The G5 will take centre stage in Brussels on Friday — but it won’t be the grouping of the world’s largest emerging economies long known by that name، Financial Times reported.
This quintet are the Sahel countries sandwiched mainly between western Africa’s tropical coast and desert north. Their starring role at a conference in the EU capital is a sign of how security and migration have driven them up the European agenda.
The situation of Burkina Faso، Chad، Mali، Mauritania، and Niger will be the first issue addressed by EU leaders when they meet in Brussels on Friday. The talks are being driven forward by the European Commission and France، the former colonial power in all five states، and are supposed to generate hard cash as well as warm words.
One reason for the EU’s interest is that many of the almost 2.5m asylum claimants in the EU in 2015-16 came via Sahel routes leading to the north African coast.
Another preoccupation is that the vast region has also become a bolt-hole for Isis extremists fleeing Syria and Iraq. France has targeted militants through its pan-regional Operation Barkhane، which has deployed 4،000 troops supported by drones، fighter jets and helicopters.
A big aim of the Brussels conference is to secure pledges on the way to a target of €400m for a regional military force launched in October and comprising about 5،000 personnel. More than half the money has already been raised — including €100m from Saudi Arabia and €30m from the United Arab Emirates.
But some rights groups are concerned that the EU’s interest in Sahel is too narrowly focused around security issues. Activists also question the human rights records of both Sahel state authorities and the Europeans’ Gulf partners، who are fighting a bloody war with Houthi rebels in Yemen.
EU officials insist the Sahel co-operation is necessary and will be governed by proper safeguards. European institutions and countries are also putting development money into the region.
The Sahel countries need more international political support “to fight the terrorists، smugglers and trafficking، which are major problems،” insists one EU official. All of which suggests this G5 fundraiser in Brussels is unlikely to be the last.