A Sight on European Defence

The football world cup has given to most Europeans a new idea of Africa. Of course, one or the other country cannot give a good idea of this gigantic and multi-faceted country. However, this world event has shown that Africa is not only the continent of poverty, starvation, civil wars and massive emigration.

The image of Africa I would remember from this World cup, when looking at the different teams, like South-Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Algeria, are the words dynamism, life, courage and will, a strong will to win and to express national pride devoid of any aggressiveness.

Even if there is, according to Pascal Boniface geopolitics of football, we did not speak that much on geopolitics during the last weeks. Therefore I would come back to the relations between Africa and Europe, from the perspective of European Defence, of course. As I would not pretend being experts on those issues, I will try to share some views, based on an article I recently read in ‘Defence Review’. This article deals with the relations between the EU and sub-Saharan Africa and is written by Bastien Nivet. If you want to read it (in French) it is to be found here.

One of the major difficulties I met while reading this article was to identify the effectiveness of European support to African security. Many issues are intricate and prevent any significant step forward.

-While the EU is cooperating with the African Union, the latter suffers of its deficient structure and lack of assets. Furthermore the African Union is in competition with some regional organizations, which strive to establish direct links with the EU.

-Some European countries are not that much interested in Security issues and are mainly present through support to development or via the European Union programs. For instance, Germany refused to participate to Eufor Chad at the level of its financial contribution to the EU budget.

-Other countries have historical links with Africa and have built up influence networks that work well, and may be much better than purely institutional and structured relations.

-Initially, the EU action program to development support was not related with security. It was only part of a broader program including as well Caribbean and Pacific countries. Anyone would understand that this might be difficult to find synergies between those three areas. Anyway this ACP program could not directly contribute to security, as, at that time, European External Policy did not play the role it has now.

For more than ten years, the EU has been working on the reinforcement of African peace support capabilities. As usual, there has been a mix of European and national initiatives, which do not give a good visibility of the European action to the eyes of the citizens we all are. Even if Europe support were more coherent, one can be far from thinking that results would have been better. One of the poor results originate from different but converging causes:

-even if African Union and regional organizations give an impression of unity, they poorly dissimulate behind this image a huge diversity of national interests, cultures, ways of doing, as well as a poor governance of those organizations. This weakness of the organizations does not only originate in the lack of assets. It comes firstly from this diversity, which is, at least for the time being, much stronger than the will of unity.

Therefore what could the EU do to achieve a real improvement of the security situation in Africa? May be one solution would be not to glorify too much the latest operations by showing every time only the bright side of those. If some of them have been finally successful, the question remains, for how long? A second question could be: what is really a EU operation? Many of them, are still carried to the altar of CFSP to make it happen by hiding the strong national participation of one or two nations, while the other ones just put one or two officers in order to see their flag among the other ones without dedicating any military asset. Regarding the results of an operation, use of armed forces is useless without a long term and efficient development support. However looking at the poor governance of some of those states, this development support should not exclusively cover the economical side of if. It should include the political and social sides as well.

But this is not that simple: such an integral support could be as well considered by the African countries as a neo-colonialism. Such a perception can encourage some countries to undermine EU efforts to develop Africa. This undermining could even come from European countries willing not be regarded as such.

Therefore, I would express serious doubts on EU capability to really support from a global perspective the improvement of security situation in Africa. Probably the most efficient way of doing could consist on supporting punctually one or the other country to stabilize a sub-region during a short period of time, just waiting for a stabilization of the area, but keeping in mind that European contingents could be back in the same area some weeks or months just after the end of the operation.

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