I write after coming back from Africa – my tenth visit in two years to sub-Saharan Africa, because that region is crucial to Europe, to the Mediterranean, and to the security of our continent.
Liberia, first, where I met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the first woman to be elected as President of an African country – and I took part in the Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). This is a region where democracy is taking hold, with growing strength. This Community of States believes – as we Europeans do – that regional cooperation and integration are the best means to guarantee collective peace and security. We saw it in The Gambia, where the ECOWAS’ intervention allowed for a peaceful transition after the latest Presidential election. Here is my speech at the Summit (in English and French).
The second stop of my visit was to Mali: a crucial country to the stability of the Sahel, North Africa and the Mediterranean, which is trying to recover from a civil war and to tackle the terrorist threat. The European Union provides a unique contribution to this region’s stability – and as a consequence, to our region’s stability: we mobilise humanitarian aid, but also incentives to private investments, a Trust Fund to address the causes that push men and women to leave their homes in the Sahel, and a fundamental support by our troops and security experts.
I began with a visit to the two European missions – one civilian, one military – that are supporting the Malian armed and police forces as they take responsibility for their country’s security. I took part in a meeting of the Follow-up Committee overlooking on the implementation of the peace agreement that put an end to the civil war: there I announced a new contribution of the European Union to support peace (here is the text of my speech, in French). I met with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and together we discussed the peace process, the fight against terrorism, and the management of migratory flows. Together with the region’s Foreign Ministers, I listened to a group of young men and women from the Sahel, the Maghreb and Europe: the European Union invited them to Bamako, to discuss common projects and how to turn them into reality.
On top of that, and crucially, in Bamako we held the third meeting of the European Union with the Foreign Ministers of the G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania). Over the last two years, we have built up a very strong partnership and friendship: so we are now working together on all the great priorities we share – from the fight against terrorism to creating good economic opportunities for our youth, from climate change to migration.
This year, the five Sahel countries have decided to set up a joint military force, to engage together in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and all traffics crossing their borders – starting with human trafficking. It is an important choice, which the European Union has decided to support with a 50 million euro contribution. Here is the press release, and here is the press conference with Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop.
Finally, the trip to West Africa was also the opportunity for an important meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: in Monrovia, we talked about perspectives for the Middle East peace process, and the European Union’s role in relaunching it. Here is the press release.