The EU and Africa: 50 Years after the Greene-Plan

Written by | Friday, May 9th, 2014

Over fifty years ago, the hurtful legacy of colonial rule was still fresh in the African experience. The 1960s were a decade of transition and a majority of African nations gained their independence, while Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and smaller territories remained under foreign rule. During this phase of the Cold War, lessons can be drawn for the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) of the European Union from the refusal of the Greene-Plan by African leaders in 1963.
Named after an American colonel who was sent to examine the requirements of the local Congolese forces, the Greene-Plan proposed to train Congolese troops by Western European nations and NATO-members under the coordination of the UN. In that era, the Cold War overlaid and influenced regional struggles around the world and for the newly-independent nations the use of Western European troops reminded them too much of old style colonialism.
African in tandem with Asian states reacted reserved, because the proposal carried a NATO label and in the course of the debate even the participation of the UN mission with a robust mandate (ONUC), which already operated inside the Congo, came into question. As a compromise ONUC was extended, the necessary training of the Congolese forces by Canada or other NATO-members was never carried out, and as a consequence local Congolese forces could not develop into a stabilizing factor for the region.
Fifty years later, African and Asian nations especially ask for civil-military missions from the European Union. This historical turnaround of Europe’s relations with the former Third World offers policy-makers insights and lessons for the future direction of the Common Security and Defense Policy of the EU. The two most active EU member states in Africa are France and Germany. While France out of its colonial ties maintains deep historical and cultural relations with large parts of West and Central Africa as well as military bases, Germany as the economical most viral nation of the EU is deeply engaged in East and Central Africa, especially at the Horn of Africa. German military advisers, albeit small in size, are present in Sudan, South Sudan, Congo, and Rwanda and through EUCAP Nestor support the establishment of maritime security in Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. In combination with ATALANTA, the mission to fight piracy at the Horn of Africa, Germany takes up its responsibility to help East Africa in its extremely difficult way to more stability and security.
The EU’s engagement tells us even more about the allegedly lack of Franco-German security cooperation and strategic vision. While this critique is certainly true in several aspects: for example the lack of political will in far ranging defense cooperation and the decision not to use and found more battle groups4 – the trajectory of the CSDP mission in the last ten years demonstrates a more effective and strategic Common Foreign and Security Policy in Africa. France has undertaken military interventions in Libya, Chad, Mali and currently in the Central African Republic, while Germany has remained a cautious supporter. It would be wrong to demand that Germans should join every military endeavor only because the French are our partners. Actually, while abstaining from direct combat, Berlin supports Paris with air transportation and training of local forces in Mali and Senegal (MINUSMA) and oversees the cease-fire in Western Sahara (MINURSO). With regard to Berlin’s support, of late in the CAR, and its engagement in the East – in Darfur Germans are the only Western military personnel on the spot – it would be more correct to speak of Germany and France in a mutual supporting and complementary role on the African continent.
Germany and France, along with all the EU member states, as well as the new commission and parliament, should remember the troubled history between Europe and Africa and act in force only when necessary and as seldom as possible and adopt a supporting role for African nations in distress. With history as a guide, the EU can avoid unnecessary militarization and pursue its unique civil-military capabilities in its relations with Africa, thereby strengthening a real Euro-African partnership and friendship.

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Africa · Asia-Pacific · GLOBAL EUROPE

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