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EU Mission DRC Artemis: Greek goddess of the Hunt who brought peace in the Great Lakes Region?


ArtemisIn 2003 the European Union launched its first missions: one civilian (EUPM Bosnia & Herzegovina) and two military: ‘Concordia’ in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and ‘Artemis’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This article aims to analyze the latter. Operation ‘Artemis’ was the first autonomous EU military operation (independent of NATO) conducted outside Europe and therefore can be considered as an important step in development of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)[1]. However, has it provided peace and stability in the DRC, and more broadly – in the Great Lakes Region as it aimed to?

Historical and political background

The political situation in the DRC was unstable since the end of the of President’s Mobutu Sese Seko dictatorship. The first Congo war took place in 1996-1997 and the second in 1998-2002. Some neighbour states were involved in these conflicts, because of political and economic reasons.[2] Based on several agreements, such as: the Lusaca Ceasefire Agreement, the Luanda Agreement and the Pretoria Agreements, foreign forces involved into conflict (Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe) had been committed to leave the territory of the DRC. However, these agreements did not provide stability in the region by their own. Their implementation had to be supported by international forces.

One of the main problems was to improve security, stability and to fight against the humanitarian crisis in Ituri region, especially by ensuring the protection of displaced persons in the refugee camps in Bunia (capital of Itrui). Therefore, European Union decided to use its newly created instrument of the ESDP and support actions of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (UNMOC).

Since 1996 in the Great Lakes Region an EU Special Envoy (later Special Representative) has represented EU’s interests and tried to support the peace process in this part of Africa. His mandate was extended several times and in December 2002 he got the task to examine the feasibility of a EU military operation in the DRC.

Legal background

As far as operation Artemis is concerned, several documents should be mentioned. First of all, it is necessary to highlight that the operation was an answer for the UN Security Council Resolution 1484 (2003) of 30th May 2003, which authorized entrance of international stabilization forces on the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Secondly, a set of EU’s declarations, positions and decisions, which prepared the legal background of the operation, needs to be highlighted.

Three most important documents were adopted in May and June 2003. First of them – the Council Common Position 2003/319/CFSP of 8th May 2003 involving the EU’s support for the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and the peace process in the DRC. In the position, EU Member States called for withdrawal of foreign troops, for implementation of the process of disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and resettlement (DDRRR) of combatants, as well as for condemnation of the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

On June 5th, Council adopted joint action (2003/423/CFSP) which stated that basing on the UNSC Resolution and request of the Secretary-General of the UN, as well as regarding the difficult humanitarian and security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the EU should conduct a military operation in this country. The Council decision no 2003/432/CFSP of 12th June 2003 has therefore launched the European Union military mission called ‘Artemis’.


Operation Artemis[3]


Operation Artemis had several objectives mentioned in official documents, which can be generally named as ‘prevention’ and ‘stabilisation’. Some of the objectives meant to:

  • provide a temporary stabilization force in order to improve of the humanitarian and security situation in Ituri Region;
  • ensure the protection of displaced persons in the refugee camps in Bunia;
  • secure the Bunia airport and ensure the safety of civilian population, UN personnel and wider humanitarian presence;
  • support the implementation of the peace agreements;
  • support action taken by MONUC.


Although operation Artemis was considered as the EU military mission, the French conducted the main operational effort. Already on May 28th French government declared its intention to intervene and to become a ‘Framework Nation’ of this operation. Council Joint Action 2003/423/CFSP confirmed the French leadership and announced the appointed officers. Two French generals were given the command of the operation. Major General Bruno Neveux was appointed EU Operation Commander and Brigadier General Jean-Paul Thonier was appointed EU Force Commander. Moreover, Paris was chosen as the Operation’s headquarter.[4]

However, the entire operation and its preparation was controlled by the Political and Security Committee (PSC), one of the EU’s institutions, which provided appropriate ‘Europeanization’ of the mission and put it into the ESDP frame.


Operation Artemis’ force consisted of about 1800 soldiers. Most of them (about 80-90%) were French. However, in order to provide ‘European’ input, some small groups from other member states also took part in the operation. Especially, there should be mentioned the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and Sweden,[5] but the symbolic participation (liaison officers at the HQ) was also provided by Austria, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.[6]


The mandate of operation Artemis was to provide an interim force for three months. The operation was launched on 12th June 2003 and ended on 1st September 2003. On September 6th the last soldiers left the capital of Ituri province after having given back the full responsibility to the MONUC mission.

