Friday

7th Aug 2020

Opinion

EU's new €10bn 'peace facility' risks fuelling conflict

  • Current rules prohibit the EU from funding military operations and supplying lethal weaponry, but as an off-budget instrument the EPF would circumvent these rules (Photo: Yarden Sachs)

On Wednesday (27 November), European ambassadors will discuss plans to set up a European Peace Facility (EPF) to provide up to €10.5bn for EU military operations and security assistance.

The facility could see Europe supplying outside 'partner' countries and regional military operations with lethal weapons and ammunition via EU-managed funds for the first time.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

This would mark a major shift in EU's external action that raises human rights concerns and could perpetuate cycles of violence.

While peace, democracy and human rights remain central to EU foreign policy, leaders are feeling the pressure to achieve quick wins in addressing instability and containing migration in its wider neighbourhood. Europe is turning to more militarised approaches – with member states arguing that hard security tools offer greater control over conflict dynamics.

The EPF would fund EU military operations (like Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean) and provide international peace support operations and third countries with military training and equipment.

Current rules prohibit the EU from funding military operations and supplying lethal weaponry, but as an off-budget instrument the EPF would circumvent these rules. However, security assistance programmes have a problematic track record of feeding into repression and conflict.

Diversion and misuse of security assistance

Under EPF, partners are likely to request the kind of weapons at greatest risk of diversion and misuse – small arms, light weapons and ammunition. In the wrong hands, such weapons can do significant damage.

The EU has long funded the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to combat al-Shabaab.

After years of abuses by all sides, Somalia today is locked in a stalemate for which civilians are paying a high price. Over three decades, internationally-supplied arms and security equipment have been diverted again and again to armed groups, while al-Shabaab has repeatedly seized AMISOM equipment (a global challenge for peacekeeping operations).

In Mali, abuses by EU-backed Malian security forces in counter-terror operations have fuelled grievances and motivated people to join armed groups, and the EU training mission in Mali has failed to prevent atrocities even by soldiers it has trained.

EPF support for such forces could mean more of the same – raising several questions. How thoroughly will EPF assess the impacts of its interventions? How will it respond when EU 'partners' are implicated in abuses or EU weapons diverted? How accountable will it be to those affected?

Dangers of reinforcing repression

Europe sees much of the Sahel as 'ungoverned space', where it must support weak states to assert control through military means. But here (as elsewhere), the security sector is the vehicle for repressive elites to maintain power. The resulting poor governance is among the most significant drivers of conflict.

For this reason, military 'train and equip' efforts of the kind proposed under EPF risk exacerbating instability. There is little evidence that strengthening combat capabilities leads to peace, justice or development – but rather the opposite.

In Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere, training and equipping state security forces has enabled corrupt and abusive elites to consolidate their grip on power, alienating the public and deepening instability.

Still, in countries like Mali and Somalia where corruption, weak judicial systems, abuse, marginalisation and impunity are major drivers of conflict, investments in armed forces far exceed investments in promoting positive change.

In Niger, the EU and many member states are providing significant assistance for the state and its security forces to combat terrorism and migration, while failing to provide for the food needs of its poorest people.

Examples show that such an unbalanced model for 'stabilising' countries has ultimately proven counter-productive for all.

Undermining EU values

European leaders today risk forgetting priorities that were well understood in the Cold War era: the threat of spreading authoritarianism, and the importance of expanding democracy and human rights.

Where the EU chooses to engage with repressive forces, the question is how it can help transform their incentives and behaviour – not build their capacity.

Addressing marginalisation, promoting inclusion and gender equality, and supporting economic and human development are crucial to building lasting peace – and in countries like Somalia, the EU is widely respected for championing them. Bottom-up security models, rather than support for elites, help societies bargain for better, more accountable security and criminal justice systems that benefit everyone.

If Europe becomes mired in controversial partnerships because of its 'peace' facility, it would undermine its credibility as a champion of mediation, disarmament, peace and human rights.

Europe's long-term security is inconceivable without peaceful democratic change in its neighbourhood. Helping societies address issues that drive conflict through peaceful change must remain central to the EU's foreign and security policy.

In today's world, stacking the cards against human rights, peace and democracy in the pursuit of quick wins could prove catastrophic.

Author bio

Lucia Montanaro is head of Saferworld Europe and Tuuli Räty is EU policy and advocacy officer.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

EU budget must not fortify Europe at expense of peace

Given the European Commission new budget's heavy focus on migration, border management and security, many are asking whether the proposal will fortify Europe at the expense of its peace commitments.

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.

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

EU ambassadors met behind closed doors in Brussels to discuss the possibility of providing arms and ammunition to foreign armies in conflict areas like Mali. Not all were impressed by French-German support for a new EU 'peace fund'.

Borrell: Africa 'needs guns' for stability

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU will help provide Africa with more guns to fight terrorism. "We need guns, we need arms, we need military capacities," he said in Addis Ababa.

Worrying rows over future EU chemicals policy

It is of utmost concern to the environmental health community that forces within the EU Commission are actively trying to push back against a European Green Deal that is supposed to put people's health at its core.

News in Brief

  1. Germany breached rights of Madeleine McCann suspect
  2. EU offers trade perks to Lebanon
  3. Germany charges four ex-Audi chiefs on emissions cheating
  4. UK quarantines Belgium, as European infections climb
  5. Bulgaria's Borissov mulls resignation
  6. EU prolongs anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel
  7. Swedish economy contracted less during April to June
  8. EU offers help to Lebanon after port explosion

Revealed: fossil-fuel lobbying behind EU hydrogen strategy

As with the German government – which presented its own hydrogen strategy last month – the European Commission and other EU institutions appear to be similarly intoxicated by the false promises of the gas industry.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Iraqis paid €2,000 each agree to leave Greece
  2. EU's most sustainable islands are Danish 'Sunshine Islands'
  3. Worrying rows over future EU chemicals policy
  4. Rainbow flag protesters charged by Polish police
  5. An open letter to the EPP on end of Hungary's press freedom
  6. Renew Europe has a plan to combat gender-violence
  7. Why EU beats US on green pandemic recovery
  8. Azerbaijan ambassador to EU shared anti-George Floyd post

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us