other actors active in Turkey, and to informally manage the chaotic flow of information in the country. With its position as a disaster and coordination authority, UNDP took the informal leadership role, and the other participants attending the meetings accepted this (ibid.). The informal contacts with UNDP were an important source of information for the delegation, which it was later distributed to the headquarters in Brussels. The UNDP most likely had a leading role in indirectly defining the needs for ECHO and the EADRCC, via OCHA. Internal rescue teams and local NGOs were activated in the area, but ECHO and EADRCC did not directly rely on information from them to any great extent. On the contrary, the local NGOs were of primary importance for the delegation in getting an overview of the situation in the field. So in a sense, ECHO indirectly utilized the information from the local NGOs via different channels. A problem resulting from this crisscross flow of information was that the information was partly distorted in route from ECHO’s headquarters to the Commission’s delegation, which was responsible for the debriefing in Ankara. In light of this, we can understand why the Swedish Ambassador in Ankara reported that “A contact of mine in the European Commission said that it was announced that the NGOs from the Member States can apply for funds from the Commission’s € 2 million aid package to assist Turkey” [author’s translation] (Liljegren, 19 August 1999). This gives the impression that there was money in Brussels, which was just waiting for actors, and that any NGO could apply for it. The fact is that on August 19, there was no money left in the emergency package to Turkey. It had already been allocated to the IFRC and Medicines du Monde. Further, ECHO would not give funding to NGOs, unless they signed the Framework Partnership Agreement. As mentioned before, the expert was perceived as the most important link between the field level and the headquarters in Brussels. The expert identified the needs in consultation with the actors in the field and continuously passed this information on to Brussels through his reports. He also got information from the organizations that later on applied for ECHO funding. When the ECHO official, in consultation with the expert, selected the organizations that were considered capable of meeting the identified needs, it was based partly on the information that was provided by the organizations themselves in the beginning of the crisis. For example, the issue of an epidemic was quickly disregarded as a threat since the partners did not consider the risk acute; thus, the issue was not fully addressed (ECHO official, 27 November 2000 personal interview). This problem definition turned out to be correct. So in practice, the traditionally centralized decision-making system (i.e., the EU) was in fact rather decentralized while managing the earthquakes in Turkey. In short, the relations between those in the field and those at the headquarters have to be scrutinized, and the information flow must be traced. By doing so, we can conclude that the different units were not as isolated as they might have appeared. They were linked together because of the common need for information. Access to information facilitates an influential role.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

5. Conclusions The aim of this study was to analyze the European Commission’s ability to manage the earthquakes in Turkey with regard to preparedness, and internal and external coordination. It can be concluded that there is a well-developed institutional preparedness for dealing with natural disasters outside the European Union. ECHO was created for this task in 1991. ECHO has a broad mandate to act swiftly and relatively independent from the Commission’s DGs and from the Member States. Its ability to act rapidly has also opened up the opportunity for other more politically oriented actors within the Commission, which use humanitarian aid to fast track efforts for their own interests. There is a risk then that non-political humanitarian aid will be used as a tool for political interests. The extensive support given to Turkey, which was six times the normal amount given in similar cases, can be seen as an illustration of this risk for politicization. Another aspect of the institutional preparedness is the flexible system of implementation. Instead of locking up resources within its own organization, ECHO has partnership agreements with a large number of NGOs and international organizations. Depending on the specific needs of a disaster, ECHO can select implementers from a rich pool of competences. A weakness in this system is the competing needs around the world. How can you convince an NGO engaged in Kosovo, which is financed for ten years, to go on a short-term mission in Turkey? You cannot, and this touches upon a fundamental challenge of using non-governmental organizations. They are per definition independent and cannot be forced to act by certain actions. An important dimension, complementary to the formal agreements between the donor and the implementer, is thus the informal relationship. ECHO’s relations with its implementing partners have successively developed over the years. Formal agreements are complemented with a more informal base of trust and confidence. Those organizations, which have proved they can do a good job, are still in the ECHO partnership, and those, which have not, have been removed. In the earthquake case, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) implemented the lion’s share of the first aid package not only because there was a lack of alternatives, but because past experiences confirmed the fact that the IFRC was a trustworthy partner. As for internal and external coordination, the case study proved that ECHO knew where to turn to for gathering different types of information. A division of labor seemed to be in place and there was no evidence of competition among the actors concerning information sharing. Nevertheless, ECHO considered it important to establish its own channels of information. Dependence on OCHA decreased as the ECHO expert became more established in the field. During the second earthquake, the situation reports from OCHA were of considerably less importance than during the initial phase. Furthermore, it can be concluded that the formal conditions surrounding the information channels are not always straightforward. The organizations are not as isolated from another as it might first appear. The information that eventually reaches the headquarters and builds the basis for decisions often stems from various sources, and these sources are not always clearly identified for the decision makers. We can thus assume that two organizations, like ECHO and EADRCC, with no contacts at the headquarter level are rather intertwined on the operational level since they have the same sources of information. Secondly, we can conclude that the implementing organizations have a more powerful role than it might seem


