EU commissioner defends linking security and aid

Neven Mimica, European commissioner for international cooperation and development. Photo by: Mauro Bottaro / EU

European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica told Devex and other reporters on Tuesday that the proposal for a new European Consensus on International Development’s commitment to explore the links between security and development interests will maintain a “clear, red line” limiting how and when security and development will overlap.

Since the release of the consensus last week, civil society groups have raised concerns that the commission’s pledge to “explore the linkages between security and development” will mean the donor will divert some of its more than $156 billion in development funds toward bolstering security or even military capacity, specifically in how it relates to refugees and migration to Europe.*

The consensus compounded fears among aid professionals that the commission’s recent migration initiatives, including the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the External Action Service, function not as agents of poverty reduction but simply efforts to stem the flow of migrants from humanitarian crises in the Middle East and Africa.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini announced the proposal for the new consensus on Nov. 22, lauding the document for going “beyond the traditional approach,” she said. “For instance, exploring the link between security and development or the work we do on migration.”

Mimica defended the link. The commissioner said building security capacity in developing countries is very much in the interest of peace and prosperity, and pointed to the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as one of the catalysts for building stronger links between security and development.

“Our development and peace and security engagement must be more visible,” Mimica said at a press breakfast in Brussels on Tuesday. “In that context, we’d like to make our contribution to the security capacity building of our partners, and we would like to give this additional contribution also by our development instruments.”

Mimica said the 2030 agenda sets out “a clear recognition that peace and security and development must go together and must be interlinked, in a more coherent way.”

SDG 16.a, in particular, aims to “[s]trengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.”

In that context, Mimica told reporters that “most of the security development links will be between our development policy and [institutions] other than military in the partner countries,” using police forces as an example.

The commissioner also reiterated that the commission is bound by the Lisbon Treaty, which he said prohibits EU budgets from being used for the purchase of arms or military equipment.

He said any security cooperation would be “along the lines of what we have with different contacts in trade policy, so it’s the same here in security development links,” indicating that the Commission “should and could” cooperate with partner countries “on anything but arms.”

The move to bring development and security strategies will be watched closely by other donors, many of whom have recently indicated similar ambitions. The United Kingdom’s new cross-government strategy, for example, commits to spending 30 percent of the country’s 13 billion pound ($16.3 billion) aid budget through other government departments, including the Ministry of Defence.

* Update: Dec. 8, 2016: This article has been updated to clarify that donors will divert some of its more than $156 billion in development funds toward bolstering security or even military capacity.

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About the author

  • Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.