EU and Africa must ‘co–operate as equals’, MEPs say

L’Europe doit s’affranchir de sa relation de « donateur-bénéficiaire » avec l’Afrique et privilégier la coopération d’égal à égal, ont indiqué les législateurs du bloc dans un nouveau rapport adopté mardi (28 janvier). [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Europe should move away from a donor-recipient relationship with Africa and cooperate as equals instead, EU lawmakers have said in a new report adopted on Thursday (28 January).

“Europe and Africa need each other; a new and equal partnership must reflect this,” said Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a French centrist MEP who drafted the Parliament’s report, which was adopted by a 20 to 3 majority.

In its report on a new EU–Africa partnership, the European Parliament’s development committee called for substantial funds to be earmarked in the upcoming budget designed to support the EU’s foreign policy.

The EU’s €70.8 billion Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument for 2021-2027 (NDICI) is intended to support sustainable development in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific and the Caribbean.

Among their recommendations, MEPs call for long-term EU financial and technical support for African countries to boost climate adaptation; EU support for African regional integration to help reduce dependence on foreign imports; and for the EU to support the new African continental free trade area which was launched in January.

The report is due to be formally adopted during the Parliament’s March plenary session and feed into the talks between the European Commission and the African Union.

2021 must be EU’s ‘Africa year’, says Borrell

With plans for a new EU-Africa ‘partnership’ blueprint having been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, 2021 should be “the Africa year for the European Union,” the bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said during the Socialist and Democrat group’s Africa Week.

Plans for a ‘strategic partnership‘ between the EU and African Union, which had originally been scheduled to be completed in 2020, have been stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically highlights the urgent need to develop a new mutually beneficial sustainable partnership between the EU and Africa,” said Udo Bullmann, co-ordinator in the development committee for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

“In light of the upcoming EU-Africa Union summit, the committee’s approval of the Africa Strategy marks an important step forward in this direction,” he added.

The European Commission’s strategy paper setting out its position last March, promised to “build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all”, around five proposed partnerships on energy, digitalisation, inward investment, peace and migration.

The African Union is yet to publish its own position paper on its hopes from the partnership agenda but AU officials have indicated that they will seek improved trade terms with the EU.

Partnership with a purpose: EU-Africa relations in 2021

The EU’s plans to strike a ‘strategic partnership’ with Africa were one the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the European Commission set out its stall in a March 2020 strategic paper, summits were cancelled and it is unclear whether EU and African Union leaders will agree on an agenda with the ambition needed for a genuine ‘strategic partnership’ this year.

The EU’s focus, however, appears to be more on exporting the environmental and economic policies in its European Green Deal. As of yet, there has been little sign from the Commission’s development directorate (DG DEVCO), which is leading the talks, that the EU will improve its offer on trade beyond the duty-free and quota-free trade for the poorest countries under the ‘Anything but Arms’ initiative.

“We need to initiate a dialogue without taboos – security, migration, trade, development etc,” a Portuguese diplomat, whose government holds the six month rotating EU presidency, told EURACTIV.

There has been some criticism from African diplomats that the EU is seeking to dictate the terms of the ‘partnership’.

However, that argument was played down by Janina Ochojska, a Polish MEP who is spokesperson for the centre–right European People’s Party (EPP). “Unlike previous strategies, the new EU-Africa Strategy has been created not for Africa but with Africa, which is a true manifestation of close cooperation,” said Ochojska.

“For the European Union, the partnership with Africa should create an economic relationship that is based on equality, trust, shared values, and the genuine desire to build lasting relations. If Africa is doing well, Europe is doing well”, she added.

Building an EU-Africa partnership of equals

The COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily derailed plans for an EU-African partnership but it has also underscored the need for such a partnership, writes Carlos Lopes.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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