Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


57 The EU Sahel Strategy

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Document detailsJoint Staff Working document: EU Sahel Strategy Regional Action Plan
Legal base
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document numbers(36759), 7243/15, SWD(15) 61

Summary and Committee's conclusions

57.1 The Sahel region is defined in this context as Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The EU has been concerned by the deteriorating political, security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the Sahel region since the early 2000s. This situation predated the Libyan crisis, but has been further exacerbated by its consequences.

57.2 In 2011, the EU promulgated the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel. It has four key themes:

·  that security and development in the Sahel cannot be separated, and that helping these countries achieve security is integral to enabling their economies to grow and poverty to be reduced;

·  that achieving security and development in the Sahel is only possible through closer regional cooperation. This is currently weaker than it needs to be, and the EU has a potential role to play in supporting it;

·  all the states of the region will benefit from considerable capacity-building, both in areas of core government activity, including the provision of security and development cooperation; and

·  that the EU therefore has an important role to play both in encouraging economic development for the people of the Sahel and helping them achieve a more secure environment in which it can take place, and in which the interests of EU citizens are also protected.[ 418]

57.3 Since the crisis in Mali in 2012, the EU's response has included establishment of an EU Special Representatives (EUSR) to the Sahel, two CSDP training missions in Mali and one in Niger (see "Background" for details).

57.4 The EU's Regional Action Plan for the Sahel is summarised below (see paragraphs 56.20-56.28 for details). It is designed as an implementation mechanism for the 2011 EU Strategy, and focusses future EU activity in the Sahel region on four priority areas:

·  preventing and countering radicalisation;

·  creating appropriate conditions for youth;

·  migration and mobility; and

·  border management, fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime.

57.5 In a letter of 20 April 2015, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explained that Action Plan would be the subject of Conclusions at the day's Foreign Affairs Council. He goes on to say:

"The Action Plan has been drafted by the EU institutions and the most recent draft was discussed in COAFR[ 419] on 15 April 2015. Its purpose is to be an implementation mechanism for the EU's Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, agreed in 2011. It is not the subject of a Council Decision, however the Committees have deemed the Action Plan 'politically important' and have requested an Explanatory Memorandum.

"Given that the document is still evolving, it will not be in final form in order to pass through the normal scrutiny process before it is approved by the FAC. I therefore regret that I will find myself in the position of having to agree to the adoption of the Council document before your Committee will have an opportunity to scrutinise it."

57.6 In his 29 June 2015 Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister describes the Action Plan as a helpful instrument in seeking to deliver concrete action in support of the EU's objectives in the Sahel region; and the four priorities identified in the Action Plan as sensible, and covering a wide range of potential work that can be undertaken by Member States working independently and collectively, and by the European institutions. As a "living document", it will need to adapt to the evolving challenges in the Sahel. Overall, he supports this approach.

57.7 The rationale for this EU activity is as compelling as ever. What matters now, as always, is implementation. An Action Plan is a necessary condition; but, as has been demonstrated many times in the past, by no means a sufficient one. It is commendable that, as has not always been the case hitherto, the Commission and EEAS recognise the importance in particular of ongoing efforts towards shared assessments and joint programming processes, through a consistent monitoring system.

    "Such a monitoring system will survey the delivery of actions and initiatives, providing proper reporting for documentation and management information, taking into account lessons learnt from the ground and local partners' suggestions [, which] will help focus EU's actions in the Sahel even more, ensure that synergies and complementarities between the different instruments and Member States' actions are pursued to their maximum and ensure a smooth transition from short term crisis response measures to long term action."

57.8 The Council Conclusions (see paragraph 56.29 below for details) adopt and welcome this Action Plan, as a reaffirmation of:

"the EU's continued engagement in the Sahel region and its support to sustainable and inclusive political and socio-economic development, the strengthening of human rights, democratic governance and the rule of law as well as resilience, as a response to the multidimensional crisis in the Sahel."

57.9 They also note that the Council "will revert to the matter as appropriate, and at least once a year". This suggests that there will be some sort of annual report; in which case, we ask the Minister to ensure that it is deposited for scrutiny, along with his views on its contents and on what action is then most appropriate.

