Security & Defense

France & NATO – pt.3

[Click here to read part 1]

[Click here to read part 2]

The French Government’s Vision of NATO

In order to determine the current importance of NATO for the French government, it is important to analyse the latest White Paper on Defense and National Security, which was published by Francois Hollande’s government in 2013. The issues covered are the new political landscape France has to evolve in, the strategic priorities, France role in NATO and the EU, how and with which tools to realize those goals.

French White Paper - Defence and National Security, 2013

French White Paper – Defence and National Security, 2013

The White Paper clearly states that France acknowledges the importance of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance as both sides of the Ocean are linked by history and common values. NATO thus gathers Europe and North America around common objectives, including collective defense on which France also depends on for its defence and security.  The official stance on the reintegration into the Integrated Military Structures explains the importance of the gesture which was a natural one. France has, according to the White Paper, retrieved its “rightful place” in the Alliance. As a founding member and one the biggest contributors, France now holds the power it deserves considering these two elements.

France and International Organizations

The French government sees its engagement in both NATO and the EU as indispensable in order to attain its strategic goals and ensure its security. Three possible alternatives are Continue reading

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Security & Defense

France & NATO – pt.2

[Click here to read pt.1]

A Divergent Approach to the Alliance

France reintegration into the NATO Integrated Military Structures in 2009 did not come as a total surprise as France had been moving closer to the IMSs for decades. François Mitterrand, followed by former Jacques Chirac, had previously attempted to fully reintegrate NATO, without success as the circumstances did not seem right at the time. The reintegration, announced by Nicolas Sarkozy

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy announces in Paris that France would rejoin NATO's integrated military command on March 11, 2009

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy announces in Paris that France would rejoin NATO’s integrated military command on March 11, 2009, more than 40 years after his predecessor Charles de Gaulle pulled out of the alliance’s inner circle. (Photo: AFP PHOTO POOL / Philippe Wojazer)

therefore did not mark a break in French relations with the Alliance, it only acted as a natural result to the process in place. However, the reintegration did not mean that France would submit itself to all of NATO’s demands, and what Paris had established as his exceptions would remain. These include: “(1) France’s nuclear weapons would remain under national control; (2) France would maintain control over the deployment of French troops in any military operations; (3) France would not put its troops under NATO control in peacetime”. Beyond those three elements that were excluded from the negotiations all along the “creeping reintegration” Continue reading

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Security & Defense

93ème séminaire jeune de l’IHEDN – J2

Cette deuxième de comité suit le même schéma que la première, mais avec cette fois ci un focus sur l’Etat de la France aujourd’hui en matinée et sur les retours d’expérience (retex) d’opérations l’après-midi.

Voici les choses à retenir de la journée :

