October 17, 2019
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Common policy and Marshall Plan: key to European strategy against China in Africa

"We cannot leave Africa to the Chinese," Tajani told a group of European correspondents in Tunisia. (Photo: Javier Martin/EFE)

Tunis, Nov 6 (efe-epa).- A unified EU policy, security and a 'Marshall Plan' were the key points highlighted by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, during his first official trip to Tunisia, as part of a European policy for Africa against an increased Chinese and Turkish presence on the continent.

Irregular immigration, which is growing throughout the Mediterranean coast despite the presence of European patrol boats, the return of foreign fighters after the military withdrawal of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the high unemployment rate across the continent, head the priorities for Tajani's visit.

It is also the growing presence of other powers and countries in Africa - China and Turkey - that the Italian politician considers to be not only competition, but a real threat to the future development of Europe.

"China is very dangerous because it is gaining a lot in Africa, but it does not have a strategy for Africa's development. It works only for the Chinese. We have a strategy for Africa's development, which is stability in the face of immigration and terrorism," Tajani said.

Not letting China occupy Europe's space in Africa

"We cannot leave Africa to the Chinese," Tajani told a small group of European correspondents in Tunisia.

In the face of Chinese strength and the seduction of the "yuan without conditions or demands" that attracts leaders without any special concern for human rights, Tajani proposed an ethical and unified European policy. Especially in conflict zones, such as Libya, where to date, the particular -and sometimes divergent-  interests of countries such as France, Italy or the United Kingdom prevail over those of Brussels.

"A European policy must be carried out, I am not in favor of each country carrying out its own policy. All Africans, north, south and center, ask us to speak from a single front," he said.

"We've already seen what happened in Libya: we killed (Muammar al) Gaddafi. But later, what arrived there was not the French Assembly, neither the White House nor the British Parliament. What arrived there were terrorists, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Daesh, traffickers of arms, drugs and people," he added.

"If one opts for a French, Italian, German, Spanish strategy there will be collateral damage. They have to understand that Europe is Europe. Whether in Tripoli or Benghazi, they must understand that Europe is Europe. Because if we make the mistake that one country supports one and the other supports another, there will be collateral damage. We won't be able to solve the problem," he insisted.

Security in Libya, key piece of stability

A dual-direction message, since Tajani also appealed to the European Commission and the European Parliament to "decide to set a single voice."

"The various European countries have to talk to reinforce a European policy. It is the European countries themselves that are demanding it from us. Otherwise, the risk will be to try to defend a small interest and lose everything," he said.

"If we are together, each country can defend its own interest in the European framework but if they do so individually without being coordinated no country will win, we will all lose," he warned.

In this context, Tajani warned that there would be no stability in North Africa as long as there is not a political solution in Libya, and he said that  this won't be possible if all parties do not meet, including Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the last exponent of the so-called "new Caesarism" that currently prevails in the region.

A former member of the military leadership that seized power from al-Gaddafi, Haftar was recruited by the CIA in the 1980s and was Gaddafi’s main opponent from his exile in Virginia, United States.  

After returning to Libya at the beginning of the 2011 uprising that would end Gaddafi's rule, he now controls 70 percent of the country, including the main energy resources, with the help of countries such as Russia and Egypt.

"We risk making a mistake. We committed it when we killed Gaddafi and we risk repeating it. We must work to reach a European agreement," Tajani said.

A solution has to be found "with the UN to give space to Haftar. Although he is not recognized by the UN, he plays a role. We can give political power to Tripoli and military power to Haftar. It can be an idea, a solution," he explained.

Creating development and opportunities in Africa

At the end of September 2017, the UN launched a new reconciliation process, which, despite the initial progress, has failed due to the distrust that still exists among the different militias in conflict.

The objective was to form a single transitional political authority before the end of November and to convene elections in the second half of 2018, a plan that regional analysts now believe to be unfeasible.

Faced with these challenges, Tajani outlined the guidelines that in his opinion should support the EU's future strategy for the African continent.

First, a 'Marshall Plan', which unlike China, serves to create development and opportunities in Africa, as an antidote to migration.

The Italian politician said that "by 2050 we will have in Africa 2.5 billion of men and women, mostly young people", who must be given a chance for the future in their countries of origin.     

"We must try to understand why there are thousands, and soon millions of people who will leave their countries to come to yours or ours: climate change, the desert that devours agriculture, famine, drought, war, poverty and demographic growth," he said.

Much tighter border control

Tajani said that the project will be reflected in the next EU budgets and estimated that an investment of around 40 billion euros will be needed to boost "another 400 billion into the continent."

To this investment -which in his opinion would help to solve both the problem of irregular immigration and unemployment- Tajani added a greater effort in the field of security:  the main danger continues to be the large number of foreign fighters returning to their homes because of the territorial defeat of the IS.

A problem that in his opinion can be tackled with a much stricter border control and a better exchange of intelligence information.  

"I have asked for severity in the control of those who leave Tunisia. At this time, the number one danger is foreign fighters," he explained.

"It must be said that Tunisia has exported many fighters, and those who return must be blocked here. Along with the Europeans or Americans who try to mix with the migrants. You have to be very demanding," he added.

According to the latest report by the intelligence consultancy "The Soufan Center," connected to the FBI and the CIA, Tunisia is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of the number of foreign fighters, with 2,986, behind Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Of these, it is estimated that around 800 have returned to the country, while several hundred more are believed to have moved to neighboring Libya.

The Soufan Center also warns that 5,718 foreign fighters come from Europe, of which 1,200 would have already returned, with France heading both the number of mujahideen (1,910) and of returnees (271).  

By Javier Martin 

Translated by Sulagna Pal



"The project was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information for opinions expressed in the context of this project. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the project."

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