Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle in the German Bundestag on the Bundeswehr mission in Mali, 20 February 2013

20.02.2013 - Speech

-- verbatim report of Bundestag session on 20 February 2013 --

Madam President, Mr Arnold, just one point before I go any further: I am of course delighted that you plan to support the mandate presented by the Defence Minister on behalf of the Federal Government. I also understand that you need to direct a couple of comments at your own party and raise questions that no German Government can answer. If we as the Federal Government were in a position to present you with a panacea with all the timetables and road maps detailing how to re create stability and peace all across the Sahel region, we would not hesitate for a second.

Nor do we want to present this as a matter that Europe alone can influence or shape. At the end of the day this mandate is also about we Europeans recognizing that the situation, as the United Nations has also already concluded, lies first and foremost in the responsibility of Africa. We are affected, but it is Africa’s responsibility. That is why we are training the Africans so they can make their contribution to stabilizing northern Mali. But we cannot do everything. And we must not lead our people to believe the German Bundestag is able to solve the Mali crisis single-handedly.

We are not. We are contributing but the rest of what you say is directed at the members of your party and lacks respect for this debate.

There are three factors which have brought us to where we are. When I say “us”, I am actively supporting what you, Mr Arnold, and also Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière have said.

First, we Europeans are affected because northern Mali is only one border away from the Mediterranean. We cannot sit back watching a safe haven for terrorists being built in northern Mali which in turn would pose a threat to our country in central Europe. That is the real reason for the mandate and we need to tell our people that as much. So we are not playing the Good Samaritan helping people on the ground, although we are helping as well, but in our world that is growing closer together what we are doing first and foremost – and this is what we need to tell our people – is defending our freedom, our open society and the way in which we live in Europe.

This is the task currently being performed in northern Mali. The acute problems were triggered by the coup in March last year. This led to a massive confrontation in which the already weak structures in the country were further weakened.

So there were (...) considerable struggles and conflicts within the Malian army.


Second, what happened in Libya has freed up enormous potential for force and violence and unfortunately also brought arms and money into circulation. Combined with the coup in March, this has of course brought the conflict to a head once more.

Now we come to what I actually wanted to talk about here now that the Defence Minister has presented the mandate in due detail. The real cause, the main cause we need to focus on in the political process is that the discrimination of the north needs to be tackled all across society. This means the situation in Mali north of the Niger bend shows the people there feel, understandably, that they are underprivileged, that they are ignored by the rest of Mali and that they have not been allowed to share in the economic development of the rest of the country. This is not a new discovery, in fact it has been plain certainly since the Tuareg rebellion in the 1990s. The borders drawn play a major role. We are of course all aware of the connection to European history. We do not want to draw a veil of silence over this. The people who live there are not able to participate in social and economic life.

I have been there and talked to the people. I also talked to representatives of the Tuareg. They said we shouldn’t mix them and their justified interests up with those who are now fighting. We have got nothing to do with these terrorists. Many are terrorists from abroad who were brought into the country and are now torturing and suppressing us. That is the real cause. That is the focus of the political process.

Mr Arnold, of course your question about the road map is justified. By the way, the road map was adopted with the help of Europe and Germany. We talked about the road map. We negotiated with the people. The road map provides for the restoration of constitutional order. Incidentally, this also answers your question, Mr Ströbele. The only way to re establish law and order is to restore constitutional order and ensure that a legitimate government will be able for example to deploy armed forces and control them both internally and externally. That’s how it is.

It is right to ask whether elections in the summer will be possible. After my talks on Monday with François Hollande and above all with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, I have the impression that the French and the African partners have a very clear idea of the challenge of holding such an election in the planned timeframe. But what is the alternative? Cancelling the election and postponing to a time of year in which voting is impossible for months? That won’t do. Thus it would be wrong for us in Europe to take the road map which has just been agreed upon in Mali and call it into question because we have our doubts. What is crucial is that the political process has been launched. The road map is part of this. The German Government supports this political process and the road map and is not calling them into question. It is the glimmer of hope in an otherwise very difficult situation, ladies and gentlemen.

Needless to say, we will help implement the road map. We’ve offered our support. That is nothing new. All the governments before us have also done so. In the 1990s, Germany played an important role, for example in the political mediation process. This is a role we will play again. European development cooperation has re established contact with Mali. That means that where the road map is visible, where the political process has begun, the very process we called for in debates in the German Bundestag, we are in turn prepared to relaunch and bolster development cooperation. That is also important for the people because in the north even just a little is often a whole lot when it comes to making progress on social, political and economic participation.

I do not need to go into any more detail on the two mandates as the reasoning is clear. When it comes to the political process, you do need to look carefully at the issues bearing in mind the background. I would just like to inform you, ladies and gentlemen, that discussions are underway in the United Nations in New York on whether the second mandate (so not the European training mandate which has been set at 15 months at European level, we are taking 12 months because that is how things work here between the Bundestag and the Federal Government), the mandate for direct logistical support, as it were, can be changed into a peacekeeping mission. This is not something I’m announcing now. I told the committee spokespersons in our meeting on Tuesday but I do not want to leave you in the dark. Mr Gehrcke, you know as well as I do I have never left you in the dark. We are currently talking about whether there will be a United Nations peacekeeping mission. But that would not be possible before May and we cannot leave either the Africans or the French in the lurch until then.

That is why it is right that we are doing what we said we would and empowering the Africans. I believe the best way to support the French, too, is to empower the Africans to assume their responsibility in Mali themselves. This we are doing together through a very well thought-out political process. There are a lot of questions here that neither the German Government nor, to my mind, any government in the world can answer at this point in time. But it is right that we are doing what we are doing. Of course we are happy to talk to the Bundestag at any stage – perhaps about a new mandate if things change, for example in New York. You see, we are not dealing with a policy that focuses exclusively on the mandate. Rather, it is the political process that is at the centre of our efforts. This is the only way to achieve a lasting settlement in Mali and to pave the way for stability.

But lest we be misunderstood, let me tell you that it is exactly as the Federal Minister of Defence said. The mandate is serious. The situation in Mali is also serious. I fear we are, in the months and years to come, going to have to talk about Islamist terrorism and about new terrorist cells even in places we don’t even have on our radar today. Yet it is right and proper that we do what we’re doing so we can play our part in ensuring that no threat to us, our security and our inclusive society germinates in our own backyard. We are not attacking these people, rather they want to attack our own open way of life. Here we need to be a resilient democracy, both at home and abroad.

Thank you very much.

Related content


Top of page