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

given their role of both providing information, thereby defining the needs, and later on submitting applications for funds. Applications are judged on the basis of the defined needs. This indicates a decentralized system of decision making and implementation, and a system with shortcomings when it comes to transparency and democratic control. Looking only at the formal mandate and resources, there is a division of labor between the four organizations examined in this study. ECHO is a donor, which provides humanitarian assistance on a mid-term basis. OCHA coordinates national efforts in the acute phase of a disaster, and EADRCC is its complement on the regional level. The Council of Europe provides long-term financial means in the reconstruction phase. The problems, pointed out in the study, are that the actors are not fully aware of this formal division of labor and little is done to increase coordination efforts. Instead the actors operate as if they existed in four separate spheres, despite the fact that they in practice operate side by side in a disaster. These are conclusions drawn from one single case study, and one should be careful in making them into concrete generalizations about the Commission’s ability to manage disasters. An in-depth study of this kind, however, can give rise to several discussions that certainly should be addressed in future research. Indeed all humanitarian aid can be defined as political, but the important question is if there is an on-going politicization process in the EU concerning humanitarian aid. How does the development of a common EU crisis management capacity impact the notion of non-political humanitarian aid? Will the developments of political tools mean an opportunity for ECHO to cultivate its purely non-political mandate?23 Will the different crisis management tools work parallel yet isolated from each other in a crisis situation? And perhaps more importantly, will they be seen as isolated mechanisms to an outside observer? These issues are essential for the Union’s external legitimacy as well as for the issue of coherent action. The relations between ECHO and its implementing partners are regulated in a formal agreement, and they have crystallized over time. What characterizes these mutually dependent relations? There were clear tendencies of a decentralized system, but what influence do the different implementers have on ECHO’s strategies in practice? Can we identify an ongoing process of institutionalization between the donors and the organizations? And does that mean a decision-making system is beyond state influence? In combination with the possible politicization of the humanitarian aid, what does that mean for the Commission’s external role? In this study, formal policies for coordination with other humanitarian aid actors revealed to have little relevance as long as the policies did not correspond to the official routines. A lack of leadership in combination with a lack of will to put words into action were clear barriers for coordination in Turkey. But why do some coordination efforts well work and not others? What prevents and what facilitates internal and external coordination? Considerably more case studies need to be made in order to answer these important questions.

23 For example the establishment of the Rapid Reaction Mechanism means an alternative ‘fast track’ for releasing financial means. On the other hand, this mechanism will finance, among other things, humanitarian assistance. Will ECHO then be the carrier of such a political contribution? Or will the manpower at the ECHO office be released from these kind of political engagement of the Union and able to focus on its operations in the ‘forgotten crises’ in the word?


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

5. References Agence France-Presse. 17 August 1999. “US geologists measure Turkish quake at 7.8 degrees on Richter scale.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Agence France-Presse. 18 August 1999. “EU sending two million euros in preliminary emergency quake aid to Turkey.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Agence France-Presse. 20 August 1999. “Focus on epidemic control as quake toll continues to rise.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Bennett, A. (1995) International Organizations: Principles and Issues. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice- Hall, Inc. Bouchard, J. (1991) Command in Crisis. New York: Colombia University Press. Brändström, A., F. Bynander and P. ’t Hart (2004) “Governing by Looking Back: Historical Analogies and Crisis Management.” Public Administration, spring issue. Comfort, L. K. (1999) Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response. Oxford: Pergamon. Commission of the European Communities (1998) Annual Report on Humanitarian Aid, 1997. Brussels. Council of Europe. 17 August 1999. “Earthquakes in Turkey: The President of the Assembly expresses solidarity with the families of the victims.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Council of Europe. 19 August 1999. “Earthquake in Turkey: Council of Europe offers to help with reconstruction.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Council of Europe. 2000. “European Warning System.” Available at: (downloaded on 8 March 2000). Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers. 1998. “Relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union: Draft reply to Recommendation 1365 (1998) of the Parliamentary Assembly.” Found, but no longer available at: 638/25.htm (downloaded on 7 March 2000). Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly. 1999. “Economic consequences of the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Greece.” Report doc. 8594. Found, but no longer available at: (downloaded on 7 March 2000). Council Regulation 1257/96. 2 July 1996. Passed on 20 June 1996 concerning humanitarian aid. Official Journal, NO. L 163, p. 0001-0006. CPU official, personal interview, 29 November 2000. CPU official, personal interview, 11 February 2003. DG Relex official, personal interview, 27 November 2000, and e-mail interview, 15 November 2001. EADRCC official, personal interview on 1 December 2000, e-mail interview on 2 March 2000, and telephone interview on 20 February 2001. EADRCC official (former), telephone interview on 24 November 2000. ECHO. 10 December 1996. “Vade mecum for completing the 14-point fax.”


