Saturday

21st May 2022

EU keen to 'scale up' military training in Africa

  • EU and African leaders preparing to meet in Brussels next week
Listen to article

The EU wants to "scale up" its military presence in Africa, but with strings attached on human rights, and amid broader concern on civil liberties, according to a leak of the draft EU-African Union summit statement seen by EUobserver on Friday (11 February).

"At the request of African partners, the EU is ready, by providing adequate training and equipment, to strengthen and scale up autonomous peace operations of African defence and security forces, including through its [EU military] missions," EU and African leaders planned to say at a summit in Brussels next week, according to the draft.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The summit comes amid a geopolitical beauty contest in Africa, where Russia and China are vying with the EU for influence in the resource-rich continent.

The draft summit statement described Europe's existing arcs of military deployment in Africa in grand terms as stretching "from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea, and from the Horn of Africa to the Mozambique canal".

"Facing growing common security challenges, we announce a new Africa-Europe peace and security architecture," it said.

The EU currently has 11 military and naval missions in Africa. It is planning to expand its anti-piracy naval missions off Nigeria and Somalia. EU and Nato states also take part in added coalitions of the willing, such as the Takuba and Barkhane counter-terrorist forces in Mali.

And the summit declaration spoke of "evolving towards a more structured cooperation of European and African security forces," in future.

The EU was also pumping billions into infrastructure and green transition investments in Africa as part of the summit deal, the draft noted.

And it was funding African access to Covid vaccines to sweeten its proposals.

Gender and LGBTQI

But it was also seeking fresh guarantees on human rights and civil liberties from the African leaders.

"We will respect and promote compliance with human rights, international humanitarian law, including by committing to effective humanitarian civil-military coordination," the draft declaration said, setting a condition for enhanced military cooperation.

The EU concern comes in an environment in which Russian forces, spearheaded by Kremlin-linked mercenaries, are carving out advances in central and western Africa in more brutal ways.

The Kremlin-linked Wagner Group recently prompted the EU to fold a military training mission in the Central African Republic after the Russians recruited an EU-trained battalion to fight under their command.

And hundreds of Wagner Group fighters arriving in Mali are now putting the EU military presence there under similar pressure.

Meanwhile, China is investing billions of dollars into African businesses across more than 16 countries, with no small print on rights.

But the EU-AU draft declaration risked going beyond the normal safeground on "shared values" to be found in European declarations of this type by touching on the subjects of women's and LGBTQI rights.

The text spoke of "a shared vision ... acknowledgement of history, human ties, the protection of sovereignty, mutual respect and accountability, shared values".

But it also highlighted the importance of "gender equality and women's empowerment in all spheres of life" in its second paragraph.

And as part of its health package, it said the "EU reaffirms its commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence".

Next week's overarching EU-Africa summit goals were meant to be "translated into concrete projects and flagships", the draft declaration suggested.

"This draft proposal will be negotiated with the African Union in order to ensure joint ownership of the AU-EU declaration," it also noted in a caveat.

LGBTQI rights were not mentioned in the last EU-Africa summit statement, in Abidjan, in 2017, which spoke only of commitments on "sexual and reproductive health".

Homosexuality is against the law in dozens of African states.

EU and African diplomats will probably hold a "last meeting to lock the [final 2022] text", on 15 February, an EU diplomat said.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.

EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities

EU countries need to refill stockpiles after several member states supplied weapons to Ukraine in its fight with Russia, and to phase out existing Soviet-era weapons systems, and reinforce air defence.

UK and EU edge closer to trade war over Northern Ireland

The EU warning comes after the UK government escalated the conflict over the Northern Ireland protocol — a set of post-Brexit trade rules — by saying it will unilaterally pass a law to change the EU-UK trade treaty.

Podcast

Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.

Opinion

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  2. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  3. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  4. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  5. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  6. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  7. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  8. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us