A case in point is the European Peace Facility (EPF), a new fund of initially €10.5 billion for the next seven years that will replace the Athena mechanism and the African Peace Facility (APF). Whereas the Athena mechanism financed EU military operations, the APF was funded through the European Development Fund, supporting the African Union and the African Regional Economic Communities in peace and security. The latter was explicitly not allowed to provide financial resources for military equipment, arms or military training. The new EPF, however, does explicitly allow for the provision of funds to non-EU partners to enable them to buy military equipment. Whereas peace organisations have called on the EU to stop the EPF and to “avoid investing in militarised approaches that are prone to failure and risk”, the EU’s diplomatic service, the EU External Action Service (EEAS), has defended the new approach by stating that “our security is not for free” – reiterating the US military’s slogan “our freedom is not free”– and that “hard power has to complement soft power”.
Secondly, current EU initiatives blur the line between the military and the civilian sphere by militarising the EU’s Research and Development (R&D) funding, thereby fundamentally challenging “the nature of the European Union (EU) as a peace project”. The EDF of 13bn euros is probably the most important security and defence initiative the EU is currently undertaking. Von der Leyen has committed to strengthening the EDF with more funding during her term in office, although this may become more difficult now that the Finnish Presidency has proposed to significantly reduce the EU’s overall budget.
Nevertheless, the institutional embeddedness of the EDF – currently organised under the newly created Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space – and the approach taken – focusing on market competitiveness, industrial regulation, and innovation rather than defence cooperation per se – present a significant development within European defence cooperation. This approach enables the EU to use its own budget to finance the development of military capacities, even if EU treaties do not allow for the EU budget to finance military instruments and operations. While this use of the EU’s budget for military purposes is unprecedented, the marketisation of security and defence limits our ability to hold the EU accountable in defence as it becomes increasingly subject to principles of competitiveness instead of governing and regulation.
Whose security ?
Third, while the EU justifies militarism and the use of military force by referring to the need to protect on the one hand the ‘security, prosperity and democracies’ of European citizens, and on the other hand ‘lives abroad’, we should interrogate whosesecurity the EU’s militarism is actually protecting and defending.
Militarism reduces resources for other public investments at home and abroad, such as social security. Moreover, it hinders the consideration of local contexts and structural causes of insecurity. Militarism – as a response to crisis – in this way reinforces causes and consequences of crises and produces new insecurities, particularly of already marginalised groups.
The European Union Naval Force Mediterranean, Operation Sophia is a good example. Before it was downscaled after pressure from the Italian government in March 2019, it deployed military vessels and trained Libyan coastguards to disrupt human smugglers and trafficker networks. While the mission’s core mandate is to fight organised crime (normally a police/civilian task), EU documents and officials have stressed that militarism in migration policy and the deployment of military force protects migrants, especially women and children, and saves lives at sea.
Human rights organisations – many of which have been criminalised for their search and rescue activities – have questioned these motives because of Operation Sophia’s implicit goal to deter migration. A leaked report published by Politico revealed that the EU is aware that “a number of its policies have made the sea crossing more dangerous for migrants” because migrants had to use more dangerous rubber boats once the EU operation had destroyed the smugglers’ wooden ones and given that some of the Libyan coastguards that were part of the EU’s training were “collaborating with smuggling networks”.Print