The EU shares Congo’s blood ore with Rwanda

With the European Parliament elections around the corner next June, the generally cross-eyed gazes of the citizens of the circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background turn away from their countries and look at the decisions taken by Brussels. In particular, civil society attentive to international cooperation has recently made its voice heard on a topic already addressed at European level: that of the entry into the EU area of the so-called “bloody minerals”, such as “coltan”, the columbite-tantalite mixture coming from territories of armed conflicts, in particular from Congo Kinshasa. Ethical reasons had so far been sacrificed in the face of demand for this primary good, capable of ensuring the well-being of European citizens with smartphones, airbags, PlayStations, electric cars, in short, necessary for current Western technology.

This approach has not been changed recently, so much so that on 19 February an agreement was signed with Rwanda which appears more than ambiguous. Access to “critical” minerals and European support for the creation of infrastructure for the trade of these materials presuppose that Rwanda is an extractive country when instead it is a manipulative actor of the main rebel militia, the M23, which for years in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo exploits the material resources of the territory with unprecedented violence for the local population. Even recently, the UN declared that the M23 movement is maneuvered and supported by Rwanda and even composed of its troops. A petition with 2000 signatures is already active calling for the withdrawal of the EU-Rwanda agreement. Millions of other citizens are unaware of the wars and violence generated by the removal (rather than the purchase) of these minerals from the very rich Congolese soil.

This is not the only case in which the European Union has turned its back on its values in terms of protection of human rights and support for the rule of law. Once again, market interest guided Brussels in the definition of the bilateral agreement with Morocco in 2013, renewed in 2019, for the importation of agricultural and seafood products of Moroccan origin into the European Single Market. The agreement was then rejected by the Court of Justice of the EU in 2021 as it also imposed obligations on the Saharawi people, without them being consulted or involved in the agreement. The complex issue linked to the self-determination of the Saharawi has, therefore, been set aside in the face of European imports from Morocco amounting to 15.2 billion euros which make Rabat the main European trading partner on the African continent.

The agreement with Libya on immigration deserves nothing but words of the highest disdain for the inhuman conditions that migrants suffer in the country, with evidence of arbitrary arrests, murders, torture, rape, slavery, sexual slavery, extrajudicial executions and disappearances. Added to these crimes against humanity, reported on several occasions, are fears for the preservation of a state in pieces, that the economic flow of funds from the EU has not improved at all but rather, at present, the withdrawal of those funds would completely implode. In 2023 the EU signed a memorandum of understanding with Tunisia worth 700 million euros. A similar agreement was stipulated with Mauritania for 210 million euros according to a strategy to contain migratory flows which, once again, is entrusted to governments which have not yet demonstrated that they respect the human rights of migrants, nor those of their own citizens.

Recently, in mid-March, the EU reached an agreement with Egypt worth 7.4 billion euros: 200 million will be directed towards controlling migratory flows, we are talking about small change compared to the 5 billion in subsidized loans for support macroeconomic reforms, 600 million in non-repayable financing and 1.8 billion in additional investments by EU financial institutions. Therefore, support for Egypt to reduce the ongoing economic crisis and make it a reliable partner which, however, as Claudio Francavilla of Human Rights Watch highlights, “does not address the decline of the rule of law which contributes to economic turbulence and drives investors away from the country ”.

Wanting to draw more general lines, “the European approach, beyond the official narrative that accredits the image of an equal partnership, risks remaining paternalistic” explains Valeria Fargion, political scientist at the University of Florence. Even “the global strategy with Africa, launched in 2020 by the EU, focuses on priorities that reflect European rather than African interests (green transition, digital transformation, sustainable development)”.

Translate »