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France intervenes in Côte d'Ivoire, alone, with the UN. Europeans are watching...

(BRUSSELS2) France decided after an exchange of letters between the Elysée and the United Nations headquarters in New York (1), to make the Licorne force available to the UNOCI for offensive actions against the Gbagbo camp . Alone… without the Europeans.

Objective: neutralize heavy weapons... and Gbagbo

Ban Ki Moon had asked for this help, in a letter dated April 3: It is urgent to launch the necessary military operations to render the heavy weapons used against civilian populations and peacekeepers incapacitated. UNOCI has identified multiple locations of these weapons. Given the need to launch operations against all these locations simultaneously and the limited military resources of UNOCI, I would be grateful if you would authorize, on an urgent basis, the “Licorne” force, which is mandated by the Council to support UNOCI, to carry out these operations jointly with UNOCI. » France had been demanding more offensive action from UNOCI for several days. At the last European summit, Nicolas Sarkozy asked that Abidjan “ is prohibited for heavy weapons, we are talking about helicopters and mortars that could be used. It is not possible. UN forces must do their job ».

Europeans, guns at their feet

What is surprising is the lack of reaction (passivity) of Europeans to the situation. We cannot therefore put this wait-and-see attitude down to a political division since the EU has adopted a consensual position on this subject, summarized in five sentences by Catherine Ashton on April 1: “Alassane Ouattara is the democratically elected President of Côte d'Ivoire. Laurent Gbagbo (must) immediately withdraw and surrender himself to the legal authorities. All parties (must) exercise restraint and protect the civilian population. The United Nations mission in Côte d'Ivoire must be able to fully exercise its mandate to protect the civilian population. Those responsible for human rights violations will have to answer before international justice."

Good reasons…

But nothing more! The Europeans continued to go about their business, leaving France to fend for itself in Ivory Coast. And Paris has not really sought to involve its European partners either. Certainly the links between France and Ivory Coast are old. And French nationals and interests are by far the most numerous on the ground compared to European nationals and interests. Involving other Europeans would also have taken time while the situation on the ground required us to react quickly if we did not want the conflict to bog down.

A certain selfishness

The reality is also more prosaic (and selfish). Few European countries seem ready to risk the lives of their soldiers in a conflict, in black Africa, which seems distant. And military and financial resources are today subject to a double constraint: operational and budgetary. Between Afghanistan (which takes up most of the forces) and Libya, the countries that could intervene (United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Belgium, etc.) no longer have many forces available. Many countries have constitutional intervention limits for interventions abroad (Germany, Finland, Austria, Ireland, etc.). And almost no country escapes a more or less drastic program of budgetary restrictions.

(1) Download the letter from Ban Ki Moon to Sarkozy, And the Sarkozy's answer

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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).