Niger, Uranium Problem, and EU Assurances

Since July 28, Niger has been the scene of an uprising that resulted in the overthrow of the legitimately elected head of state. Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by the Republican Guard, and Abdurahman Chiani proclaimed himself leader instead. After the uprisings in Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger remained the last state in the Sahel to have a clear Western position.

A former French colony, it had a contingent of 1,500 French soldiers in the country who were used to protect critical uranium mines, as well as to fight alongside US troops against jihadist movements.

Niger is one of European Union’s most important suppliers of uranium, which is mined here and then exported to France and Spain, where it is processed and then used as fuel. According to Euratom reports, in 2020 Niger became the first supplier of uranium to the EU with a share of 24.26%. Thus, the blockage of exports to France should worry the Old Continent, even if Brussels signals otherwise.

Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for the European Commission, explained in the past few hours that “reserves are sufficient to face any supply risk in the short term. In the medium and long term, there are enough deposits on the world market to cover the needs of the EU.”

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is based in Nigeria and has a Senegalese President, has issued an ultimatum to restore the ousted government; Mali and Burkina Faso threatened to react if the bloc used force. Both France and Italy have been working over the past few hours to repatriate their citizens that are currently in Niger.