Central Southern AfricaMissions Operations

Who will take part in the EUFOR Bangui operation? (Continued) Voluntary countries. We are waiting for the commander!

The rapid designation of the operation commander depends on the continuation of the European operation (credit: French General Staff of the Armed Forces / ECPA - Briefing before a foot patrol between the 17th RGP and Misca Bouroundaise in the Petevo district of Bangui, January 15, 2014).
The continuation of the European operation depends on the rapid designation of the operation commander (credit: French Army Staff / ECPA – Briefing before a foot patrol between the 17th RGP and the Misca Bouroundaise in the Petevo district of Bangui, on January 15, 2014).

(BRUSSELS2 – exclusive) According to a latest assessment made by B2, after the meeting of ministers, we can count (reasonably) around fifteen countries which will participate, more or less directly, in the new EUFOR RCA Bangui military operation.

Fifteen participating countries?

Three countries have officially (or quasi-officially) confirmed their participation: France, Greece (HQ), Estonia.

Around ten others have indicated, directly (or indirectly), as B2 was able to confirm, the desire to contribute to the operation: Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal (logistics), Finland, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Germany (logistics and HQ).

Two countries have not indicated anything without excluding participation: Belgium, Czech Republic.

A few countries have indicated their wish not to participate: Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Slovenia.

The details are here: Who will participate in the EUFOR RCA Bangui mission? The dot (SHIFT6)

Doing as well as Estonia: a challenge?

The problem is that there are very few concrete proposals. Few countries have yet indicated precisely how many people they could send and for what purpose. And there remain two or three big unknowns: the Poles, the Czechs, the Belgians in particular. If these countries decide and send a contingent that would be at least the size of the Estonians, the generation of forces could be done quite quickly. If they do not decide, other major contributions will have to be found, which could further delay the operation. And it would be a bad signal given to Central Africans and the rest of the world about the state of European armies.

We are waiting for the commander

In fact, it's a bit of a chicken and egg story. Everyone is waiting to know a little more about the operation, to have the details. But for that you need to have an operation commander. Which must be decided in the coming hours (or rather days). Now that the Greek OHQ has been designated as the one for the operation, France will have to make a choice: either have command of the force on site (the FHQ), which would be quite logical; or have command of the operation, which would not really be logical or usual. In general, the same country does not have both commands. Having both – as some French officials seem to want – and as François Hollande indicated in December – would not only be contrary to European practices. It would also be largely counterproductive and contrary to the policy followed until now, which aims to Europeanize the operation and make all other States responsible for the Central African problem. Paris must therefore make its decision, and quickly!

A certain unanimity

The awareness-raising policy of other partners has, in fact, borne fruit. At the last Council of Foreign Ministers, all the participants, on the one hand, welcomed the major role played by France, thanking the French army (like the African armies) for their early intervention and, on the other on the other hand, recognized the need to intervene in the face of the seriousness of the facts on the ground and the risk of regional destabilization. The words of Laurent Fabius, upon leaving the Foreign Affairs Council, expressing his satisfaction are therefore not superfluous. The specter of genocide and possible collective responsibility certainly hung over the meeting. Such unanimity, a few months ago, still seemed unlikely. It testifies to a certain awareness of Europeans of both the threats hovering over the Rep. Central African Republic but also of their responsibilities.

Awareness?

When we remember all the procrastination which marked the sending of a few hundred soldiers to Mali, to carry out a simple training mission - in a more "clear" context than the Central African Republic (there were the "good" ones - the government of Bamako – and the “bad guys” – the rebels), where the population was not at all hostile to the European soldiers and where the security risk was not zero but certainly less intense than in the CAR today -, we measure how far Europeans have come, as a whole, to say that the defense of certain European “values” cannot only be achieved through words and good feelings but must be translated into action. On the scale of the European reaction in previous crises (security as well as civil, cf. the financial crisis for example), this evolution is rather rapid and must be noted. It now remains to transform the test and do it quickly. Because the massacres will not wait…

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).