European Union's counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategy in Africa

Gerald Ekenedirichukwu Ezirim


The founding justification for the formation of the European Union was predicated on the burning necessity to coordinate member states’ policies, harmonise national legislation, and support some operational works conducted by national authorities ot member states. However, sequel to the 9/11 2001 attacks and, most importantly, the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London in 2004, which claimed hundreds of lives, the EU rededicated itself to combating terrorism by signing the EU Action Plan and adopting the EU Counterterrorism Strategy in November 2001 and December 2005, respectively. These, no doubt, have made the EU an increasing actor in global counterterrorism vanguard. Since November 2001, the EU has advanced counterterrorism legislation, initiatives, conventions, and treaties. These include the Lisbon treaty reforms that empowered the Union to sign agreements on terrorism with other third countries; develop internal institutional and legal capabilities such as Europol, Eurojust, the Counter-Terror Coordination, among others.

Global or transnational terrorism, whatever its causes or bases, seeks to intimidate people, societies, and governments across sovereign jurisdictions. It also threatens security and undermines both human rights and democratic processes. While some security analysts like Halliday (2002) and Funk and Said (2004) have attempted to portray the current wave ot terrorism as a struggle between Islam and the West, it is misleading and counterproductive. Terrorists have threatened all types of societies and states, from the United States, India, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, to Spain, the United Kingdom and Kenya. For this reason, all societies and states, irrespective of ideological, religious or cultural orientation, face the threats of terrorism and must take appropriate measures to eliminate the root causes of terrorism and to prevent terrorists from achieving their political goals. However, it is acknowledged that an effective fight against transnational terrorism is beyond the capacity of a single state and, therefore, requires cooperation between various countries and organisations. It is mainly for this reason that the European Union’s counterterrorism policies and strategies are predicated on collaboration within the EU as well as cooperation between the EU and other states. Accordingly, the EU anti-terrorism strategy is based on the belief that since these threats do not recognise borders, they must be confronted at both national and international levels. This further explains why the

European Union's counterterrorism

The European Union in a Globalising World

Figure 13.1 The European Union in a Globalising World

European Union works with international organisations, including the UN and the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and regional organisations such as the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the League of Arab States (Arab League), or the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

In recent times, the African continent has been embroiled in spates of insurgent and terrorist attacks of cataclysmic magnitude that verge on apparent intractability. Understanding the complex interdependence of States in the international system, particularly the fact that the destinies of states are inextricably tied together, the EU appeared to have presented itself as the global police on terrorism concerning continental insurgent operations in Africa. In a world of simmering domestic threats and growing global violence ot multiple dimensions and expressions, the insurgency/terrorism distressed countries ot Africa are increasingly welcoming and embracing external help from both the EU and NATO to the ultimate end of extricating themselves from the spectre ot insurgency and terrorism. Since the revolutionary years ot 2011 to 2013, often referred to as the Arab Spring, pockets and splinters of insurgency groups have sprung up in different African countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Nigeria. Within this period, EU’s intervention in Mali (2013) was experienced, just as NATO’s light footing in Libya (2011) was observed.

The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to explore the dynamics of the EU’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategy concerning continental insurgent operations in Africa. The chapter is structured into seven (7) sections. Section 1 (Introduction) has just introduced the study. Section 2 explores the European Union in a globalising world, giving a bird’s eye view to the organogram of the EU. In contrast, Section 3 looks at the brief conceptualisations and conceptual framework for understanding the chapter. “Europe and the global war on terror” is the focus of Section 4. Section 5 examines the Africa-EU strategic partnership amidst Insurgencies. While Section 6 explores Countering transnational terrorism to ascertain whether Africa is genuinely immune, Section 7 undertakes the conclusion of the chapter.

The European Commission is headed by a President and is divided into departments that develop policies for specific areas, each headed by a Commissioner. The Commission is steered by a group of 28 Commissioners, known as “The College” who take critical decisions on the Commission’s political and strategic direction. A new college of Commissioners is appointed every five years when the European Council, made up of EU heads of state and government — proposes a Commission presidential candidate to the European Parliament. The candidate for President is nominated based on the political makeup of the Parliament following European Parliament elections; typically, they will be chosen from the largest political family in the Parliament. The nominee is elected if an absolute majority ot members of Parliament support him or her. The president-elect selects potential Vice-Presidents and Commissioners based on suggestions from EU countries. The list of nominees must be approved by all EU heads of state or government, meeting in the European Council. Each nominee must appear before the parliamentary committee with responsibility for his or her proposed portfolio. Committee members then vote on the nominee’s suitability for the position. Once the 27 nominees have been endorsed, Parliament votes whether to approve the entire team. Following Parliament’s vote, the Commissioners are appointed by the European Council. All Commissioners are equal in the decision-making process and held equally accountable for these decisions. The Commission collectively decides on its work through the written or oral procedure (EU Commission, 2018).

