Since we last debated EUTM Mali in the German Bundestag in May 2020, the instability in the Sahel region and the resulting dangers for the region and for Europe have rightly become even more of a focus of international attention. The countries of the region and their international partners, which have joined together in the Coalition for the Sahel, have as a consequence scrutinised and made appropriate changes to their cooperation structures.
We are in agreement with our partners that the crises and conflicts in the region can only be lastingly resolved if we specifically tackle their underlying causes with the help of civil-society engagement. Within the Coalition for the Sahel, it has been agreed to focus great energy on bringing about a “civil surge”.
Here we want to strengthen government presence and public services across the board, and to create both economic and social prospects for the population. It is a matter of securing jobs, housing, safe water and social cohesion.
We have successfully advocated for these principles to be the standard for international engagement in the Sahel. The “civil surge” is thus a central tenet of the new EU Sahel strategy, which was adopted by the Foreign Ministers of the EU member states on Monday. And naturally it is also a cornerstone of the Federal Government’s strategy paper, which presents in detail the many different civilian elements of our engagement in the Sahel region.
Protecting people, strengthening states, and in this way opening up prospects on the ground for the local population – those are the objectives of our engagement in the Sahel.
However, development also requires security. Civilian measures are impossible without an adequate degree of security. Military and civilian engagement are not opposite poles; rather, they are mutually dependent. And that’s why the Bundeswehr is still needed in the Sahel region.
Last year, some 2400 civilians lost their lives in raids and violent attacks by Jihadists and local militia forces in the Sahel. Their states and security forces were unable to give them adequate protection. That’s why it is important now to build up competent, well-trained local security forces. These forces must be subject to political oversight, respect human rights and democracy, and be recognised by the population.
EUTM Mali plays a crucial role here in enabling the Sahel states to assume responsibility for their own security again in the medium term. It’s about helping states to help themselves. Since 2013, more than 14,000 Malian soldiers have received training and military advice under this mission.
Last year the mission’s mandate was adapted, in order to make it even more effective and sustainable. Since then, it has aimed to provide training under more realistic operational conditions, and has been active not only in Mali but also in the neighbouring countries of the Niger and Burkina Faso. This training under more realistic operational conditions has made it possible to better monitor progress, including in terms of respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. Extending the mission to neighbouring states ensures that cross-border threats can be countered with a cross-border approach.
The special circumstances in 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic and then the military coup in Mali in August – initially delayed implementation of the planned measures.
The coup was a watershed. We, along with the international community, but especially ECOWAS, emphatically condemned it. We suspended our military support until a transitional civilian government was in place.
Just recently, the transitional government has set out the prospects for a return to constitutional order. On 15 April it presented a road map, with a constitutional referendum in October 2021 and parliamentary and presidential elections in February and March 2022, thus showing that it wants to continue to meet key demands from ECOWAS and the international community. Against this background, we support the transitional government, especially on the major reforms it is embarking on now.
In the forthcoming mandate period, Germany will assume special responsibility in EUTM Mali – becoming lead nation of the mission from July 2021, integrating the German special forces training mission “Gazelle” in the Niger into EUTM Mali, and planning and supporting the establishment of an EU training centre in the central Malian town of Sévaré. Under these circumstances, we will increase the maximum number of German soldiers participating in the mission from 450 to 600.
With our contribution to EUTM Mali, we are also sending an important signal to our European partners. To France, which shoulders the greatest military burden in the region, providing more than 5000 soldiers, but also to other very active partners, including Spain, Sweden and Czechia.
So what we are seeing in the Sahel region, too, is European teamwork in action. Side by side with our European partners, we are making a contribution towards stabilising the Sahel region which is highly appreciated within the region and are thus creating the conditions for tackling the causes of conflict in a targeted way.
I therefore ask that you approve the continuation of the mandate.