The European Union wants to pay for military equipment, including lethal weaponry, for partner countries in crisis zones such as Africa’s Sahel region as part of a €10.5 billion ($12.4 billion) “peace facility” proposed on Wednesday, June 13.
The bloc says the new European Peace Facility is needed to make its training missions in Africa more effective and to enable it to contribute to peacekeeping efforts elsewhere in the world.
But the E.U. paying for arms is a sensitive issue for some member states, especially when it involves countries with histories of political unrest and human rights abuses, and there could be resistance to the proposal.
The new EPF is being kept separate from the main E.U. budget to get around the bloc’s rules against funding military projects. The fund – €10.5 billion over seven years – will financed by contributions by E.U. member states based on a Gross National Income distribution.
The E.U.’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the EPF – which needs approval by all member states – would make it easier to help stabilize restive countries like Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic.
“The world is living in difficult times and this calls for a European Union responsibility and role on the global scene,” Mogherini said.
“Both Europeans and our partners in the world expect the E.U. to be more and more a security provider in our region and beyond.”
The proposal, made by the European Commission, the bloc’s powerful executive arm, would see partner countries given “comprehensive support,” which officials said could include weapons, although EPF support to partners is contingent on the pursuit of EU foreign and security objectives, and will be “subject to strict controls, including conformity with democratic principles and human rights standards.”
— European External Action Service – EEAS ?? (@eu_eeas) June 13, 2018
Mogherini said the proposal will now go to the Council with the aim of adoption in 2019 to allow for practical preparations to enable it to be operational by January 1, 2021.
Decisions about what to spend EPF money on would be taken by member states themselves, through the European Council. Potential EPF-funded actions will be proposed by the High Representative and require unanimous approval by either the Council or the Political and Security Committee.
According to the European Commission, the EPF will cover funding of the common costs of E.U. military operations and missions and support for partners, including capacity-building for military actors, and training, equipment and infrastructure.
The fund hopes to improve the effectiveness of the E.U.’s training missions in Africa by continuing to finance African-led operations such as AMISOM or the G5 Sahel force.
The G5 Sahel, comprised of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, was launched in 2014 to improve cooperation on development and security in West Africa.
They launched the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force in July 2017. Its mandate is to combat terrorism, transnational organized crime and human trafficking in the Sahel area.
The five nations aim to deploy 5,000 troops in the region along the southern edge of the Sahara desert to work alongside thousands of troops deployed to France’s Operation Barkhane and the U.N.’s Minusma peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Last month Niger’s defense minister said the force was ready to launch operations, but a push by France and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for direct funding was rejected by the United States at the Security Council.
An E.U. official told AFP that any decision to pay for weapons would take into account the bloc’s human rights values and only in “very specific cases and after careful checking.”
Arms would only be provided as part of a package alongside training, and would not be the main focus of the EPF funding, the official said.
The official pointed to the Somalia operation, where in some cases local forces have been unable to apply the training they have received because of a lack of equipment as basic as proper boots.
With reporting from AFP