The European defense ministers in Brest. | VINCENT MOUCHEL
The Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs of the 27 countries of the European Union held informal meetings on Thursday in France. Their goal is to find an agreement in the coming months on a “strategic compass”, also called “White Paper on Defense for the European Union”. This military strategy document, which will be adopted in March 2022, defines the security priorities of the Member States for the coming years.
This first meeting under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union focused on space, tensions in Ukraine and Mali.
A European space?
The ministers discussed the problems of access to and use of common strategic spaces, which are the subject of increasingly intense competition. These include space, air and maritime spaces. Common rules are being flouted, or even non-existent. We call for the development of a European strategy dedicated to security and defense in these areas, said the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly.
Strengthening maritime cooperation
Europe also wants to strengthen itself in the maritime field. The French minister recalled the need to develop a more global coordinated maritime presence. And to add that France supports the deployment of armed forces in the Gulf of Guinea, and calls for an intervention in the northwest Indian Ocean. And this, from this year.
Ukraine: new diplomatic sequence
The conflict in eastern Ukraine was also discussed. The West accuses Moscow of having massed 100,000 soldiers and artillery on the border with Ukraine in recent weeks to prepare an attack on that country. This intention is denied by Russia, which assures that it simply wants to preserve its territorial security and stop the expansion of NATO. Indeed, Ukraine has ambitions to join the Alliance
If senior officials assure that dialogue is the only way to ease tensions with Russia, as Europeans, we are also ready to assume our responsibilities and to bring massive consequences on Russia if it dares to launch an offensive on its neighbor, decided Florence Parly.
Mali: applied sanctions at the heart of the discussions
The situation in Mali was of course part of the discussions. The European Ministers of Defense maintain that the European military training and advisory missions to the Malian armed and security forces must continue. But for the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, the arrival of Russian mercenaries from Wagner will only increase the difficulties and the risk that the situation in this country will worsen is obvious.
Budgetary aid to the Malian authorities was suspended in the face of the military junta’s refusal to hold elections to hand over power to civilians last February.
Mais il n’y a aucun signe de progression. We will monitor the situation closely and take action accordingly, the EU diplomatic chief concluded.
Mali is more landlocked than ever. Mali is more landlocked than ever. The European Union will surely follow the very tough sanctions, which were decided by ECOWAS* on Sunday evening following the harsh words of the United States and France to NATO.
Among the sanctions adopted last Sunday are the freezing of Malian state assets at the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)*, the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Mali, the recall of ambassadors, and the suspension of commercial and financial transactions with the country except for food, pharmaceutical and petroleum products.
This was seen as an attack on Malian sovereignty, and the Malian press saw a national outburst behind Colonel Assimi Goïta, head of the military junta. Aware of this, he called for a “social truce” the day after the ECOWAS sanctions were announced. This call was directed in particular to teachers who were on strike. The leaders of the teachers’ unions “suspended” the strike without any concession from the junta.
ECOWAS: Economic Community of West African States WAEMU: West African Economic and Monetary Union