57.10 This Action Plan, and its underlying Strategy, are related to the similar Strategy and subsequent Action Plan on the neighbouring Gulf of Guinea.[ 420] On that occasion, both were deposited for scrutiny — the latter in March, along with the draft Council Conclusions whereby it was to be adopted and to which (as in this case) it was annexed. In this case, however, the previous Government refused to deposit the 2011 Strategy on the grounds that it contained only political commitments; and even now has, it seems, deposited the Action Plan as an exception. These considerations were discussed at length by the previous Committee in correspondence and in evidence sessions with the then Minister for Europe, and in its Report on Reforming the European Scrutiny System in the House of Commons.[ 421]

57.11 We share our predecessors' view. In the case of EU sanctions regimes, confidentiality is inevitable: negotiations are difficult and, once concluded, action needs to be taken speedily in order to avoid circumvention. None of these considerations apply with policy documents of this nature. The argument that this should apply only to policy that is implemented via a Council Decision is spurious. The policy in question relates to vital EU, and UK, interests; and how it is implemented, all the more so. If Member States are to remain properly in control of EU external action, proper parliamentary scrutiny of the documents in question must be undertaken. We look to the newly-reappointed Minister for Europe to make this a reality, and to do so positively and out of conviction, not under sufferance.

Full details of the documents: (36759), 7243/15, SWD(15) 61: Joint Staff Working Document: EU Sahel Strategy Regional Action Plan.

Background

57.12 In March 2011, the EU adopted a comprehensive approach to the Sahel region, using the EU Strategy for Security and Development as reference, and based on the assumptions that development and security are mutually supportive and that the issues faced in the Sahel require a regional answer. This strategy includes four lines of actions:

·  Development, good governance and internal conflict resolution;

·  Political and diplomatic action;

·  Security and the rule of law;

·  Countering violent extremism and radicalisation.[ 422]

57.13 Since the beginning of the crisis in Mali in 2012, when the military overthrew the government and, then, a coalition of separatist Tuareg rebels and militant Islamist armed groups with links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb pushed the national army out of the north of the country, the Council has reiterated the EU's resolve to accelerate and enhance the implementation of this Strategy in order to help tackle the regional consequences of the crisis and to enhance the coherence of the EU approach, with a particular focus on Mauritania, Niger and Mali.[ 423]

57.14 In late 2012, it was agreed to create a military intervention force (now known as AMISA), under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which would attempt to retake the north. However, in January 2013, the prospect that the entire country might fall to the rebels before AMISA could become operational provoked an urgent French military intervention.

57.15 Then, on 18 February 2013, at the request of the Malian authorities, and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2085 (2012), the EU launched a training mission for Malian armed forces, EUTM Mali. That mission (to which 28 States, including 23 Member States, are contributing military personnel) aims to support the training and reorganisation of the Malian Armed Forces and to help improve its military capacity, in order to allow, under civilian authority, the restoration of the country's territorial integrity. The mission would not be involved in combat operations (and has not been). This Mission is now into its second mandate of training and advising the Malian armed forces.

57.16 On 15 April 2014 the Council established a further CSDP civilian mission to support the internal security forces in Mali — EUCAP Sahel Mali, as an additional contribution to the EU's overall support to stability, institutional reform and the full restoration of state authority throughout the country. The mission will support the Malian state to ensure constitutional and democratic order and the conditions for lasting peace as well as to maintain its authority throughout the entire territory. The mission will deliver strategic advice and training for the three internal security forces in Mali, i.e. the police, Gendarmerie and Garde Nationale, and coordinate with international partners, with a view to:

—  improving their operational efficacy;

—  re-establishing the chain of command;

—  reinforcing the role of the judicial and administrative authorities in the management and supervision of their missions, and

—  facilitating their redeployment to the north of Mali.

