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  • Analysis

The EU’s commitment to peace and security in Africa, adapt to stay credible

The European Union’s commitment to peace and security in Africa is growing. For example, the EU’s €6m grant to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007 is projected to increase to about €240m in 2016. That growing involvement can be directly be linked to the security challenges Africa is facing. But it is worth also noting that support in the field of security is not rooted in the Union’s DNA. So the EU had to be inventive, adaptable and strong-willed to become a recognised strategic actor in African security. It must retain these qualities if it wants to remain credible and effective in that area.

The big peace and security challenges facing Africa cover the whole continent, from the West to the Horn. They include terrorism, transnational organised crime (trafficking of humans, arms, drugs and raw materials), inter-ethnic and religious violence, and conflicts linked to diminishing natural resources, piracy or armed conflicts. Unsurprisingly, these major security threats happen mainly in those countries that lack the means to cope with them. This is the reason why EU involvement in peace and security is necessary, through a variety of means, to reinforce the capabilities of local and regional actors.

The most visible EU involvement falls comes under Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations. There are currently eight missions or operations deployed in Africa – three in the Sahel region, three in the Horn region, one in Central Africa and one in Libya. Only one of these eight missions has an executive mandate (EUNAVFOR Somalia) whilst the other seven aim to reinforce the capabilities of their recipients (3 EUTM, 3 EUCAP, 1 EUBAM).

There is also EU involvement in the African Peace Facility (APF) – certainly the most emblematic EU instrument in this area. Created in 2004, the APF’s main goal is to allow Africans to bring “African solutions to African problems” through the operationalisation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). Its 2014-2016 action programme was given a €1.07bn grant to support African peacekeeping missions (such as AMISON or a multinational force against Boko Haram), APSA and the early response mechanism.

The EU is also mobilising other financial instruments, such as the European Development Fund (EDF). €350m of EDF funding has been attributed over seven years to regional security programmes. Other tools include the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the Development and Cooperation Instrument (DCI), or recently-created trust funds to support initiatives such as those focused on conflict prevention or mediation.

But a description of EU action in the field of peace and security would not be complete without mentioning its major political role in the continent, aiding conflict management and prevention. Our close partnership with the African Union and the sub-regional organisations is above all political; it aims to align our efforts, as proved by regular consultations at the highest level between our organisations. There are many other initiatives too: political dialogue between partner states; the possibility to suspend cooperation (for example, under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement); or support to the Kimberley Process and the new initiative of the Commission on trade in minerals linked to conflicts. The combination of all these instruments and policies perfectly illustrates the EU’s comprehensive approach.

This growing involvement of the EU in security and peace is far from over. While fully assessing the EU’s actions is difficult, some lessons have been learned.

Twelve years after the creation of the APF, the money invested by that instrument (close to €1.5bn) has not led to the creation of an autonomous APSA that is able to ‘solve African problems’. None of the standby forces is really operational. The majority of actions launched by the AU or the regional economic communities still largely depend on support from external donors. And the crisis management structures of these organisations are themselves too dependent on EU financing, which leads us to question the real ownership of these organisations by their member states. Even if some operations have led to a significant downgrading of the threat they were supposed to face (AMISOM in Somalia, or the regional cooperation initiative against the Lord’s Resistance Army), in the absence of a structural solution, persisting tensions remain between the countries contributing forces, the partners, and the AU and the sub-regional organisations.

We now see an expanding terrorist threat, covering entire regions such as the Sahel or the Lake Chad Basin. This new threat, without doubt the most remarkable evolution of the African security environment in the recent years, calls for out-of-the-box answers from the EU, pushing it to become more and more adaptable.

Besides the inadequacy of regular security responses to this threat (in particular among standby African forces), terrorism also compromises EU’s capacity to engage in these regions for its usual development programmes, with implementing partners departing due to a lack of security for their staff. An additional complication is that the affected areas do not match the traditional regional and political organisations. For example, Boko Haram has been prevalent in four countries – Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon – which belong to two different organisations (ECOWAS and ECCAS). So the regional response is carried out either by ad hoc organisations (G5 in the case of Sahel) or older ones with a security mandate that was never really implemented until now, as it is the case for the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

The EU is now forced to revise its methods to be able to effectively face the new threats in the African continent. First, efforts must be made towards more EU involvement in the security field. Now that the security situation has worsened, we must accept that the EU’s answer should, first and foremost, be security-oriented. The reinstatement of security is a prerequisite to restarting more conventional development programmes. From my point of view, we need less stringent eligibility criteria for development aid grants to the security sector.

Furthermore, the APF must be revised – not only to reinforce the APSA, but also to give effective and quick support to African operations that are facing a terrorist threat perceived as existential by African States. New rules must be implemented to better confront the operational emergency.

This adaptability must be sought when backing organisations such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission or the G5 Sahel. Such organisations are not officially part of the APSA and so cannot receive direct financial support from the EU – either through the APF or regional programmes of the EDF. The EU has to find ways to support ad hoc regional coalitions without necessarily going through the AU or regional economic communities.

Finally, the EU needs to be creative. It must find ways to further support the security capacity of partner states by better combining its development and security instruments. This must be achieved through a better distribution and coordination of tasks between the EU and its member states. The effort must, of course, be part of the overall objective of the EU in Africa – to support good political and economic governance.

New threats call for new responses. That is the challenge facing EU involvement in the security and peace field in Africa. The good news is that the EU has not waited for this article to launch a debate in the field. Work is continuing, looking at the possibility of the EU equipping national armed forces[1] in addition to the training already provided under CSDP missions. The EU is aware of the challenges it faces and is ready to provide innovative solutions.

[1] “Capacity Building for Security and Development”, as its area of action goes beyond the African continent.

This article is part of Friends of Europe’s Discussion Paper ‘Europe, China and Africa : new thinking for a secure century ’ to be published in November 2016, which brings together the views of Friends of Europe’s large network of scholars, policymakers and business representatives on the future of EU-China cooperation in the security field in Africa. These articles provide insight into stakeholders’ views and recommendations as China evolves from an economic to a security player in Africa.

IMAGE CREDIT: CC / FLICKR – European External Action Service