Feature – Breeding a collective ‘European thinking’
03.10.2012, 15:08 (CET)
Established by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) constitutes the main organisational framework for decision-making and application of the EU’s defence and security issues.  With changes in this area still fresh, the Cyprus Presidency has sought to enhance the knowledge of EU Officer Cadets on the subject by organising an Olympiad.

Thirty-four cadets from ten different Member States are visiting Cyprus to take part in the final phase of the three-part Olympiad competition.

Starting on Wednesday, October 3 and lasting until Friday, cadets will present the ten best research papers on the CSDP and will take part in quizzes on the topic.

This is the first time that such a competition, involving cadets from across the Union competing on their knowledge of a specific policy, is taking place at a European level.

The Olympiad, which is a Cyprus Presidency initiative, is regarded by participants as a great opportunity to both network among each other and bolster their knowledge of the defence policies of the EU.

The ‘great additional value of cultural diversity’

The CSDP Olympiad module consists of three parts, including an internet-based distance learning course (IDL), the submission of a paper on a CSDP related topic and the Pan-European Competition which will take place in Cyprus.

The competition in Cyprus involves cadets being drawn together in different teams and competing in a 25-multiple choice questionnaire on the history, institutional framework and operation of the CSDP.

The best team’s cadets will then compete again on an individual basis on a 15 multiple choice questions paper.

The Cyprus Presidency’s effort that each team be comprised of cadets coming from different Member States has been welcomed by participants.

“Cultural diversity can be a weakness if not understood, but it is of great additional value if recognised and used for the benefit of all. Bringing the cadets together at an age where they are still open to new experiences and ideas, will later on enable them to be better European officers, respecting the other’s capabilities,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Dirk Dubois of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC).

Studying hard for the Olympiad

With collective and individual prizes on offer, participating cadets have been studying hard to prepare for the Olympiad by using a wide range of sources at their disposal.

“Cadets use the internet extensively for their study, with many visiting the website dedicated to the European Initiative for the exchange of Young Officers (Erasmus),” said Lt-Col. Dubois.

Other sources used, according to the Lt-Col, were the College’s CSDP Handbook and the Internet-based Distance Learning (IDL) system, which provides cadets with an extensive electronic library.

The Austrian team have chosen Officer Cadets who have passed the EU-Common Module on CSDP from last October. The team’s leader, Colonel Dr. Harald Gell said that in doing so, the participants would be well prepared to pose a serious challenge at the CSDP Olympiad.

“For the Olympiad paper, our cadets were also allowed to choose the same topic as their Bachelor Thesis, which meant that their research was more intensive because they will need it during the upcoming months to pass the exams,” said Col. Dr. Gell.

Seminars and lectures were also arranged in participating Member States by the team leaders, in order to introduce the CSDP Olympiad to the cadets.  

Creating a ‘European thinking’

Both Lt-Col. Dubois and Col. Dr. Gell agree that the Olympiad provides a perfect opportunity for cadets, not only to familiarise with the CSDP's organisation and roles but also to meet, exchange experiences and strike friendships; creating a system of networking that could help in their future careers.

Col. Gell feels that the Olympiad could provide the perfect platform to breed a new sense of collective identity and thinking in the EU among young European officials.

“Some elder Officers grew up during the Cold War and so in their mind ‘European thinking’ is not deeply anchored. Our hope is,  if we educate our Officer Cadets more deeply in ‘European Security and Defence Culture’, one day - when they will be promoted to responsible posts – this ‘European thinking’ will be a daily business,” Col. Dr. Gell said.

So can the CSDP Olympiad become an annual event? Col. Gell definitely hopes so.

“Of course it should become an annual feature. Events like this will dismantle barriers between the countries, the way of thinking will come closer and it is one of the most important opportunities to promote cooperation within Europe,” he concluded.

The CSDP Olympiad kicks off this afternoon with a ceremony at the Ancient Pafos Odeon, which will be attended by Cyprus’ Defence Minister, Mr. Demetris Eliades.


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