Documents considered by the Committee on 29 November 2017 Contents

33EU Assistance Mission in Iraq

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

(a) and (b): Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Document details

(a) Council Decision on negotiations with Iraq on the status of the European Union Advisory Mission in Iraq; (b) Council Decision on the European Union Advisory Mission in support of Security Sector Reform in Iraq (EUAM Iraq)

Legal base

(a) Articles 28, 42(4), 43(2) and Article 37 TEU in conjunction with Article 218(3) TFEU; Unanimity; (b) Articles 28, 42(4) and 43(2) TEU; Unanimity.

Department

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Document Numbers

(a) (39080),—; (b) (39081),—

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

33.1In 2014, the so-called Islamic State (Da’esh) wrested control over parts of western Iraq from the Government in Baghdad. As Iraqi forces have begun to retake territory from the insurgents in recent months, the EU has launched a new Common Security & Defence Policy (CSDP) mission to assist Iraqi security forces—including its police, judiciary and intelligence agencies—in fulfilling their tasks under effective civilian control, and under the rule of law.

33.2The EU Advisory Mission in support of Security Sector Reform in Iraq (EUAM Iraq) was formally approved by the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 October, with the UK’s support.423 Its focus will be on the provision of strategic advice to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Office of the Iraqi National Security Adviser, including supporting implementation of Iraq’s National Security Strategy. EUAM Iraq’s initial mandate is for one year, with a budget of €14 million (£12.6 million),424 with a review of its operations due by the end of 2018. The Council also adopted a Decision authorising the EU’s High Representative (Federica Mogherini) to engage in negotiations with the Iraq Government about the legal status of the Mission on Iraqi territory.425

33.3The Minister for Europe (Sir Alan Duncan) submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the proposal to launch of EUAM Iraq on 5 October.426 In it he expressed the Government’s support for the mission, noting that its objectives were in line with the UK National Security Council’s priorities for Iraq and referring to the EU’s expertise in security sector reform. He added that the Government would also consider the deployment of UK secondees. The Government voted in favour of the mission at the Council on 16 October, overriding scrutiny as the Committee had not yet been reconstituted following the general election.427

33.4We thank the Minister for his assessment of the added value of this new CSDP mission, and now clear the two Council Decisions from scrutiny. We also accept that a scrutiny override was acceptable in the circumstances, given that the Committee had not yet been reformed at the time of their consideration by the Council.

33.5As this is a new EU CSDP mission, we consider these Council Decisions of political importance and accordingly draw them to the attention of the House, and the Foreign Affairs Committee in particular. It would be helpful if the Minister could keep us informed of any significant developments related to the deployment of EUAM Iraq, including in due course the outcome of the SOMA negotiations with the Iraqi Government and the conclusions of the strategic review.

33.6As is now our standard approach, we have also considered these documents in the context of our withdrawal from the EU. The immediate implications of Brexit for EUAM Iraq appear to be limited, given that its initial mandate will expire in 2018; it has a relatively modest budget; and as yet there are no UK personnel seconded to the mission. Post-Brexit, the UK may still be involved if the current mandate is extended as the Government has offered the EU continued UK involvement in CSDP missions (during both the planning and operational phases).428

33.7Our main concern is that there is no clarity from the Government about the new legal and institutional architecture which is needed to make its proposed “deep and special partnership”429 with the EU on foreign policy post-Brexit a practical reality once the UK is no longer represented on the Council or its preparatory bodies. We hope the Government will be in a position to share its thinking on this matter with Parliament before the December European Council, which could mark the start of the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

Full details of the documents

(a) Proposal for a Council Decision to authorise the High Representative to open negotiations with Iraq for an Agreement on the status of the European Union Advisory Mission in Iraq (EUAM Iraq): (39080),—; (b) Proposal for a Council Decision on the European Union Advisory Mission in support of Security Sector Reform in Iraq (EUAM Iraq): (39081),—.

