Sunday

19th May 2019

EU-Sahel talks next week amid 'unprecedented attacks'

  • France has around 4,500 troops in the Sahel region (Photo: defense.gouv.fr)

EU foreign, defence and development ministers are meeting a handful of African states in Brussels next week, as part of a broader EU-backed security and military-led operation in the Sahel.

"This an important occasion to look at how we can take a fully integrated approach to our relations to the Sahel," a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Friday (10 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The move comes amid heighten tensions as the EU and individual member states seek to damp down trouble spots throughout the semi-arid region south of the Sahara, where jihadist groups like the Boko Haram have taken root.

Earlier this week, the UN warned that insecurity and armed attacks in the Sahel have reached unprecedented levels.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are all part of a shaky pan-military operation known as the G5 Sahel Joint Force, launched in 2014. The force is supposed to crack down on the militias.

All five are sending their diplomats to Brussels to meet the EU ministers, where they are expected to ask for more development and security aid.

The meetings kick off on Monday with foreign ministers where talks will focus on the regional politics. Defence ministers will then meet on Tuesday to discuss immediate security challenges.

"Foreign and defence ministers will then discuss it with ministers of the G5 Sahel countries in terms of how we cooperate with them and notably with their efforts at stabilisation and improving security," noted the official.

The final meeting takes place on Thursday with development ministers.

The trio of ministerial meetings in the same week with the same focus is somewhat unusual - pointing to a wider convergence of EU development, humanitarian and security policy throughout the region.

The region is crippled by widespread poverty, corruption, and organised crime. Mali and Niger are also known migrant smuggling routes towards Libya and further on towards Europe.

430,000 displaced

The UN says the number of people displaced by violence throughout the Sahel has increased five-fold in the past year alone, to more than 330,000 people, in addition to 100,000 refugees.

The EU has common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions in Niger and Mali, where they carry out military training exercises and other forms of support.

A regional force with some 5,000 soldiers, the G5 Sahel Joint Force is also in part funded by the European Union, along with big contributions from Germany and France.

The EU had initially mobilised some €50m to help fund the five-nation army, which has since increased. The EU money is being used to provide "non-lethal equipment, services and infrastructure."

Merkel trip

Germany is also heavily involved and has some 1,000 troops stationed in the region. Last week, Germany chancellor Angela Merkel toured the Sahel nations and pledged an additional €40m to fight terrorism.

For its part, France has 4,500 troops in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to help local forces fight the jihadists.

"The common G5 force is not just a French question, it is a European question," said one EU diplomat, also drawing a link to the conflict in Libya.

Libya's embattled prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj will also be in Brussels on Monday.

EU steps up global counter-terrorism drive

EU foreign ministers vowed to increase the number of projects and financial support in different parts of the world ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, where leaders will focus on security and defence.

EU urges US not to start war with Iran

Europe's top diplomats have said US actions risked triggering a conflict with Iran, as America makes plans to pour troops into Middle East in echoes of Iraq war.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us