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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

From the EU strategy for Africa to a joint EU-Africa strategy

From: EU NEWS - Issue 1, February 2007 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa).

A first and unique European Union – Africa Summit took place in Cairo in 2000. A second summit was planned to take place in 2003 but was postponed indefinitely because of difficulties arising from the presence of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

In December 2005, the 25 Heads of State and Government of the EU adopted a new Strategy for Africa, with the title "The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic partnership" with the ambitious purpose of giving the EU a comprehensive, integrated and long-term framework for its relations with the African continent... It is based on a communication of the European Commission published two months before. The adoption of the Africa strategy was very rapid and the debates were confined to the Council meeting room. The European Parliament produced a report on its own initiative but had no real influence. There was no consultation of European or African civil society representatives. The African Union (AU) and other African regional organizations were consulted during the drafting phase by the EC but with no proper dialogue and input.

Such a precipitate and non-inclusive process is particularly regrettable when we consider that this strategy is presented by the Commission as an important policy platform for implementing European development aid to Africa in the coming years. The programming of the 10th EDF that is currently taking place is the best illustration of the way the Africa strategy is guiding EC aid to Africa.

In particular, three new funding mechanisms have been established to implement the strategy: the African Peace Facility (€ 600 million committed so far), the Governance Incentive Fund (€ 3 billion) and the EU Infrastructure Trust Fund to be managed by the European Investment Bank. All three initiatives are funded with EDF resources. Another example is provided by the programming of the Regional Indicative Programmes that is focused on regional economic integration and trade in view of the signature of Economic Partnership Agreements by 2008.

Only limited progress has been made in binding the various Africa programmes of the EU Member States into some form of common programme to back up this Strategy and turn them into a genuine 'strategy for the whole of Europe' . So far, only half a dozen EU Member States have specific policies for their support to Africa and there is virtually no discussion about rationalising the geographic coverage of EU bi-lateral aid to Africa.

A debate on complementarity of aid between the EC and the 27 Member States is due to take place in 2007 starting with the publication by the Commission of a code of conduct on division of labour.

It is not surprising in these conditions that the EU institutions finally recognised that the process had not been inclusive enough and that the idea of preparing a joint AU and EU strategy was proposed and adopted at the joint ministerial AU-EU troïka meeting in Bamako and confirmed in the joint troika declaration of Vienna where Ministers agreed to work on a proposal for an outline of a Joint EU-Africa Strategy, ideally to be adopted at the 2nd EU-Africa Summit.

The intention of the EU is to organise the second EU-Africa Summit in November 2007 in Lisbon under the Portuguese presidency of the Union.

Considering the fact that no progress was made in the preparation of a joint strategy until the end of 2006, the time period for drafting and discussing such a joint strategy and for consulting interested parties (Member states, civil society and economic and social actors on both sides) is really short. However, the exact form the outline of a Joint strategy will have in November 2007 is still uncertain, some people start talking about a joint political declaration instead of a strategy. Will Lisbon be the end or the start of the process?

The wishes of the EC and the EU Member States are relatively clear and contained in the EU Strategy for Africa. The EC doesn't seem interested to re-open the discussion on EU side. However, no such preparatory work and debate has taken place in Africa and it is to be hoped that the Member states of the AU will have opportunities to identify and defend their vision of the future EU-Africa relationship and cooperation.

The views of African leaders on the cooperation with Europe might be quite different from one region to the other and especially between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa which have different relationships and different cooperation and trade agreements with the EU. In Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, AU members will have to cautiously assess the impact a joint strategy could have on the ACP-EU relations and in particular on the way EDF is utilised and on the EPA negotiations.

Building common views at continental level needs time and resources and a joint strategy with Europe is certainly not the primary challenge the recently established institutions of the AU have to face. The EU should refrain from putting pressure on the African Union to adopt a far-reaching strategy that would not be fully owned and supported by its members. The risk is that the whole process will be seen as a way for the EU to legitimize its own strategy and economic interests in the African continent without responding to the real needs and aspirations of the Africans.

In recognition of the fact that the process so far has not been inclusive enough, the European Commission contracted ECDPM to organise a consultation of civil society actors both in Europe and Africa. The consultation process should be brief and will start with the launch of an electronic consultation on 1st February. Five issues papers have been drafted by ECDPM and if the budget allows, a joint EU-Africa civil society seminar could be organised in Germany at the end of April. ECDPM will also cooperate with the AU Commission to organise the consultation in Africa.

Not surprisingly, many civil society actors are quite sceptical on that process and judge that it is far from being sufficient, especially on the side of African civil society. It is the reason why, several European civil society organisations are willing to join efforts in securing a real and strong African input that goes beyond this limited consultation exercise. The primary principle for such a process is that the proposals which are drawn up in Brussels should not serve as a straightjacket for an African input. African counterparts should be able to reflect freely on how they
would like to see future relations between the EU and Africa.

The Portuguese platform of NGOs, member of CONCORD, the European confederation of
development and relief organisations, plans to organise an Africa-EU Civil Society Forum in the margins of the AU-EU Summit in Lisbon. Other preparatory events could be envisaged if needs appear and any opportunity should be seized to debate the issue and encourage African partners to make their voices heard.

Finally, we are happy to close this article with good news from the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa where the Ghanaian President John Kufuor was elected by consensus to become the AU's chair for the next year.

Source: EU NEWS - Issue 1, February 2007 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa).

You are invited to participate in the consultation at www.europafrica.org.

For more information, please contact europafrica@ecdpm.org.

See also the Euforic dossier on Africa.

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