Central Southern AfricaMissions Operations

EUFOR Rca Bangui: why Belgium hesitates

The Belgian C-130 detachment arrives in Bangui (Credit: DICOD / French Ministry of Defense)
The Belgian C-130 detachment arrives in Bangui (Credit: DICOD / French Ministry of Defense)

(BRUXELLES2) What will be the Belgian contribution to the EUFOR Bangui-RCA operation in the Central African Republic? Listening to the various Belgian statements, one can remain perplexed. We remember that at the European summit, on December 20, Elio di Rupo had indicated that if there was a Belgian contribution, it would be within a European framework. Defense Minister Pieter de Crem seemed ready to rush in and offer not only planes but also troops to the French Operation Sangaris. Today, the time has come to procrastinate, particularly at Defense, where we identify both all the means sent almost everywhere (to Lebanon, Afghanistan, Congo, Mali, etc.) and where we see the limited budgets.

Support is not questioned

It's not a question of motivation. Belgium wants to be an unfailing ally of France as a fervent supporter of the Common European Security and Defense Policy (CESDP), not only in words but also in deeds. Present in Mali with nearly 70 soldiers for a training mission in the field, it is also present in the Central African Republic, where it has brought " immediate support for Operation Sangaris by logistical means,” Foreign Minister Didier Reynders recalled on Monday (January 20). The C-130 Hercules of the 15th Air Transport Wing made its first flight between Libreville (Gabon) and Bangui on Tuesday (January 21).

Several necessary steps, remind D. Reynders and P. De Crem

And Belgium is ready to do more, within a European framework » and bring a « soutien to the European mission in the Central African Republic, says D. Reynders. No question, however, of sending troops immediately. First of all, we will have to wait "the evaluation mission" explains the Minister of Foreign Affairs (NB: she is currently there). Then you have to have a an invitation from Europe adds Minister Pieter De Crem. But today, no EU request has been formally addressed to Belgium he says. We will then have to see if we have the means to meet this demand and the funding adds a military expert. Then, obtain the political agreement of the government. " It will be the select cabinet that will give its proposal to Parliament et "depending on the requests made, we will see what additional needs are", explains Didier Reynders. In short, a good series of obstacle courses.

Necessary sharing of tasks and burdens

All of this is going to take some time. And does not quite fit with the will on the European side, to be ready and to deploy the first elements, " quickly », before the end of February (*). On the Belgian side, we whisper, "It's still too early". In fact, it seems that at "16 rue de la loi" (Prime Minister) as at "8 rue Lambermont" (Defence), we feel we are doing a lot in European solidarity where others are doing little. Minister Reynders was explicit on Monday: who says European mission, called "distribution of tasks" et " cost allocation ". " Everyone should participate » : Germany (**) and "the British, too, at least financially". And his colleague De Crem was no less explicit two days later, at RTBF, during the presentation of the Belgian Battlegroup. " We are doing our best. A military operation abroad entails certain constraints. I don't rule anything out. (But) it is at European level to send out invitations… (And) certainly with funding”. Light !

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde with Loreline Merelle)

(*) Some speak of a "30-day delay" that would have been set between the decision of the CMC and the deployment. This delay - mentioned by some - existed in the first versions of the document but apparently disappeared in the last one submitted to the ministers (as far as B2 could know).

(**) Germany's involvement in the EUTM Mali operation - particularly for "force protection", could enable Belgium, which is normally engaged until May, to recover troops (and a budget) for the Central African Republic, perhaps for the complement within the framework of the rotation

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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