D4.3 IECEU Study Report of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan

D4.3 IECEU Study Report of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan

Lead beneficiary: Edward M Kennedy Institute, National University Ireland Maynooth

Delivery date: 14.02.2017

Revision: 2.1

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Executive summary:


The project examined two EU CSDP missions in the occupied Palestinian territories: the European

Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS) and the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah (EUBAM Rafah). Both missions were launched after the second Palestinian intifada in 2005-2006, and are amongst the oldest still ongoing EU CSDP missions. The research at hand explored the capabilities of EU crisis prevention in the OPTs by conducting 34 semi-structured interviews during March – June 2016. The interviewees included EU officials, former and current staff members of EU CSDP operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, representatives of international organisations, as well as representatives of the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian analysts and civil society activists.

Examining the appropriateness of missions’ mandated tasks in changing conflict situation shows a difference between the two missions. The mandated tasks of EUPOL COPPS have been revised over years, indicating the EU’s ability to respond to evolving situation and needs. However, despite that the political changes in Gaza have made EUBAM Rafah only able to implement its mandated tasks in a very limited manner since 2007, there has been no revision of its mandated tasks that would have allowed it to redirect its operational activities. For planning and evaluating activities both missions use the Mission Implementation Plan (MIP). MIP was generally seen as a good tool for more organised and systematic planning of mission activities, and for monitoring those activities by the mission management, CPCC and the EU Member States. It also increases local ownership as the PA counterparts are involved in the planning process. However, the interviews brought up a number of challenges and suggestions how to improve MIP.

Generally, the respondents thought that the effectiveness of Palestinian Civil Police and the trust the PCP enjoys among civilian population has largely resulted from EUPOL COPPS’s long term support to the PCP. Suggestions on how to improve operational capability included more transparency and external evaluations on the mission activities, as well as enhanced activities in the fields of human rights and gender. Both staff members of EUPOL COPPS and EUBAM Rafah and their Palestinian counterparts singled out short rotation of international experts as the biggest challenge to the effectiveness of CSDP missions’ work. The incompatibility of the mission objectives – to provide strategic advice and support institutional development of the PA security and justice sectors – with a system built on frequently changing international experts is a challenge to which the EU CSDP needs to find a solution. External factors affecting operational capability included the precarious security and political situation limiting mobility and scope of activities, the PA’s overtly hierarchical structure, its inter-institutional competition, and intra-Palestinian conflict.

In the field of technology the mission members hoped the EU to speed up developing an integrated management system for the EU CSDP. Currently, all missions develop their own software solutions for managing human resources, logistics and mission reporting purposes. This is timeconsuming and makes the systems vulnerable to maintenance problems. Regarding human resources, both missions brought up that the skills of seconded experts do not always fully meet the needs. Understanding how international agencies can support statebuilding processes and deal with institution-building challenges in a volatile political and security environment requires special skills and knowledge that have not been necessary in conventional CSDP mission-type of work in SSR. Palestinian respondents also brought up that EUPOL COPPS experts often appeared to have little local knowledge and limited understanding on how the Israeli occupation affects the lives of Palestinians.

Due to high number of donors and aid agencies the interoperability of aid efforts in the OPTs is supported by an aid coordination system that has been at place since the 1990s Oslo Accords and perceived to function quite well. But a PCP representative also raised a concern that assistance in institution-building was fragmented, and that donors sometimes promoted mismatching models to the PA. EUPOL COPPS and EUBAM Rafah assessed positively their cooperation with their PA counterparts. At the same time, the non-PA Palestinian respondents felt that the missions were not interested in developing coordination and cooperation with them, even though they also worked in the fields of SSR and JSR.

Comprehensiveness of the EU’s approach to the occupied Palestinian territories is challenged by a number of factors. EU Member States have diverse political agendas towards the PA and Israel, and carry out their own assistance projects in the region. There are regular coordination meetings for the EU institutions and the EU Member States, but many respondents felt that working level contacts were often ad hoc and dependent on individuals. But there are also structural factors, such as different cycle of planning and implementation of activities that make cooperation between EU CSDP missions and EU delegations difficult. The changing nature of EU CSDP instrument, from a quick response mechanism to acute crisis situations to a more quasi-developmental instrument, also raises different opinions due to overlapping mandates with other EU instruments. Some welcome the development and hope to see more changes in the manner CSDP missions work, while others would prefer the CSDP to ‘return back to its roots.’

Many previous observers have stated that EUPOL COPPS’s work has helped the EU to gain a stronger role in Palestinian statebuilding process, and this study supports their view. The answer to the question whether EU CSDP activities have been able to help prevent violent conflict in the OPTs can only be partially positive. During its early, active period EUBAM Rafah no doubt had positive impact by increasing freedom of movement of Gaza residents, but after 2007 this impact faded away. EUPOL COPPS support has been instrumental for building a more professional Palestinian Civil Police that is generally trusted by the West Bankers. At the same time, however, particularly respondents from Palestinian civil society reiterated the criticism brought up by several observers that while the EU’s technical assistance to SSR and JSR in the occupied Palestinian territories is welcome the EU is putting too little effort to strengthen democratisation process and increasing civilian oversight of the PA. Parallel to providing technical assistance the EU is urged to use more effectively its diplomatic, political and economic tools to end Israeli occupation and support reconciliation between Palestinian factions.


From a police and rule of law perspective the threat confronted in Afghanistan is complex. But it is not new. It is new, however, to most Europeans and sits outside the EU’s pre-fabricated CSDP/CFSP menu. Afghanistan was nothing like modern policing in Europe. In the main the mission was unprepared and under-resourced. The result was a top-down structure, wide remit, changing mandate, shifting tasks, reduced activities and high turnover in staff.

Notwithstanding the shortcomings, which are not unique to the EU, the EUPOL concept is good and, in particular, through measured action, has developed human capacity for future development. In the words of one Afghan respondent “the Europeans respect our culture”.

Getting 28 member states to support and implement a police mission in a conflict is politically and practically very difficult. The genesis of all the mission’s operational challenges was in not placing security – the foremost concern of every Afghan – as the priority. From the start, this oversight fomented a division between the politics of Brussels and implementation in Afghanistan and this worked against the body that sits between the two.

The intent to promote civilian policing in Afghanistan was a worthy endeavour, the importance of which cannot be over stated. But soft policing in an irregular war context has a tough side. The rule of law is a state’s greatest weapon against an insurgency. By excluding the prevailing security situation from their approach, however, the EU did little to convince the Afghans and international partners of this. In a world where insurgency is increasingly common and ultimately impacts on Europe’s stability, such as today’s migrant crisis, the EU needs to prioritise how it defines and brands this.

The crucial co-operation with NATO and co-ordination with the international community did not materialise as envisaged. The primary objective of stabilising Afghanistan was not achieved. The EU’s greatest strength – diversity (which was lauded by interviewees within and external to EUPOL) – has also become its greatest weakness. There is now an urgent requirement to get this right, and if the EU can achieve this it is well placed to influence conflicts like Afghanistan in the future.