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

ECHO. 1999a. Annual review, “East Timor: Looking for a Peaceful Future.” Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids: annual_reviews/1999_en.pdf (downloaded in May 2004). ECHO. 1999b. “Project implementation in ten stages.” Available through Europa’s Press Release Rapids at: (downloaded in November 1999). ECHO. 13 November 2000. “Weekly Update Turkey.” ECHO. 28 November 2000. “Turkey: Current Situation 28/11/2000.” ECHO official (desk officer), personal interview on 27 November 2000, e-mail interviews on 31 March 2000 and 24 May 2000, and e-mail correspondence on 2 September 2003. ECHO official (desk officer), personal interview on 28 November 2000. ECHO official (former desk officer), personal interview on 6 June 2002. ECHO official (policy unit), personal interview on 28 November 2000. Europa. 14 May 1997. Press Release IP/97/403 concerning humanitarian assistance following the earthquake in Iran in 1997. Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: (downloaded in May 2004). Europa. 9 February 1998. Press Release IP/98/136 concerning humanitarian assistance following the earthquake in Afghanistan in 1998. Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: (downloaded in May 2004). Europa. 26 August 1999. Press Release IP/99/639 concerning humanitarian assistance following the earthquake in Turkey in 1999. Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: (downloaded in May 2004). Europa. 27 August 1999. “News, Earthquake in Turkey; ECHO Intervention.” Available at: (downloaded on 24 November, 1999). Europa. 29 January 2001. Press Release IP/01/130 “Poul Nielson announces EU aid following Indian earthquake.” Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: http:// (downloaded in May 2004). Europa. August 2001. “Information Pack for Humanitarian Organizations: ECHO Partners Primary Emergency Aid.” Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: http:// (downloaded in May 2004). European Parliament official (Foreign Affairs Committee), personal interview, 1 December 2000. Grönvall, J. (2000) Managing Crisis in the European Union: The Commission and ‘Mad CowDisease’. Stockholm: The Swedish Agency for Civil Emergency Planning. ’t Hart, P., U. Rosenthal, and A. Kouzmin (1993) “Crisis Decision Making: The Centralization Thesis Revisited.” Administration and Society, 25(1):12-45. Helsinki European Council. 1999. “Presidency Conclusions: Helsinki European Council 10 and 11 December 1999.” Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: (downloaded in May 2004). ICEA/DPPC. 1999. Final synthesis report, “Development and humanitarian assistance of the European Union: An evaluation of the instruments and programs managed by the European Commission.” Available through Europa’s Press Releases Rapid at: (downloaded in April 2004). IFRC official, telephone interview, 1 February 2001. Khong, Y. F. (1992) Analogies at War. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Chapter 5 The Two Earthquakes in Turkey in 1999: International Coordination

Liljegren, Henrik.19 August 1999. Fax 262 from the Swedish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Katastrofbistånd till Turkiet” [Disaster Assistance to Turkey]. Liljegren, Henrik.19 August 1999. Fax 263 from the Swedish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Turkiska Röda Halvmånen” [The Turkish Red Crescent]. Liljegren, Henrik. 22 August 1999. Fax from the Swedish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Sverige och jordbävningen i Turkiet.” [Sweden and the earthquakes in Turkey]. Merrills, J. G. (1998) International Dispute Settlement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Moberg, Jonas. 31 August 1999. Fax 391 from the Swedish Embassy in London to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Räddningsinsatser efter jordbävningen i Turkiet – brittiska kommentarer.” [Rescue efforts after the earthquake in Turkey – Comments by Britain]. Molander, Johan. 6 September 1999. Fax 1267 from the Swedish Representation in Geneva to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “OCHA – informationsmöte om hjälpinsatserna i det jordbävningsdrabbade Turkiet.” [OCHA – Informational meeting about the assistance to earthquake-stricken Turkey]. Naja, G. (2000) “Use of Space Technologies for Major Risk Management.” Paris: Directorate for Strategy, Planning and International Policy, ESA. Available at: (downloaded on 8 March 2000). NATO. 1999. “EAPC Policy on Enhanced Practical Cooperation in the Field of International Disaster Relief.” Available at: (downloaded in May 2000). OCHA. 17 August 1999. “Turkey – Earthquake – OCHA Situation Report No. 1.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). OCHA. 14 November 1999. “Turkey earthquake deployment” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). OCHA. 2000. “OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: What it is… What it does…” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: about/brochure.pdf (downloaded in May 2000). OCHA official, telephone interviews on 13 and 24 January 2001. Official at the Council of Europe, e-mail interview on 10 November 2000. Official with the EC delegation in Ankara, telephone interviews on 10 January and 15 January 2001, and e-mail correspondence on 31 July 2003. Peters, G. (1996) “Agenda-setting in the European Union.” In European Union: Power and Policy-Making, edited by J. Richardson, p. 61-76. London: Routeledge. Ramberg, B. (2002) “ECHOs roll i den civila krishanteringen” [ECHO’s Role in Civil Crisis Management]. In EU som civil krishanterare [The EU as a Civil Crisis Manager], edited by S. Myrdal. Stockholm: Elanders Gotab AB. Reuters. 20 August 1999. “Threat of Disease Stalks Turkish Quake Zone.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Rochefort, D. and R. Cobb, Eds. (1994) The Politics of Problem Definition: Shaping the Policy Agenda. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.


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Rosenthal, U., P. ’t Hart, och A. Kouzmin (1991) “The Bureau-Politics of Crisis Management.” Public Administration, 69:211-233. Stern, E. (1999) Crisis Decisionmaking: A Cognitive Institutional Approach. Stockholm: Department of Political Science, University of Stockholm. Sundelius, B. and Ramberg, B. (forthcoming) “Coordinating Multiple Machineries for EU Crisis Management.” In Coordinating the European Union: Constructing Coordination and Coherent Action in a Multi-Level System, edited by Hussein Kassim, Anand Menon and B. Guy Peters. Boulder, Colorado: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Sundelius, B., E. Stern and F. Bynander (1997) Krishantering på svenska: Teori och Praktik [Crisis Management the Swedish Way: Theory and Practice]. Stockholm: Nerenius och Santérus förlag. Tondre, F. (1998) “European Warning System.” Available at: ewc98/abstract/tondre.html (downloaded on 8 March 2000). Tweedie, N. (1999) “Mass Graves.” Electronic Telegraph. Available at: (downloaded on 22 August 1999). Ullberg, S. (2001)) Environmental Crisis in Spain: The Boliden Dam Rupture. Stockholm: The Swedish National Defence College. UNDAC team member on the Swedish Rescue Board, telephone interview, 17 January 2001. UNDP. 3 December 1999. “Situation Report 14: Duzce Earthquake, Turkey.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). WHO. 18 August 1999. “Technical Briefing Note: Public Health Consequences of Earthquakes.” Available on OCHO’s ReliefWeb at: (downloaded in November 2000). Wijkman, A. och L. Timberlake (1984) Natural Disasters: Acts of God or Acts of Man? Nottingham: Russell Press.


