Will/should the EU do militarily something more in Africa?

While talking about EU defence, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but also many others, said Europe had a keen interest in stabilizing Africa: As Europeans, we want a coordinated approach there. But should the EU, Europeans really step up the military role in Africa, military wise what can we realistically do in Africa? Read few comments.

Lorenzo NannettiInternational Affairs Analyst

I’m not so sure Merkel was referring to military effort only. Other analysts noted she was talking about the economic development of Africa too, and likely any “stabilization effort” will have to go towards comprehensive solutions. EU as a whole is unlikely to have a strikingly more relevant military role in Africa, as efforts will continue to be driven by single nations (France is a prime example of this) while others prefer not to be involved or just offer a support role (logistics, equipment,…). Very few countries are keen to send thousands of men in Africa for stabilization, unless in very special occasions.

It could therefore be quite similar to what is being done now: training, use of small forces in key hot spots, drones and surveillance equipments (possibly with strikes on selected targets with local country’s approval), support to local forces. What could change is that EU leadership in such missions could become the norm instead of waiting for US approval or NATO consensus (if missing).

I feel there may be, possibly, a key difference, not really in the level of EU effort, but on its focus and coordination.
Bluntly said, every EU country with stakes in Africa is mainly interested in protecting its own interests. So we have Italy ready to protect its assets in Libya, and going as far as sending paratroopers to protect a military hospital near Misurata. France protecting its interests in the Sahel region through Barkhane and so on.

But here Germany (and France likely, with Macron) may have a focused interest in having a common direction and have all those efforts stay in a wider, coordinated framework.

Whether that has any tangible effect is to be seen – but if it can have any, it will only be because it’s coupled with a different approach on economic development. Again, Germany has presented some new ideas here and could be the driving force here.

Open question: is this another sign we are steering more towards a German leadership in Europe on defense? Many would object owing to national pride, but it looks like Merkel is filling a role that no-one else is willing to take: make wide-ranging proposals, take the lead in decision-making, and trying to build consensus on this. France with Macron could be an effective balance, but what about the others?

Mattia Toaldo, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

There are three areas on which I think Europe can do something militarily. In Libya, it needs to keep up the training of the local security forces and if possible to boost it by for example providing assistance on the registration of migrants. In Tunisia, it must step up its efforts to help the security forces reform in order to become truly democratic and at the same time increase their effectiveness in countering terrorism. In Egypt, Europe should be careful in participating in what is presented by the regime as “counterterrorism” and is effectively mostly repression of the opposition which in turn contributes to the radicalisation of the youth.

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