Background

33.8The EU and its Member States take a strong interest in returning Iraq and the wider region to stability and promoting its economic and political development.430 The day-to-day bilateral EU-Iraq relationship is underpinned by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which has been partially in force since August 2012.431 The PCA established the legal framework for improving cooperation in a range of areas, including trade relations and regulatory cooperation. The PCA also created a bilateral Cooperation Council, which meets regularly at ministerial level.432 An EU civilian mission to improve adherence to the rule of law in Iraq, called Just-Lex, operated from 2005 until 2013.433

33.9Following the formal withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, the security situation in the country deteriorated. Sectarian violence intensified between Shia and Sunni groups. In parallel, neighbouring Syria descended into civil war between various factions, among them the so-called Islamic State (known as ISIL or Da’esh) which aimed to establish a caliphate. In 2014, Da’esh’s activities spilled over from Syria into Iraq as they took control of Mosul, Tikrit and other cities in the country’s west and north-west. In response, the US sent troops to prevent any further encroachment into Iraqi territory, and conducted air strikes against the insurgents.

A new civilian CSDP mission

33.10In October 2014, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council expressed the EU’s resolve to “tackle in a comprehensive and coordinated manner” the crises in Syria and Iraq and the threat posed by Da’esh.434 As the situation in Iraq deteriorated further, the Council in May 2016 announced that the EU would launch the preparatory work for a new Common Security & Defence Policy (CSDP) security sector assistance mission.435 Its aim would be to provide support to Iraq’s civilian security sector—its law enforcement agencies, intelligence services and judiciary—and help it operate under effective civilian control, with respect for human rights and under the rule of law (in particular in areas formerly held by Da’esh).

33.11The preparations for the new mission took place from May 2016 until summer 2017, when the Council approved its Crisis Management Concept. EU Foreign Affairs Ministers also again expressed the EU’s concern about the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and emphasised “the importance of security and the rule of law for stability in the liberated areas and across the whole country”, saying it was “essential that security agencies improve their relation with the civilian population”.436 Around the same time, Iraqi forces succeeded in recapturing Mosul and Tikrit from Da’esh, but a large part of Iraq’s western border region, centred around the city of al-Qaim, remains under the insurgents’ control.

33.12On 24 August, Iraq’s Government expressed its agreement to the actual deployment of the mission. The Decision to launch the Mission was formally adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 October 2017, with the support of the UK.437 Its work is based on the EU’s new framework for assistance to third countries on Security Sector Reform, which was adopted by the Council in 2016.438 EUAM Iraq will provide strategic advice to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Office of the National Security Adviser, including supporting implementation of the country’s National Security Strategy. It will also support institutional reform within the Ministry of Interior, and scope areas where the EU might be able to provide additional assistance in the future.

33.13The Mission’s initial mandate is for one year, with a budget of €14 million (£12.6 million). In 2018, on the basis of a Strategic Review, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers will decide whether to extend, modify or terminate the mission’s mandate. The Council has also authorised the EU’s High Representative (Federica Mogherini) to engage in negotiations with the Iraq Government about the legal status of the Assistance Mission on Iraqi territory.439

33.14In parallel to these developments, the European Commission announced a €60.4 million (£54.2 million) aid package to support Iraq in stabilising the areas re-taken from Da’esh.440 The EEAS is also in the process of preparing a new comprehensive strategy for the EU’s relations with Iraq.

The Government’s view

33.15The Minister for Europe (Sir Alan Duncan) submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the proposal to launch of EUAM Iraq on 5 October, in advance of its formal adoption by the Council.441 By letter of 20 October, the Minister informs the Committee that the Government had supported the deployment of the Mission taken at the Foreign Affairs Council the previous week.442 Its reasons for doing so are set out in the earlier Memorandum:

33.16The Minister also argued that “a representative, capable and inclusive civilian security sector that is responsive to all Iraqis will be critical in helping to address the legitimate grievances that led to Da’esh’s rise and to building a more stable and inclusive Iraq”. The Minister added that the EU, with its experience in civilian Security Sector Reform, could play a “substantial role” in supporting Iraqi-led reform of its police and security forces. Finally, the Minister offered assurances that UK officials will “evaluate closely the impact of EUAM Iraq throughout the course of its mandate, which should remain flexible and appropriate for its operating environment, whilst maintaining value for money”. He added that the Government will also consider the deployment of UK secondees to the Mission.

Our assessment

33.17We thank the Minister for his assessment of the added value of this new mission, and now clear the two Council Decisions from scrutiny. We also accept that a scrutiny override was acceptable in the circumstances, given that the Committee had not yet been reformed at the time of their consideration by the Council. It would be helpful if the Minister could keep us informed of any significant developments related to the deployment of EUAM Iraq, including in due course the outcome of the SOMA negotiations with the Iraqi Government and the conclusions of the strategic review.

