European Union External Action

Afghanistan and the EU

01/03/2016 - 14:00
EU relations with Country

The EU has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and its people. Its main aim is to develop Afghanistan's institutions so that the progress already made is maintained. The EU also wants to help in establishing a sustainable Afghan state.

The EU and Afghanistan have worked together to conclude various important political agreements.

In October 2017, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed a strategy for Afghanistan until the end of 2020. This strategy aims to:

  • promote peace, security and regional stability;
  • reinforce democracy;
  • spur economic and human development;
  • promote the rule of law and respect for human rights, in particular the rights of women.

And on 17 December 2015, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council decision on signing the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

This agreement focuses on areas like the rule of law, migration, health, and rural development. It also sets out to deal with problems like corruption, organised crimes and narcotics.

The Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace

On 11 March 2014, the EU set up an Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), which succeeds the Instrument for Stability (IfS) launched in 2007.

The IcSP enables the EU to help prevent and respond to crises around the world. 

The EU Delegation to Afghanistan manages economic assistance to Afghanistan. Total EU assistance – from the EU budget and Member States’ bilaterally – is around €1 billion annually.

Afghanistan receives financial support for development programmes under the EU's Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)

Spending priorities are detailed in a Country Strategy Paper (20017-2013), and two Multiannual Indicative Programmes (MIP 2014-2020). 

Priority areas are:

  • Agriculture and Rural development
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Security reform and rule of law
  • Democratisation and Accountability

Other areas benefiting from funds include:

  • Aid to Uprooted People
  • Regional cooperation
  • Food Security

The EU is currently Afghanistan's fourth trading partner.

Under the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade arrangement, Afghanistan's exports have duty-free, quota-free access to the European market.

Regional trade

The EU Trade-Related Assistance project contributes to the National Export Strategy that aims to strengthen Afghanistan’s supply and export capacities, and introduce priority trade reforms.

In partnership with the Asian Development Bank, the EU promotes CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation) trade and transport facilitation and supports the Afghan Railway authority. 

Afghanistan receives more development aid from the EU than from any other country.

The EU works with the Afghan government and international partners to ensure that this assistance is spent properly. The funds mainly go towards health, agriculture, policing and the democratic oversight of government.

Aid to uprooted

During the years of conflict in Afghanistan, a huge number of Afghans left the country, leading to a one of the largest refugee displacements in recent history.

Since 2002, 5.8 million people have returned to Afghanistan. However, a high number of Afghans still remain in neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, the number of conflict-related Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan has risen to around 820 000.

Since 2004, the EU has funded projects worth some €122 million for the reintegration of returnees, refugees and IDPs in Afghanistan and neighbouring host countries. A further €25 million has been provided to sustain these efforts.

In addition, through the AAP 2009 for Pakistan, the EU has contributed €40 million to the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme.

The EU supports Afghanistan's regional cooperation and integration to encourage economic development, inter-connectivity, mutual interdependence and stability.

It is involved in regional projects like Heart of Asia that promotes the rule of law and an investment-friendly environment.

The EU also supports integrated border management and cross-border cooperation between Afghanistan and its northern neighbours through the Border Management Northern Afghanistan EU-BOMNAF.

And it backs UNODC's Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, which is improving regional cooperation in countering illicit drugs coming from the country.

In addition, the EU Aid for Trade assistance is strengthening Afghan-centred regional trade cooperation. 

The EU has been active in helping develop Afghanistan’s health sector since 2001. It has done this by providing health services, mainly through the Basic Package of Health Service (BPHS) and Essential Package of Hospital Services

The BPHS ensures that all stakeholders focus on the common strategy established by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

Together with the MoPH, the EU has also invested in a programme that looks at governance, human resources, hospital management, mental health, disability and prison health.

As a result of the above, health, nutrition and population outcome have improved dramatically.

Food security

From 2001 to 2012, the EU supported food security in Afghanistan with €142 million.

Its support to food security has been delivered under the framework of Linking Relief to Rehabilitation and Development, with a focus on the consolidation of coping mechanisms and the overall resilience of the most food insecure households in Afghanistan.

The EU has also supported food insecurity interventions in urban areas, including the funding of an innovative Urban Poverty Study.

The EU plays an important role in setting up a democratic civilian police force in Afghanistan, through its contribution to the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA).

LOTFA pays the salaries of more than 150 000 Afghan National Police officers and over 6 000 uniformed personnel. It is also helping reform the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

As of July 2016, the EU contribution totals €403 million worth in disbursements.

Enhancing the rule of law

The EUSR Rule of Law Unit was set up to build on the work of EUPOL's Rule of Law Component, which ended in late 2015.