1.. The EU is an integration ot twenty-seven (27) countries from the continent of Europe, viz: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom.1 It is a large-scale political community, embodying the elements of both a state and an international organisation and yet correspondingly squarely to none. McCormick (2011) provides some useful insights into the evolution of today’s EU. According to him, what is today known as and referred to as the EU can be traced back to the signature of the 1951 Treaty ot Paris, which created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Although a good start, the ECSC was limited in its aims and in 1957 the Treaty' of Rome was signed, creating the European Economic Community, the core goal ot which was the creation ot a European single market. He noted further that only six states initially took part. Still, the first of the several waves of enlargement occurred in 1973, moving through stages to 2007 when the accession of Bulgaria and Romania took the membership to 27. Along the way, new treaties expanded the reach of integration into new areas of policy, a landmark change coming with the creation of the EU as a result of the 1992 treaty on the EU, and another coming in 1999 with the launch of the Euro. The EU is hardwired by some structures that perform specific functions. There are, for instance, (a) The European Commission, which is the administrative and executive arm ot the EU, headquartered in Brussels, (b) The Council ot Ministers, an intergovernmental body consisting of Ministers from each of the member states, (c) The European Parliament, and (d) The European Court of Justice.

Added to these is an increasing network of more specialised agencies dealing with specific aspects of EU policy. These include the European Central Bank, the European Aviation Safety' Agency, the European Police (Europol), the European Space Agency, among others.

Since the eventual metamorphosis ot the ECSC into the EU through the signing of the Treaty on European Union on 7 February 1992, expansion and enlargement have consistently topped the Union’s agenda. Hence, in March 1994, referenda were held in Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and the majority came down in favour in all except Norway. The entrance ot these countries opened a floodgate ot an influx of other countries.

Arising from its model of socio-economic and political organisation, which is founded on solidarity, the EU views itself as a social democracy. This being the case, it aspires to set a classic example tor the rest of the world. Beyond the recognition of civic and political rights of its citizens, the member states of the EU view social and economic rights as obligatory norms for all the member nations as well as the Union as a whole. This expectation finds expression in one of the Union’s foundational agreement — the Lisbon Treaty of 2007, which didn’t come into effect until December 2009. As Meyer (2013: 1) rightly observed, “The EU has failed to move forward toward complete fulfilment of that promise in a way consistent with its self-imposed obligations and the need for European citizens.”

Yet again, Europe’s population growth is now entirely accounted for by net immigration, which presents a host of troubling political and social challenges. Polls suggest that only about 4% of Europeans consider themselves as such. In comparison, about 41% identify exclusively with the states of which they are citizens, and about 55% have some mixture of European and state identity. Only about halt of EU residents feel a sense of attachment to the EU (McCormick, 2011).

There are now what McCormick (2011: 108) called “growing signs ot a backlash” expressed in “Euroscepticism” and worries of democratic deficit. While the first suggests hostility and sceptical disposition to the much-vaunted merits of the integration, the second refers to the growing gap between the powers and authority of EU institutions and the ability ofEU citizens to impact their functions. How these have undermined EU’s effort at muscling up a commanding counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaign across the globe in general and Africa, in particular, will become evident as the discussion develops and spirals down to its logical conclusion.

We must stress that the three fundamental pillars ot the EU are social and economic factors; foreign and security policy; and justice and home affairs. Firstly, given that there is an apparent terrorist threat emanating from within Europe itself from vestiges of political terrorism, separatist-irredentism, Al-Qaeda, HAMAS, Hezbollah, etc., occasioned mainly by the migration trend, the EU had always treated these issues as internal to themselves. Thus they had always used internal mechanisms to deal with them. Therefore, there had been no robust engagement as a regional body. However, the EU’s principal involvement with counterterrorism beyond its borders has always been diplomatic and economical. Secondly, the EU foreign policy is weak in the sense that it does not have any credible force projection capability or internal institutional access to specialist resources. There is no robust executive mandate, and EU member states get involved in security matters abroad without recourse to the EU platform.

The EU CT-COIN strategy encompasses an EU “anti-terrorism road map” of October 2001; a common/European Arrest Warrant (mutual extradition treaty); a Joint Investigative Teams (investigative collaboration); Eurojust (coordination of investigative endeavours); Europol (coordination of intelligence and investigative support); the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism, and more recently (25/3/2004 & 10/5/2005), the European Council adopted the “Action Plan on Terrorism.”

However, the EU lacks a democratically endorsed, obligatory and comprehensive, inter-Pillar EU counterterrorism policy that is readily enforceable and provides for a solid CT policy basis, but instead there is close coordination on EU intergovernmental policy levels and enhanced cooperation among member states. It also lacks a robust, integrated, and autonomous CT capability, as well as a useful intergovernmental CT tool to replace pre-Third Pillar capabilities, i.e. TREVI (Terrorisme, Radicalisme, Extremisme, Violence Internationale) (Zimmermann, 2006).

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