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EU working on plans to sanction Niger coup leaders - Borrell

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met with EU defence ministers in Toledo, Spain, on August 30.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met with EU defence ministers in Toledo, Spain, on August 30. Copyright European Union, 2023.
Copyright European Union, 2023.
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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The EU is working on plans to sanction the military leaders who seized power in Niger in July, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday.

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Speaking following a meeting of EU defence ministers in Toledo, Spain, Borrell said that the EU will plan sanctions similar to those imposed by West African bloc ECOWAS.

ECOWAS and the West African Monetary and Economic Union have introduced financial sanctions since coup leaders overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Bazoum in July, suspending financial transactions and freezing national assets. The members of the Presidential Guard responsible for the coup have also received travel bans.

On Wednesday, Borrell said he had proposed a new legislative framework to ministers that would allow the EU to impose its own sanctions on the putschists. 

"It's up to ECOWAS to take decisions in order to counter this military coup and we will follow, trying to implement the same kind of sanctions that they have decided," Borrell said.

"We are moving forward for an autonomous sanctions regime to take actions against the putschists, work has already started and tomorrow the foreign affairs ministers will advance on that," he added.

When asked whether the EU would consider financing a standby military intervention by ECOWAS, Borrell did not disregard the possibility. "We are ready to consider any proposition," he said.

The President of ECOWAS and Niger's foreign affairs minister will join EU foreign ministers for further discussions in Toledo on Thursday.

The meeting took place hours after military officers in Gabon claimed on national TV that they were overturning the results of presidential elections and seizing power in the central African country. 

"It's clear that the coup in Niger is opening up a new era of instability in a region which is already very fragile," Borrell said.

Niger was seen as the last bastion of democracy in the Sahel region when it became the latest domino in a row of states that have toppled into the hands of military juntas. The EU has called for the reinstatement of President Bazoum and has suspended its budget support and cooperation on security.

It is estimated that around 40% of the country’s total budget was expected to come from external budget support and loans.

During the meeting, EU defence ministers also discussed long-term commitments to supporting security in Ukraine. Borrell revealed that the EU's military assistance mission is set to meet its target of training 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers by the end of October, proposing to increase the target to 40,000 by the end of this year.

The EU wants to train Ukrainian pilots to use F-16 fighter jets as part of their mission, he said.

Ministers also discussed the need to ramp up European investment in ammunition. Ammunition in the value of around €1.1 billion has been provided to Ukraine, but member states' ammunition stocks have been left bare, requiring new framework agreements with the European defense industry to fill procurement gaps.

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