European Scrutiny Committee Contents

56 European Security and Defence Policy and Guinea-Bissau


Council Decision amending and extending Joint Action 2008/112/CFSP on the European Union mission in support of security sector reform in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau (EU SSR GUINEA-BISSAU)

Legal baseArticle 28 and 43(2) TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 21 May 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone: but see (31072) —: HC 19-xxx (2008-09), chapter 6 (4 November 2009); (30551) — HC 19-xv (2008-09), chapter 12 (29 April 2009); and (29349) — : HC 16-ix (2007-08), chapter 12 (23 January 2008)
To be discussed in Council25 May 2010 Competitiveness Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; further information requested


56.1 The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website paints a troubled and unhappy picture of Guinea-Bissau's move to independence, via a protracted guerrilla war and then Portugal's own 1974 "carnation revolution": firstly, one-party rule, then a coup in 1980 which "began a pattern of military coups and instability, which has persisted until quite recently". That coup was led by Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, who became the first directly-elected President in 1994, after the acceptance of multi-party democracy in 1991 (a presidential democracy which allows for multiparty politics and an elected national assembly).

56.2 The period from 1998 to 2004 was notable for a further coup attempt; protracted stalemate between loyalist and rebel forces; the intervention of troops from neighbouring Senegal and Guinea, as well as from the regional peacekeeping force, ECOMOG; elections in December 1999 and January 2000; and the eventual election of opposition leader Kumba Yala in February 2000.

56.3 The first half of this present decade then consisted of further manifestations of unresolved tensions between the government and the military hierarchy: a further attempted military rebellion; subsequent rule by President Yala "characterised by chronic political instability"; his eventual deposition in a bloodless coup in September 2003 supported by all political parties, including Yala's own; the installation of a businessman as interim President; and legislative elections in March 2004 in which no party came out with an overall majority.

56.4 A further period of political turmoil followed the June 2005 presidential elections, following which ex-President Vieira eventually emerged as the winner in a close finish, and was sworn in as President on 1 October; including ex-president Yala's return from exile in late 2006; and culminating in the collapse of the government coalition in March 2007. After a stand-off the opposition leader Martinho N'Dafa Kabi became Prime Minister in April, and the political situation in the country steadied. The mandate of the legislature ended on April 21st 2008. The President then passed a temporary constitutional amendment allowing the continuation of the legislature until further elections could take place. These occurred on 16 November 2008 and resulted in a new Prime Minister, Carlos Gomez Junior, being appointed in January 2009.

56.5 It then notes that, following the March 2009 assassination of President Viera, the interim Head of State is the parliamentary speaker Raimundo Pereira; and that elections were due to occur in June 2009. The entry (which was last reviewed on 1 July 2010) closes as follows:

"In recent months several media reports have bought to public attention a growing problem of drug trafficking via Guinea Bissau. Drugs coming from Latin America are being smuggled to Europe via the country, taking advantage of the mangrove swamps and jagged coastline, and the poor capacity of the government to deal with the problem."[240]

Joint Action 2008/112/CFSP

56.6 The preamble set out the context for the proposal therein:

—  the promotion of peace, security and stability in Africa and Europe is a key strategic priority of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted by the EU-Africa Summit on 9 December 2007;

—  security sector reform (SSR) in Guinea-Bissau is essential for the stability and sustainable development of the country;

—  in November 2006, the Government of Guinea-Bissau presented a National Security Strategy underlining its commitment to implement security sector reform;

—  the Council and the Commission carried out an initial joint information gathering mission in May 2007 in Guinea Bissau, in cooperation with the Bissauan authorities, to develop an overall EU approach to support for the national security sector reform process;

—  an Action Plan for the Restructuring and Modernisation of the Security and Defence Sectors was presented by the Government of Guinea-Bissau in September 2007, and the institutional framework for the implementation of this Action Plan was established;

—  in order to combat the increasing threat posed by organised criminal networks operating in the country, the Government of Guinea-Bissau, with the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), also announced an Emergency Plan to Fight Drug Trafficking in September 2007;

—  a report by the UN Secretary-General of 28 September 2007(S/2007/576), whilst commending the Government of Guinea-Bissau for the positive measures taken so far to implement the security sector reform programme, also underlined the country's inability to combat drug trafficking by itself and called for technical and financial support from regional and international partners;

—  on 19 November 2007, the Council considered that an ESDP action in the field of security sector reform in Guinea Bissau would be appropriate, in coherence with and complementary to European Development Fund and other Community activity; and

—  following a second EU fact-finding mission deployed in October 2007, the Council approved on 10 December 2007 the General Concept for potential ESDP action in support of Guinea-Bissau Security Sector Reform.

