The EU and African Union security-development nexus: a new shape of cooperation or dependence?


After centuries of exploitation and a relationship marked by asymmetries, to overcome the North-South dependence relation, the European Union has sought to shift this conception through translating development funds into security interests, upon supporting African-led security governance under the scope of the African Peace and Security Architecture, the cornerstone of the partnership. The aim of this paper is to understand the dynamics of cooperation between the European Union and the African Union in the maintenance of peace in Africa. Both continents share a history of at first, donor-recipient character and since the establishment of the Africa-EU Partnership it is discussed if this relationship has shifted to a more equitable and interdependent nature. The paper is structured in two sections, at first seeking to explain how the African Union aims to obtain a substantial voice in the global arena and consolidate itself as a fundamental actor in the maintenance of peace and security in the continent, and subsequently how the European Union plays a crucial role as one of the main partners in such endeavor by funding peace operations in the region.

            It will be discussed if the security-development nexus has achieved the main goals established by both blocs together and singularly. Aiming to understand why some procedures succeeded and others failed, as well as the potential future prospects focused at reaching an efficient use of the funds provided by the European Union and building capacity within the African Union to better coordinate among its member states and deal with complex conflicts.

The African Union as a strong regional actor and the partnership with the European Union

            Since the 1980s, Africa has been the stage of a series of conflicts and crises that in spite of happening in specific countries, led to a spillover effect affecting neighboring states. In addition, the region has also been marked by the rise of local and transnational terrorism. Leading to an ever-growing sense of insecurity stemming from a series of factors such as ethnic rivalry, human rights abuses, disputes over natural resources, failure to abide to the rule of law, besides poverty, lack of access to education and health (Makinda and Okumu, 2007). Moreover, from the 60s the Organization for African Unity, in accordance with its Charter, had the commitment to collectively establish, maintain and sustain peace and security in Africa. Paradoxically, the Charter with the aforementioned provision determined as well that it should ‘defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the member states’. Thus, constraining the possibility of collective action, as the key organs of the OAU were only allowed to intervene once invited by the parties to a dispute. Instituting a culture of impunity and indifference that eventually became embedded in the regions’ international affairs during the Cold War (Murithi, 2008).

            With the lingering memories of the Rwandan Genocide and the end of Apartheid, in addition with the concerns arising from globalization and as well the lack of relevance of the OAU, the need to create an organization able to foster a project of regional integration based on the principles of solidarity and reviving the ideals of Pan-Africanism became evident. Consequently, in 1999, in Libya, African leaders met to review the OAU Charter, which led to the drafting of a constitutional act that was signed on the following year, thus the African Union was inaugurated in 2002 (Murithi, 2008). The main objectives were to provide a platform for Africans to be heard at a global level by engaging collectively with foreign powers from a strengthened position (Nagar and Nganje, 2016). According to Nagar and Nganje (2016), after over ten years from its creation, the Union had not yet achieved its goal of being an influential actor at the global stage and they deemed as well that the Union’s external relations are characterized by excessive dependence on financial and material resources, driving it to a marginalized position.

However, the partnership between the African Union and the European Union can be distinguished as crucial to the achievement of both institution’s goals. From Brussel’s perspective, a strong continental organization has a key role reaching its political, economic and geo-strategic interests by dealing with African issues. Whilst from the African viewpoint, a partnership with Brussels implies in the provision of resources and a burden-sharing character in its security and development objectives (Tardy, 2016). The Africa-EU Partnership was first established in 2000 at the Africa-EU Summit in Cairo. Currently, it is guided by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), adopted in 2007. The intention of both continents is to subdue the donor-recipient relationship and establish a long-term cooperation on jointly identified mutual and complementary interests, based on the principles of ownership, partnership and solidarity (“The Partnership,” 2020).

