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Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to the German Bundestag on extending Germany’s participation in the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali)

11.04.2019 - Speech

This is the second time that we are talking about Mali today. We spoke about MINUSMA, and we are now going to discuss EUTM Mali’s mandate. This mandate is an expression of the responsibility that we are taking on in international politics. Mali and the fight against terrorism have a lot to do with responsibility, including the responsibility we are called on to accept, and it is a good example that we are playing our part at various levels.

We are doing so in a country that is still extremely fragile. The debate earlier on today made that clear. The terrible massacre near Mopti that claimed the lives of over 160 people, including many women and children, highlighted how difficult the situation is on the ground in many parts of the country.

Naturally, this also shows how far the path to peace and reconciliation is and that we are in a situation in which the country needs international support and will continue to need it for some time. Nevertheless, the aim of our endeavours is to enable the people of Mali to live in a safe country again in the future and to take on this responsibility themselves. That is the contribution we want to make through this mission.

In order for this to succeed, civil and military measures must be dovetailed. As in the case of MINUSMA, this is extremely important and it is also the approach we are taking. That is why we work with MINUSMA, conducting stabilisation, crisis-prevention and development-policy measures. And of course, we also work with the civilian EU mission EUCAP Sahel Mali. This too is part of the joined-up approach we are pursuing in Mali that has already been mentioned. Through EUTM Mali, which is an important component of this joined-up approach, we will mainly help to improve training and guidance for the military armed forces in the country. In this way, too, we will help foster stabilisation.

In concrete terms, this means that the mission has a training centre in Koulikoro, near Bamako, where Malian soldiers are trained in various fields, including international humanitarian law and human rights. That is also important and it is recognised far too little in the debate.

Increasingly, the mission is focusing on the principle of training trainers. This means that Malian personnel are being trained to become trainers themselves. EUTM Mali also advises the Malian Government on leadership, logistics and personnel management. That is a further important contribution.

Ultimately, the aim of EUTM Mali is to support the Malian military in creating structures and in training personnel in the skills and capabilities they need so that they can take on responsibility for their country’s security themselves in the not-too-distant future. In the longer term, the G5 Sahel Joint Force – we already discussed this with regard to MINUSMA – will play an important role in security. Training and advising this Joint Force also became part of EUTM Mali’s mandate last year, which makes sense.

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues, it is clear however that only training and guidance are involved. EUTM Mali does not accompany either the Malian armed forces or the G5 Sahel Joint Force on any operations.

When a mandate extension is up for discussion, one must also ask what has actually been achieved. Well, quite a lot. We talked about that this morning with regard to MINUSMA. We owe this in part to the some 180 German soldiers who are currently serving in the mission in Mali, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank them in particular for their important, but also difficult, work on the ground.

The working conditions in Mali are not easy. That became clear when we visited the country again a few weeks ago. Only a week after the attack on the EU training centre in Koulikoro, I was able to see the conditions on the ground for myself. I was also able to see how well the mission was dealing with the incident – not only our soldiers, but also those from the other countries participating in the mission. It was really extremely impressive to see how the situation was being dealt with in a forward-looking and responsible way and how efforts were being made to include the civilian population in Koulikoro and to deal with the uncertainties and fears the attack had caused, as naturally civilians soon wondered if attacks in the region were imminent. No attacks had been carried out in the past, so now people were asking if the threat had increased because foreign soldiers were stationed there. However, the support is held in high regard by the public.

That is why it is clear for us that the safety of our soldiers takes priority. The mission must be organised in such a way that even in this dangerous situation, as little as possible happens and the soldiers in the mission and the bases where they are stationed have enough protection. This is the case there.

Germany is the second largest troop contributor to EUTM Mali. The current Mission Force Commander comes from Germany. We increased the staff ceiling to 350 last year in order to be able to do justice to the special tasks involved in leading the mission. This ceiling is to be maintained for the coming year. Afterwards, we can provide adequate support to Austria, which will take over command of the mission from us, as announced. Preparatory talks on this are already taking place.

Esteemed colleagues, I regard Germany’s engagement in EUTM Mali as a concrete example of how responsibility can be taken on. We are doing this within the structures of the European Union’s common security and defence policy. That too is an important aspect. In this way, we are also showing how much importance we attach to a common European approach, particularly in security and defence policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, security and stability in Mali are important for all of us. The country has a key position in the Sahel region. Terror, organised crime and migration movements do not stop at borders. I thus appeal to you to continue supporting our soldiers’ truly difficult work in Mali, with a large majority of you voting to continue this mandate.

Thank you very much.

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