Central African Republic
On the Central African Republic, let me remind you that the country was foundering. We’re accused of not acting quickly enough, but the President had alerted the UN in September to the situation in the country; he was the first to take a decision. The day before, 1,000 deaths had been recorded. Without our intervention, there could have been many more – perhaps 50,000?
When a friendly country finds itself in difficulty and requires your intervention, you can’t look away. For all that, we’re not usurping the Africans’ role. We’re providing security support, particularly through disarmament, the protection of the humanitarian airport and assistance with the democratic transition. An election isn’t enough to resolve the problems, but nothing is possible without it.
There’s no contradiction between the presence of MISCA [AFISM-CAR] and a peacekeeping operation under the UN’s aegis. The latter would come only after six months and would play a role complementary to that of MISCA – the organization of elections, for example. When the time comes, the bulk of the blue helments will be African.
By their own admission, most African countries don’t have the means to resolve crises themselves: it requires material resources and defence staff; in those countries, it’s not that simple. France is called upon because it’s effective and is liked. The only way of overcoming the contradiction is by building an inter-African force, as the African Union is proposing for 2015.
Would we be alone in Europe? We discussed the issue very frequently with our partners before our interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic. Defence Europe doesn’t exist. We regret that, but it’s a fact.
There are units which, on paper, can bring together 1,500 soldiers. For the coming six-month period, Britain is leading this. But those who have the leadership cover the costs. When we consulted our British friends on the intervention in the Central African Republic, they replied that it was too expensive and too European. As for the other European countries, some don’t have appropriate troops, others have difficulties with their parliaments, and others don’t want to take part… It’s regrettable but that’s how things are. (…) We’ll be having a ministerial meeting on 20 January, with a report by Mrs Ashton, to find short- and medium-term solutions to the crisis in the CAR. I admit to you that I can’t persuade all our partners of the need for Defence Europe on my own. (…)./.