The question of how the EU should finance its assistance to peacebuilding activities of partner countries and organisations has challenged policymakers and pundits for many years. At one level this is a technical and legal issue of budget lines and financing rules. It nevertheless touches on much deeper political and even moral issues of whether the EU should use development aid to finance security provision, how best the EU can respond to the legitimate needs of partners in conflict-affected countries, and what kind of civil and/or military engagements the EU supports in its external relations.
The question has come to resemble the proverbial can being kicked down the road by successive European Commissioners, Council Working Groups and Parliamentary Committees. In 2015, the creation of a dedicated instrument has been discussed in the context of Capacity Building in Support of Security and Development (CBSD). Through CBSD the EU seeks to fund the provision of non-lethal equipment and training to armed forces in partner countries, such as in Somalia and Mali where the EU has deployed military training missions.
In the end, EU institutions agreed to fund CBSD activities through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), which was adapted for that purpose in December 2017, increasing its financial volume by €100 million. The IcSP reform has raised serious concerns within the wider development community about a gradual subordination of development policy under security interests. It is, nevertheless, a temporary solution until the end of the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in 2020. The EU’s financing architecture for activities at the interface of security and development policy will again be on the table in the negotiations on the next MFF.
This time, there is a sensible proposal on the table which has the potential to answer the question, at least for a while. At a high-level conference on EU security and defence on 13 December 2017, High Representative Federica Mogherini proposed the creation of a European Peace Facility (EPF). The fact that Mogherini’s proposal sounds similar to another EU peacebuilding instrument – the African Peace Facility (APF) funded from the European Development Fund – is no accident. It is precisely because of some of the problems experienced by the APF that the EPF is needed. Chief among these is the need to be able to provide stable, predictable funding to the African Union’s peacebuilding activities and peacekeeping missions. This has proved more difficult than it should because of the second reason, the legal restrictions on financing military activities from the EU’s budget. Overcoming this dilemma can only be done with an ‘off budget’ instrument.
The main rationale for establishing the EPF should be to find a permanent solution for EU financing for peace and security that ensures predictable, long-term support to partners’ efforts in peacebuilding and crisis management. The most reasonable model for the EPF is a multi donor trust fund, open for direct contributions from EU member states and international partners, including the post-Brexit UK. This model has the advantages of flexibility regarding EU budget rules, additionality (it could finance a mixture of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and non-ODA eligible expenses, rather than diverting ODA to security activities), and visibility, since the EPF can be a global instrument, based on the proven logic of the APF.
The model has potential disadvantages as well, particularly that in the current crisis-driven environment there are pressures to use this kind of instrument for protecting Europe against real or perceived threats, rather than to support developing countries’ efforts to provide a secure basis for development. The instrument’s design and governance are crucially important if it is to fulfil its purpose as a peacebuilding instrument rather than as a tool for dealing with, for example, irregular migration or transnational terrorism. To prevent the latter, there needs to be a mechanism for strong oversight from the European Parliament and from the member state parliaments that finance the facility. The EPF has the potential to resolve some of the underlying problems of the EU’s architecture for financing peace and security, but it needs to be set up in the right manner.
Photo courtesy: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr