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Europe ‘failed to strengthen democracy’ in Sahel, says EU’s top diplomat

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday that 600 million euros spent on training security personnel in the Sahel had “failed to strengthen democracy”. His comments follow recent coups in Niger and Gabon.

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At the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told MPs that millions spent on military training in the Sahel had “not helped the armed forces support democratically elected governments”.

He told them: “When I do my calculations, it shows me that over the last ten years we have spent more than 600 million euros on civil and military training missions in the Sahel.”

Borrell, who is the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, added that he did not see a “bright future” for a civilian training mission working with Niger’s internal security forces. .

Policy Review

He added that the EU may have focused too much on strengthening the armed forces and not worked enough with civil societies in the region.

“Should we revise our policy in the Sahel? Well, yes, it is absolutely true that we have a more strategic and less tactical approach,” Borrell said.

A mission planned earlier this year to build the capacity of Niger’s military is unlikely to proceed, he said.

Regional support

The coup in Niger was the third armed takeover in the Sahel in recent years, following putsches in the neighboring former French colonies of Mali and Burkina Faso.

The EU has already had to scale back its training mission in Mali after the junta that took power in 2021 brought in mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, holds a press conference during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers held in Toledo on 31 August 2023. AFP – PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Over the past ten years, around 50,000 security and military personnel have been trained with EU money in Sahel countries, including Niger and Mali.

According to Sahel expert Thierry Vircoulon, the more funds France and the EU injected into the “fight against terrorism”, the more the Nigerien military could siphon off for themselves, creating an impossible situation for the president and his government.

But Borrell concluded that the EU should not abandon the Sahel states, but should instead provide more support to the West African ECOWAS bloc.

(with press wires)


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