Chapter 6 EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review

Chapter 6 EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review Sara Larsson, Eva-Karin Olsson and Britta Ramberg The aim of this book was to describe EU crisis management in practice and to analyze three case studies from a decision-making perspective. We wanted to offer insight into the ‘black box’ of EU crisis management and address questions about how the EU handles ‘low politics’ crises. This final chapter combines the empirical findings of the three cases and we discuss the implications of our analyses from a more general point of view. This concluding chapter is divided into two parts. Part one focuses on crisis preparedness and mobilization, and part two addresses the issue of crisis response, in particular the aspects of information management, cooperation and symbolism in EU crisis management.

1. Crisis Preparedness and Mobilization In accordance with the cognitive-institutional approach, we assert that institutional factors influence crisis preparedness and response. The way in which organizations are prepared to manage crises is essential for understanding how a crisis is anticipated and managed. Also an individual’s mental preparedness is of great importance, and it significantly impacts how a problem is initially discovered and defined. The lack of crisis awareness among decision makers is likely to prevent them from identifying early warning signals of an emerging or escalating crisis. Correspondingly, a high degree of mental preparedness may compensate for gaps in institutional preparedness. In every government there are more or less plans for dealing with crises. There is consolidated knowledge about how states should organize their efforts. But what about the European Union? Was the DG VI prepared to deal with the Belgian dioxin scandal? Was the office for humanitarian aid (ECHO) able to quickly mobilize resources for the Turkish earthquakes? Was there a contingency plan the 14 Heads of State could refer to when considering sanctions against Austria? If there were indeed plans, did they make a difference in practice? Do these plans stimulate some kind of mental preparedness for dealing with crises? Is there a culture of risk awareness cultivated in the different departments, and what impact does this have on the anticipation and mobilization of resources? Let keep these questions in mind while recapitulating the findings from the three case studies. The processes of dealing with the dioxin scandal revealed that the DG VI has an institutional framework for rapid decision making when it is required. An important dimension of this institutional structure is the Member States’ formal influence and practical involvement, which are canalized through the Standing Veterinary Committee. Any scandal affecting the food sector easily runs the risk of becoming quickly politicized due to direct involvement from the Member States. This escalation process was witnessed during the management of the dioxin crisis. The fact that the EU Member States have a lot of influence in managing


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internal affairs has both pros and cons. On the one hand, a few Member States can use their influence to try to prolong a crisis in order to benefit from it and this has negative effects. The very suspicion of this behavior undermines confidence in the crisis management system in the eyes of the affected Member State. On the other hand, a positive effect is the mutual cooperation between the Commission and the Member States in various policy areas, and the Union is seen as a single actor at least from the outside. In this respect, unity strengthens legitimacy. Despite the fact that the DG VI does not routinely deal with crises, its officials quickly picked up the warning signals and imposed the first restrictions. This rapid action was clearly a result of the DG VI’s prior experience from the BSE crisis. The awareness of the political implications of a food crisis prompted the DG VI to act immediately, even though the extent of the damages were yet unknown for the actors. This illustrates the limited value of analyzing a crisis as an isolated event. A crisis must be understood as a part of a longer process, linking the past to the future. ECHO was created for managing disasters abroad, with high expectations on systems for rapid decision making and early warning. As opposed to the DG IV, ECHO has its own budget and is therefore rather independent from the Member States when it comes to emergency assistance. By scrutinizing ECHO’s existing system of institutional preparedness, weaknesses became apparent. The earthquake study revealed that well-established structures for providing assistance are present mainly in developing countries. Therefore there were problems in mobilizing aid in a country like Turkey. For example, ECHO did not have an office already set up in Turkey, as it does in many other more developed countries. This impacted ECHO’s ability to gather concrete operational information in the initial phase of the crisis. The rather broad definition of humanitarian aid, in combination with ECHO’s unique procedures for rapid decision making, means that there is a risk that ECHO becomes a political tool, despite its non-political mandate. The earthquakes in Turkey were an illustrative example of this. In fact, ECHO’s well-developed institutional preparedness, rapid decision making processes, and high degree of independence from the Member States threatened ECHO’s integrity and its mandate. ECHO has succeeded in cultivating a mental preparedness for crises and a culture of crisis awareness that facilitates rapid decision making. Although the ECHO officials did not have sufficient information for making fact-based decisions on how to act in the initial phase of the Izmit earthquake, there were no doubts in the early stage about whether or not to act. The event was immediately recognized as a humanitarian crisis so it fell under the responsibility of ECHO to manage it. Previous earthquake experiences in Turkey reinforced the importance of acting rapidly, even with a lack of concrete information. Similar to the dioxin case, we see how a high level of mental preparedness compensated for the weaknesses in institutional preparedness, which are always visible during a crisis no matter how detailed and elaborated the contingency plans are. The sanctions case revealed more painful gaps in preparedness, both institutionally and mentally, at the very top level of the EU political and legal system. The actors were totally caught off guard in a situation that was not anticipated. From an institutional perspective, there was a lack of legal tools and organizational structures for preventing and dealing with such problems. No formal arena existed for this type of crisis management. The fourteen Heads of Government had to manage the crisis outside the formal EU structure in an ad-hoc fashion. If the EU Council had possessed the instruments for dealing with xenophobic parties