57.17 EUCAP Sahel Mali was launched on 15 January 2015, with a 24 month mandate and a Year One budget of €11.4 million, from the overall CFSP Budget. The UK would also separately fund a political adviser. [ 424]

57.18 EUCAP Sahel Mali is designed to mirror the CSDP Mission in neighbouring Niger — EUCAP Sahel Niger — which has been building the capacity of the civilian security sector there since 2012 and which, after a slow start, is said to have turned itself around and to be now delivering effectively.[ 425]

57.19 The mandate of the EUSR for the Sahel (established in 2013) is based on the EU's policy objectives, i.e., to contribute actively to regional and international efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and development in the region.[ 426] The EUSR's job involves enhancing the quality, intensity and impact of the EU's multi-faceted engagement in the Sahel region, including the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, and participating in coordinating all relevant instruments for EU actions. Initial priority was given to Mali and to the regional dimensions of the conflict there. The EUSR's specific tasks, subsequent performance and related issues are discussed in our predecessors' earlier Reports.[ 427]

The EU Sahel Strategy Regional Action Plan 2015-20

57.20 The Commission and EEAS argue that security and development in the Sahel region are crucial to the European Union — that extreme poverty, internal tensions, institutional weaknesses, demography, frequent food crises, fragile governance and rule of law, poor human rights records, irregular migration and related crimes such as human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, radicalisation and violent extremism are serious challenges to the region and have potential spill-over effects outside the region, including the EU.

57.21 Against this background, the Regional Action Plan (RAP) aims at the implementation of the EU Sahel Strategy, building on its objectives and taking into account acquired experience, by identifying actions and initiatives over the next five years; thereby providing a framework for EU action in the Sahel region, and applying a comprehensive approach in order to ensure that the policies, instruments and tools work together for the same objectives to generate better results, in full coordination with Member States.

57.22 Though the Sahel Strategy itself remains valid, and its original strategic objective should be confirmed and commitment towards implementation renewed, with a division of labour between EU institutions and Member States, RAP underlines the need to focus on: 1) Preventing and countering radicalisation, 2) Creating appropriate conditions for Youth, 3) Migration and mobility, 4) Border management, fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime. "Action Areas" are detailed under each of these priorities.

57.23 RAP implementation should remain flexible in order to factor-in changes in the Region, reflect the strategies of local partners and build on existing programmes and activities.[ 428] The identification of concrete initiatives in the region will be guided by their potential to contribute to achieving the objectives. Complementarity will be sought with other relevant EU strategies and action plans; in particular, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy,[ 429] the EU Strategy on the Gulf of Guinea,[ 430] the Joint Communication on closer cooperation and regional integration in the Maghreb,[ 431] and the Rabat Process Rome Declaration and Programme.[ 432]

57.24 The implementation will involve a range of instruments and mechanisms/modalities in a division of labour between the EU and its Member States, aimed at strengthening the EU Comprehensive Approach. Addendum II and III illustrate on-going as well as planned activities; in view of the dynamic and volatile context, this matrix will need to be regularly updated.

57.25 The 11th EDF 2014-2020 indicative budget for the five Sahel countries amounts to €2.47 billion (£1.76 billion), and could contribute to the implementation of the RAP. The IcSP (Instrument for contributing to Peace and Stability), with its focus on global, trans-regional threats and emerging threats, and its objective of responding to situations of crisis or emerging crisis and supporting conflict prevention, crisis preparedness and peace-building, will continue to be needed. So, too, the ongoing CSDP missions EUCAP SAHEL Niger and Mali and EUTM Mali. The work of the EUSR has been vital for enhancing the quality and impact of the EU's engagement in the Sahel.

57.26 In order to improve monitoring of RAP implementation, a mechanism will be developed through which all EU and Member States activities could be made visible in order to highlight how they contribute to achieving the objectives of the Sahel Strategy.

57.27 In terms of methodology, the Commission and EEAS emphasise the importance in particular of ongoing efforts towards shared assessments and joint programming processes, through a consistent monitoring system. Such a monitoring system will survey the delivery of actions and initiatives, providing proper reporting for documentation and management information, taking into account lessons learnt from the ground and local partners' suggestions. It will help focus EU's actions in the Sahel even more, ensure that synergies and complementarities between the different instruments and Member States' actions are pursued to their maximum and ensure a smooth transition from short term crisis response measures to long term action. This system should imply the mobilisation of Council relevant groups, including in particular the PSC and COAFR, and considering the coordinating role of the EUSR for the Sahel.

