The politics of understaffing international organisations: the EU Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC)

Yf Reykers*, Johan Adriaensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Previous research has shown that staffing of international organisations (IOs) is politics. Understaffing of IOs, by contrast, has hardly received scholarly attention. By drawing upon the principal-agent model and refining the concept of “principal slack”, we explain why member states – as principals – might not provide the required resources to an IO and its substructures. We focus specifically on the case of the European Union’s (EU) Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), which was established in June 2017. The MPCC has since then been hindered by systematic understaffing. Our analysis reveals that understaffing of the MPCC results from member states’ individual cost calculations, which are determined by national resource constraints and concerns over control. A limited pool of resources stretched thinly across rivalling institutions is a central problem to the MPCC’s development, exacerbated by rapidly growing expectations and the largely voluntary nature of staff provision. These are considerable obstacles to the EU’s ambition to become a credible and responsive security provider.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Security
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Nov 2022


  • international secretariats
  • staffing
  • MPCC
  • principal agent

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