Chapter 6 EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review

in a member state at that time, they would have arguably dealt with the problem in an earlier stage and in a more legitimate fashion. Different from both the dioxin and the earthquake cases where something quickly happened in the physical reality, the sanctions case illustrates a type of crisis situation where political rhetoric and symbolic action were more important than an ‘actual event.’ Nevertheless, time pressure and the need for rapid action were obvious issues. The definition of the situation the EU leaders chose to adopt required them to take a position before the Austrian cabinet was formed. If not, their attempts to deter the FPÖ from gaining governmental power would have been too late and their ‘strategy’ would have failed. The rhetorical basis for the ‘mobilization’ was the analogy of Hitler’s advance in 1933. Thus there was a lot of pressure to act quickly and firmly with Austria. It was only in hindsight that the actors realized that this analogy had been a misleading foundation for policy-making. The major difference between the crises was the total lack of preparedness in the Austrian case and the existence of some preparedness in the other two cases. In the Austrian case, the EU was faced with a totally new and unknown situation under great time pressure with no institutional or mental preparedness in place. In both the dioxin case and the earthquake case, the EU had before managed or been confronted with similar situations. The DG VI and ECHO had plans for the contingencies that were to a high extent applied and followed. Previous research about crisis preparedness has shown us that these “preparation gaps” always exist no matter how well an institution is built for crises. In other words, crisis management does not always run smoothly simply because there are existing contingency plans. Plans are important for creating institutional and mental preparedness, but they are no guarantee for the successful management of a crisis when one occurs. All three case studies have revealed how new demands were put on crisis management institutions and mental preparedness and how certain individuals proved to be an important asset during a crisis. It is also evident that mental crisis awareness cannot be understood without including the existence of previous experiences and historical analogies. The dioxin crisis and the earthquake crisis were quickly addressed because there was already a foundation of mutual planning (in particular, at ECHO) and a sense of mutual understanding (in particular, regarding how SVC should deal with the dioxin crisis) to draw upon. When ECHO was established, the Member States were able to agree upon a set of objectives for the agency. As a result, ECHO has a high degree of autonomy. In turn, this helps facilitate a quick response during humanitarian-related crises, since ECHO already has legitimate standard operating procedures. However, it is less clear for the DGs which crises they should handle and how they should be managed, since they do not have the same kind of working framework as ECHO. Nevertheless, the dioxin crisis was quickly tackled when it arose because there was a sense of mutual understanding within the Commission and among the Member States about how the crisis should be managed.

2. Crisis Response The institutional setting and individuals’ mental maps are important for understanding how upcoming problems are framed and dealt with, or not dealt with. Theoretically, all crises can be prevented with sophisticated systems and control mechanisms. In practice, however, we know this is not the case. An important aspect of making use of best and worse practices is to


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increase our understanding of how crises are managed. In doing this, three dimensions of crisis response are highlighted in this section: information management, coordination, and symbolic action.

2.1 INFORMATION MANAGEMENT Decisions are not always taken where they are supposed to or by those who are formally supposed to make them. When an issue becomes very technical, the formal decision makers do not always have sufficient knowledge to make a decision. In such cases, experts have an important role in the decision-making procedures and in some cases are even given a leading role in managing the crisis. Such delegation may be a part of the organizational culture, or it may be done in an ad hoc manner. In other cases, an issue can become very political and move up to a more strategic level of decision making. In order to increase our insight about how information was managed in the three case studies, we looked beyond the formal decision-making procedures and division of responsibilities within the EU crisis management system. In doing this, one must look at how information is gathered and how it serves as a foundation for fact-based decisions. Another significant aspect concerns who has access to this information and how this information is distributed within and outside an organization. During the dioxin crisis, little attention was paid to gathering credible information for building a solid knowledge base for decision making, at least in the first phase. In part, this can be explained by the fact that in practice it was very difficult to get reliable information in the very beginning of the crisis The fax from the Belgian government arrived at DG VI on Friday afternoon and an official on the administrative level immediately formulated text for a decision. The situation was perceived as so urgent that time for external consultations was not considered possible. Even with the second decision, made six days after the crisis broke out, Commissioner Fischler decided to proceed without collecting fact-based information (i.e., to consider expert opinions on the matter). This confirms Rosenthal et al.’s (1991a) propositions that when organizations are faced with “extreme threats and time pressure, operational-level actors may feel obliged to bypass formal rules of consultation and command and simply effect direct responses to a given situation” (Rosenthal et al., 1991a:230). As time passed, however, the experts were given an increasingly important role in the implementation phase. This should be understood as a result of the changing character of how the issue was perceived. While initially a highly political issue, the issue became more of more technical matter later in the implementation phase. On the other hand, during the earthquake crisis the response management was immediately de-escalated from the highest cabinet level to the administrative level. The interaction between the strategic level in the Commission and the operational field level in Turkey proved to be interesting. Formally there is a division of responsibility between the ECHO headquarters and the field experts. Decisions are to be taken in mutual agreement between the two. In practice, however, the field expert often has operational insight and is responsible for the gathering of information. S/he has a strong role in defining the needs, and thereby can significantly impact the priorities and the implementation process. Hence, much of what was done in practice was initiated and propelled from the operational field level and not from the formal decision makers at ECHO’s headquarters. Thus, we witnessed a highly decentralized


