European Union Extends a Helping Hand to DRC

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Javier Solana

Brussels: The Democratic Republic of Congo is now on the right track: the ceremony to invest Joseph Kabila as its new president has just been held and its parliament has been elected.

The country now has solid and legitimate institutions. After years of dictatorship and war, the DRC is again looking to its future with confidence, and the European Union will continue to help it.

A year ago, the United Nations asked the EU to provide military support for its peacekeeping operation in the DRC. Europe agreed, of course, and deployed a force comprising contingents from more than 20 member states. In 2003, a European force had already intervened in Ituri to halt the atrocities that were being committed and were threatening to undermine the process of reconciliation underway in the country.

The EU's second military operation in the DRC is now coming to an end and, as in 2003, it has accomplished its mission successfully. With this operation, we were able to make a crucial difference, in particularly difficult terrain, in a vast country marked by a long war that has cost millions of lives. At the end of 2005, the DRC was embarking on a crucial phase of its history with an electoral process to conclude the process of reconciliation referred to above. The European force was asked to deploy mainly in the capital, Kinshasa, where the country's future was being played out, during the critical period of the two rounds of the presidential election. The stakes were high and the risks were high, but the operation succeeded.

The day after the results of the first round were announced, there was unrest in the city which threatened to derail the electoral process and undermine all the work patiently undertaken over the past two years. As expected, the European force was called in to reinforce the UN (Monuc) troops. Operating with appropriate rules of engagement, it was able to demonstrate its usefulness and effectiveness and its total impartiality. The European force was called on to intervene a second time, the day before the announcement of the final results of the second round. And, in the same way, it played the role expected of it.

We should also state very clearly that the European force acted chiefly as a deterrent. …