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PV 22/03/2006 - 13
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PV 23/03/2006 - 11.10
CRE 23/03/2006 - 11.10
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Verbatim report of proceedings
Wednesday, 22 March 2006 - Brussels OJ edition

13. Criteria for EU peace-keeping operations, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo (debate)

  President. The next item is the statement by the Council on criteria for peace-keeping operations, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


  Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think we can all agree that the European Union is based on values and that it is very involved in promoting those values throughout the world. This includes concrete contributions to peace, sustainable development, respect for human rights and the development and strengthening of democracy throughout the world.

The European Union has a very broad array of instruments for taking action in these areas. These include a trade and development policy, diplomatic initiatives as part of the common foreign and security policy, and civilian and military crisis management operations under the European Security and Defence Policy.

The implementation of these diverse resources can be particularly well demonstrated in our Africa policy. Today's debate on the European Union's involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a particularly good example. However, we must also not forget about other activities in this connection, such as the action to support the African Union's AMIS II peacekeeping forces in Darfur.

The comprehensive Africa strategy adopted by the European Council at the end of last year, the 'Common Position concerning conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa' and the 'ESDP Action Plan supporting peace and security in Africa' provide the European Union with clear guidance: the commitment made in these documents to peace and security as an absolute necessity for the development of Africa logically leads to a commitment to help resolve the conflicts in Africa by strengthening African crisis management capabilities, including with funds from the 'Peace Facility for Africa' and by means of appropriate operations as part of the European security and defence policy.

The European Union's involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo reflects the comprehensive nature of these European ambitions: the main basis for relations between the European Union and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and thus also for EU assistance to stabilise the country, is formed in the first instance by the Cotonou Agreement and the funds available from the European Development Fund in this connection. The funds from the peace facility that I have already briefly mentioned, which are not directly connected with the Cotonou Agreement, are also worth some attention here. Some of this money is being used to fund initiatives that make a very direct contribution to improving the security situation in Congo, for example by creating humane living spaces for soldiers and their families or by providing modern equipment.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has also become clear that the European security and defence policy can, with relatively meagre resources, make an important contribution to stabilising the country, by means of assistance in reforming its security sector in both the civilian and military sectors. I would point to the civilian ESDP mission, EUPOL Kinshasa, which has recently been extended to the end of this year. It provides training and advice to the 'Integrated Police Unit', and thus helps to ensure that policing in the capital city Kinshasa is not only efficient but also compatible with the basic concepts of a modern state under the rule of law.

The military ESDP mission, EUSEC Congo, in turn supports the Congolese military authorities in pushing forward the necessary reforms and modernisation of the armed forces.

I am sure I do not need to tell you that the work of the EU Special Representative for the African Great Lakes Region, Aldo Ajello, is extremely important for the stabilisation of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I would now like to emphasise a few points specifically about the mission in Congo. First of all, there are four central points that characterise the Council's position regarding an operation to support the United Nations' mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC).

Firstly, the European Union is responding to a specific request from the United Nations. On this matter we have confidence in the assessment of the Secretary General, Kofi Annan. You are no doubt aware of the fact that the Council has, in the past, made considerable efforts to support the United Nations, and that, as part of the ESDP, the United Nations presence in the region has been strengthened. I am sure you will agree with me that the European Union, being committed to multilateralism, is duty-bound to make an effective contribution here, as the Member States also wish.

Secondly, both the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and both of its vice-presidents are in favour of such a supporting action. The Supreme Defence Council has also specifically called for this mission, and this has also been included in a related press release. This shows us that it is in the interests of the Democratic Republic of Congo to have credible additional deterrents available, in order to prevent a military option. I would particularly like to emphasise that fact: this is a mission that should act to prevent the use of force, and we hope that the presence of this deterrent should prevent the actual deployment of military resources. This deterrent effect is worthwhile, even if, in the estimation of the Congolese authorities, the forces provided would not need to be deployed. But they should be available. We see no reason to question the Congolese assessment.

