Saturday, January 25, 2020

Militarisation of EU aid is ‘illegal and inhumane’

Europe’s development policy should stay true to its aims of eradicating poverty and raising people’s quality of life. The increasing military slant of EU aid is both illegal and inhumane, writes Heidi Hautala.

Heidi Hautala, Finnish Green MEP and Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development.
Photo: Manu Rantonen


The instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) is a major external assistance facility that enables the EU to support the prevention of or response to crises around the world. While the instrument is a useful tool, I am concerned about current efforts to amend the regulation establishing the instrument to make possible the financing of capacity building of military actors in partner countries using the EU budget and its development cooperation funds. This is a first step towards militarising EU development policy, a tendency that has been strongly pushed forward by some Member States and the Commission. In July 2016, the commission proposed to amend the regulation in order to make aid financing of the instrument possible.   


It is well understood that there can be no development without security, and vice versa. This does not, however, mean that security cooperation equals development cooperation. The newspeak on the “nexus between security and development” seems to have completely thrown overboard the need to strengthen human security and to eradicate violence to which so many people fall victim in their daily lives.

Prior to the Commission’s proposal, ten member states had instructed the Commission to show “leadership to help clarify the pertinent provisions in the Treaty of the European Union, in particular article 41 para 2.” This paragraph had blocked the use of EU budget for equipping the military of third countries. It stated that expenditures arising from operations having military or defence implications could not be charged from the Union’s budget.

Last year we saw this leadership in action, with great manipulation of the law. Several newly formulated legal opinions are rapidly making their way into the political tug of war. The result has been a complete U-turn in the interpretation of the applicable legal basis.

Back in March 2015, the firm view of the Commission’s legal service had been that cooperation with security and military actors cannot be carried out under the legal framework of development cooperation. Instead, this should be funded by the states themselves.

Another opinion – this one by the EU Council’s legal service from December 2015 - stated that “it is not possible to adopt an instrument under the combined legal basis of the CFSP and development cooperation policy.” With such legal obstacles in place, either the scope of the instrument would have to be significantly reduced or it would have to be adopted on a Common Security and Foreign Policy basis.

This year the Commission’s legal analysis was overturned; it now finds appropriate ways for the EU budget to contribute to capacity building for security actors, the military included, in partner countries. The development ministers settled the legal controversy by emphasising the development nature of the actions pursued.

Not everyone was happy. Sweden declared that by “blurring the boundaries of development cooperation and security related activities … we risk undermining the development agenda.”

Member states could have opted to finance it from their own state budgets. Instead, they stuck to the idea of accessing the EU budget and development financing.

The European Parliament’s legal services were initially of the same opinion as the Commission’s legal services. Trying to attain foreign and security policy objectives through EU’s development policy would not survive legal scrutiny, they ruled. But some months later, the EP legal services too issued a new opinion stating that these actions can be considered as compatible if they have a strengthened link to development.


These twists show how important it is that legal opinions by EU institutions remain under public scrutiny to prevent such attempts to harness them for political purposes.

The European Parliament is now deeply divided. The Development Committee voted in favour of amending the regulation establishing an instrument contributing to stability and peace: 13 members voted in favour, 8 against and 1 absented. The Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on the matter on July 11.

Some see the Commission’s proposal as a necessary new orientation “to provide shoes and other equipment to Somali soldiers to combat Al-Shabaab” or even as a step in advancing the EU defence dimension.

But some of us continue to defend the principles of development policy with human development and poverty alleviation at its core. Should this fail, I am afraid this instrument will become a first step on the way to instrumentalising human security for the purposes of military security. To do this by circumventing the EU Treaties is shameful.

Much of the responsibility rests with the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini, who’s Global Strategy will steer the whole of the Union’s external action for the coming years. Militarising EU development policy is far from the public, high-minded statements to alleviate and eventually eradicate poverty.