Westerwelle and Fabius: EU must take action in Mali

10.11.2012 - Interview

The following joint article by Foreign Minister Westerwelle and his French counterpart Fabius appeared in the “Rheinische Post” and “Figaro”on 10 November 2012. In their article the two ministers call for the start of a political process and back the idea of an international mission for the country along the lines being planned by the West African organization ECOWAS. The EU could support these efforts by helping to train the Malian army, they note.

The EU is determined to meet the challenge – fanaticism and terror in Mali must be stopped

By Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle

The European Union has a proven ability to foster peace, stability and international understanding. Its achievements in this area earned it this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. That is something which also entails obligations and responsibilities, however.

To advance these goals, the European Union has over the years developed and strengthened a number of instruments such as development policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defence Policy. In all these developments Germany and France have consistently been a driving force.

Today Germany and France want to see these European instruments used to help resolve the grave crisis in the Sahel. The situation in Mali is of critical importance not only for the security and stability of the Sahel and the entire African continent but also for Europe’s own security. The prospect of the north of Mali becoming a safe haven for terrorists, a hub for terrorism and illegal trafficking is an extremely dangerous one.

The challenge posed by this crisis is threefold: it has a political, a humanitarian and a security dimension. We Europeans would be well advised to offer our support here as part of a comprehensive approach to resolving this crisis. The European Union has considerable expertise in this connection. With its Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel it has long been a recognized actor with an active presence in the region.

In our engagement there we are guided by the principles of balance and respect. The solution must come, as we fully realize, from the Africans themselves. We are keen to offer our help, however.

It is in this spirit that we are supporting the Malian authorities and the regional organizations in their efforts to restore the country’s unity and territorial integrity. Given our shared reading of the situation, over the past few weeks Germany and France have been lobbying at the United Nations for the adoption of a resolution that would pave the way for an African initiative to resolve the conflict.

We accordingly call on all parties in Mali and across the region to actively seek a political solution to the crisis. The important thing now is to launch a political process. We call on the Malians especially to reach agreement promptly on a credible and realistic roadmap for the restoration of democracy. We will resume our development cooperation and other kinds of cooperation with Bamako on a step by step basis as soon as a credible start has been made on implementing such a roadmap. We trust that the European Union will take a similar approach in this connection.

Given the urgency of the situation, we both believe it would be useful for the European Union to support the deployment of an international mission in Mali. We would therefore like to see the European Union provide the Malian armed forces with the same kind of training assistance that Somalia has been receiving with marked success.

It is absolutely crucial to rebuild Mali’s military capabilities. This must go hand in hand with the restoration of the rule of law, the country’s territorial integrity and effective action to combat the terrorist threat. We will likewise press for the European Union to support efforts to combat the terrorist threat in the Sahel as well as in West Africa and beyond, as it is already doing in the Niger, an EU partner country.

We believe it is vital for government authority in Mali to be restored. We will be backing the process of national reconciliation as well as on headway towards elections, which must take place as soon as possible.

To sum up, the crisis in Mali is a challenge both for Africa and the European Union. The EU has an opportunity here to demonstrate its ability to act in a crisis that threatens the stability, security and development of our African partners as well as our own security. Along with our European partners, the people of Germany and France are determined to work closely together in tackling this major challenge.

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