Colombia’s armed forces have been invited by the European Union (EU) to participate in crisis management operations, including a civilian security mission in Ukraine and an anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa, according to German media.
Participation in the EU operations would be the Colombian military’s first involvement in the union’s security missions, something President Juan Manuel Santos has promised to members of the armed forces weary to increase support for peace with the FARC rebels.
In July of this year, the EU established the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine), a civilian mission Colombia could potentially join. The EU has maintained an anti-piracy mission, known as Operation Atalanta, off the coast of Somalia since 2008 and in which the Colombian Navy has been invited to participate.
The invitation to join these operations was revealed in a response by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to an inquiry put forward by German political party Die Linke regarding military cooperation between the EU and Colombia, according to German newspaper Neus Deutschland.
The news comes as President Santos reaches the end of his European tour aimed at securing political and economic support for peace talks with the FARC and post-conflict Colombia.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court and Congress will have to approve of the participation before the country will be able to participate in the missions, according to La Silla Vacia.
Over the summer, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon signed an agreement with the Council of the European Union establishing the framework through which Colombia would participate in crisis management operations. It was not expected such plans would come to fruit quite so soon.
Colombian website La Silla Vacia has described Colombian troops potential participation in international security operations as “carrot” to build support the peace process and the end of the 50-year Colombian conflict with the FARC.
“Just as the US sends missions here to Tolemaida to teach you certain things, you are going to be in the position of being able to go to other countries, with much better pay because you will have United Nations salaries, to be able to help them in their peace missions. This is the future of our Army,” Santos told troops at the Tolemaida military base.
A spokesperson for the German political party who solicited the questionnaire to the Chancellor were critical of the decision to invite Colombian troops to EU missions as a way of strengthening the possibility of peace agreement with the FARC.
Heike Hansel, a spokesperson of Die Linke, also criticized the search for financial resources for peace while spending considerable resources on the Colombian military.
“It is incomprehensible that Colombia seeks financial aid for the post-conflict Colombia, the construction of peace and the financing of democratic structures, while continuing to maintain more than 500,000 active soldiers with their corresponding high budgetary costs,” Hansel said.
Colombia has already participated in military training in southern Germany and at the NATO Defense College, according to Semana magazine. The strengthen ties with military alliance has angered other South American countries like Venezuela and Bolivia, who are critical of NATO’s security policies.
Colombian troops already play a significant role in training other armed forces within Latin America, and has been praised by the United States for its role as a “military exporter.”
Mexico has been the largest recipient of Colombian military training.