Implications of EU's external defence policy on African security

Paris- France (PANA) -- As the European Union intensifies integration within its member countries, expansion to the East European countries is expected to position Europe as a power both at home and abroad.
In January 2002 the EU is to launch of Euro, the single monetary currency for the bloc expected to be to the US dollar what the Boeing is to the Airbus - a competitive currency on the global scene and hence a rival to the dollar which for years has held sway as the currency of global economic reserves and exchanges.
Just as a currency expresses the power of an economy, the Euro is expected to launch Europe as a major player on the global scene where some countries of the globe would be attracted to hold their reserves in the Euro instead of the dollar.
Besides monetary power, which is crucial for strengthening military might, Europe has ambitions to develop an autonomous defence policy with powers to act outside of the common defence arrangement pursued under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
An autonomous EU external defence policy has several implications for Africa.
With an expanded EU to Eastern Europe, much more attention for European security would be focused on strengthening security within the EU and its Eastern European cousins.
Security for other regions of the world would be secondary.
Already France, Britain and the USA have developed various defence support strategies for Africa's defence forces expected to reinforce Africa's military capacities to take charge of Africa's security and peace keeping arrangements themselves.
France and Britain, who have stronger historical links with Africa, would see a radical shift in their defence co-operation arrangements with African states much more than other EU countries.
Due to strong historical ties and commercial interests with Africa, Paris and London would like to influence the evolution of any eventual EU external defence policy towards the continent.
A lot of the changes to any French or British defence policies towards Africa would be influenced by the way an EU wide external defence policy evolves and the type of governments in power, whether socialists or conservatives.
In France, for instance, the socialist government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has done a lot to evolve an Africa- friendly policy.
It was, for instance, under the current socialists France marked a departure from intervening in internal African affairs.
"Lack of interference does not, however, mean abandon," French cooperation minister Charles Josselin cautioned.
Jospin's government has indeed continued to provide various support notably under the RECAMP framework to strengthen African military troops capacities for peacekeeping.
France and Britain as well as the USA have therefore notably been in the forefront in assisting African countries to build their military forces' capacities in order to be much more equipped to deal with peace-keeping and conflict prevention duties on the continent themselves.
Earlier, France had defence co-operation arrangements with mainly Francophone African countries in which Paris could intervene when an African state was faced with external aggression.
A lot has changed after the policy came under severe attack that it was helping to maintain despots in power on the continent instead.
Due to this evolving new French policy towards Africa, France has gradually evolved a disengagement policy manifest in the closure of several of its military bases on the continent with a few remaining in places of strategic interest to France, considering the extensive economic interest France holds in mainly Francophone Africa.
Eventually there would be no need to maintain any French military bases on the continent, notably in view of the on-going support to boost Africa's capacity to oversee its own security.
Any new EU external defence policy therefore would definitely change France's defence policy towards Africa.
For starters, indicators are such that the EU does not want to have an army in Africa to police the continent's security.
Such indications are obvious even within the current MONUC forces in DRC as none are from European states.
Africans would have to make do with logistical support from Europe, and other western countries, hence the assistance already being provided by these western states to reinforce African defence forces capacities to undertake the task.
But are African states ready to defend their own borders? Lessons to be drawn from an eventual EU defence policy for Africa are many.
That Africans must begin to realise that Africa's security lies in their own hands.
The outside world can help but a lot depends on Africans themselves who must promote democratic states where good governance is pursued under the rule of law to prevent conflicts.
Only then can African states cultivate a positive climate in which to map out common security policies, as is the case under ECOMOG in West Africa to defend peace on the continent.
It is in the African states' interest to promote peace through good governance as Europe and America would in the 21st century be more pre-occupied with their own security than that of outside of their borders for which they would only provide limited support.
Considering Africa's weak economic state, African countries can least afford conflicts, which are costly and divert resources from pressing social needs.

16 september 2001 10:24:00

xhtml CSS