Individual member states and groupings such as the 5+5 carried out some security sector reform projects, including training, exchanges, and arms sales, but the EU itself is not involved.
Security sector reform (SSR) will be key to consolidating the democratic transitions in the Arab world. The military and security services can be a brake on political reform, as in Jordan, Algeria, and Morocco, or even threaten counter-revolution, as the generals in Egypt did in June. Democratically elected governments in the region will need to deliver on security – that is, law and order and control of borders – as much as on the economy. This is something on which the EU – with its vaunted civilian/military expertise and experience in places such as the Balkans, sub-Saharan Africa, and Afghanistan – should be well placed to help. In practice, however, there has been little demand for EU help. In 2012 the EU did launch small advisory missions on maritime capacity-building in the Horn of Africa, aviation security in South Sudan, and gendarmerie training in Niger. A more substantial effort to train the Malian army is under consideration. Under UN auspices, the EU also carried out a border-management needs assessment for Libya, but this was delayed and has not yet elicited requests for follow-up assistance.
Within the 5+5 forum (which brings together the five Maghreb states with the five southern member states of the EU), France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal have also sought to revive or supplement their long-standing bilateral military cooperation agreements across the Mediterranean that typically focus on training, exchanges, and exercises, as well as arms sales. In 2012, the Slovaks and Dutch worked with Tunisia; Germany and the UK also assisted in North Africa and the Gulf. However, the EU itself is not involved in such efforts. As the European Parliament noted in relation to Libya in November, “it is regrettable that the EU contribution in the security sector is slow to materialise, and that difficulties in planning and implementing this contribution are leaving the field open to bilateral initiatives of doubtful visibility and consistency”. A Special Security Representative for the region could champion more vigorous use of the CSDP in support of the Arab transitions, including in SSR.