- Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/509 of 22 March 2021 establishing a European Peace Facility, and repealing Decision (CFSP) 2015/528.
The European Peace Facility is a new budget designed to finance military operations carried out by the EU or its allies, or to provide equipment, training or other assistance to those allies. As with the European Defence Fund, the establishment of the EPF is indicative of a renewed emphasis on the importance of ‘hard power’ in international affairs, and a growing attempt by the EU institutions to ensure they can project power abroad, whether through EU military operations or the financing of allies’ operations. The substantial amount of money that is being made available, however, is not formally part of the EU budget (see section 5.5.2).
The use of the word ‘peace’ in the name of the fund can only be described as Orwellian, given that this is a budget designed to increase the EU’s ability to launch or assist various types of military operation, significantly expanding on its current efforts. The text states that this is ultimately supposed to pursue ‘the objective of preserving peace, preventing conflicts and strengthening international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’. The intended direction of travel is clear and has long-been stated – as the then-Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put it in June 2017: ‘soft power alone is not powerful enough in an increasingly militarised world’. The depressing conclusion is that the EU should start massively increasing its contribution to militarising the world, in order to try and match that of its perceived competitors – namely Russia and China.
Activities and beneficiaries
Funds channelled through the EPF will finance:
- EU military operations launched as part of the Common Security and Defence Policy;
- military support to non-EU states;
- ‘peace support operations led by a regional or international organisation or by third states’;
- other EU military or defence operations.
EU military operations are referred to in the text as ‘operations’, while the term ‘assistance measures’ is used to describe ‘actions to strengthen the capacities of third States and regional and international organisations relating to military and defence matters’, as well as ‘support to military aspects of peace support operations led by a regional or international organisation or by third States’. Confusingly, assistance measures can be implemented through operations.
The Decision establishing the EPF sets out a number of potential objectives for assistance measures:
- to strengthen the capacities relating to military and defence matters and resilience of third states and of regional and international organisations;
- to contribute rapidly and effectively to the military response of third states and of regional and international organisations in a crisis situation;
- to contribute effectively and efficiently to conflict prevention, stabilisation and peace consolidation, including in the context of operations with tasks of training, advice and mentoring in the security sector, as well as in other pre-conflict or post-conflict situations;
- to support cooperation in the area of security and defence between the Union and a third state or a regional or international organisation.
There are numerous potential beneficiaries of the EPF. While it is the successor to the African Peace Facility (APF), it is wider in scope in two key ways (and, notably, it is now no longer necessary for the EU to seek the assent of the African Union to fund operations or assistance measures in African states). Firstly, while most of the EU’s military operations are currently in African states, EPF money can be spent around the globe. Second, it will be possible to use EPF funds to pay not just for items such as transport, billeting or training, but also for weapons, something previously not possible. As if to demonstrate both these novel aspects of the new fund, the EU has so far provided €1 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, – ‘Another taboo has fallen… The taboo that the EU was not providing arms in a war, yes we are doing it,’ said foreign policy chief Josep Borrell after agreement on the first round of funding for the Ukrainian military.
Member state authorities and agencies, primarily their militaries, will be responsible for conducting operations. Member state authorities and agencies may also be responsible for carrying out assistance measures, although the Council of the EU is able to delegate that task to numerous other actors: international or regional organisations; non-EU states that do ‘not contravene the security and defence interests of the Union and its Member States… [respect] international law and, where relevant, the principle of good neighbourly relations with Member States’; or EU bodies or agencies. The implementing actor may be some other type of organisation or agency in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Funding and control methods
Decisions over when and where to launch EU military operations or assistance measures will remain with the member states. Proposals for those decisions can be made by either the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who heads the European External Action Service (EEAS, potentially acting alongside the European Commission) or by a member state.
The EPF can be used to cover the ‘common costs’ of both the preparatory and active phases of operations. The preparatory phase is deemed to last ‘from the approval of the crisis management concept until the appointment of the operation commander’, while the active phase ‘runs from the date on which the operation commander is appointed to the day on which the operations headquarters ceases its activity’. Precisely what the common costs are in each of those phases is set out in a series of detailed annexes to the Decision establishing the EPF. In certain cases, the EPF may also manage expenditure ‘to facilitate the initial deployment of the forces to an operation, before it has been confirmed which Member States will contribute personnel or assets to an operation’. The EPF will also fund the common costs of EU military exercises.
