On March 22, EU leaders adopted the European Peace Facility (EPF), a new fund that will allow the EU to train militaries around the world and equip them with lethal weapons. This is despite experts – including civil society – raising their concerns that the fund could worsen conflicts and contribute to human rights abuses in unstable regions.

This EU fund will replace several European foreign and defense policy funds such as the African Peace Facility which finances security assistance and other military operations in African countries including Somalia and the Sahel region. The EPF differs, however, from its predecessors. Firstly, it is global in its mandate. Secondly – and crucially – it opens the door for the EU to fund ‘lethal equipment’ such as machine guns, pistols and ammunition. The EU is not allowed to spend its budget on weapons, so EU member states have circumvented the EU treaties prohibiting this by creating an off-budget fund. This marks a troubling change in EU foreign policy.

As European countries are starting to plan how to distribute these funds, civil society experts, analysts and MEPs in Europe and Africa react. Find a full list of their quotes here.

Note that each organization should only be attributed to their own quote.

Even if building the capacity of local security and defense forces can provide opportunities for enhancing the protection of civilians, military assistance often leads to substantial risks for civilians as partners may have insufficient protection frameworks and diverging interests.

As the European Union develops more robust approaches to security force assistance, it is therefore an absolute necessity that the EU integrates civilian harm mitigation measures in new partnerships, notably through the implementation of strong and consistent safeguards. Local and international CSOs and grassroots communities should be closely consulted and coordinated with at all stages of EPF-funded measures.

– Beatrice Godefroy, CIVIC’s Europe Director