Central Southern AfricaPSDC crisis management

Battlegroup for the Central African Republic? How Cathy said stop!

David Cameron said "no" to sending a European battlegroup. Britain's Prime Minister at Vilnius Summit (Credit: Lithuanian EU Presidency)
David Cameron said “no” to sending a European battlegroup. British Prime Minister at Vilnius Summit (credit: Lithuanian EU Presidency)

(BRUSSELS2, exclusive) According to our consistent information, the preparation for the deployment of the rapid reaction force (battlegroup) of the European Union in the Central African Republic – prepared for several days by the military staff of the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS) – has been stopped net on the orders… of the High Representative of the EU, Catherine Ashton.

A planned battlegroup

The objective of planning (read: An EU battlegroup in the Central African Republic? The discussion continues) was to complement the action of the French troops, who were preparing to “enter first”, and to liaise with the African troops, to stop the massacres and restore a certain security.

Stopping the massacres can wait!

Alas… the High Representative put the kibosh on it. “ I am not opposed in principle she explained to her teams at the end of November on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. " But it is vital that France approaches the UK at ministerial level for this. It is essential to have a “Yes” from the United Kingdom before going any further. ". And to add “I cannot go in front of the foreign ministers (with) this ". Break up!

David Cameron: the Mister No of European defense

The British “no” is, in fact, well-known. If a few soldiers would be willing to go. At Number 10, the residence of Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as at Whitehall, the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, the answer is clear and unequivocal: “No”. Those responsible for the EEAS are quickly determined. There will be no battlegroup, no military option, nor even the shadow of a modular approach. For London, the cornerstone of European security is NATO (details in the Club: NATO the cornerstone, Europe the toe (Lidington)). And when she takes over the battlegroup, it is so that it remains on the ground (unless the supreme interest of the Crown is at stake). The European Union only has a “complementary” and preferably “civil” objective of action.

And if we added a little humanitarian, wouldn't it be more beautiful?

Shortly after, one of the senior officials of the EEAS, in charge of the CSDP, Maciej Popowski, in turn took up the pen. In the name of the principle of reality, he proposes a solution which is intended to be consensual. " It would be more interesting to present European engagement in the Central African Republic in a broader framework, involving humanitarian, development and security work, together. ". A "marketing gimmick » as he will recognize himself. Corn " it could go better "He says.

The spirit of Chamberlain...

Now, everyone knows it. Even humanitarians and NGOs of all stripes say it – even Human Right Watch, although little suspected of being complacent towards French forces in Africa. We must restore some semblance of order. We are facing a tragedy. The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid will also say: “the question of genocide is not purely hypothetical” (read on Club). Nothing works. In suits and ties, in their offices, a few officials decided that it was not even worth trying to act and that it was better to give up immediately.

…rather than the European and humanist spirit

This refusal is problematic. What happened in the Central African Republic reflects massacres and war crimes (since committed by armed forces against civilians). The intensity of the massacres and their targeting could perhaps reclassify them as crimes against humanity or even genocide (history will tell). By leaving the French alone to go into battle and lose men; by refusing to give a “green light” to the EU rapid reaction force; while there was a mandate from the United Nations, there is a very clear breach of the mandate entrusted to the European authorities by the Treaties within the framework of the CSDP – the common security and defense policy = “ensuring the maintenance peace, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter”. This act cannot remain without political responsibility. We must draw the consequences...

NB: you can add two remarks. The Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs have just, on November 18, approved a reform of European battle groups, allowing for more flexibility in sending a battlegroup. It would have been possible to inaugurate this development (a British idea in fact). The High Representative could certainly ask in a few days to study new options. A way not to remain inactive. In doing so she will have avoided a scathing disavowal for her country (the British veto has, in fact, remained very discreet). And she sends the hot “potato” back to the Greeks, Romanians and other Cypriots who will take over the permanence of the rapid reaction force from January 1st. At the EEAS, we know full well that this poses a real problem. This “battlegroup” being penniless, planning to go to the Central African Republic (even if part of the cost – transport – is covered), is a very important effort… To those who claim that Catherine Ashton is not a good politician, this maneuver is a scathing disavowal!

NB: In fact, the only hope of a European “relay” for the French rests on… the Benelux and Germans who will have the “turn of the role” of the battlegroup on July 1, 2014!

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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).

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