As Brexit goes by, the CSDP is increasingly muddled

 

Much has been said on the Brexit, probably one of the worst and ill-managed political decisions in the history of Britain, but not so much about its security impacts on two key aspects: security-development nexus and the fight against terrorism. The first is essential in avoiding costly humanitarian operations that bear no fruit, the second is considered a priority by several political establishments, although the numbers of casualties in Western countries are extremely low and suggest a better resource allocation.

The security-development nexus by common consensus among international organisations and actors is described as the desired synergy between the security framework to be established in a peacekeeping or peacebuilding mission and economic development measures able to lift the country and the society out of a post-war environment. It has become a rhetorical truism, but its concrete application is much more difficult vis-à-vis the mentioned definition for multiple political, bureaucratic, diplomatic and societal reasons.

That said, within the EU Global Strategy (Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe -A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy) there is no explicit mention of the security-development nexus, although it is indirectly implied in four sentences and somehow more clearly in two.

The nexus is instead clearly stated in the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence (Brussels, 14 November 2016 (OR. en), 14392/16, COPS 339 CSDP/PSDC 651 CFSP/PESC 924 POLMIL 136 CIVCOM 223 EUMC 132 JAI 940 COMPET 584), but the link appears more skewed towards the following objectives: the partners’ resilience and countering hybrid threats (including strategic communication, cybersecurity and border security), notwithstanding a generic mention of the synergy with other EU instruments.

In this context, it is also remarkable to see that there is no mention of the nexus in the Joint Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the EC and the Secretary General of the NATO (8th of July 2016), where resilience and hybrid threats are present. In short, already at EU level, the nexus is part of a wider political discourse, but with much less impact on real operations; besides, also EEAAS sources observe that there is an institutional tension between the PSC that decides on the security sector and DEVCO that has funds and power on development funds. This is rather evident when one tries to match the most significant CSDP missions with development allocations, as we shall see below. On a global level, EU development spending is so wide in terms of geographic distribution that it lacks any significant strategic focus.

The fight against terrorism does not present these problems, but of course, the present and possible future relationships with the JHA shared competence are a problem as serious as the nexus. The big debate revolves in the UK about how much the British intelligence in superior compared to all other EU homologues: it is frankly a moot point since the fight against terrorism is not just intelligence, but a successful combination of intelligence, police, judiciary, CVE (Countering Violent Extremism, i.e. prevention and de-radicalisation), strategic communication and socio-political measures primarily targeted at one’s own national public community, specific religious groups and individual problematic social clusters. Some countries have no incidents or with considerable intervals, despite an established presence of terrorist networks. Italy does not have a single national terrorism dead since 2002 and none concerning Islamist groups;  Spain has successfully defeated its own national terrorism and since March 2004 it had 13 years without Islamist attacks.

On the one hand, the UK government plays its role in stressing its contribution to both sectors:

  1. Only five countries in addition to the UK meet or exceed the 0,7% of GNI humanitarian and development target in 2015 set by the UN[1].
  2. 36% of the aid goes to big multilateral organisations (like the UN), while 64% is spent bilaterally. The five biggest recipients in 2015 in the order: Pakistan (£374m), Ethiopia (£332m), Afghanistan (£300m), Nigeria, Syria,[2].
  3. In the period 2009-2010, according to the CONTEST July 2011 governmental paper (UK’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism), the number of international terrorism arrests was higher than in any other EU MS, but France and Spain showed more convictions. Successive CONTEST papers concentrated exclusively on internal issues or EU harmonisation, leaving out any mention of contribution to European efforts;
  4. Last year, according to the UK PM, a fifth of all alerts circulated in the Schengen Information System (SIS) II originated from UK sources and concerned 13.000 hits on people and objects of interest. Obviously, other contributions are classified, but quantity alone, judged by the attacks that penetrated the country’s security, cannot be a reliable criterion. In terms of extraditions, UK reached the amount of 10.000 persons sent to other EU MS with the European Arrest Warrant.
  5. Institutionally one can say that the UK: has a remarkable role in the EU’s working groups on terrorism; is among the founders of the EU9 group; is member of the intergovernmental European Counter Terrorism Group and of the COSI (Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security)[3] and assists a number of minor countries in organising their EU presidencies concerning the antiterrorism agenda.

On the other hand, the overall picture is less impressive on the security-development nexus and mixed at the strategic level about the fight against terrorism.

If one tries to see where is the coherence from the EU side, especially for the more demanding missions in Africa (Libya, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Horn of Africa, Central African Republic), there is a clear imbalance between development aid and personnel allocated to the security missions. As a rule of thumb each mission,  in most cases does not reach a 200 person strength, is matched by € 200-300 million/year of development assistance.  In most cases, these missions are assistance operations with no active military operations or direct law enforcement.

One can possibly argue that by sheer numbers these missions are inherently cost-effective, but the evident reality is that, against the example of Kosovo (in the first recovery phase until 2004 €1-1,3bn/year and some 16.000 soldiers for a very troubled country during that period), these resources are a palliative, hoping that the political situation will stabilise by itself. This does not mean that the Nexus has been achieved in much bigger operations like Afghanistan or Iraq, whose success is debatable at best, but Kosovo is a reasonably good example of a combination between an established security and a still unsustainable development.

