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10th Dec 2022

EU mulls more police powers for west Africa missions

  • Niamey, Niger. The EU's mission there was extended until 2024 (Photo: Jean Rebiffe)
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The EU wants to further prop up anti-terror efforts at its overseas civilian missions in places like Niger.

Although such missions already seek to counter terrorism, the latest proposal (framed as a "mini-concept" by the EU's foreign policy branch, the European External Action Service, EEAS), entails giving them so-called "semi-executive functions."

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Such functions includes direct support to the authorities by helping them carry out investigations, as well as aiding dedicated units to prosecute and detain suspected terrorist offenders.

The concept paper, drafted over the summer, points towards a European Union that is willing to work hand-in-glove with corrupt and rights-abusing governments when it comes to issues dealing security and migration.

This includes getting EU missions to seal cooperation deals between EU member state intelligence and security services with the host governments.

And although the paper highlights the importances of human rights and gender equality, the terms are couched in policy language that clearly aims to boost policing in the countries.

From helping them develop systems to collect biometric data to preserving and sharing "evidence derived from the battlefield", the 14-page paper specifically cites the EU missions in Niger, Mali, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Kosovo as prime examples.

In Niger, the EU recently handed its mission a €72m budget and extended its mandate until September 2024.

That budget includes training staff to drive armoured vehicles and piloting drones.

Another EU internal document on Niger, also from over the summer, describes its mission there as "the main actor in the coordination of international support to Niger in the field of security."

It says Niger's capacity to fight terrorism, organised crime and irregular migration has improved as a direct result of the mission's intervention.

The country was given €380m in EU funding spread over 2014 to 2020.

In Mali, the EU mission there already supports the country's dedicated units to intervene and investigate terror-related cases.

But it had also temporarily suspended in April the operational training of formed units of the Malian armed forces and National Guard.

Clash with Wagner in Mali

The suspension followed reports that EU security trained forces in Mali were being co-opted by the Kremlin-linked Russian mercenary group Wagner, which was also operating in the Central African Republic.

Mali has since withdrawn from the G5 Sahel, an anti-jihad grouping of countries in the region currently composed of Niger, Burkina, Mauritania, and Chad.

And an internal EU paper from May posed the question of whether Malian authorities even want to cooperate with the EU mission.

The EU's mission there was also recently extended until 2024 with a €133.7m purse.

The EU's mini-concept paper on fighting terrorism, follows another idea on using specialised teams at the missions to also tackle migration.

Part of those plans also aims to give the missions "semi-executive functions", enabling them to provide direct support to police and carry out joint investigations on migration related issues.

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The EU is exploring ways to further crack down on irregular migration at its overseas missions, including the use of "specialised teams". Such missions are found in places like Niger, Libya, Mali, Somali, Iraq and elsewhere.

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MEPs probing the EU's border agency Frontex cross-examined the agency's director. They also spoke to EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, who made it clear she had little sway over the agency.

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