56.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 17 January 2008, the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Jim Murphy) explained that the Joint Action — to establish a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) security sector reform (SSR) Mission in Guinea Bissau (EUSSR Guinea Bissau) — followed a visit in 2007 by the Ministry of Defence's Security Sector Defence Advisory Team, and would provide advice and assistance to the local authorities in Guinea Bissau on reform of the security sector, within the initial framework of the National Security Sector Reform Strategy, which now needed to be implemented. The Mission's tasks would include:

—  advising and contributing to the development of detailed resizing/restructuring plans for the armed forces;

—  assisting in the development of an underpinning doctrine for employment of the Armed Forces, including the areas of command, control and logistic support, and mainstreaming the counter narcotics effort;

—  supporting the development of detailed plans for the restructuring of police bodies into four services;

—  advising on the planning and development of an effective criminal investigations capacity.

56.8 The Mission was to comprise approximately 15 experts in the various fields of the security sector; consist of a preparatory phase beginning in mid February, and an implementation phase beginning no later than 1 May 2008; and last for 12 months, with a review six months after the beginning of the implementation phase. Funding for common costs (in-country transport, office equipment etc) would be met from the Common Foreign and Security Policy Budget, to which the UK currently contributed approximately 17%; with an estimated cost of €5.75 million, the cost to the UK would be approximately £739,000.

56.9 The Minister explained that, with the country still dealing with the aftermath of civil war, and in the lead up to November 2008 elections, there was now a good opportunity to assist SSR in Guinea Bissau, and help to address its use as a transit point for drugs being trafficked from Latin America to Europe; there was strong support for the EU's proposals from the authorities, who lacked the capacity and structures to deal with the problems caused directly and indirectly by the influx of drugs and organised crime to the country, and from all political parties in the country, which meant that the outcome of the elections should not affect the reform process. He said that, although Guinea Bissau's problems were large, the country was small,[241] and enough political will existed to instigate reform.

56.10 The previous Committee felt that the justification was clear, the Mission had been well-prepared and the costs were relatively modest, and accordingly cleared the document at our meeting on 23 January 2008; the Joint Action was then agreed at the 28 January General Affairs and External Relations Council.

56.11 The previous Committee also said that only time would tell if the Minister's hopes came to fruition. It noted that the mission was due to last for a year; that there would be a mid-point review; and that moves were afoot within the Council to develop formal assessment mechanisms for such ESDP missions. It therefore asked, when the mission ended, the Minister to let it have either the mission assessment and his views thereon or, if it had not yet been formally assessed, his own assessment of its outcomes and effectiveness (to include the conclusions of the mid-point review and steps taken to address them).

56.12 On 29 April 2009 the previous Committee considered an extension of the current mandate for a further six months until 30 November 2009. The then Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint) said that the EUSSR Mission had, so far, carried out important work under difficult circumstances, in particular in the police and prosecution services. However, overall progress on SSR had been slower than expected and the Mission had not yet accomplished its mandate. Political instability in the country had hampered the mission's progress; the high profile assassination of Guinea Bissau's Chief of the Armed Forces, General Tagme, along with President Vieira in March, combined with the difficulties involved by working with three different governments since June 2008 and the staging of legislative elections last November, had all distracted attention from the SSR process. Guinea Bissau's limited access to SSR expertise and basic infrastructure, such as office space and equipment, had also contributed to delays.

56.13 However, the then Minister said, there was no doubt that Guinea Bissau continued to depend on international assistance to succeed in their SSR process and EU SSR Guinea Bissau was a crucial part in creating stability. Despite the recent assassinations and resulting political fragility, the new government continued "to provide a window of opportunity to implement meaningful reform, expressing a clear request for continued ESDP engagement beyond 31 May 2009 and underlining its commitment to the reform process"; this had been demonstrated by their appointment of a Special Counselor for the Prime Minister for SSR and the fight against drug trafficking, and their re-animation of the national SSR structures.

56.14 The then Minister also noted that other partners from the International Community, including the United Nations, ECOWAS and the European Commission, "also continued to express their willingness to step up their SSR related activities in Guinea Bissau and to cooperate with the ESDP mission", and were considering "transferring its various actors in Bissau, including SSR work streams into a single 'integrated mission' from June 2009."

56.15 The then Minister explained that this would be a "no cost extension": the Mission would use money left unspent from the €5.65m allocation under the existing mandate to pay for mission activities until 30 November 2009; it would provide the Mission a further six months to fully accomplish its current mandate, and an opportunity "to test the commitment and capability of the new Government of Guinea Bissau (G-BG) to implement SSR, particularly in light of the Presidential elections planned for June."

