Documents considered by the Committee on 6 January 2016 - European Scrutiny Contents


15   European Court of Auditors' Special Report: The EU police mission in Afghanistan: Mixed Results

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; further information awaited; drawn to the attention of the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees
Document detailsEuropean Court of Auditors' Special Report: No. 7/2015 The EU police mission in Afghanistan: Mixed Results
Legal baseArticle 287(4) TFEU; —
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Number(37041), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

15.1  The EU police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) was established on 30 May 2007, originally with a three-year mandate. This has subsequently been extended at various times, until the end of 2016. It was set up to:

—  assist the Government of Afghanistan in implementing coherently its strategy towards sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements, especially with regard to the Afghan Uniform (Civilian) Police and the Afghan Anti-Crime Police, as stipulated in the National Police Strategy;

—  improve cohesion and coordination among international actors;

—  work on strategy development, while placing an emphasis on work towards a joint overall strategy of the international community in police reform and enhance cooperation with key partners in police reform and training, including with the NATO-led mission ISAF and the NATO Training Mission and other contributors; and

—  support linkages between the police and the wider rule of law.

15.2  The most recent mandate extension continued EUPOL Afghanistan's current three broad lines of activity — advancing institutional reform in the Ministry of Interior (MOI), professionalisation of Afghan National Police (ANP) and connecting the police to the justice sector — for the first year, with the third strand to be discontinued at the end of 2015. In its final year, the mission would continue to support MOI reform and police professionalisation, with all activity transitioned to the Afghans or other multilateral actors by the mission end date of 31 December 2016.

15.3  This European Court of Auditors (ECA) Special Report was carried out between July and December 2014 and covers the period 2007-14. The Court gathered evidence for its assessment through documentary analysis, literature reviews and interviews with a wide variety of staff and external stakeholders, and through the review of six monitoring, mentoring and advising activities and 11 projects which were planned and implemented during 2011-14. At that time, EUPOL Afghanistan had already cost over $200 million.

15.4  The report finds that the EUPOL Afghanistan partly achieved its aim of helping to establish a sustainable and effective Afghan-owned civilian police. It notes that:

—  in the absence of a trained, fully-functioning Afghan police force, and with high illiteracy rates and widespread corruption in the Afghan police and justice systems, EUPOL has managed to contribute to a reform of the Ministry of the Interior and professionalisation of the country's police; and

—  however, continuing systemic weaknesses in the country's justice and police put at risk the legacy of the results achieved by EUPOL, as well as of the Afghan policing sector in general, after the phasing-out of the mission by the end of 2016.

15.5  In commenting on the Report, the responsible ECA Member, Hans Gustaf Wessberg, said on the day of its publication:[105]

"While external factors, such as lack of security and the almost complete absence of a trained and functional police force, may provide some explanation for EUPOL's mixed results, other shortcomings can be attributed to the mission itself. The ECA makes a number of recommendations, applicable not only to EUPOL Afghanistan, but also to other CSDP missions aiming to improve their effectiveness and the sustainability of the outcomes achieved."

15.6  The EU auditors noted that the EU managed to establish the mission in a very unstable environment. They observed that the mandate — "to strategically advise the higher echelons of the police force and create links to a wider rule of law — provided a hitherto-missing building block in the country's police and justice services, thus ensuring EU added value. From a difficult start, where EUPOL's deployment proved cumbersome and suffered from considerable logistical and staffing constraints, EUPOL had gradually gained recognition for its expertise and contribution to reforming the country's police. However, EUPOL did not manage to bring together all European actors as initially intended" — due in part to the mission's limited size and also to competition from other European and international efforts. "In spite of this, EUPOL contributed to enhanced cooperation with the EU Member States on the ground and sought to promote international cooperation".

15.7  With regard to results, the ECA assessed that EUPOL helped the Afghan police to gain some public trust by supporting the implementation of basic principles of civilian policing. But the Afghan police and justice systems continued to suffer from systemic weaknesses, including inadequate institutional development, an ineffective legal framework and limited staff capacity. Other factors such as undue political influence, corruption and the focus on counter­insurgency policing continued to hinder institutional development of the criminal justice sector as a whole. Connecting the national police to justice reform was "one of the areas in which it was most challenging for EUPOL to demonstrate results".

