Brussels – Defence Minister Matej Tonin said on Thursday that Slovenian soldiers remain in Mali for now and continue training Mali troops. The statement comes after France announced its troops would withdraw from this African country, where Slovenia currently has nine soldiers in the EU Training Mission (EUTM).
France announced the decision on Thursday after it was adopted on the eve of today’s EU-Africa summit at a dinner the French president hosted on the situation in Sahel, which was also attended by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša.
Tonin understands the statement as meaning that France is withdrawing, while a formal decision on the EU mission has not yet been adopted yet.
He said that the EU has invested a lot of efforts and millions of euros into peace and security in Mali.
This is a reason why he finds it hard to accept that the EU would now leave to give room to the Russian Wagner group. “A few Russian mercenaries should not undermine the EU’s efforts in Mali,” he said in Brussels after a two-day NATO ministerial.
Tonin believes it should be thoroughly analysed why the authorities in Mali have found support in the Wagner group and what is wrong with the support provided by the EU.
He said that after two coupes d’etat within a year in Mali, a question has arisen of whether it is sensible to train troops that could turn against the EU.
However, he added that the experience with Afghanistan shows that thorough refection is needed on how to proceed.