Documents considered by the Committee on 23 October 2013 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

16 The EU and the Sahel: EUCAP Sahel Niger


Council Decision amending Decision 2012/392/CFSP on the European Union CSDP Mission in Niger (EUCAP Sahel Niger)
Legal baseArticles 28, 42(4) and 43(2) TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM and Minister's letter of 17 October 2013
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (35170) —: HC 83-xii (2013-14), chapter 22 (17 July 2013); also see (35108) —: HC 83-viii (2013-14), chapter 21 (3 July 2013) and (34063) —: HC 86-viii (2012-13), chapter 18 (11 July 2012); and (35009) —: HC 83-viii (2013-14), chapter 18 (3 July 2013)
Discussion in CouncilBefore 31 October 2013
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; further information requested


16.1 Council Decision 2012/392/CFSP established an EU civilian Common Security and Defence (CSDP) Mission for Niger to build the capacity of Nigerien security forces to fight terrorism and organised crime. EUCAP Sahel Niger was launched in July 2012, and is mandated for two years until July 2014. The budget for the first year of the mission was set at €8,700,000. The background and full details are set out in our 2012 Report under reference.[70] It has five main tasks:

—  advise and assist in the implementation of the security dimension of the Nigerien Strategy for Security and Development at national level (assessing gaps in capability and capacity and designing a training strategy to address them; working to develop and upgrade the interoperability and coordination mechanism within the "Service Central de lutte contre le terrorisme" (SCLCT) to fight terrorism by providing equipment and training;

—  support the development of regional and international coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, in particular by working with the "Collège Sahélien de Sécurité" and other related organisations;

—  develop and implement adequate criminal investigation training programmes utilising a "train the trainer" approach in subjects such as forensics, interview techniques, evidence handling, police tactics, human rights and the rule of law;

—  support the development of Nigerien Security Forces resilience by developing a Human Resources strategy and providing training in management issues; and

—  contribute to the identification, planning and implementation of projects in the security field.

16.2 The Council Decision that we considered at our meeting on 3 July extended the current budget for three months until 31 October 2013.

Our assessment

16.3 We concluded that this was shaping up to be a case study in how not to organise a CSDP mission — politically driven by the former colonial power with, because of the rushed launch, little preparatory work with the Nigerien authorities to define their needs properly, which had effectively meant a year's delay.

16.4 The failure of prior assurances from the local political leadership to materialise had plainly not helped. But that failure inevitably cast doubt on the indication of support and undertaking now given by the Nigerien prime minister.

16.5 Furthermore, lack of local buy-in was also not peculiar to this mission — see the latest report on the EU Mission on Regional Maritime Capacity Building in the Horn of Africa (EUCAP NESTOR), which we considered elsewhere in our 3 July Report.

16.6 Moreover, this was by no means the first mission that Member States had agreed to set up, and then not played their part, by not seconding the relevant staff. We therefore asked the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) also to update us on the secondment of staff by Member States and recruitment by the EEAS.

16.7 So far as the end-state and exit strategy was concerned, the wording used by the Minister could have been applied as easily to the ISAF deployment in Afghanistan as to this mission: in other words, rather than the unambiguous, tightly-defined, end-state and exit strategy that the Committee advocated, it was effectively open-ended unless one or more Member States disagreed. Given the underperformance thus far, it was almost inevitable that there would be strong pressure to extend the mandate beyond the middle of 2014.

16.8 The Minister had also still not provided any information on what the effective benchmarks and indicators of success were that he was confident had been put in place from the outset. When he came to submit his next EM in October, we again asked that he set them out and indicated how they would inform the strategic review process to which he referred.

16.9 In the meantime, we cleared the draft Council Decision.[71]

16.10 Then, on 17 July, we considered a further Council Decision concerning the signing and conclusion of a Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) between the European Union and the Republic of Niger on the status of EUCAP Sahel Niger.

16.11 The SOMA had taken nearly a year to negotiate. It was, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) said, designed to set out a clear and binding understanding between the Government of Niger and the EU on the status of the mission and its personnel. The Minister welcomed it, was content with its terms, and considered that this would ensure that EUCAP Sahel Niger would be able to operate more effectively by reducing practical obstacles to its activities in country (see paragraphs 21.18-21.21 of our Eighth Report for further detail and comment).