57.28 Proper risk management entails a strategic approach through which substantial risks and their possible impact on the programmes and their progress are identified in due time. For this purpose the RAP will integrate the regional and country conflict risk assessments and options for preventive action of the EU Conflict Early Warning System as part of the monitoring and reporting on the progress of the RAP.

57.29 On 20 April 2015, the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted the following Conclusions:

"The Council adopts today the annexed Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020 which provides the overall framework for the implementation of the European Union (EU) Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, as adopted and revised in its Conclusions on 21 March 2011 and 17 March 2014, respectively. The adoption of the Action Plan comes at a crucial time for the countries in the Sahel. The Council welcomes the Action Plan, which reaffirms the EU's continued engagement in the Sahel region and its support to sustainable and inclusive political and socio-economic development, the strengthening of human rights, democratic governance and the rule of law as well as resilience, as a response to the multidimensional crisis in the Sahel. The enhancement of security in the region through the fight against terrorism,[ 433] illicit trafficking, radicalisation and violent extremism, remains the key objective of the EU. In the context of its comprehensive approach, including the contribution of the EU Institutions, the EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Sahel as well as of EU Member States, the EU reiterates its commitment to support regional and country-led and owned initiatives in the framework of the Action Plan, using all its relevant instruments, in particular the regional and national indicative programmes under the European Development Fund as well as Member States' programmes, and also including the CSDP Missions EUTM Mali, EUCAP Sahel Niger and EUCAP Sahel Mali, and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.

"2. The original strategic objective of the EU Sahel Strategy, emphasising the development-security nexus as well as the four pillars for its implementation, remains fully relevant and provide a comprehensive framework for EU action in the Sahel. The Action Plan provides a solid basis for pursuing the objectives of the Strategy and for reinforcing the EU's focus around four domains highly relevant to the stabilisation of the region, namely prevention and countering radicalisation, creation of appropriate conditions for youth, migration, mobility and border management, the fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime. The EU underlines in particular the importance of fostering closer synergies between countries of the region as well as between the Sahel and neighbouring countries. Given the proximity of the Sahel to the EU and its immediate neighbourhood, it notes the need, in order to better tackle cross-border issues, to explore further a common space for dialogue and cooperation between the Sahel, the Maghreb and the EU in relevant sectors such as security and migration. This should be done in the framework of the existing mechanisms and dialogues such as the Rabat and Khartoum processes on migration and development.

"3. The EU reiterates its readiness to continue working closely with the countries of the Sahel region to support their efforts to achieve peace, security and development. The implementation of the Action Plan will be carried out with the full ownership and under the primary responsibility of the countries concerned, and in coordination with key international and regional organisations and other partners, in particular the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the G5 Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the World Bank, as well as with civil society. In this respect, the EU underlines the importance of continuing this close international and regional coordination, including between the EUSR for the Sahel, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Sahel, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Mali and the AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, aiming at creating synergies in the implementation of respective strategies.

"4. The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission and Member States to start implementing the Sahel Regional Action Plan. The Council will revert to the matter as appropriate, and at least once a year."[ 434]

57.30 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 29 June 2015, the Minister for Europe describes the EU Regional Action Plan for the Sahel as "a helpful instrument in seeking to deliver concrete action in support of the EU Sahel Strategy", which "aims to harness the EU's comprehensive approach and use a range of instruments to achieve the EU's objectives in the Sahel region". He notes that the authors concede that the Action Plan is a living document, which will need to adapt to the evolving challenges in the Sahel.

57.31 Overall, "the UK supports this approach". The four priorities identified in the Action Plan are "sensible and cover a wide range of potential work that can be undertaken by Member States working independently and collectively, and by the European institutions". The Action Plan also contains "helpful UK-inspired language" on Resilience:

    "Building long-term resilience to climatic and environmental shocks is vital if Sahel communities are to be able to stand on their own two feet in the future."

