The European Union is much more active around the globe than many citizens realise. It has used its soft power to promote its values in the world, advancing human rights for people in so many places.
The proposed EU budget framework, or Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), allocates unprecedented levels of funding for border management and military projects over the next seven years. This includes €21bn for external border control, and another €21bn for arms research, development and procurement. In both cases this is many times what has been spent in the last seven years.
The impetus for this spending comes from perceptions about public attitudes to immigration, fears about Russia and efforts to increase economic growth – including the arms industry.
Leading peacebuilding, human rights, development and humanitarian organisations are keen to share their expertise so that Europe does not repeat the mistakes which the international community has made countless times in the past.
In particular, proposals to spend billions of euros on private sector arms trade research, military capacity-building and border control – both at home and abroad – do not address the root causes of violent conflict, environmental degradation, poor governance and other drivers of migration. Simplistic responses to complex challenges risks further entrenching cycles of violence, fragility and the displacement of people.
The EU is proud of the global contribution it has made over the last seven years. Reviews into funds such as the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace and the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights have demonstrated the impact the EU can make when it spends it budget well.
Investment in peacebuilding and human-centred migration policies has been proven to work. Evidence demonstrates the impact of an integrated approach to peacebuilding, sustainable development and human rights. Such an approach must be ring-fenced within the seven-year budget framework or the current political climate will be “locked in” for years to come.
Europe doesn’t need an EU budget that normalises the crisis mode of recent years. Instead, Europe should be at the forefront of addressing the drivers of conflict and insecurity.
- How will the EU ensure that these vast new funds will not be used to violate the human rights of vulnerable people, or to suppress freedoms in recipient countries? Transparency is needed, but complex and inconsistent national and European Commission reporting mechanisms will make public access to information difficult.
- Some of the new funding for border control represents a boost for private-sector security companies in EU member states and the USA. Monitoring EU money going to third countries for border management and the building up of other security forces will be a huge challenge. The EU has significant experience in trying to build sustainable and appropriate state security institutions, and so there is an opportunity to learn from its own evaluations.
- The existing Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace will be subsumed into a larger, more general fund. This might mean more joined-up thinking by European Commission departments and member states, but risks undermining crucial funding for peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
- The proposed new “European Peace Facility” is not what its name would suggest. It does not seek to address the root causes of conflict, but allows the EU to arm and equip foreign militaries. As this fund lies outwith the main EU budget, it is not subject to oversight by the European Parliament.
- At the same time, the new “European Defence Fund” foresees billions for private-sector military research and development. Funding would only be made available if three or more member states committed to buy the final products – in other words, an effective subsidy for the European arms trade.
Many have said it before us, including the former UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson: “There is no peace without development, and there is no development without peace, and none of the above without respect for human rights.”
The EU’s next budget is an opportunity for the EU to stand up for its original values of peace and respect for human rights by securing funding for civilian peacebuilding, and not risk undermining its reputation for human rights and the rule of law.
- Peacebuilding works.
- Refugees are people.
- Let’s invest in them.
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Open letter by CONCORD, the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), the Human Rights and Democracy Network and VOICE
EPLO informal feedback on the NDICI proposal
CSO joint statement on democracy and the MFF
CSO joint statement on gender and the MFF
ECRE statement on asylum funding
EU Alliance for Investing in Children statement
UNHCR recommendations for the next EU budget
Commission communication – an overview of the new MFF
Spending review for the existing MFF
Proposed Regulation (legal text) establishing the new budget
The European Peace Facility (EPF)
Migration and borders factsheet
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