EPF, the fund of discord that will arm third countries. A coalition of 14 charities warns over risks EU ability to maintain peace

London – Instability in neighbouring countries and a substantive latency of the UK as active member in the EU decision making processes due to Brexit, gave way to fostering the Union Common Foreign and Security Policy taken into account that British have always opposed strengthening a common defence.

This political phase led to the creation of many instruments starting from the (IcSP) and CBSD and now the European Peace Facility (EPF), a recent step forward in the progressive shift of the EU from its role of traditional ‘soft power’ to one of decisive action in foreign policy taken under the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The EPF has been approved last 30 March 2019 and will include military capacity building and deployment replacing the Athena mechanism to give the Union “the capability to contribute to the financing of military peace support operations led by international partners on a global scale” the EU states.

But it’s still unclear what military means would be deployed and the scale of EU members backed military defense actions, albeit aimed at preventing conflicts. Though the text approved does not mention lethal weapons, EPF could result into weaponisation of peace operations (prioritising north Africa and Sahel region), de facto buying weapons for partner countries. This raises doubts on the effectiveness of peacekeeping and conflict prevention strategy and on the very founding principles, purposes and role of the EU as peaceful mediator in conflict and crisis zones.

coalition of 14 charities recently expressed “deep concern about European Peace Facility and specifically a component within it to train and equip third-country armies, as well as regional and international organisations, including with the provision of weaponry”.

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There are more aspects of concerns: as replacement of Athena as a off-budget tool,whose missions were financed by members and received EU contributions from 5 to 10%, the EPF now allocates up to 35% funding. Though not currently funded through the budged in accord to Art 41(2) TEU, which prohibits the use of the EU budget ‘for expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications’, there are warnings this could instead happen in the future because of one legal precedent of defence operations funded directly with EU budget set by the Capacity Building in support of Security and Development (CBSD):

In the UK parliamentary report 2016 on ‘Stability and Peace Instrument’ we read “The European Commission has argued that the current IcSP Regulation prevents the EU from providing the necessary levels of financial support for projects to address security challenges in third countries. In July 2016, it proposed an amendment to the Regulation to allow €100 million (£82.65 million) of the Instrument’s funds to be spent on CBSD between 2017 and 2020. Rather than reducing the budget for the existing elements of the Instrument, the €100 million will be diverted from other (as yet unspecified) parts of the EU budget for external affairs. The Commission proposal has caused controversy because its legal basis is Articles 209 and 212 TFEU on development policy, while its aims appear to be primarily of a military nature. To overcome objections from Sweden and Luxembourg (as well as Members of the European Parliament), the legal text asserts that any funding granted for military capacity building could only be used in the context of the sustainable development of the beneficiary country. The EU will not be able to use the Instrument to fund recurrent military expenditure or the purchase of arms or ammunition”. 

Furthermore Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) explains why CBSD would set a legal precedent for using EU budget resources for financing support to military actors, thus entering a legal grey zone and furthering the ‘securitisation’ of EU development funds.

Beneath layers of complexity lie some fundamental questions: on behalf and in representation of whom the European Union decided to implement a security and defence policy through the use of arms? What kind of arms and military equipment EPF is going to provide and to whom? Why Common Foreign and Security Policy is scaling up to top priority with 10.5 billion for EFT in parallel to the multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021-2017 when, in the announced budget of €1,135bn, funds to Social cohesion are reduced by 7% in a Europe facing the democratic challenge of 118 million citizens in poverty?

E. Muzzi / J. de Braeme