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Europe's role in the Central African Republic

European Commission - SPEECH/14/97   05/02/2014

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European Commission

Evangelos Venizelos

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece

Europe's role in the Central African Republic

European Parliament, Plenary Session

5 February 2014

Mr President, Honourable Members,

On behalf of High-representative/Vice-President Cathy Ashton, I would like to reiterate my utmost concern at the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) and underline the need to protect the population there. The country continues to experience a major crisis: insecurity is widespread as are human rights violations, and the humanitarian situation is alarming. The social fabric has been disrupted, further fuelling inter-communitarian tensions which are being politically exploited and which lead to “tit-for-tat” killings between the Christian and Muslim population. Public institutions that had already been weak and overstretched have ceased functioning. We are now facing not a failed state but a vacuum where a state no longer exists.

While restoring security is key to protecting the civilian population and stabilizing the situation in support of the political process, there is no military solution to this conflict. The current crisis stems from decades of lack of political consensus, daunting governance challenges and an imbalanced socio-economic development.

The European Union has been actively engaged since the outset of the current crisis in late December 2012 to contribute to preventing an outbreak of a full-fledged conflict.

After the violent seizure of power by Seleka rebel groups in March 2013, the EU supported regional and international efforts to find a political resolution to the crisis and help to stabilize the country.

The EU has responded swiftly and comprehensively to address the current crisis, in full support of the French intervention. Its response, which combines stabilization and development support, is a testimonial to the EU ability to quickly and adequately respond to the severe crisis with all of the instruments at its disposal. It comes in addition to the substantively scaled up humanitarian engagement of the European Commission and the EU Member States (€ 76 m in 2013 compared to € 20 m in 2012).

I would like to highlight three key elements which we consider essential for a way out of the crisis in CAR:

First, security must be re-established, starting from the capital and then gradually reaching out to the region. The EU fully supports the African force MISCA and welcomes the support provided by the French operation Sangaris to restore law and order, both in line with a UNSCR. We also appreciate the bilateral assistance provided by EU Member states.

Given the urgent priority of re-establishing a secure environment, the EU Foreign Affairs Council took a political decision on 20 January to begin preparations for an EU military operation in the Central African Republic.

The decision was taken in the context of the continued state of lawlessness and physical insecurity throughout much of the country, and the common desire to reinforce the security situation so that urgently needed humanitarian support can be delivered to those that need it. The EU operation intends to complement the ongoing efforts of MISCA and French forces. It underlines the willingness of the EU to respond in a comprehensive way.

I am glad that the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2134(2014) on 28 Jan. which authorizes the EU operation in CAR. The AU has also welcomed an EU CSDP operation.

Second, the re-creation of a political process is essential. In this context, the appointment of new transitional authorities after transparent consultations and the balanced nature of the new government between different communities are positive signs. Furthermore, with the specific background of the Head of State of Transition in human rights work and mediation, she has a unique opportunity to advance the political transition process, bring all the parties together to end the violence, and move her country toward elections not later than February 2015.

The EU stands ready, in close coordination with its partners, to assist the new government in bringing the transition process forward. While elections are essential to restore legitimate authorities and constitutional order, the international response and mobilisation should go beyond, to ensure a sustainable resolution of the recurrent instability in CAR.

Third, these initiatives have to go along with the humanitarian efforts to assist those in need. On 20 January, the UN and the EU chaired a High-level International Meeting which raised nearly US $ 500 million for the humanitarian and development effort. This is a very positive development but I must strongly underline that improving humanitarian coverage and re-launching development assistance are directly linked to positive developments in the security situation.

Let me add a more specific point on the dramatic humanitarian and human rights situation. We are extremely concerned by the raging inter-communal violence in the Central African Republic, whose geographical extent and murderous intensity has now reached levels that are of extreme concern.

The focussed and time-limited EU operation in CAR will have a real added value by assisting the African force MISCA in providing a safe and secure environment in Bangui and in helping to stem the inter-communitarian violence.

In addition, we continue to support inter-faith dialogue and inter-communitarian mediation and reconciliation as well as the deployment of human rights observers within the UN Integrated Office in CAR (BINUCA). This support is provided by a “Stabilisation programme in response to the post-coup crisis’” (€ 10 m) under the Instrument of Stability, adopted in August 2013.

We believe speed is of the essence to support the new transitional authorities, to re-impose order and to put the political process back on track. We will continue to support the humanitarian, stabilization and political processes and contribute to paving the way to more sustainable development.

An essential medium- to long-term objective is the rebuilding of state institutions and to support longer-term socio-economic recovery, in the framework of a comprehensive state- and peacebuilding agenda.

With its long-standing relationship with the CAR and the instruments at its disposal used within a comprehensive approach, the EU has a real added-value in international efforts to stabilize the country and to support a lasting recovery.

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