  • Les effectifs à la disposition de l’armée française ne cessent de décroitre, et atteignent désormais des forces comparables à celles de l’époque de Louis XIV bien que la population soit 3 fois plus importante aujourd’hui. Bien entendu, les corps-à-corps ont disparu et les guerres font moins de mort. L’effectif humain reste tout de même primordial à la fois par la force qui découle de sa présence mais aussi parce que la technologie ne peut pas se substituer à la composante humaine. Les forces françaises sont désormais en « surchauffe » avec des durées d’entrainement insuffisantes, des déploiements trop longs et des missions en manque d’effectif. On observe ainsi une démoralisation des troupes qui résulte de la corrélation entre ambitions évoquées dans le Livre Blanc de la Défense et les moyens disponibles.
  • La France a perdu plus de 40% de ses effectifs militaires entre 1992 et 2012. Cela n’aurait été possible dans aucun autre secteur. Mais les militaires ne font pas la grève…
  • La France possède 60 000 forces opérationnelles, ce qui permet le déploiement simultané de 22 000 hommes. Avec la présence française à travers le monde, notamment au Mali, en Centrafrique, à Barkhan, au Liban ainsi que dans les Antilles, l’Opération Sentinelle mise en place pour des raisons anti-terroristes et qui mobilise 9 000 soldats en métropole rajoute un poids sur les effectifs déjà en flux tendu du pays.
  • Les moyens budgétaires à la disposition de l’armée forcent une réduction des équipements, à la suite de laquelle on observe une surutilisation des équipements mais aussi le recours aux bricolages, c’est-à-dire l’utilisation des armes et autres pour des missions auxquelles elles n’étaient pas destinées. L’armée française privilégie ainsi l’achat d’outils polyvalents pouvant servir sur des théâtres d’opération divers et à des buts variés.
  • La loi de programmation prévue dans le Livre Blanc de 2013 a été ajusté en 2015, prévoyant ainsi la mise à disposition de 3,8 milliards d’euros supplémentaires aux armées sur les 4 prochaines années. Bien que cela reste insuffisant, le but est ainsi de pouvoir augmenter le nombre de troupes, de 66 000 à 77 000 personnels.
  • Le Livre Blanc de la Défense de 2013 ressert la zone d’intérêt autour de la France en soustrayant une partie de l’Asie, notamment l’Inde, mais aussi de la Mauritanie, de l’Asie Pacifique et de l’Afghanistan. Le focus est ainsi mis sur les frontières directes de l’UE et de l’environnement géographiquement proche (géographiquement et historiquement) de la France.
  • Les intérêts proclamés de la France aujourd’hui font écho à ceux affichés jadis par De Gaulle lors de la sortie de la France du Commandement Intégré de l’OTAN. L’accès est mis sur la protection du territoire nationale (métropole, territoires d’outre mers, ZEE) ; maintien de la paix et de la stabilité dans les zones clés évoquées dans le point précédent ; lutte contre le terrorisme et la prolifération nucléaire ; rôle de la France comme Nation-cadre dans des missions extérieures ; indépendance de l’initiative et de la stratégie de la France, qui s’illustre notamment par son indépendance nucléaire.
  • La France mise sur une tradition militaire renommée et polyvalente. Malgré la réduction des moyens, elle recherche le maintien de sa complétude, c’est-à-dire de sa capacité à intervenir par tous les moyens disponibles sur tous les théâtres d’opération. La France est aussi capable d’entrer en premier sur un théâtre, ce que peu de nations sont capables de faire (notamment au Mali, en Centrafrique, etc.).
  • En vue des défis notamment budgétaires, mais aussi compte tenu du changement du paysage sécuritaire de la France, cette dernière a intérêt à miser sur les alliances et partenariats, ne serait-ce que pour porter collectivement le poids des missions, mais aussi par le pooling and sharing, c’est-à-dire l’acquisition groupée d’appareils militaires dont l’utilisation est partagée entre les acheteurs (notamment avec l’Allemagne, mais aussi peut-être la Pologne, bien que les intérêts de cette dernière divergent de ceux de la France).
  • La France est le 4ème exportateur mondial d’armement. Le marché mondial des armes ne connait en effet pas la crise car le monde reste chrysogène et la solution militaire la réponse majoritairement adoptée par les Etats pour se prémunir contre les attaques et menaces.
  • Le secteur de l’industrie de défense reçoit d’importants investissements du gouvernement, ce qui permet le maintien de cette industrie en France, garantit l’approvisionnement des forces armées, et encourage la compétitivité de la France en la matière. Les exportations permettent la rentabilisation du secteur ainsi que de renforcer les partenaires qui se trouveraient en situation de crise.
  • Les exportations d’armement sont, par définition, interdites sauf exceptions. Ces exceptions sont déterminées par une analyse interministérielle des acheteurs potentiels et de ses intentions. L’autorisation de l’exportation doit se faire selon le respect des intérêts financiers et en terme de politique étrangère de la France, mais doit aussi s’inscrire dans la perspective du respect des Droits de l’Homme.
  • L’opération SANGARIS en République Centrafricaine (RCA) s’est fait suivant la demande du Président de la RCA, François Bozizé, alors que le pays était en proie à l’instabilité à cause des Séléka, groupuscule musulman semant la terreur dans le pays. 2 200 hommes sont déployés en continu depuis l’intervention française en décembre 2013. Le but est de soutenir les forces de l’Union Africaine, de ramener le niveau de sécurité le plus bas possible afin de pouvoir y mettre en place des infrastructures stables.