Member states can choose not to participate in any particular operation, absolving them from the obligation to contribute to its costs. Likewise, a member state may choose not to contribute funds to an assistance measure that involves ‘the supply of military equipment, or platforms, designed to deliver lethal force’. If it does so, however, it must ‘make an additional contribution to assistance measures other than those concerning the supply of such equipment or platforms’, thus leaving it complicit in the use of lethal force. Those other assistance measures can be existing ones, ‘possible future measures for which a concept note has been presented or approved by the Council, or new measures requested by the abstaining state’.1
Despite the availability of these partial opt-outs, all member states except Denmark are obliged to contribute to the costs of ‘support and preparatory expenditure on operations’ that are ‘not linked to a specific operation’, and all member states must contribute to expenditure for assistance measures. These contributions can cover, among other things, ‘indemnities for damages and costs resulting from claims and legal actions to be paid through the Facility’; ‘expenditure for contract staff working for the Facility and administrative support in headquarters and delegations’; and even ‘costs necessary for exploratory missions and preparations (in particular fact-finding missions and reconnaissance) by military and civilian personnel with a view to a specific Union operation’. The exact amount of each state’s contribution to the EPF is to be determined annually in accordance with separate EU rules.
It will also be possible for member states and non-EU states to make ‘voluntary financial contributions’ to the EPF. The legal framework governing any particular operation or assistance measure must set out how such contributions are to be managed, if the Political and Security Committee (a Council working party) agrees to accept them. Those contributions ‘may be earmarked for a particular project in support of the operation or assistance measure’.
A new administrative structure is being set up to assist in the implementation of the EPF. The budget will be ‘managed under the authority and direction’ of a Facility Committee. A number of officials will be responsible for day-to-day management of the Facility’s affairs: an administrator and accountant for operations; the operation commander of each operation financed by the EPF; and an administrator and accountant for assistance measures. In the case of operations, responsibility for making use of the funds provided by the EPF lies with either the operation commander or the relevant accounting officer. In the case of assistance measures, either the direct or indirect management method may be employed. In the case of the latter, the Council of the EU is to decide exactly whom will be the ‘implementing actor’, with possibilities ranging from member states to EU agencies (as explained above).
The Facility Committee itself is to be made up of a representative of each member state, with the state holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU serving as chair. European External Action Service (EEAS) and European Defence Agency (EDA) representatives may be invited to attend its meetings, but without voting rights. The Committee is to adopt the annual budget (and any amending budgets); approve the annual accounts; and adopt implementing rules covering how money is to be spent for both operations and assistance measures. For non-procedural matters, decisions require unanimous agreement amongst those eligible to vote on the subject in question. Control of the EPF thus rests firmly in the hands of the member states, with no formal role whatsoever for the European Parliament.
The Facility Committee is obliged to establish a ‘minimum deposit system to provide early financing for Union rapid response operations and urgent measures’, although these cannot involve the provision of any ‘military equipment, or platforms, designed to deliver lethal force’. The Council is to take decisions on when and where to launch any such rapid response operations or urgent measures.
The Committee is also responsible for approving the final destination, following completion of an operation, of equipment and infrastructure purchased with EPF funds. Infrastructure can either be sold or transferred to the host country undertaking an operation, a member state or a third party, while equipment can be sold or stored for subsequent use by the host country, a member state or a third party. However, infrastructure and equipment do not necessarily have to be disposed of – the Facility itself may retain it after an operation is wound up. If it is decided that the Facility should keep ownership of infrastructure or equipment, ‘the contributing Member States may ask for financial compensation from the other Member States except Denmark’.
There are some explicit fundamental rights obligations placed upon the Facility Committee, which must examine any proposed budgetary implementing rules ‘in close cooperation with the administrators, in particular with a view to ensuring that the implementing rules will comply with the principles of sound financial management and non-discrimination and respect for fundamental rights’.
The text also includes a number of explicit principles for assistance measures. They ‘must be consistent with the policies and objectives of the Union’s external action aiming at building peace, preventing conflicts and strengthening international security’, and ‘they must respect the obligations of the Union and its Member States under international law, in particular international human rights law and humanitarian law’. They must also comply with EU rules on arms exports. Any assistance measure has to be accompanied by:
‘…an assessment from the High Representative, including a conflict sensitivity and context analysis, and a risk and impact assessment, and include appropriate safeguards, controls, mitigating and flanking elements and arrangements for monitoring and evaluation’.
An example of such an assessment, concerning the provision of arms to Ukraine, was published by Statewatch at the end of March 2022.
There are no such explicit principles or requirements included for operations (which will primarily be conducted by EU member state military forces, rather than third countries), apart from any general obligations such as compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Monitoring, reporting and transparency
The Council is obliged to review the legislation establishing the EPF every three years. The format of that review is not set out in the legislation – for example, there is no requirement to produce a report of any kind, whether public or not, nor is there a requirement for an independent, external evaluation – but the text does say that for the purposes of that review, ‘all experts relevant to the proceedings, including in the Committee and the Facility management bodies, may be called upon to contribute to the discussion’. As with all other aspects of the fund, there is no requirement for the involvement of any democratically elected officials or institutions, namely the European or national parliaments.