Thirdly, the DRC is the largest and most highly populated country in the region. Not least for that reason, the European Union is, as you know, more closely involved in the process of transition to democracy in Congo than in any other African country. The European Union has, in the past, already used its extensive range of tools to bring an end to the conflict and to make progress in the peace process. We in the European Union have contributed EUR 700 million to projects to support the transition, EUR 200 million of which went to supporting the elections alone. I have already mentioned the police mission. As you are aware, we sent a military mission back in 2003 to prevent an escalation of the conflict in the East of the country, which was threatening the final negotiations in the peace process and thus the establishment of the transitional government. In the opinion of the Member States, it is now sensible and necessary to secure this earlier investment in peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to ensure that the peaceful democratic development continues.

Fourthly, the political and military parameters of the mission must – as in the case of earlier missions, including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo – be established and laid down in cooperation between the competent Council configurations and the operational headquarters.


  Karl von Wogau, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as we have heard, the United Nations have requested and called on the European Union to make a contribution to the elections in Congo by sending a military mission. What should our answer be?

We need to bear in mind a number of things. First, we need to ask ourselves whether, at this point in time, the European Union has the capabilities needed to carry out such an operation. The second question is: do we not have other priorities in the immediate vicinity of the European Union, for example in the Balkans, where peace-keeping is our first and most important task? Thirdly, is there not a risk here that we will become entangled in a conflict from which we will then not be able to extricate ourselves promptly? These are questions that I, as an MEP, am repeatedly asked in this connection.

On the other hand, we must, as the President-in-Office said, recognise that the European Union has an interest in the stability of this country in the heart of Africa. The fact that the European Union itself is also affected should be clear to anybody who has looked towards Ceuta, Melilla or Lampedusa and the terrible scenes played out at these borders with poverty. Stability in Africa is in the interests of the European Union and of its citizens.

We must be conscious of our responsibility towards the UN. We must be clear that the prevention of violence, which is the aim of this operation, is very much in line with the European Union's security strategy. We should also not forget that a large number of election observers from the European Parliament and from other parliaments, under Mr Morillon’s leadership, are already working in Congo to secure the elections.

What are our conditions for intervention by the European Union in Congo? First, there must be a clear time limit. It cannot be the task of this kind of intervention to stabilise Congo as a whole – that is a long-term task, and the responsibility of the United Nations. That is why there are 17 000 UN soldiers in Congo. We must concentrate on helping to stabilise the elections on 18 June.

Secondly, there must be a clear succession regulation, showing how the United Nations on the one hand, and the Congolese army on the other, will re-assume these activities after our intervention. There must also be a geographical boundary, and it must be clear, for example, that Katanga and the eastern provinces of Congo must continue to be the responsibility of the United Nations and not of the European Union.

Furthermore, it must be quite clear that this operation is definitely European. It must not be just one or two European nations getting involved, but more European nations must really be committed to the task. We need a formal invitation from the interim government. Here, too, there still seems to be some doubt as to what the government of Congo has actually formally said.

Above all, however, we need a convincing plan, a plan that is able to convince any troublemakers that it is better to accept the results of the election, and also to encourage the citizens of Congo to exercise their right to vote. Those are the conditions under which the European Union and we in the European Parliament could agree to such a mission. Now we need, and as soon as possible, to get answers to the questions that are still outstanding.


  Ana Maria Gomes, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PT) The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo presents us – by which I mean those who in the EU take seriously the 'responsibility to protect' enshrined in the last high-level UN summit in September 2005 – with enormous challenges.

The conflict that has devastated the Democratic Republic of Congo and the whole of the Great Lakes region is the bloodiest since the Second World War. It has already caused 4 million deaths, the overwhelming majority civilians. Real and lasting peace in the country is a vital prerequisite for peace in the Great Lakes and in Central Africa as a whole. In this context, the UN, which has the largest peace-keeping mission in its history in Congo, has called on the EU to help the elections scheduled for 18 June to pass off peacefully. The election observation team will be led by Mr Morillon, and this is a mission supported by all of us in Parliament.

As far as we in the Socialist Group in the European Parliament are concerned, this election is something of a crunch moment for Congo. Either the institutions born in a context of civil war are replaced by democratically elected institutions, or, more likely, Congo will remain at the mercy of bloody militias.

Yet these elections and the challenge laid down by the United Nations also constitute a moment of truth for the European Union. Will European security and defence policy prove credible? Can we count on the Member States to implement the European security strategy?

