Mali (Q&A - Excerpt from the daily press briefing - March 8, 2013)
Q : Do you think - two months after the start of the intervention in Mali - that the situation on the ground is really beginning to stabilize?
A : Two months after the start of the French intervention in Mali, in support of the Malian forces and the African troops, significant progress has been made.
The territorial integrity of Mali is, first of all, in the process of being re-established. There may be continued fighting in some areas of the country, where the terrorists have retreated, but the swift recapturing of the major cities in the north brought real relief to the local populations freed from the subjugation of the extremist groups.
In parallel with the stabilization efforts under way in Mali, discussions have been initiated at the Security Council, in collaboration with our Malian partners and all African countries, on the transformation of AFISMA into a UN peacekeeping operation.
The gradual improvement in the security situation in the country means that it will be possible to re-open the lycée Liberté in Bamako from March 11. Similarly, the continued deployment of African forces to Mali means that we can now reduce the number of areas that our citizens in Mali are strongly advised to avoid. New zoning information and safety precautions have been uploaded to the “Travel Advisory” website.
The political process, which is central to the resolution of the Malian crisis, is also moving forward. Following the adoption of the road map by the Malian Parliament on January 29, the holding of free and transparent elections before the end of July was announced by President Traoré. Furthermore, the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission was established on March 6. We welcome this decisive step forward. It should make it possible to establish dialogue with all representatives of the populations of northern Mali (elected officials, all components of civil society) who renounce violence and recognize the country’s territorial integrity.
During this stabilization phase, action must be taken in the area of development in order to achieve peace. The adoption of the road map has allowed the gradual resumption of our civil cooperation, notably that of the French Development Agency, with a portfolio of projects worth almost €150 million. Priority will be given to restarting projects to improve the living conditions of the populations: development of productive activities, health, rural development, water and sanitation, urban development of Bamako, basic education, secondary education and vocational training.
The French local authorities, which maintain numerous partnerships and pursue decentralized cooperation projects with Mali, will have an important role to play in promoting the country’s development. With this in mind, Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, will bring together on March 19 in Lyon, 100 French cities twinned with Malian cities.
The EU is also strongly mobilized, with almost €250 million in budgetary aid and funding for development projects. In order to mobilize the international community France and the EU will host in Brussels in May a donors’ conference for the development of Mali. The aim is to ensure that funding will be available over the long term and that it is used effectively, since current efforts must be sustained. Mali will remain high on the international agenda over the next few months. It will notably be discussed at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting on March 11.