France pushing EU to fund military measures
French troops carry the coffins of the two soldiers killed in Bangui, Central African Republic, during a military ceremony at the Invalides in Paris, Monday. France wants its European partners to create a fund to pay for overseas military interventions, like the operation France is leading in the chaotic Central African Republic. AP photo
PARIS — France is pushing its European partners this week to create a fund to pay for overseas military interventions, like the operation France is leading in the Central African Republic. Other European governments aren’t too excited about the idea.
The dispute exposes a divide between France, which has several military bases abroad and argues that Europe has a responsibility to former colonies in Africa, and countries like Germany that are wary in today’s economic times of intervening and spending taxpayer money abroad.
French President Francois Hollande defended the Central African Republic intervention Monday. If France “weren’t there, no other army in this part of the world — Africa — would be able to launch such an operation to save lives and establish peace,” Hollande said.
He called last week for a “permanent European fund” to finance emergency military interventions, before a U.N. peacekeeping operation can be put in place. He will push the idea at a summit of European Union leaders Thursday and Friday.
This fund could also be a step toward a common European defense system, an idea Hollande has been pushing to little avail. At an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it’s up to the 28 member states to decide “how they want to use their resources.”
Such a fund could potentially create big conflicts among the EU’s members.
“If other countries are to contribute then they need to have a say in the policymaking, too. And that’s precisely where I see the problem,” said Sabine von Oppeln, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University.
“On the one hand France conducts a unilateral Africa policy, on the other hand they demand solidarity from other Europeans.”
France has struggled to persuade other Europeans to help with the operation in Central African Republic, a former French colony. While Poland, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium have provided various forms of assistance, French troops are the only Europeans on the ground. The EU provides $68 million for the African Union-led mission in the country.
France, which has also spent about $827.5 million on an anti-terrorist intervention in Mali this year, may seek relief from EU budget deficit rules to be able to pay for these operations.