Cosmetic EU operation In Congo
With 2,000 soldiers, the coming operation is largely cosmetic. Like
most cosmetic operations, it is more about European form than African
substance, comforting rhetoric than relevant action.
mission's rationale has more to do with French-German cohesion and with
the EU's desire to bolster the credibility of the European Security and
Defense Policy after the fiasco over the European constitutional
treaty's rejection in referendums in France and the Netherlands. The
actual reality on the ground in Congo is only a secondary factor.
operation, to be led by Germany, will reinforce the 17,000-strong UN
mission already in place. Expected to last four months, it is intended
to enhance security during the elections in Congo, currently scheduled
for July 30.
Germany and France will provide more than two-
thirds of the EU force, with the remaining third contributed by a total
of 16 other European states, including Turkey.
demonstrating Europe's willingness to become a relevant peacekeeper,
however, this mission underlines its current incapacity to be a
To begin with, it took many months to get the
mission off the ground. The UN request was made in December 2005, but
it was not until March 2006 that the EU answered in the affirmative.
Such a time frame reflects the difficulty of reaching even a minimal
consensus among EU members and inside governing coalitions. It is a
sure indication that the mission is not about urgent crisis management
or pressing strategic interests.
But it is not about failed
states and democratic governance either. If the Union was serious about
the electoral process in Congo, it would deploy troops where troubles
are likely to arise, in the east, not in Kinshasa. Eastern Congo,
however, is precisely where EU forces will not go.
broadly, if the EU was serious about human rights, it would have
intervened two years ago to prevent a genocide in Sudan, now spreading
into Chad, by at least policing the refugee camps in Darfur.)
force generation process is slow and constraining. Yes, it is
encouraging to see Germany and other European countries accept military
responsibilities in Africa. Yet, the operation is limited, brief,
risk-averse and ultimately ineffective. Of the 780- strong German
contingent, only about 100 soldiers will actually be deployed in
Kinshasa. The overwhelming majority will be on standby next door in
Gabon. Their mandate will not start before election day.
caveats and rules of engagement will further constrain their
performance. How the EU force, under these circumstances, is supposed
to create a safe environment for elections is hard to see. Deterrence
is supposed to be the key goal, but such a limited and dispersed force
is an invitation for provocations.
EU officials will point to
the success of Mission Artemis in Congo in 2003. It was indeed a
beneficial venture, mostly because the French were ready to take risks
and conduct off-mandate operations on the ground. It is unlikely that
the Germans will accept such risks.
To use force is what
soldiers usually do and are trained to do. But Germany and many other
EU states perceive the use of force as an exceptional component of
Ultimately, Europeans need to debate and answer
the fundamental question: What are their military forces for? Certainly
not to respond to intricacies of EU politics, or to generate a
feel-good factor among European bureaucrats.
Troops should be
sent to achieve strategic objectives, and should be sent where they
could make a difference. Eleven of the 18 contributors will only send
symbolic contribution, just to add their flag to the European pole,
whether it makes operational sense or not.
Leaders should do what is strategically necessary, not just what feels convenient in the name of Europe.