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A European “security” mission in the Sahel? We think about it...

(BRUSSELS2) For the time being, this is more of a working hypothesis than the planning of a new mission or a real commitment. But the ambassadors of the Political and Security Committee (COPS) could address the issue of security in certain countries of the Sahel very soon.

Countries like Mali, Mauritania, Niger or Burkina-Faso suffer, indeed, from certain similar evils. An increased risk of insecurity for workers, members of NGOs or tourists, relatively recent compared to previous years, and the increasingly asserted desire to find mechanisms for regional cooperation against terrorism. Contacts and initiatives are multiplying in this direction. And several series of needs have been detected by international experts: from strengthening the rule of law and governance to improving the capacity of States in terms of security and justice, through actions to help reduce and prevent terrorist radicalization and recruitment.

An African and European awareness

The chiefs of staff of several countries in the region - in the broad sense (since Libya or Algeria were also associated) met in mid-April to agree on the creation of a regional mechanism responsible for coordinating counter-terrorism activities. This meeting was followed by a ministerial meeting. The EU has a mission to support the African Union, particularly in terms of the early warning mechanism and counter-terrorism. While the European Commission has, for several months, included the Sahel region as one of the priorities of the stability instrument 2009-2011 (along with Afghanistan and Pakistan). In addition, both France and Spain have initiated bilateral actions with several countries in the region.

Cross-border cooperation and the fight against terrorism

The objective is therefore to see the added value that a European Union mission could add, which could take up some of the achievements of these different experiences. Several missions of European experts have left for the region. And an evaluation report is being "finalized" in the various departments concerned. It is on the basis of this report that a roadmap and various formalized options can be drawn up. EU action could thus take the form of a PeSDC mission and/or an assistance and expertise mission. Several aspects are, in fact, envisaged: the fight against terrorism (training, equipment, etc.), observation and cross-border cooperation, rule of law, financial and personnel support, etc.

A process that could accelerate

The latest events - the kidnapping of several Areva and Satom employees on Thursday in northern Niger, which sounds like an echo of the death announced at the end of July of hostage Michel Germaneau in Mali - could speed up the decision-making process, it is estimated on the European diplomatic side.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).