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Opinion: Europe Conspicuously Absent in Liberia

Where is Europe now that West African peacekeepers have begun arriving in Liberia and U.S. warships have anchored off the coast to support the U.N. mission? Europe is sitting on its hands for lack of a policy on Africa.


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The massacres, the rapes, the senseless killing, the inferno of civil war has shaken up Europe. In Congo anyway or, to be precise, in Bunia. Within a short time -- short by European standards -- around 1,500 mainly French soldiers were welded into a peace force. Countries like Germany said they would be prepared to help the troops logistically. Equipped with a U.N. mandate, the European intervention troops are trying -- at least in Bunia, in the heart of hell -- to create a little security, calm and order.

We'll see how enduring it will be. But we won't be able to judge how diplomatically deft the Europeans are until they manage to bring those responsible for the bloody killings in Uganda and Rwanda to the negotiating table. But the Europeans have far to go. Europe unmoved

When it comes to Liberia the European Union's behavior is very different. Although a bloody civil war is raging there too, just as brutal and horrible as in Congo, here in Europe you hear nothing about it -- or nearly nothing. Europe is largely unmoved by the deaths.

No one wants to send a European mission. No one is committed to military intervention -- at least not officially. Europe doesn't appear to be concerned about Liberia, as if the engagement in Congo had already exhausted the old continent's powers. And when intervention is called for Europeans say it should be an American one. But why?

Europe is already engaged militarily, in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in Iraq, in Congo. Its military powers are strained, some say -- not without reason -- overstrained. Germany, for example, couldn't even send 100 soldiers. But, observers say, if Europe wanted to, it would surely be able to free up the necessary 3,000 soldiers. No, there must be other reasons. Policy, what policy?

The suspicion just won't go away that Europe doesn't have a policy on Africa. Instead, there is, at best, just a French policy on Africa. The Congo belongs to the Francophile world, thus it is important for Paris. If Paris wants something to be done it will find support -- in any case political support from Berlin.

Congo was a torch for the French public, so the government was prepared to send troops. Plus, it could show the world and, above all, Washington that France, which refused to take part in the Iraq war, is a country that lives up to its responsibilities. It could also make small amends for its colonial past. And the mission would not be expensive or incalculably dangerous.

That could be different in Liberia. No European country has links to the country, neither historically nor politically. There aren't apparent economical interests either. Consequently, Liberia and the civil war don't attract attention. So Europe shoves the responsibility to take action in Washington's lap. Europe remains far away from a consistent, a convincing, a sustainable policy on Africa.

Alexander Kudascheff is Deutsche Welle's Brussels correspondent.

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