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[Analysis] The Global South is gradually breaking away. Europe destabilized?

(B2) Is Europe losing its touch? Does it still have a role to play, particularly in Africa or the Middle East? Why does part of the South stand out?

© NGV/B2

Several countries in the world seem to prefer Russians or Chinese. Europe is surprised and offended, accusing the entryism of Wagner's mercenaries or Chinese cynicism. But should we be surprised? This detachment from Europe of a large part of the African or Asian countries undoubtedly has roots in the history of the non-aligned (see box). It is explained by structural reasons. But it is also largely due to European policy, swinging between withdrawal, the temptation of emptiness and double standards.

Structural causes

The rise in economic and demographic power, of China as of several regional powers, mechanically leads to a lesser European (and even Western) influence.

There is a dynamic in the countries of the South that the Europeans did not want to take into account. With a trained elite, a human economic force, and often significant resources (oil, gas, minerals, rare materials), they are not hostile in themselves, but consider that their interests go through the diversification of alliances, both to assert a certain autonomy and to protect themselves from any attempt at intervention. The Europe box is no longer the obligatory passage of their international cooperation.

The slow and inevitable disappearance of Europe is also due to a shift in European policy. Europe has abandoned its position as mediator or negotiator in several conflicts: Syria, Israel-Palestine, Saudi Arabia-Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Sudan... And lastly Ukraine. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, even Turkey and China have rushed into this breach. The unprecedented reconciliation between the two enemy brothers of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, under the aegis of China, is a notable sign.

Several notable errors

Europe has made many mistakes in recent years.

L'intervention in Libya, in 2011, left an ineffable mark (especially in Africa). It is the resurgence of a colonialist will that was said to be past, to lead to a change of power by force. It is all the stronger in Africa in that Libya, even authoritarian, helped a number of African countries and that Europe erased this episode from its collective memory, refusing to engage in a " feedback ».

L'European confinement, refusing migratory flows, from the migratory crisis of 2015, was perceived by a good part of the continent as a refusal of Europe to assume the part of the solidarity that it asks of Africa. The anti-migration turn taken throughout Europe since 2020, like conversely the massive reception of Ukrainians, confirms this feeling of a position that borders on racism.

L'French intervention in Mali, initially requested by the Malians, has turned into a vast anti-terrorist operation with vague contours (1). Extended beyond what is strictly necessary, it has gradually been perceived as foreign interference. The French and European remarks for the civil-military junta in power have added to national ire (see also: Libya, Mali, Algeria… the annoyances are piling up. Barkhane catches a cold). Bamako, backed by Moscow, ended up obtaining the immediate departure of Operation Barkhane and its European avatar, the task force Takuba (2). In what looks like a political rout that will leave its mark.

A badly perceived double standard

La European will to promote its values today comes up against realpolitik. This produces a flagrant imbalance. Almost complete silence on the violations of human rights in the Gulf monarchies (3) or in Egypt, leniency on the coup d'etat in Chad, weak denunciation of Israeli violence against the Palestinians, etc. But the coups in Mali or Burkina Faso are on the other hand clearly denounced. Seen from the southern side, these positions are incomprehensible (4).

Even in Central Africa, where Europe has often been present, its slowness and timidity in condemning Rwanda's action in eastern Congo has not gone unnoticed. In this country, however, classified in a Western camp, this weakness is compared with the European vigor to denounce other aggressions, in particular from Russia and Ukraine. The exchanges between a Félix Tshisekedi and an Emmanuel Macron, on March 4, for having been undoubtedly overplayed (read: Booklet 07.03.2023), also stem from an existing reality of which we should be aware.

La European sanctions policy, which can be justified by certain points of view in Europe, is going increasingly badly in the countries of the South. It is perceived as the persistence of its arrogance and of the will to impose its values, in a very biased way: no sanction on Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China... According to the good old principle that it Better to be strong than weak.

Lhe massive military and financial support provided to Ukraine, without any consideration or control, has not really been understood, especially in Africa. He underlines that if Europe wants, it can. But only in the face of white, christian (5).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

The Return of the Non-Aligned. We are thus witnessing the resurgence of a bloc of Non-aligned people from the 1960s and 70s. Even if it does not have the ideological morphology, specific to the Cold War, it shares certain assets. The attitude at the United Nations is a sign of this. Despite all European efforts, the balance of power has not really changed in a year of war. A good quarter of countries prefer to abstain or absent themselves, a quarter still representing more than half of the world's population (read: [News] UN General Assembly votes for peace for Ukraine. The South abstains). A position that is not extraordinary if we look at votes on other subjects. [Analysis] At the UN Security Council, Africa stands out from Europe

To be continued on B2 Pro: the slow European erasure of global trading

  1. The justification of a Malian terrorist risk by contamination for Europe appeared quite "elastic" and never really proven.
  2. Read also Folder No. 84. Takuba. A new European force is being set up in the Sahel, for anti-terrorist purposes (v4)
  3. The Qatargate affair has a disastrous effect. It proves that European values ​​give way easily to the weight of money. All the European discourse on the necessary fight against corruption is thus diminished.
  4. A very common point of view in the politico-military elites in Kinshasa. I witnessed it. Giving a course, in June 2022, on the European Union in front of the defense college (about forty general officers), most of the questions related to this “differentiation”.
  5. Phrase heard in Africa

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).