Mali: MEPs urge member states to go in alongside France
STASBOURG, France, January 25, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – It is “astonishing” that EU member states were surprised by the terrorist groups’ offensive in Mali. Tthe EU should have been better prepared for an escalation of the conflict, and member states should show more solidarity by supporting French operations on the ground, said Security and Defence Subcommittee MEPs in debates with French and European civil and military officials on Wednesday and Thursday.
Despite warnings and threats clearly identified, notably in the EU’s 2011 strategy for the Sahara, “we are surprised that the EU could be surprised by the Islamists’ offensive” in northern Mali, said Subcommittee chair Arnaud Danjean (EPP, FR), echoed by many MEPs.
They underlined that the EU mission to train the Malian army, formally confirmed by the 22 January extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council, had long been planned. The rebel offensive only accelerated the process.
Solidarity among member states means more than transport planes
Whilst welcoming France’s intervention in Mali, MEPs strongly criticized the lack of solidarity displayed by other member states, apart from making available transport planes or medical teams. Specifically, they asked why EU tactical battle groups had not been deployed in Mali. “What use are battle groups if they can’t fight?” asked Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK).
Many MEPs also insisted that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and her services should exert more pressure on member states.
Malian army training mission
MEPs voiced support for the mission to train the Malian army, but warned that solidiers trained by the EU might defect to the rebels, citing precedents in Afghanistan and Somalia.
“The new Malian army must be militarily prepared and politically controlled” by legitimate democratic authorities, insisted Ioan Mircea Pascu (S&D, RO). Subcommittee members also underlined the need for a “global approach for Mali and the Sahel, which must go well beyond the urgently-needed resolution of the military crisis”.
NATO’s “deafening” silence
MEPs also voiced astonishment at NATO’s “deafening silence” on Mali. General Gilles Rouby, France’s military representative to NATO and the EU, confirmed that no member of the North Atlantic Alliance had “posed ‘an official question’ on Mali”.
A military mission by the Economic Community of West African States, as part of the international mission for Mali assistance (MISMA), in which ten African states should take part, is being deployed in Mali. A donor conference will be held on 29 January in Addis Ababa, at the end of the African summit, to discuss its funding.