15.8  The audit also noted that:

—  EUPOL's assessment and reporting systems were not suited to the mandate because they were too basic, without sufficient focus on results and added value throughout most of the period audited;

—  the sustainability of the results of EUPOL's work and of the Afghan policing sector in general would depend on the willingness of the Afghan authorities to take ownership of the outcomes, on the security situation and on funding from the EU and other international stakeholders; and

—  concerns also remained as to how the EU can build upon EUPOL's achievements and whether maximum value will be obtained from the disposal of the mission's significant assets. [106]

15.9  The report set out five recommendations for the Commission and the EEAS to improve the effectiveness of CSDP missions:

i)  ensure missions receive sufficient logistical, technical and human resources support;

ii)  development of support functions to ensure rapid, efficient and consistent deployment of missions, including through training, guidelines and a shared service centre for all missions;

iii)  improve the effectiveness of training, projects and monitoring, mentoring and advising;

iv)  ensure that sustainability is embedded in the operational planning of all mission activities; and

v)  ensure the smooth phasing out of missions and liquidation of assets.

15.10  As is recalled in our previous Report,[107] the previous Committee had engaged with the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) before on this topic, i.e., in connection with the first such review by the ECA of the effectiveness of a major EU CSDP mission — EULEX Kosovo, the EU's rule of law mission in Kosovo, and its largest and most long-running. Drawing on some years of discussion with the Government of the day, the then Committee — noting that at that time, there were 14 missions globally, and more were in prospect — suggested that the Minister should encourage the ECA to undertake such reviews of EU CSDP missions more widely. His response was that it was for the ECA to set its priorities.

15.11  The message that the previous Committee sought to convey was clear: notwithstanding the political considerations that tended towards the quickest possible establishment of each new mission, they needed to be given clear, measurable objectives and a time limit; be benchmarked; be rigorously assessed along the way; and be wound up if those objectives were, for whatever reason, not being meeting effectively and not providing value for money. The same intense scrutiny that the ECA had brought to bear on EULEX Kosovo should also be brought to bear on established missions. Scarce resources need to be deployed, and re-deployed, to where they would have most impact. All future proposals to establish, renew or expand CSDP missions should be expected to demonstrate that these considerations were being taken properly into account.

Our assessment

15.12  Whether coincidental or not, we were gratified nonetheless that, one way or another, our predecessors' proposal had come to fruition. As was plain from the Court's findings and recommendations, there were many essential similarities in the environment in which such missions have to operate, particularly concerning local ownership, the security situation and effective cooperation both between EU actors, Member States and other international stakeholders; and thus many lessons from the Afghan experience that needed to be embedded in all such missions, in planning, implementing, effectively evaluating and, at the right time, closing them.

15.13  In this instance, as "a supporter of EU policing missions", the Minister "welcome[d] efforts to draw lessons from past experiences in order to inform and improve future implementation and effective use of EU funding".

15.14  We looked forward to seeing what Conclusions were adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council in due course, which we hoped would underline not just what needed to be done now and in future in this area in Afghanistan, but also what needed to become "mainstreamed" with regard not just to policing missions, but to all present and future CSDP missions.[108]

15.15  We therefore asked the Minister to forward us a copy of those Council Conclusions, together with his views on the extent to which they met these desiderata.

15.16  In the meantime, we retained the document under scrutiny.

15.17  We also drew these developments to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee.[109]

15.18  In his response (see "Background" for further details), the Minister judges that the Council Conclusions (which we reproduce at the Annex to this chapter of our Report) as having recognised the issues highlighted by the ECA and demonstrated the Council's intent to mainstream initiatives that will improve the wider CSDP operation. He says that UK officials are already engaged on the process of extending to all missions the EEAS response to the ECA's recommendations on strengthening EUPOL's capacity in planning, benchmarking, reporting, progress monitoring, and project management, and will continue to press for improvement.

15.19  With regard to wider CSDP, the Minister describes the effective closure of missions/transition of activities as "a vital aspect of the CSDP life cycle"; "welcome[s] acknowledgement within the Conclusions of the need to mainstream this across all missions"; and is "pleased that improvements will cover the entire life cycle of CSDP missions: from planning, recruitment and inception; to operations and activities; through to mission closures and asset disposal", concluding that: "Such a holistic approach is essential".

