Thank you very much Minister [of Defence of Ghana, Dominic Nitiwul],
It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to be in Accra today and I thank you, Minister, for this magnificent military ceremony and for your warm welcome.
I was received earlier by President [of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo]. I had this honour and we had a long discussion on the situation in the region and the sub-region, the Gulf of Guinea, the borders with the Sahel [cut].
I am sorry that I had to change the date due to the sad events that are happening in Israel and Palestine. This visit comes amid turbulent times for Europe, with conflicts in our doorsteps, in particular on the Eastern border, with Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the tragic events in the Middle East, which are still ongoing, paying a high price on human lives.
But, at the same time, we are very conscious that the consequences of what is happening in the Sahel and in the Gulf of Guinea, are also decisive for determining our common future.
As the Minister said, my visit tries to demonstrate our commitment to peace and stability. With Ghana being a prominent partner, considering its crucial role in furthering democracy, prosperity and regional stability. And that is why these armoured cars were allocated to Ghana, because we believe that it was the best way of using them.
The spillover of insecurity from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea – as I said in my speech – is no longer a risk that may happen, it is a danger that is happening now. A reality that our partners cannot and should not face alone.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has recently called for more international solidarity in the fight against conflict and violent extremism. We have to fight against violence and extremism worldwide, through an alliance of people who want peace and stability. And it is absolutely clear to me that the threat caused by terrorism requires that we share the burden. Because it is a common threat. And if it is a common threat, we have to share the burden of fighting against it.
Time has come to put words into action. That is why, today, we are very happy to hand over these 105 armoured vehicles. It is part of a €20 million support to the Ghanaian Armed Forces. Further equipment will also be delivered in the future: aerial surveillance, electronic warfare [systems] and river crafts. We are confident that this support will benefit not only Ghana but the entire sub-region [of the Gulf of Guinea] as well.
However, countering terrorism requires more than armoured vehicles and drones. It requires also provision of services and job creation, investment in socioeconomic inclusion, in particular in the Northern regions of Ghana.
We continue with our large cooperation dedicated to these priorities and supporting Ghana in the promotion of sustainable growth, digital and green transition, climate resilience, health and education systems.
Europe will remain the largest aid provider, the main trade partner and the main investor of the African continent. But this is not about charity, it is about going “beyond aid” as the President has said.
Allow me to recall the situation in the Sahel. I pay tribute to the courage of President [of Niger, Mohamed] Bazoum, who resisted the coup d’état against him, not willing to resign. We have been trying to get in contact with him. We know that the Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union countries are strongly supporting him and asking for his freedom. We will continue doing that.
And we will continue being partners and fighting together for peace and security in this part of the world.
[Beginning cut] in the Sahel region, without combat troops, but training troops. But still, to train whom and for what? So, we are studying carefully which will be the common position of the European Union Member States. We also regret that MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] has been asked to leave Mali. It is certainly not a good idea, and the people of Mali will pay the consequences of withdrawing the United Nations troops. The French forces cannot stay in Niger against the strong position of the military junta. And, once again, it is very important that President Bazoum is released.
I think I answered the two questions about the situation in the Sahel. How worried are we? A lot. We are studying which is going to be our answer. How do we maintain our presence, we increase for which reasons, but the most important reason for us is the stability, peace and prosperity of the people of the Sahel. For that, we were there, and it is the only reason for us to stay there.
Yes, we have engaged a figure of €620 million for military support for the whole region, some has already been delivered as this €20 million that I have been talking about today. Just the transportation of these armoured vehicles, from Marseille to here, cost €1 million. And others will come, it is on the way. It is announced, wrapping up all our defence engagement. I cannot give you a concrete figure of commitments, but it is something that is a commitment that will be fulfilled in the shortest possible time.
Link to the video (starting at 03:18): EC AV PORTAL (europa.eu)