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Have African Coups provoked an Identity Crisis for the EU?

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As Africa experiences a new coup wave establishing military governments across the continent, the EU grapples with fundamental questions about what direction to take.

In the past three years several global crises have upset the international order: the covid pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the recent coup wave in African states where EU has invested heavily over the past decade. The EU has maintained a relatively cohesive front for the two first crises but is struggling to find an approach to deal with the third. The Covid pandemic provoked national tensions and crisis in some member states, but the EU as a collective ultimately responded effectively: agreeing to create a recovery fund for the hardest-hit member states and after an initial slow start, managed to catch up with vaccine procurement and distribution. The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine provoked unprecedently fast, tough and unanimous sanctions from the usually slow bureaucratic machine, and while discontent over some member states’ national decisions regarding military support has disturbed the overall picture, at no point has the overarching aim of supporting Ukraine against Russia been up for debate.

In contrast to the previous crises, the recent coup wave in Sahelian states where the EU has invested significant resources, deployed personnel, and more broadly attempted to affirm its role as a global security actor over more than a decade, has demonstrated cracks in cohesion. More specifically, it has provoked questions regarding France’s leading role within the EU when it comes to Africa, as well as fundamental questions about how to merge the identity of the EU as a normative power with that of a security actor in the midst of a Global Power competition. The recent decision by the Niger junta to abruptly end EU’s CSDP missions in the country is adding further questions regarding EU’s future in the region and as a security player more broadly.


Appeared in French at Rubicon: Les coups d’État africains ont-ils provoqué une crise d’identité pour l’UE ? – Le Rubicon


(Photo credit:  MINUSMA/Gema Cortes)