15.20  The Minister also refers to other ongoing work by the EEAS, working with missions, to address recruitment and continuity issues that undermine operational effectiveness, and also more "challenging areas", such as Code of Conduct and Discipline, in response to the findings of an independent report into how EULEX Kosovo and the EEAS handled the allegations of corruption against EULEX in 2014. His officials "will feed into the development of guidance to ensure that it is suitably focused and of value".

15.21  The Minister highlights ongoing work on a Mission Support Platform (MSP), which is intended to generate efficiencies and increase flexibility by centralising the provision of support functions to civilian CSDP missions. Once agreed, the MSP will be established by a HR/VP (joint Commission /EEAS) communiqué which will be noted by the Council through Council Conclusions. Implementation should begin in 2016. The Minister undertakes to write to the Committee about the MSP once he has received a copy of the draft Council Conclusions.

15.22  It is notable that the Council is now taking an active and sustained interest in what might normally be regarded as somewhat technical matters. This is very much to be welcomed. As the EU website notes:

"In a rapidly changing world, the EU is faced with security challenges both in its immediate neighbourhood and further afield. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) enables the Union to take a leading role in peace-keeping operations, conflict prevention and in the strengthening of the international security. It is an integral part of the EU's comprehensive approach towards crisis management, drawing on civilian and military assets. Since 2003 the EU has launched some 30 peace missions and operations contributing to stabilisation and security in Europe and beyond.

"In a time of limited resources Europe also needs to do better with less. The CSDP allows EU Member States to pool their resources and to build stronger defence capabilities to act rapidly and effectively."[110]

15.23  There are presently 17 ongoing missions.[111] What is impossible to find on the EU website is how much each has cost thus far; but it is in the hundreds of millions of euros. Given the emphasis on early intervention in failing states, in conjunction with local partners and regional and international partners, the number of missions can only grow. The action taken on the back of this ECA report in order to mainstream and embed the ECA's prescriptions is thus extremely important. Time alone will reveal just how effectively the EEAS, Commission and Member States take this work forward. But sustained engagement at Council level will be essential.

15.24  We look forward to hearing further from the Minister in due course. In the meantime, we now clear the ECA report from further scrutiny.

15.25  We also again draw these developments to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and, in view of the increasing interface between security and development embodied in the EU's "Comprehensive Approach", also to that of the International Development Committee.

Full details of the documents: European Court of Auditors' Special Report No. 7/2015 — The EU police mission in Afghanistan: Mixed Results: (37041), —.

Background

15.26  The European Court of Auditors (ECA) carries out audits, through which it assesses the collection and spending of EU funds. It examines whether financial operations have been properly recorded and disclosed, legally and regularly executed. It also, via its Special Reports, carries out audits designed to assess how well EU funds have been managed so as to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness.[112]

15.27  The CSDP Policing Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) was originally established on 30 May 2007 with a three-year mandate; this was extended in 2010 for another three years, until 31 May 2013. It was set up to:

—  assist the Government of Afghanistan in implementing coherently its strategy towards sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements, especially with regard to the Afghan Uniform (Civilian) Police and the Afghan Anti-Crime Police, as stipulated in the National Police Strategy;

—  improve cohesion and coordination among international actors;

—  work on strategy development, while placing an emphasis on work towards a joint overall strategy of the international community in police reform and enhance cooperation with key partners in police reform and training, including with the NATO-led mission ISAF and the NATO Training Mission and other contributors; and

—  support linkages between the police and the wider rule of law.

15.28  As the previous Committee's Reports relate, this mission has been consistently supported by the Government, as being in line with its own priorities in Afghanistan and as part of the international community's wider efforts in supporting the Afghan Government. But over seven years of operation its performance was chequered. In the first period, it suffered from poor leadership: but it was always backed by Member States as being an essential complement to the recruit-level training of police officers being led by the US. In 2013, with the wider withdrawal of ISAF forces in 2014 in mind, Member States commissioned a European External Action Service (EEAS) strategic review (SR).