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France's Forgotten Territories, Uncategorized

France’s forgotten territories: Clipperton & Floréana

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference in Paris, in the prestigious Ecole Militaire. The topic of the conference was the French forgotten territories, those pieces of land scattered around the globe which few people know about. On this blog, I have previously talked about Mayotte and some former French colonies such as Madagascar, but I have not yet touched upon the inhabited territories that France possesses. Based on his book “tour du monde des terres françaises oubliées”, Bruno Fuligni presented the enclaves, islands, rocks, houses and memorials which continue to make France an empire on which the sun never sets. Many believe that France is now a small country, as it is only a fraction of what it used to be. This is, however, only partly true. France may have lost its African, American and Asian possessions to decolonization, but some corners of the world were spared by this process.

This week, we will explore two islands located in the Pacific: Clipperton and Floréana. The first case is more of a classic one as it is claimed by France. The second one is a little bit quirkier as it official belongs to Ecuador, even if a French village claims their sovereignty over the island.

Clipperton 

Clipperton, lost in the Pacific Ocean

Clipperton, lost in the Pacific Ocean – Source: Marine Nationale

Located 1,300km off the coast of Mexico and 6,000 km away from Tahiti, from which it is administered, the atoll of Clipperton is the most isolated territory in the world. Clipperton spread over 6km² of land, in the middle of which a lagoon has formed. Clipperton gives France an exclusive economic zone of 425220 km² (more than that of metropolitan France), an important number considering the size of the territory, as well as in light of the local wildlife. The waters around Clipperton have been deemed rich in fish, and especially in tuna, which has allowed France to join the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (I.A.T.T.C.). An automatic meteorological station has been in place there since 1980.

Previously called Ile de la Passion, or Passion Island, the islet was allegedly discovered by Magellan at the beginning of the 18th century. France, however, did not claim ownership before 1859. The name of Clipperton comes from the name of the British pirate Clippington, better known as Clipperton, who was left on the island by the privateer William Dampier in 1704. The islet was the object of a territorial dispute between the United States and Mexico as both wanted to exploit the guano the seabirds left there. Guano was of particular importance for the farming industry as it was used as a fertilizer. In 1897, despite being a French possession, the Mexicans set a settlement on Clipperton. In order to settle the dispute, the responsibility to decide was given by the International Court to Italy. In 1931, amidst the rise of Mussolini in Italy, the king Vittorio Emanuele III awarded the possession to France, in an effort to make a gesture and bring the two countries closer together as the Second World War was preparing.  Clipperton was then used as a military base for the US Navy during World War Two.

Due to its geographic isolation, France has been unable to keep a close eye on the islet. Illegal and unregulated fishing has thus always been practiced, especially by Mexican fishermen. Today, France sends a military mission there every year in order to renew France’s sovereignty over Clipperton. This sovereignty is, however, not consecrated in the French constitution.

There have been many projects to set a scientific base, just like in the TAAF on Clipperton, in an effort to observe and study the local wildlife, as well as to assess the impact of pollution on this isolated island. As explained in the video below, the islet has been strongly impacted by maritime pollution, and Clipperton continues to be invaded by plastic wastes brought by the waves.

FloréanaFloréana

Named after the first president of Ecuador, Juan José Flores, the island of Floréana is located off the coast of Ecuador, in the archipelago of the Galapagos, in the Pacific Ocean.

In 1844, under Louis Philippe, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, François Guizot received a letter from a rich Frenchman offering the French government to acquire parts of the Galapagos islands as Flores wished to get rid of them in return for some money of which he was in dire need. This Frenchman, Léon Uthurburu, foresaw the strategic importance of those islands if a canal were to be built to cut through central America. The interest would be great for France as a canal would enable the Antilles and Tahiti to be connected much easier. The French government refused as the digging of what would become the Panama Canal was, at the time, unimaginable for them. Léon Uthurburu still acquired one of the island of the Galapagos, Floréana, for his own account. Single and childless, he left all his possessions to the village he came from, Barcus, in the French Basque country. Since then, the village has claimed ownership of the island, even though France recognized in 1887 that Ecuador was the true owner of Floréana. It must be noted that France timidly tried to support Barcus’s claim as soon as the Panama Canal was dug, without success.

Floréana is a volcanic island, uninhabited by humans but full of giant turtles and iguanas.

This is the last article of the series. France possesses more territories around the world, but those I have mentioned are the most important. I could have mentioned the various churches France owns in Rome, or the cave in Jerusalem, and many more. But for now, that is it.

With this world tour, we have travelled around the globe and explored France’s grandeur. France is much more than the metropole and goes far beyond Europe. Indeed, France is not a European power, but a world power as there are more French land and water outside of European than in. France remains an international power.

