Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


27 European Union CSDP mission in Niger (EUCAP Sahel Niger)

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsCouncil 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
Document Number(37124), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

27.1 The crisis in Mali, instability in Libya and Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria are all threatening Niger's security and development. In addition, the country is faced with the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and people on its territory. Some of this organised crime serves to fund terrorist groups which are using Niger's vast desert regions as trafficking routes or safe havens.

27.2 Council Decision 2012/392/CFSP established EUCAP Sahel Niger, to build the capacity of Nigerien security forces to fight terrorism and organised crime. It was launched in July 2012, and is currently "mandated" until July 2016. 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;

—  support the development of regional and international coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime;

—  develop and implement adequate criminal investigation training programmes utilising a "train the trainer" approach;

—  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.[ 163]

27.3 The mission performed poorly at first but, following a change of leadership and focus, delivery has steadily improved. The Mission's mandate was renewed for a further two years in 2014. In spring 2015, Member States agreed to extend EUCAP Sahel Niger's activities, within the scope of the current mandate, to enable it to work more closely with the Nigerien authorities specifically on migration (see "Background" below).

27.4 The attached Council Decision authorises a budget uplift. The Budget Impact Statement (see Annex for details) foresees an indicative budget uplift of €8.6 million (£6.3 million), up from €9.8 million (£7.2 million) (which had been the reference amount to 15 July 2016) to €18.4 million (£13.6 million).

27.5 The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explains that this additional budget has been proposed to enable EUCAP to deliver its new objective of assisting the Nigerien authorities in tackling migration flows through Niger to North Africa and Europe, which involves opening a new EUCAP satellite office in Agadez, northern Niger, and the provision of additional staff and equipment; these "sizeable costs are due to unavoidable setup and running costs for conducting operations in the hostile environment of northern Niger". The Minister concludes thus:

"Given the scope of the task ahead and the challenging environment that EUCAP will face in Agadez, I judge the proposed expenditure to be commensurate with mission activities as set out in EUCAP's Operational Plan."

27.6 On 5 October, the Council adopted the draft Council Decision.

27.7 We now clear the document. In the circumstances and on this occasion, we do not take issue with having agreed to its adoption prior to scrutiny.

27.8 Like its predecessor, we also consider this chapter of our Report to be relevant to the floor of the House debate on migration issues and the EU naval operation in the south central Mediterranean.

Full details of the document: Council Decision amending Decision 2012/392/CFSP on the European Union CSDP mission in Niger (EUCAP Sahel Niger): (37124), —.

Background

27.9 The draft Council Decision that we considered on 24 July proposed a budget for July 2015-July 2016 of €9,800,000 (£6,964,000).[ 164] EUCAP would continue to assist the Nigerien authorities to define and implement their National Security Strategy and contribute to improving the capacities of Nigerien security forces in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

27.10 The first year's budget had been €8.7 million (£6.2 million); the second year's, €9.2 million (£6.5 million). The mission got off to a slow start, largely due to a rushed planning process, lack of local buy-in and inadequate leadership. It began to pick up speed in its second year; so much so that, in March 2014, the Minister for Europe was able to report that the Mission was now delivering against its mandate, and that an EEAS Strategic Review had recommended extending the mandate for a further two years, from 17 July 2014, with the Mission being roughly the same size, retaining its current structure and costing a similar amount to now, with some small changes to the current tasks. Niger remained a fragile democracy in an increasingly volatile region; elections were due in 2015-2016, and a visible EU presence would increase the chances of a smooth poll.[ 165]

27.11 The July 2014 Council Decision cleared by our predecessors accordingly extended the mandate for two years to July 2016, with a budget covering the period July 2014 to July 2015. The Minister said that EUCAP Sahel Niger had now trained over 2,500 members of the Nigerien security forces, armed forces, civil service and judiciary; the mission's work on improving the services' human resource and forensic capabilities had been particularly successful; likewise its work to co-ordinate EUCAP's activity with that of other international actors in Niger (the latter led by the UK secondee in the Mission).[ 166]

27.12 EUCAP would continue to assist the Nigerien authorities to define and implement their National Security Strategy and contribute to improving the capacities of Nigerien security actors in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. The Mission would expand its activity in some areas, including additional visits to the northern town of Agadez. The Minister supported the proposal: EUCAP Sahel Niger was an increasingly important EU presence in the Sahel, both as a guide to recently-established civilian CSDP Mission in Mali and as a crucial actor in the effort to tackle the flow of migrants northwards from Sub-Saharan Africa to Libya and on to the Mediterranean. Whilst it was necessary to be realistic about what this Mission could achieve in the wide desert spaces of Niger, the Minister agreed that the EU should do more on upstream migration work in the Sahel, and that EUCAP should be an important instrument in this area.

Our assessment

27.13 In their first Report on this mission, our predecessors noted that it demonstrated, not for the first time, the leading, sometimes solitary, and commendable role the Minister and his officials have had in controlling the cost of CSDP missions; we were pleased to be able to commend them once again.

27.14 The Minister noted that, in the context of the growing migration crisis in the Mediterranean and North Africa, plans to strengthen EUCAP's activity on migration — including in the northern Nigerien town of Agadez — were currently in hand. This additional migration activity would (as he said) also require a Council Decision and a further revised budget, which we looked forward to receiving in good time.