Our further assessment

16.12 Such Status of Mission Agreements do not normally warrant a substantive Report to the House: as the Minister noted, they all follow a well-established template, with the details reflecting local considerations. However, the process in this instance had not only had a significant impact on mission performance thus far but also has wider implications.

16.13 One of four CSDP missions that we considered on 3 July was the Rule of Law Mission in Iraq. We had been pressing the Minister for indications of when the EEAS would carry out a final VFM and lessons-learned assessment: in the meantime, the Minister provided some details of the FCO's own assessment, including some "key lessons"— especially the importance of understanding the host cultural environment and the need to secure a Status of Mission agreement especially for launching a mission in a high-risk environment. As this and the experience of the other missions in question indicated, the most important variable is local "buy-in"; and much of that is embodied in the SOMA.

16.14 It was accordingly reassuring that the Crisis Management Procedures would now recommend that the EEAS starts negotiations at an earlier stage for future missions. However, the Minister said nothing about the need in future also to guard against political pressure over-riding and conflating other key stages in the planning process. We therefore noted that we would expect the Minister to ensure that this, too, does not happen again.

16.15 We cleared the Council Decision and reminded the Minister of the need for a full and timely submission of the Council Decision on the next part of the mission budget.[72]

The draft Council Decision

16.16 This further Council Decision sets out a new budget of €6.5 million to cover the remainder of the mandate, from 1 November 2013 to July 2014.

The Government's view

16.17 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 17 October 2013, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) says that, since his last Explanatory Memoranda in June and July, events in the Sahel region, particularly in Mali, have moved forward positively; and that in Niger, too, the EUCAP-Sahel mission is at last starting to deliver. The Minister very much welcomes this development, which he says is due to a number of factors.

"The Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) relating to this mission has now been signed and an Explanatory Memorandum setting out why this was important was sent on 11 July 2013. The Mission is now starting to reap the benefits of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and local buy in is starting to improve.

"One example of this is the Comite de Pilotage, or Steering Board, which held its first meeting on 11 September, chaired by the Prime Minister, M. Brigi Rafini. All board members, including the Minister of the Interior, the Head of the EU Delegation and Heads of Member State Diplomatic Missions, as well as the Head of EUCAP Sahel Niger attended. They assessed activities already carried out by EUCAP and discussed provisional future activities. The fact that such high level attendance has been secured in this new institutional structure demonstrates the improved level of political buy-in from the government of Niger.

"Priorities will be set and an action plan developed in time for the next Steering Group meeting which will take place in October. One area identified for further work in the coming months was provision of equipment, where the mission is now focusing its efforts.

"The Mission is also focussing its efforts on training in the conduct of operations and criminal investigation capacities as well as supporting the development of mechanisms for interoperability between actors involved in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

"In addition to top level buy in, operational-level cooperation is also working better. At the top level the EU Delegation is including mission personnel in senior meetings with the Nigerien authorities and initial tensions with the Instrument for Stability project, and with the EU's CT Sahel programme, have been ironed out and they are now delivering joint training with the mission.

"EUCAP is also looking at ways to work more closely with Interpol's EU funded West Africa Police Information System (WAPIS) project, an IT system to encourage regional information sharing.

"Operationally, the mission is now starting to deliver. The mission is working with seven regional mixed Command Posts, made up of members of the National Guard, the Gendarmerie and the National Police, to improve coordination, to reinforce their capacities to maintain order and investigate crime and to prevent, plan and react to operational crises. Work to raise their profile and importance with local authorities and to train and provide infrastructure is seen as a priority for the Nigerien government and consequently there is strong local ownership of this work.

"The mission has also been making good progress on training for the Technical and Scientific Police, who focus on crime scene investigation and forensics. The mission has devised a programme whereby recruits receive an initial training course in the classroom, followed by on the job training.

"Training started at the beginning of 2013 and first results have shown a quick uptake of training and an increasing Nigerien demand for training. To date, 145 students from the police, 448 from the Gendarmerie and 175 sub-officers from the National Guard have undertaken training in protection of crime scenes and preservation of evidence. Work is ongoing to put in place centralised structures and to develop evaluation tools as well as looking to adapt training and ensure that techniques learned are embedded in daily work."

16.18 Less positively, however, the Minister says:

"However, in spite of the operational progress, there are still outstanding issues to be resolved. The mission is still seriously under-manned as the EEAS are having difficulties filling vacant positions, both contracted and seconded, particularly for Mission Support. About half the positions from the latest Call for Contributions have been filled, mostly administrative contracted positions and a new Call for Contributions will soon be issued. The current Head of Mission will be leaving on 31 October and recruitment is underway for his replacement. The Deputy Head, who is extremely capable, has agreed to act up until the new Head arrives in Niamey.