Chapter 6 EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review

system, where the actors in the field had a leading role because they had access to valuable information. During the Austria crisis, information sharing was not spread through the various government organizations and government experts were not consulted. This was highly criticized, especially in the Nordic countries. The argument was, as in the dioxin case, that there was no time to go through the formal rounds of consultation and advisory discussions. Also in this case, experts (i.e., the three “wise men”) were given an increasingly strong role in the later phase of the crisis. There was less time pressure, and there was more time for reflection and discussions. The state leaders were convinced that they knew exactly what the issue was all about, and they were strongly influenced by the historical analogy comparing Haider with Hitler. The top-level decision makers felt it was unnecessary to consult external experts in such ‘an evident case of xenophobia.’ The sanctions case also highlighted the importance of controlling information. Those of “the 14” who had the most updated information about the situation took the lead and formulated the proposal about threatening Austria with sanctions. Those who had less information were very surprised by the final proposal and were more or less forced to consent to it without having time to really reflect upon it. In other words, those who had the most information had the power to frame the most important decisions of the crisis and direct how it was managed. According to Lagadec (1991:102 and 286), the importance of gathering information and involving experts is most urgent in the initial phase of a crisis, when the degree of uncertainty is highest. Yet in all three cases, the initial decisions were made without consulting any experts. As the crises evolved into more technical, day-to-day matters, experts became increasingly more important. There were varying reasons for this. For ECHO, slowness in mobilizing expertise seemed to be the result of limited preparedness in dealing with a disaster in a country like Turkey. The dioxin and the sanctions cases confirmed previous research findings: a high degree of stress often results in the reduced likelihood that experts are used for information gathering. Furthermore, when a crisis is very politicized, less efforts are made for finding information. In practice, utilizing expertise has very little to do with dealing with uncertainty among decision makers, as one might think. Instead, the perceived reality of stress and time pressure is more decisive. This speaks against the assumption that expertise is used in order to build legitimacy for a decision or a course of action. The fact that the three crises were quickly framed non-technical expertise issues and that they were upscaled (centralized) sped up the normal bureaucratic decision-making system of the EU. When the decision-making process demanded a quick response, the EU (despite being a bureau-political giant) revealed remarkable effectiveness and flexibility.

2.2 COORDINATION Coordination in a crisis response situation focuses on “patterns of convergence and divergence, parochialism, and solidarity among the actors and the stakeholders engaged in a crisis (Stern and Sundelius, 2002:79). Cooperation in crisis situations is often problematic, especially if response efforts from several different units and actors are needed. The study of bu-


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reau-politics in the EU is important for a deeper understanding of the power struggle between the supra-national bodies and the national governments. As was discussed in the introduction of this book, the European Commission is not a monolith, acting with just one common interest in the international arena or in its interactions with the Member States. Rather, it is a highly fragmented institution with overlapping and competing interests and competences (Peterson and Blomberg, 1999:39). Throughout the book, we took a closer look at the patterns of convergence and divergence within the Commission and among the other central actors. As mentioned in the introduction, there is a “gray zone” between the departments in the Commission. In the dioxin case, this zone existed between the DG VI and the DG SANCO. During the BSE crisis, competition between the two DGs resulted in massive criticism of the DG VI. Consequently, a formal mechanism for cooperation was established with the creation of a task force consisting of representatives from all involved DGs. The most remarkable sign of improved cooperation in the dioxin case was the fact that the case file was shared between the DG SANCO and the DG VI, even though the DG VI formally had responsibility for it. Despite the expectations of tensions between the DGs in the implementation phase (as seen in previous studies), no visible conflicts were observed in the dioxin crisis. As for the coordination between the Commission (i.e. DG VI) and the Member States (represented by SVC), we saw in the dioxin case that the Commission took the lead from the very beginning, in contrast to the BSE crisis. Especially the second decision stands out. The Commission made that decision by itself and only afterwards was it approved by the SVC. Even though one might argue that this illustrates the authority and independence of the Commission, the fact is that the Commission was well aware that it could count on support from the SVC on that matter, since the SVC almost always approves a decision directed towards one single Member State. Based on the dioxin case, it seems like in times of crisis the Member States strengthen their power over the Commission. Similarly, the political cabinet level within the Commission seems to strengthen its leverage over the administrative level of the Commission during crises. In the earthquake case, the ‘gray zone’ was between ECHO, which is responsible for non-political humanitarian aid, and the more political DG Relex. During the initial stage, it was not an issue who should be responsible for managing the earthquake; it was natural that ECHO handled the event. Instead, the division of labor became blurred when the acute phase was over. The DG Relex started to show interest in the case, which resulted in a politicization of the issue. The most obvious lack of coordination occurred when the Commissioner for the DG Relex, Van den Broek, went to Turkey together with the Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen and two officials from the Commission. They promised Turkey 25-30 million Euros in financial assistance. This meant that ECHO had to spend an additional 26 million Euros, and thus the DG Relex involvement had implications for ECHO. The DG Relex made the decision without anchoring it first with ECHO, even though ECHO was responsibility for implementation. ECHO is a more independent body, yet it must be emphasized that ECHO is a small player in the much wider bilateral and multilateral disaster response network. The earthquake case showed that the UN and its office for coordination, OCHA, were the spiders in the information web, at least in the initial phase. ECHO put serious efforts into establishing its own channels of information. Contacts between ECHO and OCHA became less important


