Press Review CW 12/2024: Partnerships under scrutiny
Revue de presse 15.3.2024 jusqu'à 22.3.2024

Malheureusement, ce numéro de la revue de presse n’est actuellement disponible qu’en allemand et en anglais.

Military government in Niger cancels military cooperation agreement with the US

The military government in Niger cancelled a military cooperation agreement with the US with immediate effect on Saturday. This was announced by the spokesman of the military junta Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie (CNSP), Amadou Abdramane, in a corresponding statement on state television. Among other things, he described the US military’s surveillance flights in recent weeks as illegal and criticised the agreement, which until now has allowed US military and civilian personnel to stay and work in the country, as unfair and unilaterally imposed. However, Abdramane did not call for the immediate withdrawal of US troops.

This followed a three-day visit by a high-ranking US delegation led by Molly Phee, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and General Michael Langley, commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), at the beginning of the week, which caused anger on the part of the military junta. According to the statement, the Nigrian military government had not been informed of the composition, the exact date of arrival or the agenda of the delegation. It also condemned the condescending attitude during the talks and the threat of retaliation if the junta did not end its cooperation with Russia and Iran. According to the US, the delegation expressed its concerns about the junta’s development in open talks. The US delegation had previously postponed its departure by 24 hours in order to not only meet with Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, but also the head of state and chairman of the military junta CNSP, Abdourahmane Tchiani. However, a meeting with Tchiani did not materialise. A press conference at the embassy in Niamey was also cancelled. US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller announced on the online platform X that the statement by the junta had been acknowledged and emphasised that talks were continuing via diplomatic channels in order to bring about a clarification.

The military agreement that has now been cancelled had been in force since 2012 and formed the basis for the operation of a large US air base in the Nigerien city of Agadez, around 920 km from the capital Niamey. The so-called Air Base 201 was completed in 2019 after investments of over USD 100 million and is considered the US military’s most important location for counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel region. However, after the military under the leadership of Tchiani overthrew the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who was supported by Western countries, in July 2023 (press review CW 30/2023), the US reduced its troop strength from 1,100 to 650 soldiers and limited its activities to self-protection. However, during her last visit to Niger in December, Phee signalled the US’ willingness to resume cooperation with the Nigrian military government in the areas of development and security. The cancellation of the military agreement with the US is part of a gradual turning away from Western partners since the military coup. The last French soldiers had already left the country in December at the junta’s request; the withdrawal of staff from the eleven-year European police reconstruction mission EU Capacity Building Mission Sahel is due to take place by May (press review week 49/2023).


European Union concludes new partnership agreement with Egypt

On Sunday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo. She was accompanied by the heads of government from Belgium, Greece, Italy, Austria and Cyprus. As part of the new strategic and comprehensive partnership with Egypt, financial aid totalling 7.4 billion euros in the form of loans and grants is to flow from the European Union (EU) to the North African state by the end of 2027, as announced by the EU Commission at the top-level meeting in Cairo. The aim is to intensify cooperation in the areas of political dialogue, economic stability, trade and investment, migration and mobility, security as well as skills development and research, as both sides emphasised in a joint statement.

Of the 7.4 billion euros, of which, according to Brussels, one billion euros can be disbursed immediately, while the rest is tied to the implementation of reforms under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund, 5 billion euros are earmarked as macro-financial assistance in the form of loans. Meanwhile, 1.8 billion euros are to flow as investments in the areas of food security, digitalisation and green technologies. The remaining 600 million euros will be paid out as grants, of which 200 million euros will be for migration management. In return for the billions of euros in financial aid for economically ailing Egypt – the ongoing conflicts in the region have severely affected the Egyptian economy, especially tourism, and the ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have also led to a slump in revenue from the Suez Canal – the EU is hoping above all for support in curbing irregular migration. The Greek government recently expressed concern about the emergence of a new refugee route via Tobruk in Libya to the Greek islands of Crete and Gavdos. The UN Refugee Agency has already registered more than 1,000 refugees arriving in Greece via this route this year.

Last but not least, the close relations between Egyptian President Al-Sisi and the eastern Libyan ruler Khalifa Haftar had led to Egypt being increasingly perceived as a strategic partner for the EU. In addition, Egypt is to take action against smugglers and human traffickers as part of the agreement. The conditions in the refugee camps – according to the International Organisation for Migration, Egypt is currently home to around nine million refugees and migrants, including around four million from Sudan – are also to be improved. The EU also fears that the migration pressure on Egypt will increase even further if Israel further expands its military strikes on the border town of Rafah, where the Gaza Strip borders Egypt.

In addition to cooperation in migration management, the two sides also want to strengthen economic cooperation, among other things. In the energy sector, for example, the development of the Gregy power interconnector between Egypt and Greece is a key project to increase energy security in Europe. At the same time, Egypt, which also has the necessary resources in the field of hydrogen technology, should become a hub for renewable energies.

However, the agreement with Egypt, which is modelled on the agreements with Turkey, Mauritania and most recently Tunisia, has also been heavily criticised. For example, the Green in the EU Parliament labelled the deal with Al-Sisi, who came to power in 2013 with the help of a military coup and has since led the country in an increasingly authoritarian manner, as « morally reprehensible and naive in terms of content ». Human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch have also criticised the agreement as a betrayal of European values. The EU Commission, on the other hand, refers to the joint declaration that they want to work together to promote democracy and human rights. To this end, a summit of the leaders is to be held every two years in addition to the annual meeting of the Association Council.


In other news

On Thursday, an auction of contemporary African art took place at Sotheby’s in London. More than 100 works by 66 artists from a total of 23 African countries could be acquired. It is the first auction of African art at Sotheby’s since the pandemic. The highlight was the auction of the artwork Portrait of the Artist as a Visionary by South African painter Alexis Preller. It was created in 1972 and was one of the artist’s last paintings before his death in 1975. It had been privately owned for 40 years and was exhibited and was now offered for sale for the first time.

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