• Hollande said France and Germany have a special 'responsibility' on EU foreign policy (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Merkel and Hollande pledge help for central Africa

02.04.14 @ 20:38

  1. By Andrew Rettman and Meabh McMahon

BRUSSELS - France and Germany have made a show of EU solidarity on Africa, as European soldiers prepare to leave for Bangui.

President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke side by side to press in Brussels on Wednesday (2 April), after Hollande invited her to a mini-summit on the Central African Republic (CAR).

He said there is a “special friendship” between the two founding EU countries, adding: “We co-operate more than others on common foreign policy and common security because it’s our responsibility.”

Merkel said “there is a great bond” between France and Germany, who want to be an “engine” for EU-Africa relations.

She praised Hollande for sending French troops to Mali and CAR in unilateral operations which paved the way for EU missions. She noted that a joint Franco-German brigade will soon be training local forces in Mali and that she is sending military assets to an EU mission in CAR.

“Given historical developments, this is a new path for Germany - to show responsibility in Africa beside classic development policy,” she said, referring to Germany’s post-WWII pacifist tradition.

Earlier on Wednesday, EU officials said the first soldiers in “Eufor CAR” will arrive in Bangui at the end of April and that all 800 will be in place by the end of May.

Twelve EU countries are taking part, including: Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK. The former Soviet republic of Georgia, which wants to join Nato, is also involved.

The lion’s share of soldiers and gendarmes are to come from Estonia, France, Georgia, Poland and Spain. Germany has proposed “significant strategic air-lift capabilities.” The UK is also focusing on logistics, while Italy is sending engineers.

The infantry will be equipped with small arms, anti-tank weapons, and machetes.

Their main job is to shepherd refugees from Bangui airport back home before the rainy season gets in full swing. Gendarmes will also try to stop looting and murders in the city.

The mini-summit on CAR took place in the margins of a bigger EU-Africa event.

PMs, presidents, and foreign ministers from 54 African states and 28 EU countries took part in the meeting, causing more traffic mayhem in Brussels after US and China summits in recent days.

For his part, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso pledged to spend an extra €800 million on the African continent over the next three years.

He spoke of tackling “the challenges of eradicating poverty, of promoting a sustainable and inclusive growth that does not deplete the continent’s natural resources … of consolidating democracy, rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights".

But EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy noted that Europe also needs Africa if there is to be a meaningful deal on global warming at the UN climate summit in September.

“We need your help to tackle climate change, which threatens all of us; to manage migration so that it benefits both of us; and to improve the security of both our continents,” he said.