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Luxembourg doubles its workforce in Mali. Let the scoffers be chomping at the bit...

At UNIFIL in Lebanon, October 2014 (credit: MOD Luxembourgeois / Archives B2)
At UNIFIL in Lebanon, October 2014 (B2 Archives / credit: MOD Luxembourgeois)

(B2) Luxembourg announced the doubling of its troops in Mali, in support of the French, i.e. 1 soldier. This is little. And this can provoke mockery in all directions (1). It is not with one more soldier that we are going to resolve the question of Mali. It's certain. And even if the expertise of the officer in question is serious, it remains symbolic and rather illustrates the Luxembourg political will to come and ensure solidarity with France.

A surveillance aircraft permanently in maritime operations

B2 could join this heart of crows. But when you're a little serious and you look, you have to look at the whole panel. First of all, Luxembourg is not only doing that for Mali, it will also provide financial support for the Malian army (2 million euros). And, above all, the Grand Duchy, within its means, often “plugs” some particular gaps which remain in operations or common means of defense. He thus ensured the dispatch of a private surveillance plane (2), almost permanently in the anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean (EUNAVFOR Atalanta). A reiterated operation for the operation to fight traffickers in the Mediterranean EUNAVFOR Med.

Unlock Abilities

Luxembourg has made a specialty of 'clearing' blocking points by making the necessary contribution at the right time. For the European Union advisory mission to the Central African army (EUMAM RCA), while the head of mission was tearing his hair out a little at the legal-administrative difficulties posed on his way to equipping with training equipment the FACA camp, here again the Grand Duchy put its hand in its pocket (providing 90% of the requested sum, France providing the rest). Without getting too emotional like certain countries or the European Commission which played like a frightened virgin.

The same goes for the European Defense Agency. Every year, London vetoes any increase in the budget, even simply equivalent to inflation. Luxembourg opened the way last November by paying 300.000 euros (i.e. 1% of the agency's budget).

Finally, let us recall that in terms of capacity, Luxembourg has decided to buy un A400M which will be combined with the 7 other Belgian A400Ms in the future. It is not really to serve its national or external operations. The transport capabilities of this aircraft, the Luxembourgers intend to make it available to the various operations of NATO or the European Union and other member states.

One downside: the defense budget

If all States did the same and with the same voluntary commitment, there would no longer really be a problem of solidarity at European level. The real criticism that could be made of the country is the weakness of its military budget (0,5% of GDP for an army of just under 1000 men and women), the lowest rate in NATO. The country has ample means to do more (because it is one of the richest per capita in Europe). But it will improve, a Luxembourg official told me. It is also part of the coalition program to breathe some life into the defense budget.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Tremble writes theNote, and the Twittersphere is having a field day (read about the Border some examples). It's true that it was so beautiful...

(2) Two planes in fact, one serving as a relay; in the form of a public-private contract contracted by the Ministry of Defense with the company CAE Aviation.

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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).