Europe backs Mali reconstruction
All European observers, including the Maltese, have expressed concern at the armed Islamist groups occupying northern Mali and oppressing the population. They noted that, had these groups managed to take control of the south of the country, the consequences would have been tragic, not only for Mali and its neighbours but also for Europe.
We all know that the creation of a sanctuary State for terrorists not far from the Mediterranean’s south shore would have represented a direct threat to the European continent at large and led hundreds of thousands of Malians on the path of exodus. The French intervention put an end to the dire ambitions of the terrorist groups in Mali and, by restoring liberty, gave hope back to the women and men of a whole country.
A few weeks from its beginning, what first conclusions can we draw? How can we now prepare and accompany Mali’s reconstruction? What role does Europe have?
The terrorist groups were strongly stricken: weakened, disorganised, they are now relentlessly hunted down, isolated from their logistical supply sources – in particular, from their fuel supply – and they have lost most of their material means and heavy weapons.
But these groups, many of which have found shelter in northern Mali mountains, remain a threat to the cities in the north they were driven out of, as was proved by the sporadic attacks and assaults perpetrated in the past few days.
They could also think of crossing the Libyan border. This is why cooperation between France, Malta and Libya’s other European partners to help the latter improve its security and have better control of its 4,000-kilometre-long border shall be decisive as well.
This is one of the main lessons we can draw from the international conference on support to Libya held in Paris on February 12. Malta participated actively in it and the French Government welcomes its concrete involvement.
From now on, the Malian State has to ensure its long-lasting presence on the recovered territory.
The European Union is about to deploy an important training mission in favour of the Malian army.
The donors’ conference, gathered in Addis Ababa on January 29, also decided that financial support by the international community should also be used to deploy an African force, consisting of several thousand men, according to Security Council resolution 2085.
Moreover, the Security Council could soon adopt a resolution authorising the despatch of Blue Helmets in the north of the country so that, in summer, the International Mission of Support in Mali – Misma’s military actions progressively give way to the peacekeeping operations of a United Nations Mission for Mali. In this context, the French troops are not meant to stay indefinitely in Mali, as the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, pointed out.
This planned withdrawal does not imply a disengagement of France. On his visit to Mali, on February 2, President François Hollande stated that France would be at the Malians’ side “right to the end”.
Indeed, France intends to work with all its European partners and with the support of the international community in order to help the Malian people “to win peace”, that is, to rebuild the rule of law, democracy and the country’s economy.
France and the EU have in fact planned to hold in spring a conference for Mali in order to mobilise international aid for this country’s development. The post-war period actually lays many challenges: a long-lasting re-establishment of security, national reconciliation, the displaced and refugees’ return – some 400,000 people fled from their home in a year, the administration comeback in the north, elections set up and the resumption of development programmes.
The French Minister for Development, Pascal Canfin, recently reminded that “the reasons that led Mali to the edge of the abyss – poverty, among others – have not disappeared. This challenge of development and democracy is, first of all, that of the Malian men and women but it is also that of the international community: there is no development without security; there is no lasting security without development”.
In all these areas, Europe can give Mali decisive help.
The Malian authorities recently adopted a political road map. In this framework, a dialogue with northern Mali communities and between them is necessary and has to be carried out as soon as possible, on the basis of Security Council resolution 2085, that is, safeguarding Mali’s territorial integrity and refusing armed violence.
A national reconciliation process is urgently needed: it relies on a trustful and sincere dialogue, the reconstruction of a State based on the respect of law (that must begin with the respect of the pre-eminence and the independence of civil power in regard of the army and the holding, under the right conditions, of the elections scheduled for July 7 and 21). It must move along with an emergency humanitarian aid and strong support to the economic and social development of this country, which is still among the poorest.
France had already reinforced its financial and humanitarian support to Mali and looks forward to the planned resumption of 30 European development programmes. The total amount of the EU’s aid will go up to €250 million, with France contributing about €141 million.
In the coming months, Mali will need help and support from the EU and from each member state. In a way, we are neighbours and, therefore, we feel a sense of solidarity with Mali.
Michel Vandepoorter is the Ambassador of France to Malta.