Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ECDPM reviews progress of the Joint Africa- Europe Strategy

Africa remained high on the agenda of the international community in 2008. While India and China continued their involvement with African countries, also other global players like Russia, the USA, Turkey or Japan showed their increased or renewed commitment. Here, issues of energy security and climate change were increasingly important. On the other hand global crises like the financial and economic breakdown and the food crisis had negative effects on the development of the African continent.

In December 2007 a Joint Africa-Europe Strategy and its associated Action Plan were adopted. With its partnership approach, the holistic perspective on Africa, its 8 Thematic Partnerships and the envisioned strong role for civil society and parliaments, the Strategy distinguishes itself from previous initiatives in Euro-African relations.

One year after the adoption of the Joint Strategy, an ECDPM paper takes stock of the progress made in 2008 and reflects on its ambitious goals. It shows that progress was mainly made in the area of the institutional architecture. The paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the involvement of the relevant actors on both EU and African sides with detailed insights into internal working procedures and coordination processes.

European actors: Looking at the European side the authors are concerned about the low commitment of new EU member states. While the old member states are traditionally involved in EU-Africa relations and assumed leading positions in the 8 Thematic Partnerships, new members have stronger linkages with East and Central European and Central Asian countries. Since they can bring in new valuable perspectives it is essential that they find their place in the EU-Africa Partnership.

Although increased coordination efforts can be noted within the European Commission and the Council, the authors still see the danger of overlap with other EU programs including the European Mediterranean Policy and the ACP-EU cooperation.

The authors mention the establishment of the EU Delegation to the African Union and the strengthened role of the EU Special Representative to the AU as remarkable in the institutional development of the Africa-EU Strategy. Through their geographic proximity to the African Union in Addis Ababa they give the EU the opportunity to follow the AU's development closely.

African actors: Regarding the African side the paper warns that the strong coordinating role of the AU Commission is not met with appropriate financial and human resources. The authors are worried that the EU might overestimate the actual power of the African Union Commission which is by far not a mirror institution of the EU Commission, having less legal competences and a weaker position in the current AU institutional framework.

Furthermore they speak of a very low awareness and commitment regarding the Joint Strategy in all AU member states and the African Regional Communities. Similar to the EU there is a difference in participation between the AU member states with a stronger commitment of the North-African countries, currently assuming all but one of the leading positions in the 8 Thematic Partnerships. The lacking commitment of Southern African countries might hamper the 'Africa as one' objective of the Joint Strategy.

Civil society and parliaments: Regarding the envisioned involvement of other stakeholders, in particular parliaments and civil society organizations, the paper draws a rather gloomy picture. Both stakeholders are so far sidelined by the institutional actors in the EU and the AU alike. The modalities and level of their involvement differ in every Thematic Partnership but are generally not clear. Furthermore adequate funding to ensure full participation of CSOs is lacking.

Issues for 2009: Looking ahead, several aspects need to be addressed:
  • increase the financial commitment towards the Joint Strategy in Europe and Africa
  • ensure coherence with other policy frameworks, mainly the European Mediterranean Policy and ACP-EU cooperation
  • deal with capacity and legal asymmetries between the European and African stakeholders
  • deal with the past of the European and African integration process (i.e. ongoing African Government Debate and the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty)
  • extend ownership of the Strategy beyond the Brussels-Addis axis
  • ensure participation of CSOs and parliaments.
The authors highlight that the full commitment of all EU and AU member states is crucial for the success of the Joint Strategy. However, they note that member states on both sides tend to wait with further involvement until the Strategy delivers results and shows added-value compared to existing policy frameworks. On the other side the authors predict that such progress can only be made if all stakeholders including the member states are on board. Strong leadership and commitment are essential in order to escape this 'chicken or egg' conundrum.

by Martin Behrens

Visit the ECDPM for more information and documents regarding the Africa-EU Strategy

See also the Euforic newsfeed and dossier on EU-Africa relations