For Europe, the migration ‘problem’ began in 2015, with huge flows of Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn country. But migration from Africa has been consistent for years, causing many deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, considered one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world. How are EU policies striving to address the root causes of the unrest in Africa?
Common Security and Defence Policy: the EU’s instrument for regional intervention
The EU is trying to find a solution to the influx of refugees entering Europe, which has caused political problems across the continent. One approach, aside from humanitarian aid, has been to use the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to stabilise states and regions through civilian and military operations.
The CSDP was created in 1998 as a response to European powers’ failure in the Balkans in the early 1990s. But as a French expert confirmed several years ago, another reason for the creation of the CSDP was to have an instrument that could contribute to the stabilisation of Africa and, in turn, help Europe avoid large influxes of migrants. Such concerns in European capitals have existed for years: since the 1990s, there has been a debate in Europe about conflict prevention and peace-building in Africa, and peace and development, intertwined, have remained at the heart of the EU’s strategy towards Africa.
The purpose of the CSDP, initially developed in a bilateral agreement between the UK and France, is to provide civilian, military, or civilian-military instruments that can stabilise Europe’s neighbourhood. Since its first missions in 2003, the CSDP has mainly been deployed in the Balkans and Africa. Out of a total of 36 CSDP missions, 17 are ongoing: 11 civilian; six military. Most missions have taken place in Africa.
The distinction between civilian and military missions is an important one. Military operations are usually financed through national funding, although some can be financed through collective funding. (Collective funding takes place under the “Athena mechanism”, which was developed in 2004 and can finance common costs of EU military operations and national-borne costs such as lodging and fuel.) By contrast, civilian operations are mainly financed by the EU budget, with some additional national contributions.
The overall cost of the CSDP to the EU is only minimal - just 0.16% of overall EU expenditure in 2013. But since the beginning of the Eurozone crisis, the CSDP has been seen by most European capitals as a luxury product. In addition, the member states seem to have lost sight of a common security strategy, which is confirmed by the recent document produced by the European External Action Service (EEAS). Financial constraints combined with a lack of strategic foresight have contributed to inertia and the failure of EU powers to deal individually with the root causes of the refugee crisis.
EU interventions in Africa
As argued by Alex Vines in a 2010 article on the EU and security in Africa, the CSDP has been used in two ways: on an ad hoc basis, allowing the EU and its member states to address pressing crises; and in the adoption of long-term capacity-building strategies towards Africa. The former took place with the deployment of “boots on the ground” in Chad, the Central African Republic, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and elsewhere. These missions, Vines argued, have provided limited security benefits to Europe. The latter type of operation requires a much more developmental approach and long-term commitments.
Apart from budgetary differences, the mandates of civilian and military missions tend to vary. There are three types of civilian mandates: strengthening (capacity-building), monitoring (third-party observation of reforms in security sectors and implementation of agreements) and executive (substitution of the local state, but this has happened only in the case of Kosovo). In the case of military operations, the mandate is given through a resolution of the United Nations Security Council or via a request by the host state.
The table below illustrates the ongoing civilian and military missions in Africa conducted by the EU.
Source: EEAS. 2016. “Overview of the current EU mission and operations.” July [accessed on August 8, 2016]
Over the last decade, the EU has produced several strategy documents: some comprehensive, like the 2016 EU Global Security Strategy, and others that are more region- or issue-specific. In the case of Africa, the long-term approach, embodied by the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy, focuses on building ties with African countries and the African Union to address issues related to conflict prevention, counterterrorism, organised crime, migration, border management and security sector reforms. The 2011 EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel was developed to address increasing instability in the Sahel region and the transnational nature of security threats. The EU sees the security threats faced by the region, such as poverty, the effects of climate change, poor governance (corruption and weak institutions), terrorism and trafficking, as serious destabilising factors. The CSDP missions are supposed to address some of the shortfalls, but are often too small and limited in their mandates to truly offer a comprehensive solution.
Scenarios and recommendations
The current context in Africa and Europe calls on us to examine several scenarios. First, the Mali case is becoming the “new normal”, whereby an EU member state takes the lead in using military force. Soon after the 2011 Libyan military intervention, Paris began two military operations in Africa: Operation Barkhane in the Sahel and Operation Sangaris in Central African Republic (since 2013). The French intervention in Mali, initially launched under Operation Serval, helped to stop the progress of terrorist networks. Once stabilised, the EU launched EUTM Mali to contribute to the reform of Mali’s defence sector. France still has around 6,500 soldiers in the Sahel and the Middle East working alongside EU civilian experts and soldiers. In these cases, one EU member state is clearly leading.
Second, the CSDP missions are too small and receive too little national support to carry out complex operations. A civilian mission in charge of building the authority of a sovereign state, ensuring territorial integrity, building institutions, reforming the security sector and empowering the rule of law cannot be completed in the short term. The fact that mandates of the missions are often extended by one or two years underlines the strategic short-termism of Brussels and the 28 national governments. One of the few CSDP missions considered as a relative success is EULEX in Kosovo, which was deployed in 2008. It is the largest CSDP mission, with 1,700 personnel and the EU holding executive power with its involvement in monitoring, mentoring and advising local partners. This operation is one of the few “state-building” missions undertaken by the EU. Compared to EULEX Kosovo, no operation in Africa is anywhere close in terms of political, material, financial and human commitments.
Third, it may be time to “unplug” the CSDP and merge it with NATO – a position advanced by many experts, such as Jolyon Howorth. This approach emerged after the 2011 Libyan military operation, which highlighted the limited military capabilities of France and the United Kingdom, who were both highly dependent on American military support, and the complete absence of the CSDP. Unfortunately, NATO seems to be in a period of a strategic inertia. NATO has not been able to address the core question of its purpose since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and appears to be unable to recover from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the United States may not wish to get involved in the stabilisation of Africa.
Fourth, the EU and its member states have only one option if they are serious about addressing the root causes of the current refugee crisis and contributing to the development of Africa: the implementation of a substantive, combined development-security approach. Considering the long history of European powers in Africa, European military presence in former colonies may be efficient in the short term; however, a transition to local authorities, despite some of their weaknesses, is the only possible option to empower local communities. Until more substantial economic cooperation, through fair trade and long-term investments, takes place between the EU and Africa, the current challenges will only be superficially solved. The challenge is the level of decentralisation of the EU and the role played by each institution (the EEAS and the Commission), other regional institutions (like the African Union) and international organisations (such as the United Nations). They do not always cooperate efficiently – but this is the only strategy worthy of investment.
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