27.15 The Committee also noted that on 23 April an Extraordinary European Council agreed a number of actions, including:

·  disrupting trafficking networks, bringing the perpetrators to justice and seizing their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

·  undertaking systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers; and

·  preparing for a possible CSDP operation to this effect.

27.16 That CSDP operation was now moving ahead, in the shape of EUNAVFOR Med, whose job would be to "disrupt the business model of the smugglers, achieved by undertaking systematic efforts to identify, seize/ capture and destroy vessels and assets before they are used by smugglers".[ 167] We dealt with this and other aspects of the EU's response to the growing migration crisis in a separate Report, where we recommended that they should be debated on the floor of the House. Given that disrupting "the business model of the smugglers" would also depend on the ability and willingness of Nigerien security forces to interdict them, we considered that this chapter of this Report be "tagged" to that debate.

27.17 In the meantime, we cleared this Council Decision.[ 168]

The draft Council Decision

27.18 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 1 October 2015, the Minister recalls that, in the context of increasing migration from Sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and on to Europe, the 23 April 2015 European Council agreed to increase EU support to Niger to monitor and control its land borders and routes.

The Government's view

27.19 The Minister comments thus:

"Following an Interim Strategic Review of EUCAP Sahel Niger, the Political and Security Committee agreed on 13 May 2015 to expand the migration element of EUCAP Sahel Niger's mandate and establish a permanent Mission presence in Agadez. Given the security and environmental challenges that are posed by opening a permanent presence in Agadez, the European External Action Service decided on a phased expansion of Mission. The Prime Minister has called for the EU to take a comprehensive approach to this problem, including tackling irregular migration upstream. The expansion of EUCAP Sahel Niger's migration work is a tangible example and one that I judge to be appropriate.

"Opening in Agadez will involve identifying premises and making them secure, and putting in place adequate medical facilities and security arrangements for Mission staff. Agadez is approximately 950 km from Niamey, the capital of Niger, and is set in remote desert. It is a local centre for cross-Sahel trade, and has been identified as a hub for migrants moving northwards.

"Establishing a permanent EUCAP Sahel Niger presence in Agadez (to where EUCAP Sahel Niger officials already make periodic visits to support local security forces) will provide an important addition to the EU's current footprint in Niger and the wider Sahel, and will serve as a symbol of the EU's growing partnership with Niger on the migration agenda."

27.20 With regard to the budget uplift (details of which are in the Annex to this chapter of our Report), the Minister says:

"Overall this budget is very close to the indicative figure that was communicated informally to member states in July 2015. Given the scope of the task ahead and the challenging environment that EUCAP will face in Agadez, I judge the proposed expenditure to be commensurate with mission activities as set out in EUCAP's Operational Plan."

27.21 On 5 October 2015, the Council issued the following statement:

    "The Council has increased the budget of the EU civilian mission in Niger (EUCAP Sahel Niger) from 9.8 million to 18.4 million euros for the period 16 July 2015-15 July 2016.

    "This increased budget will allow for a reinforcement of the operation to combine enhanced engagement in Niamey with a permanent presence in the desert region of Agadez in central Niger.

    "Niger is facing security threats including terrorism, illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and people, in particular in Northern Agadez, and is also a majoctr regional transit hub for irregular migration. Developing a permanent presence in Agadez is key to supporting the Nigerien authorities in border and migration management, the fight against terrorism and organised crime. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini visited Niger on 18 September 2015, including the mission EUCAP Sahel Niger in Agadez, and held a High-Level Dialogue with the President and the government highlighting EU comprehensive approach on migration, security and development."[ 169]

The Minister's letter of 6 October 2015

27.22 The Minister says:

"The additional work in Niger is considered central to upstream efforts to tackle irregular migration into Europe. There is a political imperative to move this work forward without delay. The EU needs a Council Decision and agreed budget to make progress with procurement, logistics and recruitment.

"Any further delay would not be in the interest of UK foreign policy. I therefore regret that, given these timeframes, Parliamentary Recess, and the importance of this work, I found myself in the position of having to agree to the adoption of this Council document before your Committee had an opportunity to scrutinise it."

Previous Committee Reports

(36945), —: First Report HC 423-i (2015-16), chapter 69 (24 July 2015); also see (36171), —: Sixth Report HC 219-vi (2014-15), chapter 11 (9 July 2014); (35390), —: Nineteenth Report HC-xviii (2013-14), chapter 16 (23 October 2013) and Forty-sixth Report HC 83-xli (2013-14), chapter 13 (9 April 2014).


163   See EEAS factsheet on EUCAP Sahel Niger for full information. Back

164   See the Annex to our previous Report for full information. Back

165   See (35390), -: Forty-sixth Report HC 83-xli (2013-14), chapter 13 (9 April 2014). Back

166   The overall authorized strength is 80 personnel (52 international staff and 28 local staff). Back

167   See (36874), -; (36938), -: Council Decisions to establish and launch on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med). Back

168   See First Report HC 423-i (2015-16), chapter 69 (24 July 2015). Back

169   See press release. Back


 
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Prepared 14 October 2015