I should like to highlight three points from the joint resolution that we tabled. This intervention should be viewed as one part of a temporary solution to the problem of the country’s internal stability, which will only be resolved when the Congolese army becomes a stabilising factor. It became clear during recent Congolese operations in the Katanga region that the population still has reason to doubt the ability of the authorities to protect them from the militias. The international community must channel its efforts into strengthening the integrated military units already in place and speed up the creation of others. Unless rapid improvements are made in the security sector, the EU and the UN may unfortunately be called on to intervene in Congo many more times in the future.

Secondly, the political legitimacy of this mission must be a decisive factor in its success. Accordingly, it must be a genuinely European mission, and as such we welcome the news of the solid participation of various Member States led by Germany and including my country, Portugal. It must also be fully backed by the United Nations Security Council. All internal and external actors must be made aware that the current Congolese Government welcomes this mission. As part of the concept of this mission, the EU must be genuinely prepared to support the election process, despite the inherent risks.

The primary objective of the presence of European forces is to make a visible and credible contribution to the stability of the Congolese election process. This is what the people of Congo and Africa expect of us.


  Philippe Morillon, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FR) Mr President, Mr Winkler, what is currently taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the support of the international community and, more specifically, of the European Union, is crucially important for the future of this vast country, which has been torn apart for years by civil and foreign wars.

The Congolese people are today united in their profound desire for peace and stability and in their aspiration for a democracy that allows a situation of that kind. They demonstrated this by registering to vote in overwhelming numbers in July 2005 and they demonstrated this in December, during the referendum vote in favour of a draft constitution designed to put an end to the current transitional period.

As head of the observation mission for this referendum, I attended the ceremonies marking the promulgation of the Constitution on 18 February, in Kinshasa, and I was able to assess the intense emotion of the participants and of the nation as a whole. A hope was born that at the end of the next stage, which will see a president and a parliament elected this summer, the country will succeed in finally emerging from the chaos and poverty in which it is still submerged. It is the interests of the Congolese people, the interests of the entire African continent and, therefore, the interests of Europe that are at stake.

There is a danger, however, that those who have benefited up to now from this chaos and this poverty will not take kindly to being deprived of their power by the ballot boxes and that they may be tempted, on the one hand, to use terror tactics to prevent a lawful election and, on the other, to use force to challenge the election results. The security situation is being overseen by the UN forces, which are mainly deployed in the Eastern provinces in which organised gangs still operate. In these conditions, and in order to increase the security of forthcoming elections, the UN has sought the help of the European Union, as you mentioned.

It will be up to the Council to determine what form this help will take. I am one of those who believe that this commitment will have the value of being a very powerful political signal to any potential troublemakers and that it will have what we anticipate to be a deterrent effect, and that is why I will be among those giving their support to this operation.


  Angelika Beer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, the debate over the last few weeks has laid bare the whole dilemma of the lack of political direction here. It would be wrong for us simply to try and gloss over that.

Since UN Under-Secretary-General Guéhenno’s letter of 27 December about military engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which fell during the turn of the year holiday period and came as a surprise even to the Security Council, 12 weeks have passed and there are still more questions than answers. There is still a yawning gap between words and deeds. We remain to be convinced. We do not support the joint resolution, and let me explain why.

We in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance are of course in favour of supporting the process of democratisation in Congo. But how has it happened that the issue of EU involvement has been reduced to military deployment in Kinshasa and counting soldiers? How is it that we find ourselves discussing sending soldiers but not the issue of a large number of EU electoral observers? How is it that the whole range of actions under the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defence Policy is not being investigated? How is it that every single day new justifications emerge, such as Europe’s interest in refugee refusal? I ask you, what has all that got to do with facilitating democratic elections in Congo?

These verbose discussions in recent weeks have raised the question of whether the planned deployment in Kinshasa is actually about democratisation or whether it is really about the EU saving face. I say saving face because the dynamic set in train by the inquiry has taken on a life of its own. Months have passed since the inquiry and the inconclusive fact-finding mission to Congo and since New York, yet there is still no sign of a political plan or a clear task.

