Written by Eric Pichon,
Today, the European Parliament’s President, Antonio Tajani, convenes a high level conference on Africa, bringing together officials, experts and stakeholders from Africa and Europe. In the run-up to the Africa-EU Summit that will take place in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) next week, the Parliament is once again demonstrating its commitment to this relationship.
More than ever, Africa’s and Europe’s fates are bound together. Of course, migration issues repeatedly hit the headlines, and the EU’s most visible action is its endeavour to stop people making dangerous journeys and to return migrants with irregular status to their countries of origin, with the cooperation of African countries. But there is a longer-term dimension that Africa and the EU have also taken into consideration: illegal migration will be reduced only if people are safe at home and able to make a living. Africa, the world’s youngest continent, is also a land of opportunities. For these opportunities to be grabbed, the EU and Africa have, for ten years now, been implementing a joint strategy. The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), reviewed in 2014, takes a five-pronged approach: peace and security; democracy, good governance and human rights; human development; sustainable and inclusive development and growth; and continental integration, global and emerging issues.
Parliament’s high-level conference and the AU-EU summit will be the opportunity to assess the results of the JAES 2014-2017 implementation plan, and set new priorities for future cooperation. The discussions might also help to streamline the JAES with the ACP-EU partnership (for Sub-Saharan Africa) – as the Cotonou Agreement with the ACP countries needs to be revised before it expires in 2020 – and with the EU Neighbourhood policy (for North Africa).
Sustainable development of African countries in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals is a key priority for both partners. The EU has created new financing instruments aimed at leveraging Member States’ and private investment to attain this objective: the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, and the European Fund for Sustainable Development. Harnessing Africa’s growth – through developing its industry and empowering youth – is a key priority among the shared objectives of the EU and AU. Regional integration is seen as one way to achieve this aim. However, facilitating doing business is not possible where unstable governments, lack of transparency and violence are the common lot of millions. The African Union often now takes the lead in condemning unconstitutional change of governments and trying to restore peace in conflict-affected areas. The EU is one of the main supporters of these actions, and has developed its own strategies to tackle instability in sensitive regions, such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
The European Parliament champions the Africa-EU partnership and would like stronger actions, such as reinforced political dialogue, with a greater parliamentary dimension, to be adopted. As President Tajani puts it: ‘Cooperation should not be only political and institutional, but fully involve economic actors and civil society’. Whatever the objectives, the European Parliament has often recalled that migration and security objectives should not cast a shadow over development aims and the core values of democracy, human rights and good governance that are at the heart of the EU Treaties.