“I am not physically present at this time in Nouakchott but know that I am with all my heart with you“, said the President of the EU Council Charles Michel, addressing the Summit in Mauritania capital, Nouakchott via teleconference. In his speech “Alongside the G5 Sahel, the European Union keeps its commitments” he reiterated the message of support and determination of the EU to continue the strategy of joined international efforts to defend Sahel from criminal networks, and terrorism.
I naturally want to start by thanking you, in a friendly and warm way, dear President in office of the G5 Sahel, Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani. I would also like to thank the President of France, dear Emmanuel Macron, for joining me again in these essential exchanges. I also want to salute the participation of the different countries that join us. I see this as a sign of a dynamic that is encouraging.
The Pau Summit last January was an opportunity to give new impetus to our relations. It is up to us to transform the test, while the situation on the ground, as we know, remains difficult, remains worrying on different fronts. Violence has claimed some 4,500 lives in the Sahel in the past 6 months. And we know that the pandemic we are facing does not help the situation.
As you know, in January in Pau, we agreed to organize a G5 Sahel-EU summit. It took place virtually on April 28. It was an extension of our meeting in Pau. This April 28 Virtual Summit was a boost for our partnership. It was an opportunity to reaffirm our mutual responsibilities. It was an opportunity to re-mobilize all the European institutions and the Member States of the European Union. In a way, he “Europeanized” the Coalition for the Sahel. An additional step was taken with the Ministerial Conference on June 12 which “internationalized” this Coalition, which is naturally essential. I of course welcome the commitment of the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, and the International Organization of La Francophonie.
Since the Pau Summit, we have made precise and very concrete progress. They are all testimony to this commitment that we want to strengthen alongside you:
– First, more and more European Member States are either already contributing or are going to contribute to Takuba, by deploying special forces or equipment, or by politically supporting this task force;
– Then, we have just adopted a new program to support Niger’s efforts in the fight against criminal networks linked to terrorism. You know that we were inspired for this by the excellent work of the Joint Investigation Teams which are already mobilized in the fight against the smuggling of migrants;
– The EU training mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) has seen its mandate extended and its budget reinforced. As I speak, 95% of the workforce requested has already been made available by the 22 out of 27 Member States participating. As soon as conditions allow, we will deploy the entire workforce;
– Finally, we reconstructed the Joint Force Command Post which has just been inaugurated in Bamako, two years after the attack which had destroyed the headquarters of Sévaré;
– In addition, nearly 200 million euros in additional funding has been announced to strengthen security, stability and resilience in the region. And concrete projects are ready to be launched;
– The same dynamic is at work concerning support for the deployment of the State and basic services. This is the keystone, as we well know, for our stabilization efforts, with the P3S initiative . The European Union will also coordinate it;
– You also know that we are working to update our strategy for the Sahel, in dialogue and of course taking into account your priorities;
– Finally, a word, Mr President, you mentioned it and we have discussed it together in recent months, concerning debts. You know that this is an issue that is close to my heart and for which I wish to take action. Because I consider this question legitimate, certainly at a time when your economies, your societies, are under pressure, a fortiori in connection with this crisis of COVID-19 which strikes us and strikes you.
I can hear your appeal on the subject of debt cancellation. You know that I am committed to being sincerely involved on this subject, and I do intend to open the debate. It is done, in the European space this debate has now started. Within the European Union, the ministers for international cooperation have taken up the subject – an important subject also for Heads of State and Government. I also intend to conduct this debate within the framework of our international contacts. I thus had the opportunity, in the last virtual summits in which we participated, with Japan, with China also a few days ago, to systematically put this point of debts on the agenda. Because we understand that this is an issue that must mobilize the entire international community.
I also know that we can also count on Italy, which will assume the presidency of the G20 next year, and which, I am sure, will have a positive outlook, in particular on the debt moratorium. It is a work of conviction to carry out. And it is my intention, modestly but tenaciously, to take my part on behalf of the European Union. Finally, dear friends, you know that my ambition, my hope, is to be able to organize a meeting between the countries of the European Union and the G5 Sahel in order to continue to address all the subjects. As you can see, European commitment is not an artificial incantation: it is a reality with commitments and concrete effects. We can and must build together an area of security and economic prosperity. We must build an area where good governance reigns, and where the rule of law and fundamental rights also prevail. And I would like to say that the rule of law is not a footnote. The strength and honor of a state governed by the rule of law is not to fall into the trap of violence from its enemies. It’s not to look like the ones we fight. It is to make justice prevail – the same for all, the same for everyone. A word to conclude. We agreed at our previous summit to meet again with the leaders of the G5 Sahel. I am sure that with President Ghazouani, we will have the opportunity to work actively with you, with all of our peers, to try to continue to progress together. You can count on the commitment of the European Union. We stand by your side. I send you from Brussels my sincere and friendly greetings to those who are physically present in Nouakchott”