Results of mission: Eternal peace in the DRC?

As it was mentioned at the beginning of this article, operation Artemis was also the first autonomous EU operation driven outside the European territory. Therefore it was a test for the European Union and for its security and defence policy (ESDP), which – if failed – would show that the EU was not able to act without NATO’s help. From this point of view – the operation was successful.

Nonetheless the operation was criticized a lot. First of all, as it was already stated, even if the decision for intervention was taken by the Council which controlled the operation through the PSC supervision, and even if several member states took part in the operation, it is difficult to call ‘Artemis’ the real EU military operation due to dominating role of the French[7].

Moreover, after the operation has finished it had to face the critique, concerning soldiers’ misbehaviour (French soldiers accused of having tortured Congolese civilians[8]), lack of cooperation with other international forces, unnecessary actions taken independently instead of just giving back up the UN’s peacekeeping forces, being a playground for France who wanted to show off its military capability; for an inadequate communications systems between headquarters and staff and the lack of a strategic reserve, as well as for limited operation area which caused that the aggression against the civilians spread to other regions.

Last but not least, operation Artemis was not that one which brought peace to the DRC, and for sure it was not the last one in this country. The European Union got involved into the stabilisation and security process in the DRC several times, what shows that the one shot of EU military help did not resolve a complicate problem of the DRC’s stability and security.

EU military operations:
2003 Operation ARTEMIS
2006 Operation EUFOR DR Congo by which the EU provided temporary military support for the United Nations mission (MONUC) during the election process.
Advisory operations:
2005-2007 EUPOL Kinshasa – an advisory and supervisory mission which aimed to create an Integrated Police Unit in Kinshasa.
2005 EUSEC DR Congo – mission which aimed to provide practical support to the Congolese Government for the integration of the Congolese army and good governance in the field of security.
2007-2009 EUPOL DR Congo – continuation of the EUPOL Kinshasa.
Source: author’s elaboration based on the EEAS website

However, we cannot deny that EU mission succeeded as far as the disarming of militants and return of refugees are concerned. What is more, the will of the French government to ‘Europeanize’ the intervention can be considered as a milestone in the development of the ESDP and EU military operation practice.

Aldo Ajello, the EU special representative for Africa’s Great Lakes Region, said that operation Artemis was a “big humanitarian, military and political success” and that the EU force “fulfilled its mission by restoring security, helping people to return home and restart economic activity in Bunia.”

Notwithstanding to what extent we agree with this European complacence, two things should be highlighted. Firstly, the operation was a test for the EU and the ESDP and no matter how many shortcomings were revealed – it is important that the EU learnt the lesson and corrected the drawbacks in the following operations. Secondly, it fulfilled the political goal that was given to the EU member states, which was to show the unity after the war-in-Iraq related dispute.

All in all, regarding the geographic and time limits, it can be argued that operation Artemis fulfilled its objectives. We can discuss about the mistakes that were made and about the not-sufficient means that were provided but this is not the substance. The Artemis was a temporary mission which aimed to support the stabilisation process after the military conflict and help to improve the humanitarian situation in Itrui region until the UN mission would be reinforced. And this goal was definitely achieved. The EU passed this exam. 

  • [1] Currently known as the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
  • [2] Itrui region is reach in natural resources which were illegally exploited in consequence of long-lasting conflict.
  • [3] Curio: French name for the operation was initially „Operation Mamba”. The name has been changed when it was decided to use newly created ESDP instrument (EU military operation) instead of multinational operation leaded by France.
  • [4] More precisely the Centre de planification et de conduite des opérations (CPCO) located in Paris.
  • [5] Sweden provided about 80 Special Forces troops, UK troops consisted primarily of engineers, medical personnel and staff officers; Belgium sent medical and logistical personnel and Germany provided approximately 350 troops, who provided medical and logistical assistance to the main peacekeeping force. (source: http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo8/no1/hendrick-eng.asp)
  • [6] Due to the fact that the operation was based on the UN Resolution, other nations were also invited to participate. Therefore Brazil, Hungary, Canada, South Africa, Cyprus also sent some troops, officers or other personnel.
  • [7] Curio: the operational and force planning were already well underway at a French national level, even before the EU actually became involved in the operation.
  • [8] More at: http://www.dw.de/eu-soldiers-accused-of-torturing-civilians-in-congo/a-3223692-1 and http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2008-2057+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=sl

Barbara Marcinkowska – CII France and Europe Expert

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