15.29  In due course the Minister told the then Committee:

—  that the SR had assessed that:

·  progress had been made in all areas of EUPOL Afghanistan's mandate, but recognised that the Mission's six strategic objectives would not be fully achieved by the end of 2014;

·  Afghan capacity would not be sufficient to continue self-sustaining progress towards a capable and functioning police service by December 2014; and

·  non-EU actors, such as NATO and the UN, would not take on EUPOL Afghanistan activity; Member States agreed that EUPOL Afghanistan should therefore extend its mandate to support Afghan authorities in the further development of an effective civilian police force;

—  his own assessment was that EUPOL had provided an effective means of delivering engagement on policing post-2014, augmenting the UK's own efforts to build sustainable rule of law institutions that the Afghans can lead in the long term;

—   Member States had agreed that a two year mandate extension was a sufficient period to support Afghan authorities in areas where progress was lacking, allowing the mission to transition activity to the Afghans in a timely and practicable manner; and

—  based on the evidence presented in the SR, Member States agreed that the mandate extension should continue EUPOL Afghanistan's current structure of three broad lines of activity (advancing institutional reform in the Ministry of Interior (MOI), professionalisation of Afghan National Police (ANP) and connecting the police to the justice sector), within which support could be prioritised as necessary. Member States agreed on the continuation of all three strands of activity for the first year, with the third pillar (connecting the police to the justice sector) discontinued at the end of 2015. In its final year the mission would continue to support MOI reform and police professionalisation, with all activity transitioned to the Afghans or other multilateral actors by the mission end date of 31 December 2016.[113]

15.30  The relevant Council Decision was in line with the outcome of the SR, as described by the Minister. He noted that EUPOL Afghanistan would apply "a structured process to report and inform on the mission's performance and progress in implementing the mandate", which will be "benchmarked against the objectives, timeframes and measurable indicators identified within the OPLAN", and that this contains "a clear outline of the phases and timescales for activities in the run-up to the end of 2016, assessing progress of the three lines of operation and the transition of the mission's activity". The "benchmarking" process would help measure progress and outcomes by comparing the situation (an initial baseline) for a range of activities, against their evolution at given points using pre-defined indicators and means of verification; information on progress would then be used to facilitate tactical, operational and strategic policy adjustments, as required; and six-monthly reports issued by the Head of Mission which evaluated the mission against its specific objectives will be discussed in CIVCOM and the PSC,[114] and "provide all Member States with the opportunity to critique the mission at regular intervals and inform budget and mandate discussions, ensuring that the mission is delivering value for money".

15.31  As well as clearing this Council Decision, the then Committee also drew these developments to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee.[115]

The Minister's letter of 17 December 2015

15.32  The Minister judges that the Council Conclusions:[116] recognise "the issues highlighted by the ECA"; demonstrate "the Council's intent to mainstream initiatives that will improve the wider CSDP operation"; and note that "several recommendations had already been acted upon, such as strengthening the mission's capacity in planning, benchmarking, reporting, progress monitoring, and project management".

15.33  The Minister notes that:

"Work to enhance such key aspects should extend to all missions and we will continue to press for improvement. UK officials are already engaged on this, for example through their active role in the formulation of planning documents, such as the Operational Plans (O-Plans) which contain detailed information on benchmarking. Effective closure of missions/transition of activities is a vital aspect of the CSDP life cycle and I welcome acknowledgement within the Conclusions of the need to mainstream this across all missions."

15.34  The Minister recalls that the ECA recommended that the sustainability of EUPOL's outcomes should be embedded in the operational planning, and says:

"The Council was content with EUPOL's efforts to ensure sustainability of mission outcomes and noted that the mission was working closely with key EU, international and local actors. Their support will be necessary to sustain the mission's achievements. Efforts to professionalise civilian policing (including support for female police officers) will require close coordination. I welcome the Council's intent to mainstream wider engagement strategies."

15.35  With regard to wider CSDP, the Minister says:

"in acknowledging the ECA recommendations the Conclusions rightly referred to important activities already underway which will help improve the effectiveness of the overall CSDP operation and ensure sustainability of CSDP outcomes. I am pleased that improvements will cover the entire life cycle of CSDP missions: from planning, recruitment and inception; to operations and activities; through to mission closures and asset disposal. Such a holistic approach is essential."

15.36  In this regard, the Minister states:

"The EEAS is the competent body to provide the necessary guidance for CSDP missions to meet their specific operational needs. As such they have to consider the need to update or create additional guidance for missions in response to the ECA report but also the findings of Professor Jacque, who had been invited by HR/VP Mogherini to look into how EULEX Kosovo and the EEAS had handled the allegations of corruption against EULEX.[117] We anticipate work to progress during 2016 and, where appropriate, UK officials will feed into the development of guidance to ensure that it is suitably focused and of value."