Ladies and gentlemen, a fine gesture by Mr Chirac cannot conceal the issues that have still not been addressed, that is to say how is dispatching 1 500 soldiers to Kinshasa going to guarantee free elections throughout Congo? How can we refute the accusation that we are taking Kabila's side? How can the EU play a role in Congo as a whole in the wake of a deployment of this kind? And if the issue is evacuation, and that has become the vital topic, who is actually to be evacuated? Do we need UN-mandated troops to be deployed in order to further the cause of democracy in the Congo?

My final point, ladies and gentlemen, is a very fundamental one. We talk so passionately here about Europe’s responsibility towards Africa, yet how can we reconcile today’s debate with our failure to act on the continuing genocide in Darfur?


  Tobias Pflüger, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, contrary to all reason, the European Union is planning a military deployment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Officially, it is a question of protecting the integrity of the elections, but something seems to have gone rather wrong in the run-up to the elections. Only 60 candidates have been nominated for 500 parliamentary seats, and the close of nominations is tomorrow evening, Thursday evening that is. The EU is planning to send 1 500 soldiers to Africa’s third largest nation, a country with an authoritarian regime. As one SPD politician from Germany has commented, it is as if 750 soldiers were to land in Europe and claim that would stabilise the whole of Europe.

In military terms this deployment makes no sense at all. So what is the point of sending these troops? The German defence minister Franz Joseph Jung has not minced his words. He has said that it is all about refugee refusal and that stability in regions rich in raw materials is also good for Germany’s economy. CDU MPs in Germany have confirmed this motivation, referring to strategic raw materials such as tungsten and manganese. And the German Government has now decided not to take a decision about military deployment until the beginning of May. The military is making it increasingly clear that it is not in favour of this deployment. The position is relatively clear: once you go into Congo, it is not so easy to withdraw again – this will not just be limited to four months.

The motion for a resolution is not limited geographically and the time limit is only expressed in the vaguest terms. That is why we are asking all Members who are sceptical about this to vote against this motion for a resolution. I will make no bones about this: what is really at stake here is access to raw materials and refugee refusal by military means. As a group of the left we wish to say a very clear ‘no’ to that and we will not be voting for this motion for resolution.


  Helmut Kuhne (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, apart from the technical debate on this deployment, there are also other aspects that should be discussed here too. In part, small-minded prejudices are involved here. In my country, Germany, instead of openly talking about a dark continent where people are permanently involved in internecine conflicts out of pure necessity, some CSU politicians, for example, suggest that Germany’s army would be better used guarding World Cup stadiums in the immediate future instead of being sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I think that we should make it crystal clear that this is an incredibly narrow view of the world. I admit, Mrs Beer, that there are a great many issues that remain to be resolved, very serious problems that have not yet been solved. I am also very confident that they will be solved, including by our colleagues in Germany’s Bundestag.

What should interest us at European level, however, is something that has not been mentioned so far. I consider that in recent weeks serious deficits in the European decision-making process have come to light, deficits that remain to be removed. It is not acceptable for some people to say that they demand deployment plans before troops are made available while others say that deployment plans will only be drawn up once we are certain that we will not have to set off alone. That is not on, and would lead to a kind of self-imposed blockade. Without demanding unrealistic treaty amendments, we need to achieve an outcome whereby a review of decision-making processes is conducted without delay at Council level, so that in situations in which decisions have to be taken more quickly than is the case at present, it is actually possible to take those decisions.


  Marie-Hélène Aubert (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, it is excellent that the European Union is fully involved in supporting the election process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we even hope that it will be more vigilant with regard to the human rights violations that have been worsening, I am afraid to say, for some time.

However, the way in which the EU military operation is taking shape in the Democratic Republic of Congo today is truly strange and odd to say the least. Figures of a few hundred men have been mentioned, whereas MONUC already has 16 000 men. You say that these men would not be directly involved, but merely on hand if they were needed: where might that be, then? What would the mission of this military force be, and what mandate would these men have in the event of violence breaking out during or after the elections, especially in Kinshasa? Can lessons not be learnt from the past, when the UN forces found themselves in impossible situations and were subsequently accused from all sides because they had neither a clear mandate nor sufficient resources?

There are therefore two possibilities: either the European Union thoroughly fulfils the United Nations’ request by laying down conditions and by investing substantial resources to support MONUC, or it dedicates these resources to the success of the electoral process, to the full involvement of civil society, to respect for human rights and, furthermore, to the control and transparency of the way in which the Democratic Republic of Congo’s so very precious and coveted natural resources are exploited.

