MEPs from the European Parliament, led by Antonio Tajani, are voting on handing money to Somalia
MEPs will decide later today if it is legal for the European Commission to hand out part of the EU fund to help bolster public bodies including parliaments and armies, in countries hindered by violence such as Mali and Somalia.
Changes to the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) are due to be given the go-ahead by the Legal Affairs Committee after MEPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee voted 47 to 14 in favour of it on Tuesday.
If the law is passed, the IcSP would gain an extra £88.6million up to 2020.
There has been strong resistance from left-wing politicians and countries such as Sweden, who say it is a blatant attempt to pull scarce financial resources away from traditional aid projects to support the EU’s stretched military operations in sub-Saharan Africa.
Lawyers from both the European Council and the Parliament have said the legal basis for releasing the funds is faulty, which could mean the proposal is blocked if MEPs on the Legal Affairs Committee decide to take their advice.
The original confidential legal opinion from the Parliament’s lawyers last year, seen by Politico, said: “The proposed regulation pursues objectives that predominantly fall within the scope of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
“The regulation may therefore not be adopted under the legal basis of development policy.”
Lawyers from the European Council also argued “the proposal as it stands primarily pursues a security objective and not a development objective”.
However, five months later, the Parliament’s lawyers changed their position and said the proposal was actually legal because the spending “can be seen, given the exceptional circumstances under which assistance is provided, as incidental and necessary for development”.
Following Tuesday’s vote, Arnaud Danjean, a centre-right French MEP, said: “It is imperative to give the possibility to finance ‘civilian’ actions of the armed forces in fragile countries.”
He said it was the “missing link” in the bloc’s foreign policy.
The vote could authorise military aid to Mali
A Commission document from 2015, using examples of EU missions involving military capacity-building in Mali, Somali and the Central African Republic, said: “The link between security and development is a key underlying principle of the EU’s comprehensive approach to external conflicts and crises.”
Today’s vote marks a growing trend within the EU of going against its own legal advice and treaties.
MEP Arnaud Dantean said the money would help ‘civilian’ actions of armed forces
Member countries have accused the EU of trying to take resources away from traditional aid projects
The Lisbon Treaty bans EU funds from being spent on military operations, however the Athena mechanism, a financing agreement from 2004, does.
In 2016, 10 EU countries, including Spain, France, Italy and Germany, demanded the Commission accelerate its work to strengthen military aid.
They said: “The urgent need for action to develop the EU’s ability to work with partners to strengthen their civilian and military security sector.”
The Commission gave in and said IcSP funds could be spent on militaries “in exceptional circumstances”.
Again, its own lawyers had expressed concerns about the legality of the move.