The previous Committee's assessment

56.16 The previous Committee cleared the document, again reporting it to the House because of the widespread interest in European Security and Defence Policy and its growing involvement in security sector reform in troubled areas of Africa.

56.17 In so doing, it drew the then Minister's attention to its request of her predecessor (c.f. paragraph 56.11 above). It noted that what the then Minister described as "Other partners from the International Community", including the United Nations, ECOWAS and the European Commission having expressed willingness to step up their SSR-related activities in Guinea Bissau and to cooperate with the ESDP mission, and asked her to ensure that the review included an assessment of the extent to which this happened and of its overall effectiveness.[242]

56.18 The Joint Action was extended for a further six months until 31 May 2010, with the majority of the costs covered by outstanding funding from the mission's budget for the period up to 30 November 2009.

56.19 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 2 November 2009, the then Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant) commented in much the same terms as his ante-predecessor six months earlier. The assassinations had distracted the Guinea Bissau government's attention away from the SSR process; officials were often unavailable to attend pre planned meetings with the Mission to discuss SSR; and there were a number of delays with getting Government approval for the proposed restructuring plans for the Armed Forces. The Mission had therefore not been able to fully achieve its mandate. But a new President had been elected and sworn in on 8 September 2009. The new government had subsequently expressed its intent to re-engage in the SSR process, which the then Minister took "as a sign that the Mission will receive the necessary political support over the next six months to complete the tasks set out in its current mandate."

56.20 The then Minister went on to say that:

"as part of any extension there will be a strategic review on the future of EU engagement in Guinea Bissau that will be submitted to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) by the end of January 2010. The review will focus on where, amongst other International Community interventions, the EU can add most value to stabilisation efforts in Guinea Bissau in the future. This review will then form the basis for making an informed judgement about any subsequent EU engagement in Guinea Bissau after the end of the mandate of the Mission."

56.21 Turning to the review recent six-month extension, the Minister said that the report recommended that the Mission was extended for six months in order to:

  • "Reach a better understanding of plans by the wider International Community (notably the Economic Community of West African States and the UN) to increase their presence in Guinea Bissau;
  • "To conclude the mission's existing work; and
  • "To build bridges towards further implementation in the future."

56.22 Finally, on the financial implications, the then Minister said that:

"Due to the political instability in Guinea Bissau over the previous eight months and slow progress on SSR so far the UK has pushed hard for any extension to be of minimal cost and would not support another extension of the Mission, in its current form, beyond the end of the proposed six month period. The extension should be used by the Mission to complete the tasks of its current mandate (without taking on any additional ones) and to prepare the conditions for engagement by another SSR actor in the future."

56.23 Finally, the then Minister explained that the proposed budget for the six month extension was €1.53 million. But with the estimated amount left unspent from the current Mission budget at the end of November 2009 of €1.192 million, the net cost to the EU for extending the mission was estimated to be €338,000, including €290,000 to fund the costs of terminating the Mission should it close in six months time — so the additional funding for the Mission's running costs would be €48,000.

The previous Committee's further assessment

56.24 The previous Committee drew this latest extension to the attention of the House for the same reasons as hitherto. In so doing it:

—  noted that, three years after the first commitment by the then G-BG to security sector reform, there was a strong sense of disillusionment running through the Minister's comments and of this being the last chance for the latest President and government, but the EU had yet to lose patience with an ESDP mission and cut its losses; and

—  asked the then Minister to write with information about the outcome of the January 2010 review and the PSC's assessment and recommendations, ahead of any final determination about what form any further EU involvement may or may not take.

The draft Council Decision

56.25 The attached Council Decision extends the mandate of EUSSR Guinea Bissau for a period of four months until 30 September 2010, and reduces the number of international staff for that period.

56.26 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 21 May 2010, the Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (David Lidington) says that this four-month extension has been proposed in response to a military mutiny that took place in Guinea Bissau on 1 April, and:

"is intended to demonstrate strong EU support to the weakened civilian government of Guinea Bissau, allow the government time to reassert its authority over the military, while allowing time for the EU to reach a decision on whether the conditions exist for longer term CSDP engagement."

The Government's view

56.27 The then Minister continues as follows:

"Security sector reform (SSR) is crucial to the development, security and stability of Guinea Bissau. Since gaining independence in 1973 the Guinea Bissau military has often interfered in political affairs, and, unfortunately, continues to do so; this undermines the authority of the civilian Government. Guinea Bissau is also a gateway for the illegal narcotics trade into Europe and there are fears that, without successful SSR, the country could slip into further instability. As such, a stable Guinea Bissau would be an important contribution to the fight against narcotics as well as for the stability of the wider West Africa region.

