According to today’s decision, the EP and the Commission are proposing to establish a European Defence Fund with a 13 billion euro budget within the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) (2021-2027). Together with the 6.5 billion euros that the Commission proposes to allocate to “military mobility”, this would amount to total spending of almost 20 billion euros for military purposes from the EU budget – over and above the national defence budgets. In parallel, draft legislation would cut civil crisis prevention and peacebuilding by almost two-thirds compared with the current Financial Framework. “Reducing the resources for civil crisis prevention and peacebuilding at a time when violent conflicts are identifiably one of the biggest drivers of poverty and a major cause of displacement is the wrong policy to pursue. Such kind of financial planning makes a mockery of the EU’s reputation as a civil peace project. With more and more conflicts sliding into open warfare, we would have expected at least a doubling of the funding for civil conflict management,” says Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, President of Bread for the World.
“The EU’s previous strengths, namely conflict resolution diplomacy, mediation, institution-building and economic incentives to promote peace, are being neglected. Instead, with the European Defence Fund, the European Parliament and Commission are pursuing an ambitious programme to subsidise the European defence industry. The aim is to foster its competitiveness, according to the wording of the Commission’s proposal,” Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel continues. Bread for the World is concerned that the establishment of the Fund will also boost defence industry exports, as the subsidies will inevitably lead to the development of additional production capacities. “The world certainly does not need any more weapons from Europe,” says Füllkrug-Weitzel.
Above all, the current budget plans, according to Bread for the World, reveal a major discrepancy. “The funds for defence research and development have been massively inflated, in contrast to the cuts to spending on civil crisis prevention and peacebuilding. Measures that are extremely important – such as support for civil society engagement in reconciliation work, reintegration of former child soldiers and landmine clearance – are being scrapped,” says Martina Fischer, Policy Advisor, Peace and Conflict Transformation, at Bread for the World. Whether and how these activities are to be funded in future is a question left unanswered in the Commission’s proposal. Bread for the World is urging Members of the European Parliament and the German Bundestag to lobby for the objectives identified in the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) to be included to their full extent in the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and for mandatory budgetary provisions to be made for them.
In June 2018, the European Commission recommended merging several previously self-standing budget lines, including the European Development Fund (EDF), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the European Neighbourhood Initiative (ENI); they would be absorbed within a new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), which is also being debated by the European Parliament. Bread for the World regards this merger as extremely problematical, as it will make it more difficult for NGOs from the Global South to access EU funding and is likely to result in less transparency in spending policy. The Commission’s aim is to achieve maximum flexibility in the use of the NDICI budget, with a stronger emphasis on controlling migration, border protection, and military and police capacity building (training and equipment). Furthermore, according to the Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament will have no say on how these funds will ultimately be spent. The Commission’s proposal envisages that the civil crisis prevention and peacebuilding tasks which previously fell within the scope of the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) will receive just 1 billion euros in financial support from the NDICI’s thematic programme under the new Multiannual Financial Framework (adjusted for inflation, this amounts to no more than 880 million euros, compared with 2.3 billion euros available for the current 2014-2020 funding period). Some of the budget items have been scrapped, or fallen victim to the desire for increased flexibility: they include initiatives supporting the reintegration of ex-combatants, resocialisation of child soldiers, landmine clearance, peacebuilding engagement by women’s groups, and civil society reconciliation projects. The current Commission proposal does not indicate whether and to what extent these items of expenditure, which have been dropped from the thematic programme, could continue to be funded in future.
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(Translation: Hillary Crowe)