In contrast with the perspective by Nagar and Nganje (2016), upon the analysis of the post-JAES, Thierry Tardy (2016) argues that during the same period of time, much had been achieved to overcome the donor-recipient nature of the partnership and the institutions were constantly becoming more interdependent. Mainly regarding security, the African Union became a fundamental actor in the region (Tardy, 2016). The shift from the OAU to the AU, led to the establishment of the African Peace and Security Architecture and featured the transition from the principle of ‘non-interference’ to ‘non-indifference’. The first was responsible for preventing the OAU from intervening even in situations of breach of jus cogens, while the latter allowed the new African Union to actively take part when peremptory norms were infringed (Carbone, 2013). Pursuant to art. 3 of the AU Constitutive Act (2000) the objectives of the AU will be to “defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States” as well as “promote peace, security and stability on the continent”. The term “architecture” alludes to a set of structures, norms, capacities and procedures related to preventing conflict and war, mediation for peace and maintenance of security. Although the term currently relates to a set of AU Structures along with African Sub-Regional Organizations, with the AU Peace and Security Council as its cornerstone (Assanvo and Pout, 2007).

Miranda et al. (2012) argues that the high-level gatherings of the partnership as the Commission-to-Commission meetings and the Peace and Security Council, where both institutions should have the opportunity to construct a substantial dialogue, presented a political void. The JAES proposed a people-centered strategy, resonating the concept of “ownership” underlined as a guiding principle of EU relations with the developing world (“The Partnership,” 2020), but in practice it struggled to allow civil society to have a voice and participate in the decision-making process. The African regional organizations, namely, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs), along with other civil society actors as the academia and NGOs are considered crucial, once they present comparative advantages in terms of cultural understanding, geographical closeness and personal links. Until then, the Joint Coordination Committee of the African Peace Facility, the main financial instrument of the Partnership, was the only forum where all parties, including the REC/RMs were involved, but at a lower political level (Miranda et al., 2012). Since its establishment, despite the APSA being well accepted by international actors, faced internal implementation issues such as the lack of commitment of most African countries, inadequate capacity to deal with the constantly increasing requirements of African security and the difficulty to involve the RECs in a substantial manner (Carbone, 2013). Likewise, Desmidt and Hauck (2017) claim that questions regarding subsidiarity, comparative advantages and division of labor between the AU and the RECs and RMs for addressing conflicts have yet to be solved. However, coordination of efforts with international partners drive to several cooperation models to strengthen collaboration to solve intense conflicts, but that still there is a possibility of improvement.

Financing the APSA: a new face of North-South dependence?

            The financing of the APSA has been the main instrument of the EU-AU partnership, funded by the European Development Fund, aimed at first to be provisional, until alternative resources were found. As determined by the Maastrich Treaty, security policy is a competence of the EU Council, but upon using the EDF it implied at an extension of the Commission’s competence from conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction into conflict management (Carbone, 2013). Under the scope of the APSA, the African Peace Facility was established in 2004, as a development and peacekeeping instrument comprising three main branches of action: peace support operations, capacity building and the development of an early response mechanism (Sicurelli, 2008). In accordance with Article 11 of the Cotonou Agreement, the European Commission claimed for itself a significant role in the management of the APF (Carbone, 2013). As pointed out by Sicurelli (2008) referring to an official of the Directorate General, the ambiguous character of the Peace Facility is due to formally not being considered by the EU a “peacekeeping instrument”, but an instrument for the “deployment of peacekeeping operations”, thus falling under the competences of the Commission on conflict management without direct lethal implications. Despite the aforementioned classification not being considered eligible as Official Development Aid by the OECD, the Facility is characterized as well as an instrument for development (Sicurelli, 2008).

            The hybrid character of being simultaneously a development and peacekeeping instrument led to the contestation of some EU member states, whom argued that instead of being funded by the EDF, the APF should receive funds from the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as they opposed the idea of development resources allocated for military operations. However, the Commission opposed such interpretation and claimed that in accordance with the Cotonou Agreement, peace and security are essential elements for development (Sicurelli, 2008). Hence, it is evident how upon labeling the APF a tool of development intervention, the Commission has circumvented Maastrich’s rules to enable it to encompass peacekeeping policy.

