Sócrates vows to step up EU-Africa relations

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Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU President José Sócrates spoke out in favour of a joint EU-Africa strategy with a special focus on development, migration, as well as energy and climate change.

As Portugal at the EU’s helm puts closer relations with Africa among its priorities, Prime Minister Sócrates, participating in the African Union (AU) Summit in Accra, Ghana, outlined his vision for a future EU-Africa strategy on 3 July.

Sócrates announced that the upcoming EU-Africa Summit on 8-9 December should mark “a turning point in the relations between the two continents”. The meeting will see the launch of a “new strategic partnership”, placing a special emphasis on development, peace and security and migration, as well as global issues such as energy and climate change.

Portugal is committed to relaunching EU’s relations with Africa and seeks to implement a “global approach to migration” to face the problem of illegal migration from Africa to the EU. The Portuguese approach seeks to connect the issue of illegal migration with an emphasis on economic migration, social-inclusion policies, effective border policy and development policy.

According to estimates from the Centre on Migration Policy Development, up to 120,000 irregular migrants cross the Mediterranean each year and at least 10,000 have died trying to reach Europe’s southern shores over the past decade. The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on 3 July called for more co-operation among EU member states on illegal immigration, their responsibility for rescue operations and the Frontex border security agency.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso spoke out in favour of holding regular EU-Africa summits every two years to discuss major issues of common concern.

The Portuguese Presidency hopes to resolve diplomatic difficulties with Zimbabwe before the Summit in December. An EU-Africa meeting planned for 2003 had to be called off, as some European nations opposed the presence of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, accused of violating human rights, whereas the African Union insisted that all its members should be present.

According to the BBC, the Portuguese Presidency is planning to invite Mugabe, but is hoping that he will not attend. Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden urged the EU to stand firm. He said: “An invitation to Mugabe would mean that the EU’s targeted sanctions policy was not worth the paper it was written on. Even talk of inviting Mugabe gives comfort to his appalling regime.”

The AU Summit aimed to seek closer co-operation among the 53 African member countries. The EU has served as a model for the AU; however integration has not deepened as much as in Europe. Socrates welcomed the AU’s push for more integration and praised the “work of the African Union towards the unity, stability and progress of this vast continent”.

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