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Decolonization

Ceuta And Melilla: Another entry door into Europe

The migration wave coming from Africa and reaching Europe makes the headlines everyday. This migration patterns shows the failure of the West’s deployment in Northern Africa. The resurgence of crises in Congo, Mali, Burundi and so forth also reinforce the idea that we still live in a divided world. And those who suffer are not to come to Europe because they do not belong. And what better way to mark this divide that with a wall? There are many examples of such infrastructures which try to keep migrants away from a better life; walls mark the border between Mexico and the US, between North and South Korea, Jerusalem and the West Bank, India and Bangladesh, in Cyprus, etc.

But did you know that a wall prevented Africans from accessing two cities located on the continent? What I am referring to here are the Spanish exclaves located on the opposite side of the Mediterranean of the mainland. These cities are called Ceuta and Melilla and are situated on the Moroccan coast. Ceuta is right on the other side of the Gibraltar strait, while Melilla is further East.Ceuta and Melilla

Morocco vs. Spain

Technically speaking, the two cities are on African soil, but belong to Spain. The local currency is euro. Melilla is a semi-autonomous city, governed by a mayor-president. For that reason, it is part of the EU. And because those two cities are EU outposts outside of Europe, they offer the safest alternatives to reaching the Old Continent for migrants coming from all over Africa (mainly sub-saharian). Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives in the hope of crossing the walls which separate the European enclaves from Morocco.

Most surprisingly, Morocco is adding difficulties to the migrants’ quest. It is eyebrow-raising because Morocco does not recognize Spain’s sovereignty over these two cities for the reason that they are in Morocco and thus historically belong to them. Spain, on the other hand, claims that Spanish presence dates back to before Morocco became a sovereign and nation-state, thus invoking the historical precedent rather than geographical considerations. In this case, and like in many other when in comes to overseas territories, organizing a referendum to consult the local populations would be pointless. Take the case of Mayotte which was previously discussed in an article: who would choose to be attached to the Comoros when you can remain French? The two options do not offer the same opportunities. For that reason, self-determination is not invoked by Morocco. In this case, territorial integrity is, just like Spain does against the UK for Gibraltar.

The great walls 

Going back to those walls, Ceuta is surrounded by 20km of wires while Melilla is separated by 3 layers of fences over 10 km. Guarded 24/7, those borders can be deadly for whoever tries to overpass them. They, however, do not defeat everybody, and hundred of migrants still manage to make it to Spain (4 354 in 2013). If not immediately caught by the Guardia Civil or the Moroccan police, they can no longer be ‘pushed back’ to Morocco, as stated under European law. If sent back to Morocco, migrants are often in bad shape and still undesired illegal immigrants in Morocco.

Walls were not walls before the 1990s when they were reinforced. Before then, Spanish exclaves and Morocco were difficult to delineate, and inhabitants from both communities walk freely across borders.The wall of Melilla

The Spanish-Moroccan borders are also the object of other types of trafficking, from both times this time. The Spanish enclaves are actually exempt of taxes, thus making good much cheaper than in mainland Europe, and mostly accessible for the Moroccans. The latter thus buy European foods and items from the harbour area at the border between the two countries, and sell them on the Moroccan side. Local authorities have attempted to put an end to this trade by banning vehicles from entering the warehouses, turning the merchants into ‘human mules’ as some carry up to 100kg in duty free goods.

Another problem of these exclaves are the Moroccan shanty towns. In Ceuta specifically, the shanty town “Principe Alfonso” is a no-go zone, and is considered as Spain’s most dangerous area. There, Spanish authorities have no rights. Illegal trafficking and terror do. There is no future for the local inhabitants. They are not Spaniards and they do not live in Morocco. They are nothing. The neighbourhood is also recognized as a jihadist recruitment center.

What now?

Problems seem to pile up in the two exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Illegal immigration, violence, human rights abuse, sovereignty dispute, poverty, despair… Nothing is changing other than the reinforcement of the borders to keep Spain out of reach of the migrants.

The best way to address the issue is to understand that Africa is in a dire situation, and that, even though Europe is not the paradise, it is still better than most countries from which migrants leave. Yes, migrants are illegal, but no, this does not justify that violence.

