Thursday July 13, 2017
EU lawyers disagree over legality of the proposal, saying it goes against the Lisbon Treaty.
The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee on Thursday narrowly backed the legality of a draft plan to allow EU aid to be spent on shoring up the military of developing countries such as Somalia and Mali.
The proposal to change the so-called Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace — an EU fund worth €2.3 billion that disburses money for peace-building activities in conflict-ridden developing countries — has been mired in legal controversy since its launch by the European Commission last year.
The European Parliament’s own lawyers initially said the proposal’s development policy legal basis was not compatible with its “predominantly” foreign and security objectives. A few months later, they changed their position, saying the proposal could fly given the “exceptional circumstances” in which financial assistance could be provided to military actors.Even so, some lawmakers, led by Green MEP Heidi Hautala, Finland’s international development minister between 2011 and 2013, are concerned about the risk of militarizing development policy “through the back door.”
The Lisbon Treaty forbids EU funds from being spent on military operations, with current missions in sub-Saharan Africa mainly funded through an intergovernmental financing agreement known as the Athena mechanism, set up in 2004.
She said the committee’s vote, which went 10-7 in favor of the proposal, was “quite at odds” with the Parliament’s own legal advice, “seriously calling into question its legal soundness.”
The vote was not preceded by a debate and was not disclosed in the agenda of the committee meeting, something described as “worrying” by Hautala. “Clearly this is an issue to which some do not want public attention to be drawn,” she added.
Earlier in the week, MEPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee backed the proposals by a big majority, despite opposition from some left-wing MEPs. EU governments, led by France and Germany, have for years been pressuring the Commission to spend more EU money on missions in sub-Saharan Africa.
The vote comes the same day French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are set to discuss the creation of a military force to fight terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region.
The proposed changes to spending guidelines will be voted on by the Parliament’s plenary in September before a final discussion between the Parliament and the Council of the EU.