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National Perspectives in Multinational Headquarters: The Case of EUFOR Tchad/RCA

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Abstract

Recent studies of the European Union crisis management capability argue for establishing a permanent Operations Headquarters (OHQ) instead of the temporary alternatives currently available. These studies picture temporary OHQs as slow starters hampered by multiple interests and a lack of common grounds. This paper corroborates these studies by reporting on the empirical findings of a year-long case study of the EUFOR Tchad/RCA OHQ. The combined results of observations, interviews, and surveys indicate that national perspectives not only existed in the OHQ, but were also asymmetric in the sense that staff members from France and Ireland nations displayed stronger national perspectives than staff members from other nations. However, the general trust between staff members seems to have been largely unaffected by this. The findings also indicate a process of familiarization spanning over several months. This paper argues that temporary multinational headquarters are likely to work around frictions and mature into well-functioning organization, but that this is a time-consuming process in which national parallel chains of command may remain. Prior training should prepare staff members for this. In addition, leading nations need to understand their strong visibility and to be careful not to dominate the day-to-day staff work.

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