UK’s way of trying to achieve the nexus shows in general a more solid security side (1.400 civ/mils in Iraq; 100 permanent troops and 280 short-term reinforcements in Kenya for the Horn of Africa engagement; 350 soldiers in Nigeria; 400 in South Sudan under UN command; 90 in Sierra Leone; approx. 450 troops in Afghanistan), but the overall results in the top five aid recipients (Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria) can be described as insufficient in four of five cases, Ethiopia being the relative exception.

Anti-terrorism is a much less transparent environment but, taking at face value UK’s European contribution, the overall effectiveness of British policies in the area needs to evaluated in relative terms. UK is not part of the Schengen System, which is already creating problems for improvement of the SIS II and is one of the uncertain dossiers in the post-Brexit period (HC European Scrutiny Committee, Enhancing law enforcement cooperation and border control, 13/12/2017). UK’s CONTEST results in operational terms have been considered partially sufficient in the national practitioners’ debate (a 42% success rate is considered unsatisfactory) and the causes of the terrorist risk are in many cases depending from the role Britain has played in important wars like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

The bottom line is that UK contributed in general to common CSDP goals in terms of the nexus between security and development, but mostly à la carte in specific EU operations while its main focus was preponderantly national. So while Brexit in this respect means the loss of an overall high profile partner, in detail the divorce between EU priorities and UK interest was long-standing due to different security engagement capabilities, interests and breadth of financial contribution from the EU side (meaning also a much less focused policy). It will not be felt both in Afghanistan and Iraq, due to a small EU presence, and likewise in the EU operations in Africa because the UK contribution to them was limited, although some time of high quality.

The requests and proposals of the government in the internal security area, gained from official statements of the PM Theresa May, are:

  • UK is unconditionally committed to maintaining EU’s security;
  • a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, to retain the co-operation that has been built and go further in a practical and pragmatic way;
  • keeping a seamless flow of persons and documents required by the expedited extradition and mutual legal assistance relationship, including the European Arrest Warrant (with the unspoken implication that also data like the PNR and the biometric data of the Prüm convention should be included);
  • keeping the advantages of the European Investigation Order;
  • a new security agreement with EU, possibly covering the depth and breadth of the existing relationship,
  • in addition the treaty must fulfil three further requirements: 1) respecting the remit of the European Court of Justice when the UK participates in EU agencies; 2) a close legal co-operation to respect UK’s unique status as a third country, including an appropriate form of independent dispute resolution; 3) comprehensive and robust data protection arrangements first with an alignment of the Data Protection Bill with the EU and then a bespoke arrangement with an ongoing role for the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office;
  • the creation of ad hoc groups like the mentioned CTG.

The previous governmental “Foreign policy, defence and development: a future partnership paper” (12/09/2017), was much more undefined on the subject, while the discussion proposal by the MP Crispin Blunt (27/04/2017) was much more practical in terms of desired outcomes in the CFDP area, where the PM has been much more vague. Namely Hon. Blunt thought desirable to have: an Enhanced Framework Participation Agreement (an FPA with specific privileges for the UK); a permanent observer status in the PSC/COPS allowing to shape decisions, before being taken; a regular high-level political dialogue.

Unfortunately, the dynamics of Brexit, firstly within the country and then in relation with the EU institutions and member states, are far from the desired level of political rationality required for achieving results nearing the expectations voiced by the PM. From a negotiating point of view the idea that there are countries indispensable for the European security even if they are not part of the EU, clashes with the reality that the USA are out of the EU, have specific security CT and defence arrangements (mostly in multi-bilateral or in NATO), but nothing near the UK requests. For the time being, UK’s positions can be interpreted as preliminary posturing in view of a serious negotiation, but there is no guarantee that the most important members of the Union and also others are ready to agree with the British wishes, knowing all too well how nationally-minded was British participation in the EU and how own national interests could stand in the way. If a shared threat was enough to unite capitals, the Cold War would already have witnessed much more significant developments within and outside NATO.

In conclusion, it is reasonable to expect a transition period of 2-3 years where intergovernmental co-operation will be the main tool in security and defence matters, including the security-development nexus, where UK policies were already rather distant from EU ones, after which there could be the possibility of EU-UK Council trying to structure this co-operation. Much more muddled is the picture concerning the fight against terrorism, especially because the entanglement was deeper, legal matters bedevil constantly this area and complication risks to be greater with the stressing of the national sovereign legal character of the UK system (following the unfortunate precedents of the German Constitutional Court). The first stop-gap solution that can be envisaged is some “passerelle” expediting procedures and data exchanges, while a more structured agreement could take at least three years if it ever comes to fruition.

[1] The others are Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden; the UK is the bottom spender in this top tier. Germany, France, Italy, the US, Japan and Canada each spend 0.4% or less.

[2] Compared to 2005, the top recipients were Nigeria, Iraq, India, Zambia and Afghanistan.

[3] A club of countries concerned about foreign fighters set up by the Ministries of Interior of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, Austria and Spain, joined later by Belgium and Ireland. The European Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) is a club, heir of the Berne Club, including all EU 28 MS plus Norway and Switzerland. The COSI is within the European Council and apparently is dealing with the fight against terrorism. Its next meeting is scheduled for 13/04/2018.

Alessandro Politi – NDCF Director