It is clear that, for our part, we much prefer this second prospect to one of supporting a military operation that, for the time being, is very limited, has unclear objectives and about which we have little knowledge at present.


  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Mr President, it is right in our resolution to wind up this debate that we put emphasis on an integrated strategy for the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a clear time-limit for troop deployment, together with an exit strategy, as well as stressing the need for protection for the forces themselves. However, I want to challenge the assumption in recital A that security in the European neighbourhood, particularly the Balkans, should come first. Of course the neighbourhood is crucial, but with Balkan countries moving towards accession and stabilisation, we should be talking about fewer EU troops, not maintaining them at current levels.

Time after time this Parliament passes resolutions for a common foreign and security policy with Europe a leader in global affairs. We say that terrorism in our streets is generated from fragile states worldwide, why should we then seek to limit our ambitions to the European neighbourhood? We pass resolutions to combat world poverty, yet are we ready to apply them in the ninth poorest country in the world, with one of the highest rates of infant mortality? As the International Crisis Group says, ‘everything from elections, to humanitarian assistance, to economic activity depends on establishing a secure environment’.

A decade of war in the DRC has cost four million lives, and still a thousand people a day die from war-related causes. We receive daily reports of massacres, civilian killings, widespread rape and sexual violence.

These elections are a moment of hope. Europe is providing our biggest ever aid to support the election process. The request for them to be accompanied by security forces comes from all factions in the transitional national government. It is a request to which we should agree.


  Glyn Ford (PSE). – Mr President, I am very much in favour of a developing common foreign and security policy in the European Union. Now that the European Union is larger than the United States, richer than the United States and gives more assistance to the Third World than the United States, it is only right and proper that we have a common foreign and security policy dimension to that.

In that sense, of course, no one is questioning the value of the request from the United Nations for a mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The problem is that the mission is being discussed behind closed doors and we need some democratic scrutiny. As we are increasingly sending missions to Aceh – which I very much welcome as the former chief observer to the Indonesian elections – and to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we need that democratic control.

The problem is that unless we have some democratic scrutiny, in a post-election system where we may see deterioration of the situation in the DRC, there is a danger of mission creep and being sucked into a quagmire.

We are sending an election observation mission, but we are sending this mission as well. Can we be reassured that there is some close coordination between the two?


  Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot answer all your questions, since, as I have already explained, the precise political, military policy and military parameters that will underpin the Council’s final decision are being worked out as we speak, and I am very grateful to Mr Kuhne for mentioning in this context that it is necessary for the appropriate basis for decision making to be worked out at this stage.

Mr von Wogau asked what the government had actually said. In my first statement I said that very clear comments had been made by the President and the two Vice-Presidents, and I might perhaps quote just one paragraph from the press release issued following Monday’s Defence Council:

(FR) ‘During its meeting held on Monday 20 March, chaired by the Head of State, his Excellency Mr Joseph Kabila’.

(DE) The Head of State is the chair of this body.

(FR) ‘The Supreme Defence Council examined, among other points, the question of a European military contingent being formed at the request of the United Nations’.

(DE) The Council then came to this conclusion:

(FR) ‘Anxious to strengthen the security arrangements for the electoral process, the Supreme Council recommended, in the light of a report presented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that the initiative to deploy these European Special Forces be supported’.

(DE) So that is a clear statement, and there are no grounds for questioning it. Also, the comments made regarding doubts about the advisability of the mission were also once again mentioned in this press release.

(FR) ‘It should be emphasised that this contingent will mainly act as a deterrent’.

(DE) I am very grateful to Mr Morillon for specifically mentioning that too.

I can only repeat what I have already said. I believe that it is the responsibility of the European Union to make a meaningful contribution to the democratic process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We need to be clear that, of the broad range of options open to us, the deployment of military troops needs to be considered alongside other types of intervention for assisting democratic development, such as development cooperation and assistance in establishing the rule of law and democratic processes and in protecting human rights.

This is a responsibility borne by the European Union and one that the Council is fulfilling.


  President. To wind up the debate, I have received three motions for resolutions(1), pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.00 a.m.


(1) See Minutes

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