Four thousand kilometres separate Mali and the Sahel from Germany. Enough for some people to think they are nothing to do with us. However, one thing should have become clear to us Europeans, at the very latest since terrorist groups threatened to overrun Mali in 2012 – some of you may remember that – and that is: what happens there not only endangers the stability of our neighbourhood to the south, but also accelerates the spread of terrorism, organised crime and illegal migration to Europe.
We all recall the dangers when groups like IS or al‑Qaida gain a safe haven in the Sahel; because ultimately European states and our citizens have repeatedly fallen victim to their acts of violence as well. The fact that Mali is now the Bundeswehr’s second-largest deployment area in the world is also a reflection of our concern at this, and it remains a justified concern.
However, I do also understand those who are becoming increasingly impatient with this deployment; after all, its results so far – we should not ignore this – have been somewhat mixed. Hopeful steps towards reconciliation, such as the start of the National Dialogue in December last year, have been followed time and again by bitter setbacks. The number of terror attacks has increased again recently. Parts of the centre of Mali are coming under ever greater pressure, particularly right at this point in time. Only on Monday, we got the sad news that three peacekeeping soldiers from Chad had been killed.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This mission is and will remain a difficult one. However, that does not alter the fact that our aim of creating stability in the Sahel region is one of the many prerequisites for enhancing security in Europe.
Because, contrary to what one occasionally hears, Mali is not a failed state. The parliamentary elections in March were a sign that democracy is alive. Mali’s young people in particular – anyone who has visited the country will have seen this for themselves – are visibly committed to a peaceful future for their country. The key here is security – security that needs above all to be driven more and more by the people in the region and by those in positions of responsibility. The EU’s training and advisory mission EUTM Mali aims to make this possible.
We have taken a very thorough, critical look at EUTM Mali in Brussels over the past few months. It has become clear that we need to adapt it, in order to ensure realistic operational conditions and greater regional flexibility.
In future, training for Malian soldiers is to be decentralised, in other words they are to be trained closer to their areas of operations. Our aim is to improve the training and, above all, to make it even more practice-oriented. However, it has expressly been stated that Malian forces will not be accompanied on operations. That would achieve precisely the opposite of what we want: after all, the aim is for the Malian security forces to act independently. Another important point in this context, when we are talking about the secondment of German soldiers is this: there can only be decentralised training if there is enough force protection; because that improves the security of our own soldiers, which is always our top priority.
The second point where we want to adapt the mission to the challenges on the ground relates to the terrorist threat, which knows no borders in the Sahel region. In future, therefore, EUTM Mali will advise all five Sahel countries, and in individual cases will also be able to provide training for national armed forces on request. This involves stepping up our existing training measures in the Niger and bundling all activities under the auspices of EUTM Mali. We will also provide targeted support for Burkina Faso, which is particularly hard-hit – not through a permanent presence, but with mobile training teams as necessary.
Necessary as these adjustments are, they are not a miracle cure. Our entire engagement in the security sphere – training under EUTM Mali and support for the political process under the UN MINUSMA mission – can only have a lasting impact in combination with diplomacy, stabilisation and development cooperation. This interplay characterises our engagement as a whole, as outlined in the Federal Government’s outlook report to the Bundestag in March. We have now anchored this integrated approach at European level, too.
The overarching political framework is the international Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel which we launched last year with France. The Partnership aims to strengthen state structures so that the Sahel countries can themselves gradually assume responsibility for stability, security, and also sustainable development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We would do well to play a decisive part in this development via EUTM Mali, because in terms of foreign policy this region will remain our neighbour, a neighbour whose fate affects us directly. That is why I ask you to support this mandate.