33.18As is now our standard approach, we have also considered these documents in the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

33.19The immediate consequences of Brexit for EUAM Iraq appear to be limited, given that its initial mandate will expire in 2018; it has a relatively modest budget; and as yet there are no UK personnel seconded to the mission. Post-Brexit, the UK may still be involved if the current mandate is extended, as the Government has offered the EU continued UK involvement in CSDP missions (during both the planning and operational phases) after Brexit.443 With respect to the UK-Iraq relationship more broadly, our withdrawal means the UK will cease to be a party to the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, including its provisions on trade.444

33.20We have also considered the general implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU from the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the Government’s proposals for a “deep and special partnership”445 with the EU on foreign policy post-Brexit. Our main concern is that there is no clarity from the Government about the new legal and institutional architecture which is needed to make continued close cooperation on foreign policy with the EU a practical reality once the UK is no longer represented on the Foreign Affairs Council or its preparatory bodies. We hope the Government will be in a position to share its thinking on this matter with Parliament before the December European Council, which could mark the start of the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


424 €1 = £0.91973 or £1 = €1.08728 as at 1 September 2017.

425 This Council Decision is classified as LIMITE. For civilian CSDP missions, the EU and the host country normally set out a “clear and binding understanding” (called a Status of Mission Agreement, or SOMA), covering issues such as security, privileges and immunities of personnel. The negotiations will proceed on the basis of a Model SOM Agreement. Once the negotiations are completed, the resulting Agreement will be the subject of Council Decisions on its signature and conclusion, in line with Article 218 TFEU. Those Decisions will be subject to scrutiny in their own right in due course.

426 Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (5 October 2017).

427 Letter from Sir Alan Duncan to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee (20 October 2017).

428 DExEU, “Foreign policy, defence and development: a future partnership paper“ (12 September 2017), p22. In this paper, the Government offers a foreign policy partnership with the EU that is “unprecedented in its breadth, taking in cooperation on diplomacy, defence and security, and development, and in its depth, in terms of the degree of engagement that the UK and the EU should aim to deliver”.

429 Idem.

431 The full text of the Agreement is available here. Titles II (Trade and investment), III (Areas of cooperation, including industrial, environmental and energy cooperation), and V (Institutional, general and final provisions) of the PCA have been provisionally applied since 2012. Title I (Political dialogue and foreign policy cooperation) and Title IV (Justice, freedom and security) are not yet in force.

432 The last EU-Iraq Cooperation Council took place on 18 October 2016.

433 EEAS, “EUJUST LEX-Iraq“ (accessed 25 October 2017).

434 Foreign Affairs Council, “Outcome of the Council meeting“ (20 October 2014), p. 13.

436 Foreign Affairs Council, “Council conclusions on Iraq“ (19 June 2017).

438 See our predecessors’ Report of 25 January 2017 for more information on the EU Strategic Framework for Security Sector Reform.

439 This Council Decision is classified as LIMITE. For civilian CSDP missions, the EU and the host country normally set out a “clear and binding understanding” (called a Status of Mission Agreement, or SOMA), covering issues such as security, privileges and immunities of personnel. The negotiations will proceed on the basis of a Model SOM Agreement. Once the negotiations are completed, the resulting Agreement will be the subject of Council Decisions on its signature and conclusion, in line with Article 218 TFEU. Those Decisions will be subject to scrutiny in their own right in due course.

441 Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (5 October 2017).

442 Letter from Sir Alan Duncan to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee (20 October 2017).

443 DExEU, “Foreign policy, defence and development: a future partnership paper“ (12 September 2017), p. x. In this paper, the Government offers a foreign policy partnership with the EU that is “unprecedented in its breadth, taking in cooperation on diplomacy, defence and security, and development, and in its depth, in terms of the degree of engagement that the UK and the EU should aim to deliver”.

444 See paragraph 0.8. Although the UK is a signatory to the PCA, the Agreement defines its Parties as “the Union and/or its Member States”. It also restricts its territorial scope to “to the territories in which the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union are applied”.




1 December 2017