Last week, ISIS Europe posted a first short blog on its recent visit to the EU’s Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS). The material and information gathered during the trip will serve to produce a series of blogs and papers on EUPOL COPPS’ work in the West Bank.
About EUPOL COPPS
Launched on 1 January 2006, shortly after the Second Intifada that saw violence between Palestinian and Israelis peak, the mission developed in a tense security environment. Council Joint Action 2005/797/CFSP of 14 November 2005 constitutes the legal basis for the subsequent deployment of the mission and spells out a mandate, aiming at “contributing to the establishment of sustainable and effective policing arrangements under Palestinian ownership in accordance with the best international standards, in cooperation with the Community’s institution building programmes as well as other international efforts in the wider context of Security Sector including Criminal Justice Reform”. With an initial mandate of three years, the mission was allocated €3,6 million for 2006, €2,8 million in 2007. It has risen to €9,5 million for the latest mandate adopted in June 2013 and extended the mission to 30 June 2014.
In this period of time, a lot has been achieved. To begin with, EUPOL COPPS’ staff has gone from 13 advisors to 112 (71 international and 41 local staff), and an emphasis was recently given to rule of law and criminal justice support. As the foundations of the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP) were progressively built, EUPOL COPPS gradually moved from capacity provision (providing equipment, infrastructures, headquarters, etc.) to capacity building. Through its “train the trainers” method, the EU has now indirectly contributed to the training of almost all the 8,000 forces composing the Palestinian Civil Police (including the 1,300 Special Police Forces), of which it has directly trained about 118 trainers. The PCP is highly trained according to the best European standards and is certainly one of the most well-trained police forces of the region noted Hansjörg Haber, Civilian Operations Commander at a press conference last week.
“Significant progress was made” says Kenneth Deane, Head of Mission. A major success, in his opinion, lies in the strikingly high level of acceptance of the PCP by the Palestinian population. At 75%, it reaches a level unimaginable in Western countries. Directly linked to this is the feeling of leadership and duty that is entrusted to the PCP, which appears committed and ready to serve its people. Like elsewhere, there is still work to be done, recognises Kenneth Deane. He pointed to the necessary continuity from policing to prosecution to efficiently fight criminality in the Palestinian territories. It is highly likely that the EU’s support to the Palestinian police and rule of law sector will be renewed in June 2014 at the end of the current mandate, until June 2015. Such an extension of the mandate would allow EUPOL COPPS to further strengthen the PCP’s capacity and to improve and strengthen the criminal justice system and policing in a case where the status quowould remain.
Impact on the political process
One has to bear in mind that missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) can only be a technical/operational tool for problems that are political in nature. The mission is a component of the EU’s wider efforts, as a member of the Quartet, to support Palestinian state building “that will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors”.
Although the mission does not have a direct impact on the political process, it has become an integral ingredient of the security sector in the Palestinian Territories, which in return is a key element of the political process. But it may also be part of an ideal vision of the future, with Palestinian Minister of Interior, Said Abu Alí, going as far as to say: “I hope that the mission will be expanded and extended to a peacekeeping mission working with an independent and free state of Palestine”.
Although praising EUPOL COPPS and its head of mission for what has been achieved so far, the Minister called for more support from the mission and the EU, which included backing the PCP’s membership to Interpol and establishing bilateral memoranda of understanding to translate the legality of the Palestinian entity into reality through engagement at the international level. The diplomatic and political reach of the mission itself is certainly limited, but the cooperation with the PCP and the Interior and Justice Ministries, as well as the visits from EU officials have an important political and moral meaning in the eyes of Palestinian members of government.
If “all efforts will be made to save the peace process”, it was admitted that failure could have catastrophic consequences. One can therefore question the sustainability of the progresses made by EUPOL COPPS, the Palestinian police and the Justice sector, in the advent of a failure of the peace process… But for the moment, officials we met seemed to have adopted an optimistic stance; as they underlined, “the Palestinian cause is a cause of freedom and justice” which is not only about peace for Palestinians, but also for the wider region torn apart by different challenges at the moment.