EU’s plans to militarize aid face legal scrutiny in Parliament

Members of the European Parliament will decide Thursday if it is legal for the Commission to spend “peace-building” funds on strengthening the military in countries like Mali and Somalia, despite conflicting legal advice from the EU’s own lawyers.

Changes to the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) — an EU fund worth €2.3 billion that disburses money for peace-building activities in conflict-ridden developing countries — are part of what the Commission says is an attempt to strengthen the EU’s ability to shore up the institutions of countries whose development has been hindered by violence.

To its critics, it’s a naked attempt to funnel scarce financial resources away from traditional aid projects to support the EU’s increasingly stretched military operations in sub-Saharan Africa.

EU governments and MEPs on the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee have already signed off on the content of the proposals, despite resistance from many left-wing politicians and member countries like Sweden.

The whole initiative may nevertheless be torpedoed if MEPs on the Legal Affairs Committee decide on Thursday that the proposal’s legal basis is faulty, an argument lawyers in both the Council of the EU and the European Parliament had made not long after the proposal was presented last year.