Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Doubts over using EU 'peace fund' to supply arms to Africa

  • The EU may soon have the means to buy guns for armies in Africa - amid worries some of them may end up on the black market (Photo: French ministry of defense)

Germany and France are pushing plans to set up a budget overseen by the EU to possibly purchase and supply lethal weapons to armies in places like Africa.

Discussed for the first time among ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday (27 November), the issue remains contentious among a handful of member states.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

First floated in June 2018 by the EU's foreign diplomacy branch, the EEAS, the so-called European Peace Facility will have a €10.5bn purse, but set outside the typical EU budget.

"It is an extra budget not only because these are expensive enterprises but because the rules existing governing the budgets of the EU do not allow for these kinds of operations," the EU's ambassador to the African Union Ranier Sabatucci told EUobserver last week.

But when asked what kind of safeguards are in place to prevent weapons from going to militias or the black market, a European Commission spokeswoman from the EEAS declined to respond.

"I will not discuss in detail how this proposal will look like," she said.

Black market

While the talks on Wednesday took place behind closed doors, EUobserver understands that significant doubts remain on whether provisions within the proposal allowing the purchase of lethal weapons for foreign armies should even be included.

Among the dissenters are Nordic liberal countries like Denmark. Malta and the Netherlands are also said to be opposed. Austria baulked, telling NGOs in a letter earlier this year that they share the same reservations when it comes to granting weapons and ammunition.

Ireland is also not entirely happy with the idea.

Sweden is said to be lukewarm but is not wholly opposed so long as certain safeguards are enshrined. It exported over a billion euros worth of military equipment last year.

A senior EU diplomat present at the meeting on Wednesday described the discussion as useful, noting that it was the first time they had a policy dialogue on the matter.

"Now is the time to look at where we can find compromises, so the idea was really to look at a few of the sectors and see where we can find common ground," she said.

She too refrained from going into detail, noting that negotiations are on-going and will continue in the upcoming EU presidency under Croatia.

The facility, set for launch in little over 12 months, and would be managed by the EU's incoming foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Borrell has been tasked by the incoming president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to make the EU more strategic and more assertive in external relations.

"You should seek to strengthen the Union's capacity to act autonomously and promote its values and interests around the world," she told him, in a mission letter.

The talks follow a helicopter collision in Mali earlier this week that killed 13 French soldiers.

France has since demanded EU governments send in special forces to the Sahel, an area spanning some five West African states, to support the some 4,500 French troops to fight jihadist groups.

Such military efforts have reportedly led to even greater conflict in places like Mali, where the French have been operating for the past five years.

The EU is already providing some funding, through a so-called African Peace Facility, to a collective force of around 5,000 soldiers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. Around €100m went to make it operational.

The African Peace Facility is itself funded from the European Development Fund, which is also separate from the general EU budget.

But it too will be phased out should the new European Peace Facility become operational in 2021 and along with it, open up possibility to provide the troops with weapons and ammunition.

Opinion

Why EU arming foreign militaries will backfire

MEPs are debating and voting on their report on the European Peace Facility - a proposal from Federica Mogherini that would, among other things, enable the EU to "train and equip" foreign government militaries, including with lethal weapons.

Borrell hard on Russia in EU hearing

The EU should continue to expand in the Western Balkans and maintain sanctions on Russia, its next foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said.

Guns blaze in Ukraine as leaders meet in Paris

Hundreds of explosions and bursts of small arms fire were reported on the contact line in east Ukraine, as France prepares to host the first peace summit on the war in three years.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us