57.32 So far as the Financial Implications are concerned, the Minister says that, though the Action Plan commits no additional resources to the Sahel:

    "it could serve as the underpinning for specific requests for uplifts to support individual activity, e.g. for expanded CSDP work on border security. Such negotiations will be held on a case by case basis, and in the case of CSDP uplift, in the context of wider discussions on the CSFP budget."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (36629), —: Thirty-fourth HC 219-xxxiii (2014-15), chapter 21 (25 February 2015) and Thirty-second Report HC 219-xxxi (2014-15), chapter 9 (4 February 2015); and (35800), —: Thirty-seventh Report HC 83-xxxiv (2013-14), chapter 21 (26 February 2014). Also see (36579), —: Twenty-eighth Report HC 219-xxviii (2014-15), chapter 15 (7 January 2015); and (36171), —: Sixth Report HC 219-vi (2014-15), chapter 11 (9 July 2014).


418   See EEAS Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel for full information. Back

419   The Working Group of EU Member State officials plus Commission and EEAS that develops and controls EU policy on Africa. Back

420   See (36652), 5442/15, SWD(15) 5: Thirty-sixth Report HC 219-xxxv (2014-15), chapter 14 (11 March 2015) for the Committee's consideration thereof. Back

421   Twenty-fourth Report HC 109-I and II of 28 November 2013; see Reforming the European Scrutiny System in the House of Commons and Reforming the European Scrutiny System in the House of Commons: evidence. Back

422   See Strategy and EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions. Also see EU Fact Sheet. Back

423   See http://eu-un.europa.eu/articles/en/article_14568_en.htm for full information. Back

424   See (36579), -: Twenty-eighth Report HC 219-xxviii (2014-15), chapter 15 (7 January 2015). Back

425   See (36171), -: Sixth Report HC 219-vi (2014-15), chapter 11 (9 July 2014). Back

426   EUSRs promote the EU's policies and interests in troubled regions and countries and play an active role in efforts to consolidate peace, stability and the rule of law. They support the work of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR), in the regions concerned, and provide the EU with an active political presence in key countries and regions, acting as a "voice" and "face" for the EU and its policies. Back

427   See (36629), -: Thirty-fourth HC 219-xxxiii (2014-15), chapter 21 (25 February 2015) and Thirty-second Report HC 219-xxxi (2014-15), chapter 9 (4 February 2015); and (35800), -: Thirty-seventh Report HC 83-xxxiv (2013-14), chapter 21 (26 February 2014). Back

428   The RAP mentions in particular the Global Alliance for Resilience Initiative (AGIR) launched in Ouagadougou in December 2012; creation of the G5 in 2014 by the Heads of State of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to address the main challenges in Sahel, particularly in the field of security and development; the Bamako ministerial platform launched after the joint high level visit to the region in 2013 (UN, African Union, World Bank, EU, to coordinate the Sahel strategies; the Nouakchott Process in 2013 to promote collective security in the Region under the AU auspices; and the revitalisation of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to tackle common border issues, in view of the increased threat to the Sahel region from Boko Haram activities.  Back

429   The Strategic Partnership established in 2007 in Lisbon; see Bringing Africa-EU relations to a new level: the Joint Africa-EU Strategy. Back

430   See EU Strategy on the Gulf of Guinea. Also see (36652), 5442/15, SWD(15) 5: Thirty-sixth Report HC 219-xxxv (2014-15), chapter 14 (11 March 2015). Back

431   For the previous Committee's consideration of this Joint Communication, see (34612), 5118/13: Thirtieth Report HC 86-xxx (2102-13), chapter 10 (6 February 2013). Also see Joint Communication Supporting closer cooperation and regional integration in the Maghreb. Back

432   Issued by the fourth EU-Africa Ministerial Conference on migration and development on 27 November 2014; see Rome Declaration. Back

433   See Council Conclusions of 9 February 2015 on Counter-Terrorism. Back

434   See press release for the text of the Council Conclusions and of the Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020. Back


 
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