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In the Sahel, no PeSDC mission for the moment, but a mission all the same...

(BRUSSELS2) The question of security in the Sahel is of great concern to several European states. And it should finally be the subject of conclusions at the next Council of Foreign Ministers on Monday.

A letter from 8 countries

A discussion took place recently at the COPS, the Political and Security Committee. And 8 states had already shown their determination to act: Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (1). They sent a three-page letter to the High Representative in September raising the alarm and demanding determined and concerted action at European level. This was apparently well heard. And the three paragraphs of conclusions, rather laconic, which could be adopted on Monday are full of meaning when you read the original letter. They refer to it, in fact, both in the terminology of the threats mentioned and the instruments proposed.

Study a strategy

The 27 could thus ask the Commission and the High Representative to study a “strategy for the Sahel”. A strategy which should emerge from a global approach because the scale of risk is wide: from poverty to terrorism, including organized crime or drug trafficking and almost non-existent States, due to lack of resources. Three countries are mainly concerned: Niger, Mali and Mauritania. Apparently, this is not a simple clause of style, as is sometimes the case for delicate files. But a real order which should lead to concrete proposals quickly. Because what the 8 fear in particular is a spillover phenomenon towards countries like Chad, or even Sudan in the east, which would make it a huge, totally uncontrolled and uncontrollable territory.

Combine the short to the medium term

In practice, it is a question of seeing which of the European instruments would be the most useful in order to put in place a strengthening of action on site. An action which would combine: development, good governance (with strengthening of State authorities, aid to justice), and security (fight against criminal networks and fight against terrorism); which would combine the short term (expertise and assistance) and the medium term (personnel training, establishment of a judicial system). A necessity. “ The murder of a British man did not even give rise to an investigation judicial commented a specialist.

A robust mission

A “robust” expert mission could be deployed. It would therefore not be, in the minds of the authors of the initiative, one or two people who would strengthen the EU embassies in these countries. But a more extensive mission including specialists in the fight against terrorism, experts in crime, the fight against drug trafficking... It could include at least fifty people (police officers, customs officers, judges , development experts, etc.), with various technical means. Basically, the format of a mini-Eulex mission but without sheltering it under the umbrella of Defense Europe. It would benefit from the assistance, at European level, of the diplomatic service, SitCen and the coordinator of the fight against terrorism.

No PeSDC mission

Apparently, the ambassadors seem to agree, at least a majority of them, not to trigger a PeSDC mission. At least for the moment. A process that was too cumbersome and not entirely adapted to the situation in these countries, I was told. A little too flashy too, therefore counterproductive. Because in this case, it is not a question (as in a PeSDC mission) of having maximum visibility. But on the contrary, to have maximum discretion. And, also, to act quickly. A PeSDC mission would require too much discussion, possibly a UN resolution, and consensus does not seem to be reached on this necessity.

First application of the JAI Relex couple and the Treaty of Lisbon mechanism

To this practical notion is added a political dimension. We will test for the first time the system resulting from the Lisbon Treaty; the integration of the High Representative of the EU into the European Commission and the establishment of a reinforced diplomatic service. This should also make it possible to test different concepts, which until then remained theoretical. The integration of security and development issues as well as the relationships between Justice, Internal Affairs and External Relations (JAI – RELEX for short). We can note that for several years, we have been studying in the bodies of the Council and the COPS, it is time to move on to practice. With the Sahel, this is the perfect case study. “ If we don't make it there, we never will » explained to me a specialist on the issue.

(1) We can observe the interesting format of this initiative: the Nordic countries (often in favor of action on development), the Franco-German-Spanish trio (already in the “maneuver” for Somalia), as well as Portugal and the Netherlands. In almost all of these countries, the anti-terrorist dimension is very present, even an almost daily reality. Only one absent: the United Kingdom.

(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).

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