As well as being active on a political level, EUSR focuses on the following areas:

  • police-prosecutor cooperation
  • justice sector reform,
  • gender
  • human rights
  • corruption

European Commission Support to Provincial Governance Programme

This programme aims at improving local governance across Afghanistan through the funding of individual projects. It is helping reach the desired end state, where local law enforcement structures and administration will be able to maintain law and order and deliver services, without outside assistance. More information can be found under the Guidelines for applicants.

Civil Society Dialogue

The EU Delegation liaises closely with Afghan and international civil society actors. Regular consultations are held and cover various issues of mutual interest, such as awareness raising, donor coordination, women's rights, capacity building and access to justice.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are essential partners in the implementation of EU assistance and are key partners.

The Delegation closely monitors the situation on the ground in order to take fact-based decisions that have an impact on the lives of Afghans.

Afghanistan is a partner country of Erasmus+ offering a number of opportunities for higher education students, doctoral candidates, staff and higher education institutions (HEIs) from around the world.

For more information, see Study in Europe.

Public Administration Reform

The EU has provided support to the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission. Specifically, it has helped improve human resources organisation, introduced public sector reform at provincial level, and provided training.

The EU has also helped set out several options for civil service reform.

Sub-national Governance

The EU provided funding for the UNDP-managed Afghanistan Sub-National Governance Programme (ASGP) from 2016-2013. This programme focuses on capacity building at central and sub-national levels to improve democratic and development processes.


The international community supported the 2009 and 2010 elections through a basket-funding mechanism called Enhanced Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT), to which the EU contributed €33 million.

A follow up project, ELECT II, is supporting the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and its activities in the inter-election period.

Human Rights & Civil Society

The EU supports civil society through two programmes: the Civil Society Organisation and Local Authorities (CSO-LA) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).

Over 24 projects, a total amount of €15 million is currently being contributed to Afghanistan under these two programmes.


See also: Eu country road-map for Engagement with civil society, Afghanistan 2015 - 2017

The EU and its Member States acknowledge the important progress made by the Government of Afghanistan in promoting respect for human rights, in particular in the field of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and on the legislative side. We also welcome the commitments underlining the priority areas of the Afghan Government, expressed during the Universal Periodic Review of Afghanistan in January 2014 in Geneva, within the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework and at other occasions.

However, the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains fragile and worrying. Key areas of concern for the EU continue to be women's rights, children's rights, the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment, freedom of expression, civilian casualties, access to justice and rights of persons with disabilities.

It is crucial for the government to follow up on the positive steps taken and implement important laws and national action plans, such as the Elimination of the Violence against Women (EVAW) Law and the National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security. The EU remains committed to support these efforts.

The EU+ Human Rights and Gender Working Group, that consists of all EU Member States present in Afghanistan as well as Australia, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, United States, UNAMA/OHCHR, UNICEF, UN Women, RSM and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, meet regularly to coordinate common efforts to assist the Afghan Government in improving human rights, and especially women's and children's rights in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Dialogue between EU and Afghanistan

On 1 June 2016 the second EU-Afghanistan Human Rights Dialogue was held in Kabul. Constructive discussions took place on a range of issues, including women's rights, children's rights, death penalty, torture, access to justice, freedom of expression and the rights of socially vulnerable and/or persons with disabilities. The outcome of the dialogue is the Table of Agreed Deliverables and Indicator. The Government and EU held a follow up meeting on the dialogue on 30 November 2016. The table of deliverables have been amended accordingly.

Human Rights Defenders

The EU and its Member States and Canada, Norway and Switzerland publicized its local strategy for Human Rights Defenders in Afghanistan 2014 on 10 December 2014. The strategy describes the various actions and protection mechanisms to support and protect Human Rights Defenders in Afghanistan.

Conference on the Implementation and Support of the National Action Plan (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security on 20 September 2015.

On 20 September, the Finnish Embassy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the EU Delegation in Afghanistan held a Conference on the implementation of the National Action Plan (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security.

The conference was attended by Deputy Ministers, Members of Parliament, Ambassadors, Government officials and members of civil society. The participants discussed ways to better implement the National Action Plan all over the country and gave a number of recommendations in this regard. 

EU Country Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society in Afghanistan 2018-2020

On 26 August 2018, the EU and the Member States approved the EU Country Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society in Afghanistan 2018-2020. As result of an extensive consultative process, the Roadmap identifies objectives for the EU cooperation with CSOs for the coming years and actions to be taken in three key areas: enabling environment; structured participation and roles; capacity.

The EU new Roadmap has been prepared after a consultative process taking stock, assess progress and provide recommendations for future engagement.

This Roadmap identifies objectives for the coming years for the EU cooperation with CSOs and actions to be taken in three key areas: enabling environment; structured participation and roles; capacity. It is complemented by a set of actions that the EU intends to take in the next three years in order to increase the impact, predictability and visibility of EU action in support of civil society, and to improve coordination between the EU Delegation to Afghanistan, EU MS and other international actors.

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