The EU needs to play a bigger role in UN peacekeeping operations, particularly in Sudan, UN Secretary-General Annan said Thursday during a visit to Ireland.
A French-led EU force was deployed in eastern Congo last year
"I want to leave you in no doubt of how important strengthened EU capacities are to the United Nations," Kofi Annan said during an address on EU-UN cooperation in crisis management at the Forum on Europe at Dublin Castle.
"The EU is in a position to provide specialized skills that our largest troop contributors may not be able to give us, and to deploy more rapidly than we can," he said.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
"The EU and its member states pay a lot of the UN's bills, and support our work right across the spectrum. I am deeply grateful for that -- but I look to Europe for even more.... That's why I welcome the development of EU capabilities in the context of the European Security and Defense Policy, and the progress that we are making together in the field of crisis management."
The European Union wants to set up rapid-reaction battle groups for troublespots around the globe but acknowledges a chronic lack of key military equipment stands in its way.
Britain, France and Germany have proposed establishing two or three units of 1,500 troops each by next year. By 2007 there may be as many as nine groups in a standing rota that could be deployed within 10 days.
French soldiers position themselves outside the UN compound, Saturday, June 7. 2003 in Bunia, Congo.
Their most likely use would be to restore order or stabilise a crisis zone and fill a crucial gap of up to three months until a U.N. peacekeeping force can be deployed, as a French-led EU force did in Bunia, eastern Congo, last year.
The move has been officially welcomed by the NATO alliance, which last year formed its own 20,000-strong rapid response force.
The UN Secretary-General noted many people were alive today because of the French-led Operation Artemis in the Congo, which in turn handed over to a UN operation. He called Artemis a model of EU cooperation with the UN.
Annan said the UN is facing a surge in demand for peacekeeping and the European Security and Defence Policy must not mean a weakening of the commitment of EU member states to provide traditional blue-helmeted troops for UN missions.
"In the last nine months, with five new operations either deployed or on the drawing board, the demand on our peacekeeping has jumped by about 50 percent," he said.
"We have around 56,000 troops and military observers deployed today. But we desperately need another 30,000 of them -- not to mention many more civilian personnel, both police and others," he said.
"Yet today, less than one in 10 UN peacekeepers is from an EU country. And in Africa, where most of our peacekeepers are deployed, the proportion drops to less than one in 20."
Ireland as example
Annan said he hoped other European nations would follow the lead of Ireland, which is bucking the trend with its troop contingent in Liberia.
A displaced Sudanese family at the market in Riyadh Internally Displaced People's camp, outside El Geneina, in Western Darfur, Sudan.
Dealing with the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, Annan stressed that much more help was needed.
"Darfur is an enormous region and a huge number of people are suffering. The humanitarian effort needs more money," he said.
"And the African Union needs concrete support, including logistics, equipment and financing, as well as political pressure on the parties. Every country and organization that can help must do so now."