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Countries

Madagascar: aborted development

Madagascar… apart from the animated film of the same name, what do we really know about Madagascar? Until last weekend, I certainly did not know much, but meeting a native person opened my eyes to the potentials and threats that this gigantic island located off the coast of Africa, across from Mozambique is facing.

Madagascar - Source:

Madagascar – Source: Ministère des Affaires Etrangères de France

A little bit of history

Madagascar was independent kingdom before being colonized by France in 1896. In 1946, the island’s status changed to become a French Overseas Territory, as opposed to a colony. The decolonization process started with a local insurrection in 1947 which was violently repressed by the French forces (the repression is often considered as one of France’s bleakest moment of the decolonization era, alongside Indochina). Madagascar finally seizes it independence in 1960. This renewed freedom did not, however, change much at the political level as the lack of democracy and an autocratic, inherited from the colonial era, stayed in place until 1992-93 when the first free elections took place.

Important political instability shook the country in 2009-2013, as a popular uprising forced former president Marc Ravalomanana to hand in the power to the military who passed on the reins of the state to the mayor of Antananarivo, the capital city. The process is de facto considered to be a  coup d’état. The crisis was settled through international mediation led by the Southern African Development Community, following which Madagascar held UN-supported presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013. The presidency has been in the hands of Hery Rajaonarimampianina since 2014.

Political and economical disarray 

Last May, the “Assemblée Nationale” (legislative chamber) voted for the destitution of the president, result of the semi-parlementarian system and the lack of strong political foothold of the president (Rajaonarimampianina was elected despite not belonging to a party and thus not being represented in the

Malagasy President Hery RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA Source: www.presidence.gov.mg/

Malagasy President Hery RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA
Source: http://www.presidence.gov.mg/

Assembly). The request was, however, rejected by the Constitutional Court. The political situation on the island remains unstable, illustrated by the resurgence on the political scene of former heads of states. The demons of the past have creeped up again on the economic scene as well, although Madagascar had been on the road to development since the mid-1990s after the country followed the IMF and World Bank policies.

Today, 80% of population lives off of agriculture but deforestation and difficult weather conditions such as drought and cyclones have put a strain on food supplies and the income generated. The national economy knows a very slow growth, 3,2% so far in 2015 (IMF), a number which should be much higher considering that Madagascar is a developing country. Plus, the Malagasy soil is rich with oil, chrome and nickel, thus offering immense economic potential for the local population, but the laxity and lack of efficiency of the government keeps putting foreign investors off.

The rampant corruption is also preventing the development of the country: Madagascar ranks 133 out of 174 on the corruption scale, a situation which has worsen since 2012. Other numbers are alarming: close to 3 out of 4 Malagasy live under the poverty line; the GDP per capita ranks 218 out of 230; the GDP has dropped by 42% since the independence in 1960.

The vicious circle 

Unfortunately, the situation Madagascar is in today will be hard to get out from alone. And due to the elements enumerated above, violence, strikes and inefficiency have increased. As a consequence, tourism, which is one of the island’s main source of revenue due to the beauty of its nature, has considerably dropped: only 100,000 tourists have made it there so far in 2015, although the previsions forecasted three times more foreign visitors. The strikes at Air Madagascar are partly to blame, although the claims of the staff are more than fair (see here for more).

The crisis also triggers chronic malnutrition, but also caused the resurgence of plague due to the poor living conditions in some parts of the country (Madagascar is the country the most affected by plague in the world).

Madagascar is also widely affected by malaria and dengue fever due to its tropical climate. Prevention campaigns have so far failed to reduce the effects of malaria. For example, children have been seen fishing with the mosquito nets rather than using them to keep the insects away.

Getting out of the mess 

On September 22, the IMF agreed to a 42 million euro loan to reform the local economy. This is a two-hedged sword because it has the potential to make a difference and trigger real changes, but it also has the potential to support corruption and not reach the intended result.

Madagascar is in a very concerning situation as the country seems to have halted its development. Strangely, it seems like the country is going backwards. Political stability has done no good for the population yet. Fear is spreading that only a military coup could force changes. Weirdly enough, history has shown that authoritarianism seems to have brought better results than democracy in Madagascar.

This situation cannot last. Parts of the civil society – mostly students- are denunciating the failures of the govenment, to which the police is reacting with violence instead of protecting the population. 

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