EU Foreign Ministers convene on Thursday to an extraordinary meeting on the situation in Mali. Finland, like all the other EU member states, is worried about the situation which threatens to destabilize the wider Western and Northern Africa region. If Mali becomes a failed state where terrorists and radical islamists are in power, the situation will be a threat also to the European security – not to even mention the suffering of the people of the region.
The UN Security Council has repeatedly discussed the issue and adopted resolutions in preparation for the actions of the international community to stabilize the situation in Mali and to support the government in its efforts against the radical islamists. The countries of the region have taken the initiative foran international intervention, which is being planned in the format of an operation led by the African countries (AFISMA, African-led International Support Mission in Mali).
However, the situation changed rapidly for the worse recently as the radical islamists were able to advance and threaten the position of the Malian army. In that situation France launched an operation, following a request by the government of Mali, to support the Malian army and to protect the capital of Mali, Bamako. The operation has received support from e.g. the countries of the region and the Secretary General of the UN.
It is important for the international community to unite in support of the territorial integrity of Mali and condemns the actions by the radical islamists, which can be characterized as terrorism. Also Finland supports the aims of the Western African countries, the African Union and France to stabilize the situation in Mali and to stop the advance of the radical islamists. The humanitarian situation in Mali is quickly worsening. Half a million Malians are in need of immediate food aid. The situation of the civilian population must be secured.
The EU has already for some time been preparing for a crisis management operation to focus on training and adivising of the Malian army. Finland for its part is preparing to participate in this training operation, which the EU now aims to launch at an accelerated pace. Possibilities for Nordic cooperation in the operation are also under examination.
In addition to launchingthe training operation the EU is also preparing for financial support for the AFISMA troops, which will – together with the Malian army – be tasked with curbing the radical islamists, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution. The EU also supports Mali through its development cooperation funding and humanitarian aid.
Finland has participated in almost all the crisis management operations of the EU during its membership. Currently for example, Finland participates in the training mission of the Somali armed forces, which is a similar mission as the planned operation in Mali. Participation in these training missions doesn’t include taking part in any combat activities. Also, participation is not based on the mistaken assumption that stabilization of any country or prevention of any radical group’s quest for power could ever be achieved only through use of military force. In Mali too, this is about creating preconditions for a common political solution eventually reached at by all the sides that are committed to democracy.
The quick launch of the EU operation will be a kindof a lithmus test for the Union. The EU has in its Common Security and Defence Policy – and especially in crisis management – already for some time aimed at quick reaction capability in crisis situations and effectively excercising its role as a responsible international actor. If the EU succeeds in giving wide-ranging support to Mali and launching its training operation quickly, these actions will strengthen its credibility in its efforts to solve international problems.
It is important, that also in Mali the UN Security Council has paved the way for the actions of the international community and that the countries of the region bear responsibility for dealing with the situation. TheEU’s role is to support these efforts, and Finland should be part of this endeavour. It is a question of our common security.