When the text below was written around 2014 for my book on EU and security some of the most sobering experiences for EU Member States were still ahead of them, notably the migration and Brexit crises. So some of these thoughts need to be put on the table, most likely with even more humility and self criticism than before. Because some of them were actually taught EU Member States by some of the colleagues convinced of their foresight, including the Brits during their EU Presidency in 2005.
E and R: Evaluation and Re-evaluationLessons learned must be an inbuilt process in each endeavour, be it a project or a CSDP mission. It needs to take the overall measures of success into account and should be combined with evaluations over the longer term of Community programmes and ad hoc Council decisions.
There is no joined up approach to this in the EU that can provide decision makers with relevant evaluations before important decisions are made. On the Community side, evaluations are often so voluminous and cover such a long period (a decade of assistance or more) that they are difficult to digest for those who need to read and digest them. At the other end, political evaluations of a string of Council decisions in the CFSP area are not often made or are partly confidential.
Still, those responsible for these policies need to face the fact that outside evaluations are often critical. They need to evaluate the amount of effort deployed, including money and risk to staff, without sufficiently careful consideration beforehand.
Re-evaluation is a different process altogether. In science, as documented by Thomas Kuhn, it is a process often leading to new discovery through agonizing reappraisals. In the EU, it is an effort typically required in crisis and difficult to animate in the normal situation. However, as discussed in the context of the Arab Spring, re-evaluation is key, as a part of the continuous political dialogue within and outside the EU.
 Kuhn, TS, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edn., University of Chicago Press, 1970. See also for a discussion of Kuhn’s critique of the positivist school: Buzan, B, & L Hansen, The Evolution of International Security Studies, 1 edn., Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Never too late to learn for anyone - more obvious than ever after 9/11, Iraq, Fukushima, the Arab Spring, the financial crisis, Ukraine, not to mention Brexit..