EU’s finance for African security missions has ‘poor effect’, say auditors

The AU's mission to Somalia was threatened by EU funding cuts. [AMISOM/Flickr]

The EU’s financial support for African peace and security policies “has had a poor effect and needs refocusing,” the European Court of Auditors said in a report published on Tuesday (18 September).

The CoA, which monitors EU spending, argues that the European Commission, led by its diplomatic arm, the European External Action Service, should work to encourage the African Union’s ownership of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) with a view to “refocus EU support away from supporting operational costs towards capacity-building measures”.

At the centre of APSA is the Peace and Security Council, established by the 55 member countries of the AU as a “standing decision-making organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts”.

The Luxembourg-based Court audited contracts worth €102.5 million, which were concluded by the Commission in the period from 2014 to 2016.

“EU support for APSA had long been focused on contributing to its basic operational costs,” the ECA concluded, adding that its “financing instruments were not always used coherently.”

Around 80% of the EU’s funding is used to finance peace support operations, such as the African Union Mission to Somalia. The EU contends that supporting the APSA reduces the need for its member states to finance expensive peace-support operations, which it estimates would cost an additional €720 million per year.

In particular, the CoA findings underscore some of the struggles that the African Union (AU) has faced since its creation in 2002, as it seeks to establish itself as a political actor on the African continent.

The AU wants to model itself on the European Commission, as a powerful political executive co-ordinating policies on intra-African trade, peace and security and foreign policy.

However, the AU has struggled to persuade many of its 55 member countries to finance the organization. Fewer than half of the African states paid their agreed contributions to the AU budget on time and in full. Donors contributed 54% of the AU’s €395 million annual budget in 2017.

Building up the AU’s capacity remains an ongoing challenge for the EU. The EU is keen to curtail its financial support for the AU’s military force (AMISOM) against the Al-Shabaab terrorist network in Somalia, which has totalled well over €1 billion since 2007, but Uganda and Kenya threatened to withdraw their troops from the joint force when the Commission mooted halting its funding in 2016.

In 2016, AU member states agreed on a new mechanism for financing the AU’s operational budget and the Peace Fund. The EU supported the initiative, which consists of imposing a 0.2% levy on all eligible goods imported into Africa. By January 2018, 14 member states had started collecting the levy.

Juncker offers EU-Africa trade deal in new 'partnership of equals'

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker held out the promise of an EU-Africa trade pact on Wednesday as part of a ‘partnership of equals’ between the two continents, signalling Europe’s stronger involvement in Africa, where Chinese influence is rapidly spreading.

Last week, the EU executive committed to €50 million in technical support for the AU as it seeks to finalise an African Continent Free Trade Area (ACFTA) which has been agreed to by 49 African countries.

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