[verbatim report of proceedings]
I visited Mali six weeks ago, including Gao in the north of the country. I met young people who, back in 2013, resisted Islamist terror, fought for peace and who want to win back their freedom. The conversations I had with these young people made one thing very clear to me once again, namely that there are places in this world where security is a prerequisite for freedom.
When we talk today about extending MINUSMA’s mandate, then this isn’t just a question of security in Mali, but also about fighting for and protecting freedom, not only in Mali, but throughout the region and far beyond. Unfortunately – as we keep on reading in the media – the Sahel region continues to be threatened by radicalisation, terrorism and organised crime, which is a threat that shouldn’t be underestimated. Statehoods are fragile; the conflicts in the region – and we have witnessed this for a number of years now – are mutually reinforcing. And we, Germany and Europe, are feeling the impact of these conflicts right on our doorstep. We know that we will only be able to stabilise the Sahel region if we manage to stabilise Mali. Security is therefore a key prerequisite for stabilisation and development. If there is no security in the region, then there will be no reconciliation, education or health care, let alone freedom.
However, ladies and gentlemen, we have also said quite clearly that we mustn’t delude ourselves into thinking that there are military solutions. The military can create the necessary stability and security so that the peace process is able to take shape on the ground in the first place. For this to succeed – and this is very important, as all our servicemen and women in the region have confirmed – we must pursue what is known as a networked approach, that is to say we must act in close cooperation with Mali and our international partners. In addition to MINUSMA, this includes the training mission EUTM Mali, which we will talk about this afternoon. We are seconding police officers and supporting EUCAP Sahel Mali. This means that we are committing considerable resources to development cooperation, stabilisation and humanitarian assistance. All of these things belong together. Humanitarian assistance will not get to where it is needed unless a minimum level of security is guaranteed – and this is where our soldiers come in.
Cooperation in the Sahel region as a whole also remains important since many challenges, as in countless other places in the world, but especially in this region, are cross‑border in nature. We are working very closely with the G5 countries – Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and the Niger – in order to increase the operational readiness of their joint task force. MINUSMA also plays a most important role in supporting the G5 countries. At the UN, too, we are demonstrating that we are prepared to assume responsibility, as is often expected of us. We will work in the Security Council to ensure that the mission continues to have a good and viable mandate after June.
Ladies and gentlemen, the international community must support this process as long as the Malian state is not at all in a position to ensure the security of its citizens itself in many parts of the country. We must not, however, become a substitute for the Malian state in this regard. The Malian Government must therefore resolutely support the peace process, security and development opportunities in all parts of the country. I recently made it very clear to Prime Minister Maïga at the Security Council in New York that we also have expectations of those in positions of responsibility in Mali itself.
Since last year’s presidential elections, which were peaceful thanks in part to the presence of MINUSMA, the Government has made clear progress in implementing the peace agreement, which is a fact that we must also acknowledge. The demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants – a very difficult issue on the ground – as well as the decentralisation of the country are progressing step by step. Work on reforming the constitution has commenced. All of this will and must continue to be pursued with all due resolve. And ensuring that the forthcoming parliamentary elections are conducted properly will certainly be a very important step.
This is, in our opinion, by no means all there is to this. The following will be necessary in particular for a achieving a genuinely lasting peace in Mali: respect for human rights – an area in which there is certainly a lot of catching up to do – according women an important role in the peace process, bringing together the various social groups and regions in Mali – an extremely difficult task – building up state structures in many parts of the country in the first place and, of course, creating economic prospects, especially for young people. All in all, this is a mammoth task. MINUSMA is an essential prerequisite for being in a position to rise to this challenge.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s imagine, if you dare, what Mali would look like if MINUSMA didn’t exist. There would probably be Islamist spheres of influence, civil war and hundreds of thousands of refugees. When I was there six weeks ago, I saw a different Mali. We met many people who told us that they feel safer there thanks to our efforts, that – despite the persistent and undeniable terrorist threat – they believe in peace in their country – they haven’t yet become accustomed to this because it is still very fragile in many places – and that they also sense a measure of freedom thanks to our support for Mali and the Bundeswehr’s participation in MINUSMA.
We want to offer these people prospects and don’t want to abandon them to their fate. It is our servicemen and women who help to make this possible.
Servicemen and women who will not allow themselves to be discouraged by the difficult circumstances in the region – Mali is one of the most dangerous international missions – and who, together with many nations of the international community, are working to secure a peace process that has already been agreed to but which remains difficult. If you encounter these people in the region, then they say that the blue helmets of the UN look good on us. – Permit me to thank everyone working in the region from the bottom of my heart. The task that they are performing there is a difficult, arduous and also dangerous one.
Fellow Members of this House, by extending our mandate today, we can send a clear signal that the Bundestag stands behind our servicemen and women who are doing such important work in the region.
Thank you very much.