A Sight on European Defence

Every year, the EU spends more than 7 billion Euros in a multitude of programs for humanitarian aid, development, support to democracy, and so on and so forth. It is said to represent only a small percentage of EU total budget. However, in a time of budgetary restrictions, it could be wise to have a closer look at the way all this money is spent.

Although I am (still) a strong supporter of EU, sometimes I wonder whether it is working in the right direction. Effectively, command and control, like the military say, is not that clear. Hierarchic links are even pretty blurred.

While the European External Action service should lead the most of those fields and therefore the services in charge of implementing those policies, it seems that some commissioners did not acknowledge the change of structure, if we believe in the article published on Euractiv website on 23rd August 2010 (here).

However, I would not reduce the issue to EU institutions, although there could be much to say on the way the spending is controlled by the relevant service, as reported by the EU accountancy court, mainly when it deals with support to the UN.

In this post, I would only refer to the way the support to development responsibilities are shared between the Union and Member States. As stated in the Treaty of Lisbon, articles 208 and 214, dealing with development and humanitarian aid, the European Union and Member States policies should “complement and reinforce each other”.

In theory, it could work. However a recent press statement of made by the German authorities led me to wonder whether everything was running well. On 23 August 2010, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its pride for being regarded as a reliable partner of the United Nations, through its contributions to the different funds and programs of the UN. Purpose is not to finger Germany. What Germany does is what it feels politically necessary and as it is their money they do what they want out of it.

However, as I wrote beforehand on Sahel, I wonder how the coordination between the national and EU policies is performed; and as all this deals with money, converted in projects and programs, I still wonder whether EU structures fit with such an extensive synchronization, which should be performed in Brussels and then on the field.

Exploring further this issue, one can see the paradox of European development and humanitarian aid policies: on the one hand, Member States largely contribute to the common budget and policy, on the other hand, they go on with their national policies, with their own goals. As stated in the Treaties, national and EU policies should complement and reinforce each other. If so, why implement two policies, while governments play a major role to orient EU policy through the Council? Of course, experts feel at ease with this issue, as they know perfectly the mechanism. But, as citizen trying to understand the mechanism, I don’t.

Our armed forces are committed in the worst places of the world, and can be sent in areas where EU money has been spent for many years in support of democracy, peace and development. It happens that, despite the heavy investments, the situation worsens and governments decide of a military operation.

During the operation, the flood of money can even increase, to support stabilization. A legitimate claim for the military could consist in getting the guarantee that every Euro Cent is spent properly. However I have some doubts. As of today, the global system conveys the impression that EU money is not spent by those in charge of Common Foreign and Security Policy, as the EEAS, on its side, will meet huge difficulties to coordinate with the countries participating to the operation, mainly when they are under the flag of a third party, might it be a coalition of the willing, or an alliance.

If we were to add the other EU agencies or EU funded NGOs, the total system would surely become completely opaque.

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