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​Today, in Bamako

María Dolores de Cospedal says helping Mali in its fight against terrorism "protects Spanish families"

Wednesday 31 January 2018

During a visit to the Spanish contingent on the European EUTM-Mali mission, which she described as "fruitful", on the day when Spain assumes leadership for the third mandate of the operation, the Spanish Minister for Defence stressed that their presence in Mali helps guarantee "something that is imponderable and intangible, and only missed when it is no longer there - a right to the protection and security that we all have as Spaniards". "Without security, there can be no justice; without security, there can be no enjoyment of rights and freedoms", she added.

María Dolores de Cospedal also expressed gratitude for the work carried out by and generosity of the Spanish troops as "the finest ambassadors from our country" and as a shining example of those who best "represent the values of solidarity, dedication, commitment and courage in the Spanish nation".

The Minister for Defence said that "it is an honour for Spain to assume command of the mission to help the armed forces of Mali fight against those who wish to convert their country into a breeding ground for terrorism and a land without hope".

Commitment to the international community

María Dolores de Cospedal stressed that Spain takes part in all the European Union missions, most of the NATO missions and some of the United Nations missions, which represents a highly significant contribution from Spain to the security of the international community.

The Minister for Defence went on to add that "we are here to help Mali, under the umbrella of the European Union, the auspices of a United Nations resolution and at the request of the Government of Mali, which, in 2012, asked the international community to help it regain its integrity, fight against the terrorism that threatens to envelop this country and live in peace".

She reiterated this by saying that "Spain is especially bound to and interested in protecting our citizens and our national interests", especially in the Sahel but more specifically in Mali, so that "it can achieve the hope of building a country in which there is stability, in which there is lasting peace and in which its citizens, its men and women, have somewhere to live, need not see themselves trapped by either terrorist fanatics or criminal gangs, or become prey to immigration and the people traffickers".

Spanish involvement

Spain has been involved in the European Union EUTM-Mali mission since April 2013, the first contingent of which was made up by 50 servicemen. Subsequently, following the Council of Ministers agreement of 7 June 2013, this number of servicemen was increased to 110 due to greater Spanish involvement in instruction and training activities.

With authorisation from the Lower House of Parliament on 24 January, Spain will continue to be the country contributing the most servicemen to the EUTM-Mali mission, which will reach a maximum of 292, in order to guarantee the capabilities associated with the tasks of mission command, the protection force and decentralised training.

The Spanish contingent deployed in Mali is distributed between the towns of Bamako (housing the mission headquarters) and Koulikoro, where most of the personnel dedicated to training the Malian servicemen and protecting the force are based, even though the advice and training activities have been expanded into other parts of Mali.

451 Spanish servicemen took part in the mission in 2017, mainly from the Spanish Army, which trained 2,100 Malian servicemen of the more than 11,500 trained by the mission as a whole.

Transfer of authority

The Minister for Defence, María Dolores de Cospedal, will conclude her trip to Africa (on which she has visited the Spanish troops deployed in Gabon and Mali) after attending the transfer of authority ceremony for the European Union EUTM-Mali mission, which will take place on Tuesday afternoon at the Multinational General Headquarters in the capital Bamako and will hand over leadership for the mission's third mandate to Spain.

The Minister for Defence, María Dolores de Cospedal, will be accompanied at this hand-over ceremony by her Belgian and Malian counterparts, together with other civilian and military authorities.

Furthermore, the Minister for Defence will present General Laurant with the Grand Cross of Military Merit for his work leading this European Union mission.

Finally, Army General Enrique Millán Martínez will receive command of the mission from the Belgian General Bart Laurent. This process will be witnessed by the Director of Military Planning for the mission, French Brigadier General Daniel Grammatico.

Spain previously held command of the EUTM-Mali mission when, between October 2014 and July 2015, General Alfonso García-Vaquero Pradal held this position.

Visiting the Spanish troops

Before the EUTM-Mali mission hand-over ceremony, the Spanish Minister for Defence, María Dolores de Cospedal, travelled by helicopter to the training camp in Koulikoro, some 60 kilometres north-east of the capital Bamako, where she was received by the head of the Spanish contingent, Colonel Ignacio de Olazábal Elorz.

As part of the civil-military cooperation (CIMC) projects carried out by the Spanish armed forces, the Spanish delegation was then shown the activities conducted within this framework at the 'Fraternidad-Reino de España' state school in Bakaribugu.

The Minister for Defence was also shown the work carried out by a team of mortar instructors to support the Malian armed forces.

European Union EUTM-Mali mission

The purpose of the EUTM-Mali mission - approved by the European Union in January 2013 - is non-executive in nature; in other words, the military servicemen involved neither take part in combat activities nor do they accompany the Malian units on their operations but rather provide training, advice and instruction to the Armed Forces of Mali in order to help restore the country's territorial integrity under civilian authority.

The current mandate ends on 18 May 2018 and the extension of a new mandate to last until 2020 is in the planning process. Besides the current objectives, it is expected that the new mandate will include support to the 'G5-Sahel', via the joint force involving Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

At present, EUTM-Mali consists of 581 servicemen from 28 countries, of which 22 belong to the European Union, five are non-members and one is African.

Non official translation