France's call for support in its campaign against Islamic militants in Mali has been met by mixed reactions from other member states. Although the EU has offered to train the Mali army, the EP's security and defence subcommittee said it should also use its tactical battle groups, which are military units that the EU can rapidly deploy for international intervention. We spoke to chair Arnaud Danjean, a French member of the centre-right EPP group, about Mali and the common EU defence policy.
Why is the security and defence subcommittee recommending the deployment of tactical battle groups in Mali?
There are lots of different forms of support we could consider. However, these tactical groups with their flexibility would present the most versatile instrument for responding quickly to the crisis once they are in place. Like all the other observers, the European Parliament has noted that these groups have never been used: they remain a virtual instrument. These groups would have been especially suitable for using in a crisis such as the one in Mali.
The current tactical group on standby has troops from France, Poland and Germany, which all three are in favour of reviving the European defence policy and are quite ambitious about it. It's a shame that one of the tools of the European defence policy that was available has not been used.
Do we need a common military EU response to threats that affect all member states?
I think the main reason for a European security and defence policy is being able to offer a common response in line with the resources of each country. The 27 member states have very different military capacities, however this does not prevent each one from contributing according to their means. It's a shame that missions carried out in the name of this common security and defence policy involve an increasingly smaller number of countries.
Does the crisis hamper the development of a genuine European defence policy or does it in fact encourage it?
Both. We'd love it if it would encourage countries in financial difficulties, which have less money available for defence. Unfortunately, I notice for the time being that it is making things more difficult. I have to admit I'm quite pessimistic as I don't know which ongoing initiatives could help us to resolve this.