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The lessons of Chad for Europe

Article published in the review "Défense nationale et sécurité collective", March 2008

The Slovenian EU Presidency has just expressed "...its appreciation to France for all its efforts, and for the efficient evacuation of European citizens from Chad". For the first time a member state of the Union, France, had successfully carried out the task defined by the Council of the European Union on 18 June 2007, by fulfilling the role of "framework na-tion" and using its capability to protect European expatriates.

1,389 people of 73 different nationalities (641 Europeans, but also 251 Africans, Chinese and Americans) had been protected and con-ducted to safety. Some statesmen, such as Chancellor Gusenbauer of Austria and the Euro-pean Commissioner Louis Michel, felt that they were obliged to air their reserves about France’s action in Chad. Rather than reacting immediately and forcefully to an illegal in-ternational action, France had in fact acted with both moderation and efficiency while waiting for unambiguous statements from the African Union and the President of the UN Se-curity Council: ‘The Council demands that the States in the Region reinforce their activi-ties with the aim of putting an end to the ac-tivities of armed groups and to their attempt to seize power by force. In accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the Council demands that Member States provide support as requested by the Government of Chad.’

These irresponsible European doubts seri-ously affect the Union’s credibility on the international scene. They demonstrate a real contempt for brave servicemen who did not hesitate to risk their lives in a warlike situation to save diplomats, families and children, and in very difficult conditions.

It is abundantly clear that certain states of the Union are not ready for a European de-fence policy. This will have to be implemented (if necessary without them) if the Union wants to count for something in this world—or even just protect its own citizens. The convenient umbrella of neutrality and a degree of guilty indolence do not go well with a Europe which is both wealthy and envied. 

Perhaps they need to be persuaded by a visit to a theatre of operations (well protected, of course, by Special Forces units). This may help them to appreciate that the preservation of peace unfortunately means investments in equipment, weapons and organisation. It also means preparation for battle, and even on oc-casion opening fire!