Chapter 6 EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review

after the ECHO expert was established on the site. Despite a formal division of labor based on the different organizations’ mandates, resources, and systems of implementation, there were at least three obstacles preventing coordination from working in practice: the need for visibility, the lack of leadership, and the unwillingness to put verbal commitments on policies into action. The sanctions case illustrated how there was a lack of coordination between two levels: the inter-governmental level and the intra-governmental level (the Heads of Governments coordinating with their respective foreign ministries and cabinet offices). As stated in the previous section, this coordination was totally absent in the very initial phase. The process was driven by the highest political level, and the top-level decision makers never let the lower-level actors in on the deliberations. At the inter-governmental level, there was coordination among the 14 state leaders. Since crisis management took place outside the formal EU structures, there were no working committees to research and prepare the issue for the leaders. The EU leaders were left to improvise in a diffused decision-making structure. A few individuals acted like a small leadership group. Throughout the acute crisis phase, the Portuguese EU President together with the German, French and Belgian Heads of Governments were the leaders. These actors wanted action fast. They knew what they wanted to achieve, and tailored the decision-making process to reach their goal. They pushed for some kind of joint response against Austria. The smaller countries (like Finland, Ireland and Denmark) were more skeptical, but felt that there was no forum for discussions or room for objections. This strong group pressure was a result of a rhetorical trap – “if you are not for us, then you are for FPÖ.” This was reportedly the main reason why it was hard to pull out of the joint response or to object it. What can then be said about crisis coordination in the EU multi-actor environment? The cases revealed the difficulties and ‘gray zones’ in the coordination efforts. At the same time, some of the more predictable conflicts between the different DGs within the Commission did not occur during the acute response phase. This leads us to believe that the bureaupolitical rivalry within the Commission applies more to the everyday work of the Commission; different logic applies in times of crises when the Commission seems to ‘rally around the flag.’ Visible conflicts were also absent during the sanctions crisis, where there was a strong tendency for groupthink. This was further strengthened by the creation of a rhetorical trap for the skeptics. There is a debate in the crisis management literature on whether conflicts blossom during crises or whether they temporarily vanish. Our findings supported the last notion. This is, however, something that cannot be answered only by looking at these three cases. Our research findings have provided some indications and have highlighted some of the challenges, but the question is really a topic for future research.

2.3 SYMBOLIC OR OPERATIONAL CRISIS MANAGEMENT? Crisis management is not only about operational problem-solving. It often also has a dimension of symbolic politics, which is less focused on the direct measured effects of the actions taken. Symbolic politics can thus be described as a way of “ascribing political issues importance and qualities that extend the concrete characteristics of the issues” (Santesson-Wilson:2000:7). Examples of symbolic politics are when decision makers try to communicate an


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impression of caring and to show empathy and a willingness to do whatever is in their power to improve the situation. Symbolic actions are an important aspect of crisis management. The three case studies have given us an understanding of how symbolic crisis management is used in the European Union. The dioxin case illustrated how the Commission acted in order to restore confidence in the Commission itself as well as in the European food industry. The Commission wanted to reassure the world market and foremost European consumers. As formulated by one civil servant in the DG VI, “It was not a real health crisis but rather a confidence crisis, and therefore the Commission had to react as if it was a real crisis” (Respondent B, November 2000 personal interview). A part of the symbolic management was the reorganization of the Commission, and the DG VI worked closely with the DG SANCO right from the very beginning of the crisis. This was a clear indicator that the Commission wanted to demonstrate its concern for consumer health and not only its concern for the producers’ profits (which had received strong criticism in the BSE crisis). With a death toll of more than 17 000 people, the earthquakes in Turkey had very real consequences. Still it is difficult to disregard the symbolic dimension of this crisis. The aid package of 30 million Euros (initiated by the political body, DG Relex and not by the responsible actor, ECHO) was a sign of EU’s political willingness to commit to Turkey, a future candidate country with a traumatic history. In this sense, the earthquakes provided an opportunity to improve EU-Turkey relations by extending concrete support. The sanctions case illustrated a crisis that was symbolic and politically sensitive from the very beginning (i.e. the way in which the issue was defined) to the very end (i.e. the implementation of the sanctions as an instrument until the sanctions were lifted). Different from both the dioxin crisis and the earthquakes, the sanctions had almost no material consequences for the Austrian society and economy. Material consequences were merely side effects of the sanctions, such as tourist boycotts. Instead it was about teaching the Austrians a lesson and giving Austria and right-wing European parties a warning that the EU would not tolerate such deviations from its community values. Yet “the 14” failed. Instead, the sanctions resulted in increased support for Haider. In conclusion we argue, in line with Paul ’t Hart (1993), that symbolic crisis management by no means can be reduced to ‘superficial’ communication acts. In some crises, symbolism might be the very essence of crisis management. One explanation can be if an issue is connected to something that previously has been shown to be sensitive and is still on the public agenda (like public health concerns or the European fear of neo-Nazism), actors are more cautious about making mistakes. This has to do with public confidence. A second mistake in the same field might be fatal for the credibility of an organization. Symbolism is extremely important for the EU since it must be able to retain a union of many Member States. If it appears that the EU is incompetent of handling certain issues, then people will start to question whether these issues should be handled by the EU at all. New national and international actors are more prone to using symbolic action than more established political institutions, which already have pools of confidence to lean on. New political institutions have a stronger need to build and instill confidence in their organizations. As shown in previous research on crisis management in transitional countries (‘t Hart et al., 2002), it is extremely important for new actors in the international arena (as well as on any level) to gain credibility. Otherwise they quickly lose their confidence base and then it is hard to regain it.


