EU Defense (Doctrine)

Some countries could do more…

(BRUSSELS2) Christophe Lacroix, PS deputy (French-speaking Belgian), spokesperson for the group on the issue of Mali, explained to B2 (*) his party's position on the Belgian military commitment in Mali.

A position which seems shared, more or less, by several groups in the Belgian parliament, according to our information: the liberals of the MR in particular but also to a certain extent by the Flemish Christian Democrats of the CD&V. The French-speaking Christian Democrats, through the voice of G. Dallemagne, do not completely agree, being in favor of a more marked commitment from Belgium. On the other hand, the Flemish autonomists of the NVA were very reluctant.

The Belgian commitment in the European operation EUTM Mali requires an evaluation, what do you mean by that?

We are already engaged in Operation Serval (French) with two helicopters and two C-130s. Any modification of this commitment requires an evaluation report on several levels: political, budgetary and military. The budgetary impact of any new commitment must be carefully considered. How much does it cost ? Just like the rules of engagement on site. We must also examine the impact on other ongoing missions. We are already committed to Benin, Uganda, Congo… Will we be able to maintain these commitments?

Can change happen quickly?

Yes. all you need is the evaluation report, a government decision and a debate in Parliament. It is up to the government to make a decision. And to come and explain it to Parliament. This can be done very quickly. It is enough for the government, after a restricted council, to come before parliamentarians immediately. We can get together very quickly. We have done this in the past. (NB: the authorization of the Belgian Parliament is not necessary, except in the event of a declaration of war. But it is now an almost obligatory practice to come in the event of an external commitment to obtain the agreement of Parliament).

Is this a fatigue of European commitment?

No, it's the opposite. Last May, our group tabled a resolution in the Chamber wishing to insert the future of the Belgian army into a European framework. And we hope that other groups (in the Belgian parliament) will join this resolution.

We nevertheless feel a certain reluctance at the Belgian level to a new commitment. Do you think Belgium is doing too much?

It does not always have to be the same countries that must mobilize. Today, the circle of countries proactive in operations is still the same. The Belgians have always been present. But other states can get involved. The United States has repeatedly sent signals to Europe, believing that we must take charge of their defense.

This is not the case ?

Not really. Currently we have the impression that there are speeches at European level, but few commitments. Some countries must come out of the woods and take up the torch.

We have the impression of recognizing Germany for example

Yes. But not only. Everyone must show their cards today. We can no longer play liar poker indefinitely.

(*) Interview conducted by telephone on Friday.

Excerpts from the resolution tabled by Anthony Dufrane

Even if the advent of a "European army" is not yet on the agenda, the common security and defense policy of the European Union (CSDP) provides that Member States can put civilian capabilities and soldiers at the disposal of the Union. This participation, on a voluntary basis, constitutes for the authors of this resolution a priority requiring an impetus which should lead to greater military cooperation in Europe. It is only on the basis of this Community military cooperation that the European Union will finally have an essential and sufficient basis for conducting a genuine European foreign policy.

(…) If, in the past, the predominant principle in terms of diplomacy and defense between European States was that of “lone rider”, this principle today finds itself overtaken by the facts: the European Union must ensure coherence of its policies at the international level beyond bilateral agreements concluded between its Member States.

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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