            Since 2004, the EDF has financed through the APF over €1,6 billion, with the mission AMISOM in Somalia considered the largest (€510 million), when soldiers were paid $1,000 per month, later this value was reduced to $800 monthly to incentivize African partners to pursue alternative resources to fund the operations. The APF also aims to support the operationalization of the APSA through capacity-building of the AU, RECs and RMs, the financing of staff salaries and support for African Training Centers. Another aspect of the APF is the AU Early Response Mechanism which funds conflict prevention, mediation and crisis management and during the aforementioned period accounted for €15 million. Thus, underlining the European Union’s commitment to ensure African-led security governance (Tardy, 2016).

            The AU itself has set a Peace Fund to finance its missions, based on appropriations from the regular budget of the Union, voluntary contributions by member states and from other sources such as the private sector, civil society and individuals. However, their operations have heavily benefited from external funding, mainly from the EU and as well from the United Nations. From the five AU peace support operations established since 2002, none were funded with their own budget (Tardy, 2013). Moreover, as posed by Thierry Tardy (2013) the EDF is not the only funding source from the EU, it is difficult to precisely determine the total cost of EU military operations as it is divided among civilian missions funded by the Commission with CFSP budget, direct funding of military operations financed by member states and the ATHENA mechanism, besides of course the EDF itself and member states contributions to UN Peacekeeping budget. Furthermore, three other different funding channels have benefited the AU besides the APF: multi-donor trust funds, bilateral financial support and UN-assessed contributions.

            Considering the two main focuses of the Peace Facility: supporting African-led peace operations and promoting capacity building in security, it must be underlined that most resources were employed in running peace missions. In certain cases, the missions were a major success and in others they failed. In the case of Sudan (AMIS), the EU overlooked that the AU was not yet fully prepared to handle complex conflicts, leading to a failure of coordination with the UN and NATO. Consequently, causing a waste of resources. Conversely, in the case of the Central African Republic (MICOPAX) the APF funds targeted the process of demobilization of ex-combatants, paving the way for durable peace and security conditions, proving itself as one of APF’s success stories (Carbone, 2013).

            The proposed goals by the JAES of developing an effective, efficient and robust conflict prevention, management and resolution capabilities, especially relating to peacekeeping, peace support, remains the main challenge for the African Union (Assanvo and Pout, 2007­­). Miranda et al. (2012) argues that considering the well-known difficulties of the African side in the management of resources and expertise, a facilitation of procedures with more flexibility and in an easier, faster and better manner seems unlikely. Therefore, a stronger synergy between the various financial resources and rationalization of clearer objectives in the JAES would allow the African side to prioritize its objectives, leading potentially to better outcomes.

            Additionally, Tardy (2016) remarked that the structure of funding mechanisms for peace operations from the EU to the AU generates a delicate question regarding the division of labor between asymmetrical states, despite the “good intentions” underlined by the JAES, this dynamic of operation shape a new form of Northern domination on the Global South, where “the North pays in dollars and the South in blood”. Just the act of a Northern actor funding a peace mission in the South already challenges the concept of ownership itself, especially when such procedure entails the authorization of two external actors, in this case the EU and the UN, before anything can actually begin (Carbone, 2013). Hence, the question remains if the underlining intentions of the EU are really promoting peace in the region because it believes it is on both blocs’ best interest or because a stable Africa means less immigration to European shores.


This paper has analyzed the substantial role played by the European Union in the promotion of peace and security through the partnership with the African Union, upon mainly funding its African Peace and Security Architecture. Considering the Joint Africa-EU Strategy that underlines the principle of ownership, it has concluded that despite the efforts to rely upon African-led security governance, European funded peace operations elucidate that the principle has not yet been properly observed. The African Union has not yet achieved the goals set on its Constitutive Act to become an independent and influential actor regionally and internationally. Its dependence on external funding to enable the implementation of peace operations implies that the donor-recipient thread has not yet been broken.

It is evident that upon analyzing security cooperation through financial lenses it becomes clear that the European Union and its member states are unsurprisingly the main funders of peace operations in Africa and have played a considerable role to meet the difficulties related to the promotion of peace and security in the region. Despite the remaining questions if the bloc’s intentions are of truly helping the AU to achieve peace out of solidarity or if African peace entails in less immigrants seeking hope in Europe.


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