The Agenda 2020

BERLIN/PARIS/BANGUI/BAMAKO | | malifrankreich

BERLIN/PARIS/BANGUI/BAMAKO (Own report) - The EU has announced a military intervention into the Central African Republic. Last Monday, EU foreign ministers in Brussels decided to soon send soldiers from several EU countries to Bangui to support French troops in that country. The Bundeswehr will most likely participate with transport aircraft and a MedEvac Airbus. The German Foreign Minster has also suggested the possibility of expanding the deployment of German military in Mali. This is where the Franco-German Brigade is due to make its first major deployment. But the power struggle between Germany and France continues to loom in the background. Berlin wants to use the mission in Mali to break France's exclusive influence in the West African francophone countries. Members of the Bundeswehr have announced that "over the next few years" Germany will have "to deal with Africa, particularly its north and center." Even before ending its (partial) withdrawal from Afghanistan, Germany is already focusing on a new intervention - in line with the global offensive Berlin's foreign policy establishment has been pushing for with growing intensity since last autumn.

The Traditional Regulatory Power

Last Monday, EU foreign ministers decided to rapidly deploy EU troops to the Central African Republic, because of the threat of the country's violent clashes escalating. France has already stationed its troops in the country and is trying to assert its traditional role as the "regulatory power" in African francophone countries. To provide relief for its army, which is already involved in Mali, Paris has pressured the EU into participating in an intervention. According to yesterday's decision, soldiers from various EU countries will soon be deployed to Bangui - 500 soldiers are presently under consideration. Berlin will probably contribute air transport, in-flight refueling and an Air Force MedEvac Airbus to rescue the wounded. Should Paris provide the intervention's headquarters - which seems likely - Brussels would help finance part of its future mission in Bangui.

German "Schutztruppe"

Already last weekend, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested the possibility of expanding the deployment of German troops in Mali. Mali, like the Central African Republic, is one of the francophone countries, where France is deploying the, by far, largest contingent and is therefore seeking relief. "We have to examine ways to increase our support, for example in Mali," Steinmeier declared.[1] The Süddeutsche Zeitung had previously, reported that Germany is already planning to boost the size of its troops. Soldiers of the Franco-German Brigade are due to soon be sent to Mali. "Military circles" are planning to station a "Schutztruppe" (a protection force)[2] in Bamako and to "deploy another military unit in a smaller town to secure a training project." It is also very interesting that, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung last week, Inspector General Volker Wieker announced in the Bundestag's Defense Committee an "increase" in the German "commitment in Mali."[3] In Germany, it is the parliament - rather than the Inspector General - which officially decides on military missions.

The Most Important Partner

This new Africa offensive illustrates the current state of the power struggle between Berlin and Paris over the predominance in EU military policy. Since the beginning of planning for a common EU military policy, Germany has been blocking - or reducing to a minimum - interventions in the francophone countries, so as not to help France shore up its role as a "regulatory power." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) Berlin has supported longer interventions only in Southeast Europe or in non-francophone African countries (Sudan, Horn of Africa), where it pursues its own interests. This policy has only been carefully revised since its participation in early 2013 in the Mali intervention. This has been accompanied by an attempt to break the predominating French influence in the francophone West African countries and strengthen German positions.[5] Mali can serve as the best example. Last December, the German Chancellor held negotiations with the Malian President on increasing German activities in that West African country. Following the negotiations, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta explained to the press that Germany is enjoying "the diplomatic code 001" in Mali and is "the most important partner."[6] Up to now, France has held this position.

An Unequal Trade-Off

Now, Berlin is accordingly reinforcing Bundeswehr units in Mali. German interests in the Central African Republic can be succinctly summed up by pointing to the fact that Berlin does not even maintain a diplomatic mission in that country. This is why Chancellor Merkel had categorically ruled out sending German ground troops to that country last year. There is a dual reason for Berlin's current partial change in policy of no longer blocking an EU mission to the Central African Republic and of even making several Bundeswehr aircraft available. On the one hand, France's president gave up his final resistance to the German Euro austerity dictate last week. He officially announced double-digit billions in budget cuts and lucrative favors for business - modeled along the lines of the German "Agenda 2010". For Europe, this has economically dealt Berlin a free hand.[7] Commentaries in the media have clearly made allusion to a trade-off between Hollande's "promises of reforms" and Berlin's approval of the EU mission to the Central African Republic.[8] Albeit, this trade-off has a strict time limit. The German Foreign Minister made it clear that the intervention in the Central African Republic is a "European stop-gap mission," which will be terminated as soon as an African intervention force of sufficient strength is ready for deployment.[9] Berlin has also blocked the deployment of an EU battle group to that country. Therefore Paris has only limited "European" means at its disposal for a limited amount of time.

German Global Policy

On the other hand, the intervention in the Central African Republic and, above all, the reinforcement of German troops in Mali, provide an opportunity for an ostentatious build-up of the German-European presence is sub-Saharan Africa. In the fall of 2013, Berlin had launched a PR offensive for a more aggressive global policy.[10] In German concepts, EU military interventions - more than those of NATO - will play fundamental roles in the future. At the Bundeswehr's Annual Reception in Potsdam last week, commander of the Bundeswehr's Joint Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Hans-Werner Fritz announced "that we will be dealing with Africa, particularly its north and center, for the next few years."[11] Berlin's policy toward Mali is an indication that, below the surface of EU military interventions, massive German efforts to break France's influence in Francophonie can be expected.

The New Europe

Over the past few days, the head editor of the foreign policy desk of the Süddeutsche Zeitung had also reported on the expansion of German operations in Africa. This editor is among the "elite journalists" listed in a recent scientific study, who propagates the views of the leading political/military circles of commanders to public opinion - using, at times propaganda techniques.[12] "Mali and Central Africa," that editor explained, even in the context of German-French rivalry, are "test cases" for "a new European balance." "The script for this new Europe is not yet on the table," he wrote, "but the appetite to write it is growing." The expansion and reinforcement of the common EU military policy in Africa has the wherewithal to become "an Agenda 2020 in foreign policy."[13]

[1] Steinmeier prüft Bundeswehr-Einsatz in Mali. www.finanznachrichten.de 18.01.2014.
[2] "Schutztruppe" war die offizielle Bezeichnung für die Kolonialtruppen in den Kolonien des Deutschen Kaiserreichs.
[3] Christoph Hickmann, Stefan Kornelius: Bundesregierung bereitet Afrika-Einsatz vor. www.sueddeutsche.de 17.01.2014.
[4] See Desert War and Die Abkopplung Frankreichs.
[5] See Nur ein erstes Signal.
[6] See Deutschland 001.
[7] See Le Modèle Gerhard Schröder.
[8] Stefan Kornelius: Nach Afrika, für Europa. www.sueddeutsche.de 20.01.2014.
[9] EU beschließt Militärmission in Zentralafrika. www.spiegel.de 20.01.2014.
[10] See Sleeping Demons, The Re-Evaluation of German Foreign Policy and Bereit zur globalen Ordnungspolitik.
[11] Daniel Brössler, Christoph Hickmann, Stefan Kornelius: Wie Deutschland den Franzosen in Afrika hilft. www.sueddeutsche.de 18.01.2014.
[12] See Elitejournalisten and Rezension: Uwe Krüger: Meinungsmacht.
[13] Stefan Kornelius: Nach Afrika, für Europa. www.sueddeutsche.de 20.01.2014.