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Let me welcome your presentation of the UN's new Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. It is a timely and a necessary initiative.
Europe has longstanding cultural, human and economic ties with the Sahel. Our relationship is based on a spirit of partnership and is set to develop in the long term. Our most immediate objective is to support efforts for peace and prosperity in the Sahel, so as to enable the region to enjoy a future in which its full human potential is realised.
The European Union is concerned about the prevailing situation of insecurity. Various militant groups – some of them linked to Al‑Qaida – are undermining the authority of the States in the region and establishing safe havens for terrorist and criminal activities.
We strongly condemn their actions, which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and contribute to aggravating the food crisis in already fragile societies. Millions of people are now at risk of hunger.
We agree with you that a truly comprehensive approach is needed. Humanitarian assistance, development, governance and rule of law, migration, security and crisis management should all be part of it. This is why, in 2011, the European Union adopted a strategy for security and development in the Sahel, which we are now implementing in agreement and with the full cooperation of the governments of Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
Special efforts concern the security front – with the recent launch of a new EU action to train the internal security forces of Niger and reinforce regional coordination with Mali and Mauritania. The European Union and its Member States also play a key role on the humanitarian side, with EUR 439 million in humanitarian assistance in 2012, and the launch of the international partnership for resilience in Sahel.
Let me briefly address the situation in Mali. Following the events in February and March, the European Union's overall objective has been to help the people of Mali to re-establish a democratic government with authority over the entire Malian territory. The appointment of the Government of National Unity and the recent understanding to cooperate with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to re-establish State control over the northern part of the country are both important steps. We support ECOWAS mediation efforts and further international coordination.
The European Union is prepared to resume its development cooperation with Mali on the basis of an agreed road map aimed at restoring democratic institutions, civilian control and the unity of the country. We are willing to address the request of the Malian authorities to restore security, within the limit of the available means, including by helping to restructure the armed forces under civilian control. Furthermore, we are considering support for the ECOWAS stabilisation force which could be deployed under the mandate of the Security Council and in cooperation with Mali's government and the African Union.
However, we need more clarity from the Malian authorities with regard to holding democratic elections, bringing the military under civilian control and restoring security and the rule of law in the north of the country.
We are aware that the task facing the new Government in Bamako is enormous, and that international support is therefore essential. As in other crisis situations, it is also crucial that we all act in close coordination.
To conclude, the European Union is strongly committed to supporting the Sahel region, in the spirit of national ownership and in partnership with regional and international actors. We welcome the decision to appoint a UN Special Envoy for the Sahel. We are looking forward to working with him and with all the international partners through the European Union's own Sahel Coordinator in order to achieve our common objectives. Such effective cooperation is in fact essential. The EU is ready to act. The EU is ready to cooperate.