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Enough Ukraine: Spain wants more focus on Africa, Asia

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Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles urged EU countries on Monday (18 September) to enhance the bloc’s security relationship with Africa and the Indo-Pacific in an attempt to restore its global approach, skewed by the war in Ukraine.

“We also need to keep a 360-degree view when we look at the different threats that exist, we shouldn’t focus just on one single region,” Robles stressed in front of lawmakers in the European Parliament’s sub-committee on Security and Defence. Her speech was largely devoted to the EU and the world, after introductory remarks on Ukraine.

Her remarks come as prospects of a negotiated peace in Ukraine remain distant, nearly eighteen months since Russia invaded the country, and Kyiv’s counter-offensive is making slow progress.

At the same time, EU countries have faced hurdles in rallying broad international support for Ukraine, with little appetite to turn attention to non-Western problems, particularily in Africa and the Indo-Pacific.

Spain, which currently holds the rotating EU Council presidency, called for a closer relationship with Latin America around an EU-CELAC summit in July and vowed to work on a trade agreement with the Mercosur countries.

The war in Ukraine “is impacting everything linked to external policy and security and defence for Europe is also affecting our economy in the EU,” Robles said.

To face that challenge, she called for more financial resources for the European Peace Facility (EPF), an intergovernmental fund for military aid to third countries, which is currently mostly used to reimburse member states in exchange for donating their equipment to Ukraine.

“The EPF has shown itself to be a very useful tool to support Ukraine, as allowed them to define the street combat capabilities but must not forget the original aims of the EPF,” the Spanish minister said.

“And there is a 360-degree view of threats, and we shouldn’t be using it in this way,” she said, hinting that the fund to be used as was originally meant – to pay for the delivery of lethal and non-lethal equipment to third states, rather than support a country at war.

Among the other regions of the world, she mentioned it is important to look at the Gulf of Guinea and the Indo-Pacific regions. “These are areas of key interest for all of us.”

“We also want to strengthen links with global partners which is absolutely vital,” she added.

The EU conducts many other programmes beyond the ones in Ukraine, especially in Africa, such as anti-piracy, military and civilian security training, as well as border management training in Central Asia.

“It’s very important to strengthen our links with Africa and countries in the Indo-Pacific region for maritime security,” Robles said.

“Another important topic of major concern for us is the situation in the Sahel region. It is the new southern border of the EU. We need to be aware of the fact that we need to support the Sahel region, above all, following the coups that have taken place in the region is a priority for Spain,” she said.

The Sahel countries have given the Europeans cause for concern as several of them descended into junta-led dictatorships over the past two years, asking the EU and its member states to leave their territory.

Niger, the latest on the list, was until recently seen as an island of stability in the region, with the EU setting up a training mission on the ground, until the coup in July.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alexandra Brzozowski]

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