"Provision of equipment for the security forces is another issue that may need to be revisited. Sources of funding for equipment are not being sufficiently tapped. Both the mission and the EEAS could be working more closely with other actors, including Member States and other EU instruments to acquire equipment and to better deconflict activity, thereby ensuring the best effect of international effort."

16.19 The Minister then turns to what he describes as the Committee's "interest in issues around benchmarking and progression/achievements of the mission", as follows:

"The Operational Plan (OPlan) for the mission sets out the objectives and tasks for the mission and the benchmarks by which the mission will be evaluated. For each task, the OPlan sets out the current position, the "Objectively Verifiable Indicator" or the position the EU would like to attain by the end of the mission and how it will measure the progress made.

"For example, one of the tasks of the mission, set out under the OPlan, is to support the Nigerien Authorities to put in place a national intelligence model for criminal investigations, which can be rolled out to all intelligence functions in due course. Currently, the intelligence bureaux operate very separately and there is little confidence between the agencies. There is no centralised organisation or model for criminal intelligence. The technology to manage intelligence and the training capacity is very limited. The mission has identified the development and adoption of interservice accords for the exchange of criminal intelligence as the principal way the mission can contribute to this task. The mission will monitor progress in this area through regular evaluation and analysis of the exchange of intelligence and the initiatives in operational cooperation."

16.20 The Minister notes that the proposed budget represents a pro rata increase of 5% on the previous budget of €8.7 million, and provides a detailed comparison of the new budget with the previous budget, which is set out in the Annex to this chapter of our Report.

The Minister's letter of 17 October 2013

16.21 The Minister says that he agrees with the thrust of the Committee's comments in its report of 3 July: "the Niger mission was not meeting our legitimate expectations. It had been slow to establish itself, slow to begin delivering activity and slow to engage with its hosts in Niamey".

16.22 The Minister then continues as follows:

"We took action to address this unsatisfactory situation. We told the External Action Service and key partners plainly that we were unhappy with the mission. In part as a result of that intervention, changes to the direction of the mission have been made. These changes have fed rapidly through to a more activist and organised approach on the ground.

"We have also helped the EEAS to revise the mission's budget. The UK's rigorous analysis identified savings of around 10% in operational budgets. We also queried the project budget, as we feel the mission will need to perform exceedingly well to deliver all the projects it has set out. However, the new leadership has said that it wishes to work to challenging objectives, which is all to the good as we do want to see energetic delivery. To maintain oversight of the project work we have insisted on a review of spending in four months."

16.23 With regard to "the bigger picture", the Minister then says:

"My overall assessment is that the changes which needed to be made in Niamey have been made and the mission is now on track to deliver against clear goals. Delivery in Niger is strong and the mission's emerging thinking about regional approaches to the continuing instability in the Sahel is pragmatic. That does not of course excuse the fact that time was wasted and resources mismanaged in the first six or nine months of the mission's operation.

"A key lesson to be learned from the Niger process is that rushed planning leads to poor mission performance. The EEAS believed that the conflation of conceptual and operational planning could be managed; that assessment proved to be over-optimistic. Since it has become plain that accelerated planning in Niger was counter-productive, I have acted to prevent recurrences. I applied the brakes to the EUBAM mission in Libya and instructed officials to ensure that the launch of a civilian mission in Mali — which was envisaged by an EEAS options paper published before the summer — was delayed until proper planning was complete. The EEAS has not yet reverted with a new options paper. I am expecting the options paper to set out plans to develop civilian Malian security capabilities, in parallel with the military enhancement being delivered by EUTM.

"On a separate matter, you may be interested to hear that a complete review of the process of selection of all civilian CSDP Heads of Mission is underway. The review usefully allows us to raise a number of our own concerns about the skills which CSDP leaders need. We are pressing to ensure that selection is competence-based: that Heads are appointed only when they have project and human resource management expertise, as well as geographical experience."