15.37  The Minister then refers to efforts to improve Human Resources, noting that:

"the Council supports ongoing work to explore ways to enable greater flexibility in the recruitment process and continuity of staffing within a mission. The EEAS, working with missions, has begun to consider how to address recruitment issues such as swift deployment, attracting experienced staff, and continuity. For example, individual missions have identified which roles are essential for business continuity and have put in place the requirement that staff must be provided handovers in these roles, with Member States' approval that in principle these posts may require an overlap to allow this to happen, ensuring continuity. More challenging areas will also need to be tackled, such as Code of Conduct and Discipline, with careful preparation and consultation with Member States. The EEAS is moving ahead following the ECA and Jacque Reports and UK officials will continue to engage constructively on this agenda of improvement and change."

15.38  The Minister then turns to ongoing work to strengthen mission support, which he says:

"includes the joint Commission and EEAS proposal for a Mission Support Platform (MSP), which is intended to generate efficiencies and increase flexibility by centralising the provision of support functions to civilian CSDP missions. Member States want to see improvements to the support functions and to this end have been working with the Institutions on this proposal. Key areas for the UK, such as retaining oversight of the budget and MSP activities have been discussed in Brussels and reflected through negotiations on the concept, which continue. Once agreed, the MSP will be established by a HR/VP (joint Commission /EEAS) communiqué which will be noted by the Council through Council Conclusions. Implementation should begin in 2016. I will write to the Committees about the Mission Support Platform once we have received a copy of the draft Council Conclusions."

15.39  In conclusion, the Minister says:

"The Council Conclusions rightly encouraged the EEAS, Commission and Member States to enhance cooperation and coordination in setting up and conducting missions. UK officials will continue to play an active role in the development of initiatives to improve CSDP and will keep pressure on the EEAS to maintain momentum and implement agreed changes quickly."

Previous Committee Reports

Fifth Report HC 342-v (2015-16), chapter 11 (14 October 2015); also see (34432) —: Thirty-sixth Report HC 86-xxxvi (2012-13), chapter 12 (20 March 2013); (35190), 11109/13: Thirtieth Report HC 83 xxvii (2013-14), chapter 4 (15 January 2014); (36514), —: Twenty-fourth Report HC 219-xxiii (2014-15), chapter 10 (3 December 2014); and (35996), 9467/14: Thirty-fourth Report HC 219-xxxiii (2014-15), chapter 1 (25 February 2015).


105   The report was published on 8 July 2015. Back

106   Press release. Also see "Background" for further details. Back

107   See Fifth Report HC 342-v (2015-16), chapter 11 (14 October 2015) for details. Back

108   See graphic illustration, Ongoing and completed operations and also Security and defence - CSDPBack

109   Fifth Report HC 342-v (2015-16), chapter 11 (14 October 2015). Back

110   See Security and defence - CSDP. Back

111   See Overview of current EU missions and operations for details. Back

112   See European Court of Auditors for full details of the ECA's work. Back

113   See (35190), 11109/13: Thirtieth Report HC 83 xxvii (2013-14), chapter 4 (15 January 2014). Back

114   The Political and Security Committee (PSC) meets at the ambassadorial level as a preparatory body for the Council of the EU. Its main functions are keeping track of the international situation, and helping to define policies within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) including the CSDP. It prepares a coherent EU response to a crisis and exercises its political control and strategic direction. The PSC is chaired by a representative of the High Representative. In parallel with the European Union Military Committee (EUMC: the highest military body set up within the Council, which provides the PSC with advice and recommendations on all military matters within the EU), the PSC is advised by a Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM). This committee provides information, drafts recommendations, and gives its opinion to the PSC on civilian aspects of crisis management. Back

115   See (36514), -: Twenty-fourth Report HC 219-xxiii (2014-15), chapter 10 (3 December 2014). Back

116   Which were adopted on 16 November 2015 and are reproduced at the Annex to this chapter of our Report. Back

117   See (36919), -: Fourth Report HC 342-iv (2015-16), chapter 14 (16 September 2015) and the other Reports referred to therein for the Committee's consideration of these matters. Back


 
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