Chapter 6 EU Crisis Management Practices: A Thematic Review

3. Concluding Remarks and Future Research Questions The EU is a complex and intertwined political system, where the struggle for authority and influence takes place at different levels within the system, among different DGs, between the Council and the Commission, and among the Member States. It is this complexity and multilevel perspective that makes the EU qualitatively different from the nation state or other political international organizations. It is necessary to learn more about the internal workings of the institutions and about the persons acting within its structures, since the EU is taking on more crisis management functions, which used to be in the hands of the Member States. Based on this discussion, we raise some interesting points for further research. For a start, the three case studies revealed that mental preparedness complemented institutional preparedness. The cognitive-institutional approach applied in this book provided us with an analytical tool for discussing the implications of both dimensions, where previous research on the EU and crisis management has mostly focus on the institutional aspects. In future research more attention should be given to the people working within a system and not only to the boxes on the formal organizational charts. How much room does an individual have to maneuver within the EU bureaucracy? Officials are not merely carriers of the legal regulations established in institutional structures. When and how do the structures open up for individual variations? How does the mutual interaction between individuals and institutional structures differ from those inside a nation state? Secondly, all three cases illustrated that there are a number of gray zones in EU crisis management system. Still, crises do not seem to accentuate conflicts. Interesting questions for further research are: How are the different machineries (formal and informal) of crisis management coordinated within the EU and with other international actors? Under what circumstances does coordination work? What facilitates and what prevents coordination? Of particular interest for scholars working with supranational and national relations is the discussion concerning the Commission as an actor or as an arena. According to our findings in this book, we can conclude that in a crisis, the Commission is not an actor or an arena. Rather this role changes and the crisis moves up and down the political agenda. But what are the dynamics that trigger these changes? Thirdly, as stated in the section on information management, experts were not influential in the acute crisis decision-making phase. From an EU perspective, this is interesting since the Union is often seen as a bureaucratic and expert-driven organization. More research is needed here in order to understand the relation between experts and political decision making. Likewise, questions are raised about where the border is between technical and political decision making, how expertise is used for political purposes, and how the power between the two is informally shared. Finally, symbolic crisis management is essential in EU crisis management, but is it more important than in a nation state? Or does it work from different logic due to the fact that the EU has to ‘compete’ for confidence and legitimacy with the Member States? What kind of impression does it make and which values are promoted through different symbolic acts? Further, symbolism is communication, and interesting questions remain to be asked concerning the receiver of information. How are symbolic actions interpreted by the receivers and are there any differences due to the multi-national aspect (i.e., the EU)? These are some of the questions we found interesting but that go beyond the scope of this book. What is clear is that the European Union is in a flux of steady change and more


Crisis Decision Making In the European Union

research is needed in order to understand how the Union deals with crises as well as what characterizes the EU as a crisis manager and what implications that can have on future European integration.

4. References Alink, F., R.A. Boin, and P. ‘t Hart (April 2001) “Institutional Crises and Reforms in Policy Sectors: The Case of Refugee Policy in Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 8 (2): 286-306. ‘t Hart, P. (1993) “Symbols, Rituals and Power: The Lost Dimensions of Crisis Management.” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management. (I): 36-50. ‘t Hart, P., E. Stern, and B. Sundelius (2002) “Crisis management in Transitional Democracies: The Baltic Experience.” Government and Opposition. 37 (4): 524-550 Lagadec, P. (1991) Preventing Chaos in a Crisis: Strategies for Prevention, Control and Damage Limitation. London: McGraw-Hill Book Company. Peterson, J., and E. Blomberg (1999) Decision-Making in the European Union. Basingstoke: MacMillan Press LDT. Respondent B. An official from the DG VI, personal interview in Brussels, November 2000. Rosenthal, U., P. ‘t Hart, and A. Kouzmin (1991a) “The Bureau-Politics of Crisis Management.” Public Administration. 69:211-233. Rosenthal, U., P. ‘t Hart and A. Kouzmin (1991b) “Experts and Decisionmakers in Crisis Situations.” Knowledge. 12: 350-373. Santesson-Wilson, P. (2000) Att studera symbolpolitik: fyra problem och tänkbara lösningar [Studying symbolic politics: Four problems and conceivable solutions]. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the Political Science Association [Statsvetenskapliga förbundet]. Stern, E. K. and B. Sundelius (2002) “Crisis Management Europe: An Integrated Regional Research and Training Program.” International Studies Perspectives. 3, 71-88.


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