EU Vice President stresses African solutions at Schuman Forum

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“African solutions to African problems” was one point made by European Union (EU) Vice President Josep Borrell in a wide-ranging address to this week’s Schuman Security and Defence Forum in Brussels.

The forum, the second of its kind, is seen as the European bloc’s flagship gathering solely for engaging its global partners on issued of defence, peace and security.

On solutions to end conflict and bring some measure of peace to Africa, Borrell repeated the “African solutions to African problems” adding “we [the EU] believe in it”.

“To build these African solutions, last year, summing up, this is what I have done since I came to Brussels we have allocated almost €1 billion in military support (through the EPF [European Peace Facility]) to the African Union (AU) and African countries.

“We are drawing lessons from the setbacks experienced in the Sahel region by developing more flexible and accurate solutions. We have to learn from what is happening in [the] Sahel in order to engage better, more efficiently with our partners.

“A good example is the new (security and defence) initiative in the Gulf of Guinea launched last December to address the spill-over of instability from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea. We see that with open eyes. We have been talking about it, it happens. Terrorism activities are spilling over down from Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea. It requires a more flexible and fitted response to this threat.

“I was in Ghana providing more than 100 armoured vehicles to the army. But we need a tailor-made support based on the needs identified by the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), by Ghana, by Togo and Benin,” his address reads in part.

On freedom of navigation Borrell said it was “a major public good”.

“Imagine for a minute that sea transportation stops. How would our life be everywhere around the world? No more ships transporting goods from one part of the world to another.

“It would be a catastrophe. Not only for Europeans, who are the biggest exporters and importers, but for everybody. Food, energy and technology flow through the seas every day. Hundreds, thousands of ships. They are navigating freely,” he said adding there are “some piracy attacks and we deploy missions to prevent them. Now there are rocket attacks”.

“That is why we have EU NavFor Atalanta in the Horn of Africa, our co-ordinated maritime presence in the Gulf of Guinea and we are ready to deploy any mission where it could be useful to ensure freedom of navigation.

“EU NavFor Aspides which has been criticised is in the Red Sea. In less than two months, it escorted more than 100 merchant vessels and repelled 16 rocket attacks. You cannot imagine how many people are knocking on my door in Brussels saying, ‘Please, ensure freedom of navigation. Ensure that the ships go through the shortest way’. Egypt is losing a lot of money. People are waiting more than two weeks with the cost it represents for ships arriving in their harbours.

“This is an inconvenience – not only for the ones that receive the goods, but also for the ones transiting, exporting the goods. It is a very important issue. Today, it is being identified in some places in the world, but we see piracy increasing in many other places,” he told forum delegates.