Speech given in a debate on Mali on 30 January 2013 in the German Bundestag
– verbatim report of proceedings –
Madam President, colleagues. In this debate, I believe that we have one big thing in common across party lines, with perhaps one exception. We all see the relevance of the issue. None of us believe that Mali is important to everyone else, just not to us Europeans. Rather, we all can see the direct interest we have in helping to stabilize Mali as a whole through our policies.
The fight against terrorism in the north of Mali is not just a concern of other people; it is our common concern. For that reason I want to preface my remarks with a word of thanks to all the men and women, the soldiers from Africa and from France, who are at the moment risking their lives in Mali to protect our liberty from terrorism. I want to include in these thanks also those who are fighting terror elsewhere in the world, such as our German soldiers, for example, who are serving in Afghanistan, risking their lives. They are standing up for our liberty and our European values.
Let me say that it is of course normal in a debate like this for the opposition to search for things that it would do differently and to criticize them. That is the way it should be. But let me remind you of what has been said on this topic by the leaders of the SPD parliamentary group, Mr Steinmeier and Mr Steinbrück, as well as by the leaders of the Greens’ parliamentary group, at least by Mr Trittin. What they have said is in broad agreement with our fundamental assessment of the situation.
That may not appear opportune in a year, in which everybody is clearly already thinking about elections, but I believe that in such a basic question it is not really a bad thing that we show people that across the parties we have a very similar view of the direction and substance of our policy on Mali and are making decisions accordingly.
You could see this in the debate that took place here last week, in the remarkable speeches by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande and in the statements that were made by our various parliamentary groups and also of course in those from France.
The second thing that I want to do is to say what the causes of the conflict are. I think it was Ms Wieczorek-Zeul who remarked at the beginning that it would be too easy to explain the situation as the result of one conflict, the war in Libya, that it would be too easy to see that as the sole cause. I agree.
The developments in the north of Mali have three main causes. The first is the most important, and I will come to that when I am done, namely the feeling of the people in the north of Mali that they cannot participate fully in the development opportunities of Mali as a whole, of Mali’s heartland. That feeling is still prevalent and partially even justified. To put it another way: the north of Mali is underprivileged and that is one of the main causes of the conflict. For that reason, our approach must aim for a political solution and it is important that we use a networked way of thinking here, in particular in the sphere of economic support and development cooperation.
The second cause is of course, and there is no use in avoiding the topic, the situation that arose from the conflict in Libya. Forces and fighters with weapons invaded the entire Sahel region. In the north of Mali in particular they used a special momentum to spread their evil, their aggression and their violence.
Before I come to the third thing, let me interject a comment: Ms Wieczorek-Zeul, I did not quite understand the reference to Mr Gaddafi. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, in any case, never visited Mr Gaddafi in his tent, and she never allowed him to put up a tent in Tiergarten near the Federal Chancellery. I just wanted to mention that so that no false information takes root.
The third cause is also very important. Early last year there was of course a coup there. That means that the Malian forces, which were struggling with major internal divisions, were again weakened by the coup that took place last March. So we saw that state authority, or what passes for state authority there, which is hard to reconcile with our idea of it, by the way, was weakened even further.
At least these three factors are at the centre of the developments. Recognizing these three causes, entails, I think, recognizing the political consequences. The goal must be to work out a sustainable political solution. A political solution must also necessarily include a roadmap: returning to constitutional order, reconciliation within the country, economic and social participation in the south, but also, and especially, in the north.
Mr Gehrcke, it is of course true that we need a political solution, and on that point we remain in complete agreement with France and all the African countries now involved as well. However,if, in this critical situation, France had not intervened recently – if France had not been willing to provide emergency military aid, then we would not have any room at all for any kind of discussion or any political settlement today. Bamako would have fallen. We knew that that was their intention at the latest when the extremists moved towards Mopti and took over one city after another on their way.
It was clear: the French, who had forces on the ground, took action, also due to the historical background. The best support we can give the French is to now enable the Africans themselves to play their role in stabilizing northern Mali, exactly as is called for by the United Nations in Resolution 2085. That is the not only the Federal Government’s position. It is also the declared position of the French. President Hollande said so here last week. This is how we see partnership. We are not working against each other. Quite the opposite. This partnership connects us.
Finally, I want to call attention to the fact that it is of course not enough for the government to adopt a roadmap. It must also implement it. That means that we need the approval of all political forces. Above all, we need the approval of the parliament.
(Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD): It has already given its approval!)
– Of all forces, as I just said. – Ms Wieczorek-Zeul, I do not agree with the assessment that the Federal Government did not see how serious the situation was until after it had escalated. I went to Bamako in November myself, and we held talks there. We held the talks because we believe that the situation is escalating and it is absolutely necessary to promote a political solution. We will keep working towards this.
Germany is ready to take an especially active role in a political process, as we did in the 90s. We offered to do this, and the offer was accepted. We are also helping with logistics.
As for the training mission, Mr Gehrcke, let me say that we have together ascertained – I have repeatedly stated in meetings with you and with others – we work very closely with the German Bundestag. When we even get near the point of requiring a mandate, we will immediately ask the German Bundestag for one. If you say that our actions are illegal, I would then ask you to bring the matter to the courts. You cannot stand here as a Member of the Bundestag and state that the Federal Government is acting illegally and then sit down and do nothing. We are acting in strict accordance with international law, with the constitution and of course with the Parliamentary Participation Act. We cannot allow any other impression to be given here.
Ladies and gentlemen, of course, there naturally remains much for us to do in Europe. Of course we must still always seek a balance and see what is really necessary in the specific, concrete situation. That means that we are also able to make adjustments, and we will do so. Let us, however, bear one thing in mind: we should not forget the fate of the people. Humanitarian aid remains impartial, of course. It remains neutral, but given this military conflict, we must definitely keep our eyes on the people, on the victims there. Humanitarian aid is all the more necessary.
In this, Germany’s efforts can serve as a model. We have received much respect for what we announced yesterday in Addis Ababa in another area. We are one of the leading donor countries. If you figure in all that we are doing, our share of Europe’s contribution amounts to 100 to 120 million US dollars. I do not think that Germany has to hide its light under a bushel. I think Germany can truly say that we are setting an example on the international stage in every respect. So I want to say that I understand that you criticize this or that aspect, but I think that you really agree in principle with the Federal Government’s policy on Mali. I do not think that that is bad for any of us. Thank you.