Sahel, Draghi in Paris for a summit on military strategy: tomorrow the EU-Africa summit

Away from Mali, but without repeating the mistakes of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. On the table of the Elysée, in an evening summit that anticipates the EU-Africa summit on Thursday, this is the dossier on which the leaders of the Sahel and those of Europe are confronted, including the landlord Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Minister Mario Dragons. The European Union’s strategy in the Sahel marked by instability and jihadist incursions is set to change. But the French president, after the breakdown of diplomatic relations with Mali following two coups d’état within a few months, does not want to act alone. And with the Elysée dinner, Paris looks for the side of the main European partners, including Italy.

Hypothesis displacement of the military to Niger

France’s plan could be to put an end to the Barhane operation, put in place in 2014 with the G5 in the Sahel and with a series of Western partners. And also the Takuba mission, created in 2020 and with European leadership – with the participation of Italian soldiers – could leave Mali. “But it is not a disengagement, it is a different commitment”, explained Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni who, in Brussels, she participated in the numerous EU-Africa initiatives that anticipate the summit of leaders. The military, in the Elysée plan, could be deployed elsewhere also because in Bamako “it is impossible to continue in these conditions, all the other allies think the same thing”, explained sources of the French presidency. And the country that France and the EU look to for moving the hub of operations is Niger. “It is not a question of moving what is being done in Mali elsewhere, but of strengthening what is being done in Niger and providing more support to the southern flank,” explained the same sources.

Italy and the migrant node

Italy is ready to offer its bank to Paris, but without forgetting the migrant node: a Mali hostage to terrorism could trigger even greater flows towards the North, or towards that Libya which has plunged back into political chaos. And also on the migrant dossier the EU wants to change its strategy, trying to field Frontex in the sub-Saharan areas and accelerating the repatriation agreements. While on a possible agreement on the internal dimension of immigration, Macron could try to accelerate by following the double track of redistribution and financial contribution in the event of a country’s “no” to relocation. And, as a diplomatic source explains, “a window of opportunity could open up for Italy”.

“Risk of interference from the Wagner militias”

In Paris, in addition to the Italian one, there are the EU leaders and the premieres of Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Portugal. Spain and Germany are also among the invited countries. And there are several African leaders, Niger in the lead and Mali excluded. The aim of the working dinner is to draw up a joint declaration that will form part, on Friday, of the final document of the EU-Africa summit. And also in the change of military strategy in the Sahel there is the touch of Moscow: “In the fight against terrorism there is an important risk of interference by the Wagner militias, and it is unacceptable”, observed French diplomatic sources.