"Prior to the events of 1 April, there were hopeful signs of local engagement with the EU's Security Sector Reform mission that is intended to support reform and greater stability. For example, the Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau sent a letter of intent to the previous EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana. That is why the UK agreed, in principle, to support the launch of a new smaller EU mission from 1 June focused more clearly on reform of the armed forces.

"However, the deployment of this new Mission has been put on hold due to a military mutiny that took place on 1 April. The mutiny not only displayed a complete lack of regard and buy-in to the SSR process by the military, but it has also delayed the implementation of the security sector legal framework, for which EUSSR Guinea Bissau has pushed, and which would have been fundamental to the success of the future Mission. The President quickly declared that the situation was under control, yet the Armed Forces Chief remains incarcerated and no action has been taken against the mutineers, who remain in positions of power. It is apparent that the local authorities lack the capacity and structures to deal with the root causes of instability (international drugs trafficking and organised crime) themselves. To withdraw CSDP engagement completely now could further weaken them.

"Following the military mutiny the UK does not see the case for deploying a longer term mission because this may be taken as rewarding unconstitutional behaviour. At the same time, recognising the damage it would do to Guinea Bissau's own development, security and stability if the Mission were pulled out immediately, the Government believes that there should be a period of reflection in order to re-assess conditions on the ground before making a more informed decision on the future of CSDP engagement. The Council Decision provides for a review of engagement two months into the proposed four month extension to consider whether the EU should launch a new mission after 30 September 2010. If conditions on the ground have not improved and make serious SSR unlikely, then we believe the EU should consider closing the mission."

56.28 The Minister then says that one measure of progress will be the extent to which the Guinea Bissau government has met the demands set out in an EU demarche issued in April, which were:

  • the immediate and unconditional liberation of the Armed Forces Chief and all of the other personnel detained in violation of the law;
  • the establishment of the legal responsibility of and disciplinary measures against those found to be responsible for the incidents of 1 April and the putting into place of a framework for the continuation of the reforms;
  • the affirmation of the primacy of the civilian authorities and the legitimate democratic authorities; and
  • a guarantee of the respect for all parts of the Vienna Convention and diplomatic immunity.

56.29 However, he then says:

"It may be that not all of these demands can be met in full. Specifically, the immediate release of the detained Armed Forces Chief may not be possible politically. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, including analysing alternative solutions such as requesting that the Armed Forces Chief is either liberated or prosecuted under Guinea Bissau law. This would allow the President room to manoeuvre and the opportunity to appoint another, legitimately selected, individual.

56.30 As for the mission itself, the Minister says:

"Under the proposed four-month extension, the mandate of EUSSR Guinea Bissau would not change but the Mission's activities and size would both be scaled down. This is an explicit acknowledgement that, until the current situation is resolved, there is little chance of the Mission achieving success, but this approach maintains a CSDP foothold in-country."

56.31 With regard to the most recent extension, the Minister says:

"We recognise that this does not accord with the position set out by the then Minister for Europe in his letter of October 2009 which stated that the UK would not support another extension to EUSSR Guinea Bissau in its current format. However, in light of the events of 1 April we have had to revise our position as the circumstances in which the Mission has been operating have changed. To bind ourselves inflexibly to our previous position would be to the detriment of Guinea Bissau itself, and would hand a victory to the military mutineers."

56.32 Finally, the Minister say that:

—  the total cost to the EU to date has been €7.13 million;

—  the amount required for the four-month extension is €630,000, with the first month of the mission's extension covered by under-spends on the current budget;

—  the UK's contribution to the overall EU budget is 13.59% meaning that the UK's share of the costs for this extension is approximately £85,600; and

—  the Council Decision is expected to be agreed at the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 25 May 2010.


56.33 It is for others to judge whether or not this is the right approach, given how much has been spent and how little has been achieved.

56.34 For our part, we note that the Committee has heard nothing from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about developments since last November, despite its request to the previous Minister to write with information about the outcome of the January 2010 review and the PSC's assessment and recommendations, ahead of any final determination about what form any further EU involvement might or might not take.

56.35 A further review of engagement is now in prospect, two months into the proposed four month extension, to consider whether the EU should launch a new mission after 30 September 2010. We ask the new Minister to let us know the outcome and his views, so that we are not again presented with scrutinising a fait accompli.

56.36 In the meantime, the Committee recognises that the general election and consequent lack of a Committee militated against the Minister withholding agreement until this Decision had been scrutinised, and does not object, on this occasion and in these circumstances.

56.37 We now clear the document.

240   See FCO Country Profile at  Back

241   Area: 36,120 sq km; Population: 1.5 million (2005 United Nations estimate). Back

242   See headnote: (30551) - HC 19-xv (2008-09), chapter 12 (29 April 2009). Back

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