UN mission in Mali appreciative of Dutch contribution
On Thursday foreign minister Bert Koenders paid a visit to the UN peace mission in Mali, MINUSMA. The deputy head of mission, Koen Davidse, and the force commander, Major General Michael Lollesgaard, stressed the importance of the high-quality Dutch contribution to the mission, in the form of intelligence, special units and helicopters.
Mr Koenders indicated that the Dutch government was exploring options for a possible extension of its contribution to MINUSMA, partly in the light of a request made by France in an EU context for the Netherlands to stay longer in the Sahel region.
The Netherlands has contributed to MINUSMA since April 2014, as a way to bolster security and stability in Mali. ‘Promoting stability in Mali and the wider region is not only in the interests of the Malian people, but also a key element in dealing with the flow of migrants travelling to Europe via Libya,’ the minister said. ‘We have to tackle the increasing migrant flows through Mali and Côte d’Ivoire,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘Instability in regions near Europe also has a direct impact on our own security and economic interests.’
Mr Koenders also observed that the mission in Mali demonstrated the renewed involvement of European countries in UN peace missions. ‘This is important because Europe can provide well-trained troops and high-quality materiel like helicopters,’ said the minister. ‘There is considerable demand for that at the UN.’
The participation of European countries in UN missions had been declining since the 1990s. Mr Koenders is happy that that trend appears to be changing. ‘Europe is now playing a greater role in UN peacekeeping operations, and that’s a good thing. MINUSMA is a positive and highly visible example of this,’ remarked Mr Koenders, who had previously led the mission himself.
An example of this is the changing composition of Camp Castor in Gao, which was initially a solely Dutch base. Over the next few months Germany will be deploying 400 troops in Gao. It has already taken over responsibility for troop protection at the camp from the Netherlands. As of June, Germany will also assume leadership of the intelligence unit. In Gao, special units from Denmark and the Czech Republic are also working with the Netherlands.
At the request of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, following his visit to MINUSMA Mr Koenders will take part in a political dialogue on migration on behalf of the EU with Mali, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.