16.24 Looking ahead, the Minister then says:

"I would also like to brief you on the probable future track of CSDP work in the Sahel. We will need to make three decisions about the structure of CSDP in that region over the next six months: whether to renew the mandate of EUCAP Sahel Niger, whether to grant a second mandate to EUTM Mali and whether to agree to the launch of another civilian mission in Mali. Your Committee will of course be consulted prior to each of those decisions. If you would like to discuss them individually or in the round, my officials are as always at your disposal. To ensure that we are fully engaged in important discussions of Sahel policy from the outset, I have authorised officials to have discussions in Paris and Brussels about these three decisions."

16.25 Finally, the Minister says:

"I will write to you again shortly about our priorities for the December European Council discussion on Defence and Cathy Ashton's Final Report on proposals and actions to strengthen CSDP, which has just been shared with Member States."


16.26 We are grateful to the Minister for his very helpful Explanatory Memorandum and letter. It demonstrates, not for the first time, the leading, sometimes solitary and commendable role he and his officials have in driving down the cost of CSDP missions.

16.27 Despite the welcome indications of progress, it has nonetheless taken a year to reach this point. Moreover, as the Minister notes, the mission is still seriously under-staffed. Also, his comments about funding for equipment not being sufficiently tapped, that both the mission and the EEAS could be working more closely with other actors, and that there is soon to be a change, suggest that the mission has suffered from inadequate leadership.

16.28 This is borne out by the news that there is to be a complete review of the process of selection of all civilian CSDP Heads of Mission: we agree with the Minister that project and human resource management expertise, as well as geographical experience, should be pre-conditions for selection, and will expect to see that those "boxes" have been "ticked" when proposals for future missions are put forward.

16.29 It will be obvious from our earlier Reports that we agree with the Minister that the key lesson to be learned from the Niger process is that rushed planning leads to poor mission performance. It is accordingly gratifying that he has instructed officials to ensure that the launch of any civilian mission in Mali is delayed until proper planning is complete. However, it is not just the launch stage that needs to be properly planned: both the Niger process and elsewhere have shown that it is in many ways the last stage — the SOMA — that is the most important. As the Minister notes, in the absence of the clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and clear local buy in, embodied in the SOMA, time was wasted and resources mismanaged in the first six or nine months of the mission's operation. This cannot be allowed to happen again, especially when it comes to a civilian mission in Mali, or more widely .

16.30 We appreciate the Minister's offer to discuss this and the renewal of the two extant missions, EUCAP Sahel and EUTM Mali: however, as he knows, we can only operate on the basis of public documents. We therefore look to him to keep us informed in writing as these processes take shape, and to ensure that any proposals for a new mission and/or for mandate extensions are submitted for scrutiny in time for any questions arising to be pursued with him and, if necessary, debated, before any Council Decisions are adopted.

16.31 On the wider issue of the Government's priorities for the December European Council discussion on Defence and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission's (Baroness Ashton) Final Report on proposals and actions to strengthen CSDP, we refer the Minister to the Conclusion of our 4 September 2013 Report on the 2012 Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the main aspects and basic choices of the CFSP.[73]

16.32 As noted there, on the eve of the summer recess, having heard nothing from him, we wrote to the Minister regarding the proposals that the 27-28 May Foreign Affairs Council asked to be prepared for the December European Council on: increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of the CSDP; enhancing the development of defence capabilities; and strengthening Europe's defence industry — matters, we said, that should be subject to scrutiny prior to the December European Council. As was plain from his response of 2 August 2013,[74] major issues are to be discussed in the coming months — most immediately, Baroness Ashton's formal proposals for the December European Council discussion on defence to which he now refers. He then expected them in September. Given the slippage, it is all the more important that he share them with the Committee as soon as possible. As we said in September, and pace the Minister in his 2 August letter, we can see no reason why this document should be classified — on the contrary, it should be open to the widest discussion. We therefore look to him to deposit it with an Explanatory Memorandum in the normal way.

16.33 In the meantime, we now clear the Council Decision.

70   See headnote: (34063) -: HC 86-viii (2012-13), chapter 18 (11 July 2012). Back

71   See headnote: (35108) -: HC 83-viii (2013-14), chapter 21 (3 July 2013). Back

72   See headnote: (35170) -: HC 83-xii (2013-14), chapter 21 (17 July 2013). Back

73   See (35266) -: HC 83-xiii (2013-14), chapter 49 (4 September 2013). Back

74   Which is reproduced at the Annex to the chapter of our 4 September 2013 Report that dealt with the recently published, and related, Commission Communication on A more competitive and efficient defence and security sector: see (35234) 12773/13: HC 83-xiii (2013-14), chapter 23 (4 September 2013). Back

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