Friday, May 30, 2008

The EU as saviour of the African Union?

Two recent reports (in German) by the German Institute of Global and Areas Studies look at Eu-Africa cooperation. Analysing the current status of African continental integration, Christian von Soest concludes that the new African Union Commission faces a major challenge to reduce the economic divides between Africa's various regional blocs before they become greater threats to continental unity. Further, although the African Union Commission should steer the integration process, it lacks the operative capacity doing so.

GIGA's Siegmar Schmidt further examines the role of the African Union in the EU development policy framework for Africa. He looks to EU programmes to help close the capacity gap of the AU. He notes that the EU counts on the AU as central partner within the new EU-Africa partnership, but argues that the AU can hardly meet these high expectations without external help. Consequently the EU supports various areas including peace and security, institutional architecture and the development program NEPAD.

Schmidt warns that even with external donor support, the AU might not yet be a reliable partner. This is shown by the weak reactions taken to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe. With the raise of Chinese cooperation in Africa, there is furthermore the possibility that some states might lose interest in cooperation with Europe.

Against this background, the EU's engagement will likely be increased so as not to lose influence on its neighbouring continent.

by Martin Behrens

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