Relations between the European Union (EU) and Africa have traditionally been conducted through two regional groupings: the African countries that are part of the ACP group and the African countries of the Mediterranean. However, at the beginning of the new millennium, the EU launched a new dialogue with Africa to build a strategic partnership with the entire continent which would strengthen existing measures. The first summit between the EU and Africa was held in Cairo in April 2000.
Plan of Action
A Plan of Action was adopted at the summit, highlighting six main general areas:
- economic issues (particularly regional economic cooperation and integration in Africa);
- integrating Africa into the world economy,
- deepening the link between trade and development at international level in order to ensure that trade liberalisation contributes to poverty reduction is one of the objectives of the partnership;
- respect for, and protection of, human rights, democratic principles and institutions, the rule of law and good governance;
- peace-building and conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa;
- development measures to combat poverty (in the areas of education, health and food security, for example).
However, these areas are extremely broad and initially eight more specific areas of action were chosen:
- conflict prevention and resolution (including the problem of anti-personnel landmines);
- regional cooperation and integration, integrating Africa into the world economy and trade;
- the environment, including the fight against drought and desertification;
- HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases;
- food security;
- human rights and democracy;
- the return of cultural items that have been stolen or exported illegally;
- Africa's external debt (the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative affects African countries in particular).
Both parties meet regularly at various levels to ensure that the Plan of Action is being followed up. The three main mechanisms are: summits of the heads of state or government, ministerial meetings, which take place between summits, and meetings of bi-regional groups.
First ministerial meeting
5.The first ministerial meeting between the African and EU representatives was held on 11 October 2001 in Brussels. Some progress has been made since the Cairo Summit, in particular in the areas of regional integration, HIV/AIDS, food security, human rights, democracy and good governance.
New topics included on the agenda
6. Since the adoption of the Plan of Action, other important topics have been added to the agenda, including the creation of the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the situation in the Great Lakes region and the fight against terrorism.
The AU and the NEPAD are two important initiatives launched by African states in 2001 which have the full backing of the EU. The AU was created by African states in March 2001 to replace the Organisation of African Unity. This political organisation provides a framework for, and strengthens, political and economic regional cooperation and integration between African countries and important institutions will be set up to achieve this. The NEPAD was developed by African states and represents a commitment on the part of the African heads of state to work to eradicate poverty and to promote sustainable development and growth, whilst playing a full role in global political and economic life.
The conflicts in the Great Lakes region have given rise to considerable concern among both parties. The EU contributes to the prevention and resolution of these conflicts in the region in several ways, for instance by granting aid within the framework of development cooperation (particularly the European Development Fund and aid from resources under the common foreign and security policy (CFSP). One example of this is the EU's support for the inter-Congolese dialogue and participation in initiatives to reintegrate child soldiers into society.
Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, a declaration on the fight against terrorism was published at the end of the ministerial meeting to express the will of the African states and the EU to work together to put an end to this scourge.
Development of the dialogue
The EU-Africa dialogue was the subject of a Commission communication in July 2003. The communication explored various ideas for relaunching the dialogue and proposed that institutional links be reinforced to help Africa deal with the political problems and development-related issues it faces.
On 12 July 2003, the African Heads of State or Government met in Maputo, Mozambique for the first meeting of the AU since it was created in Durban in July 2002. The European Commission was represented as an expression of the EU's support for the AU and in order to discuss the EU-Africa dialogue. A great deal of progress has already been made with regard to human rights and democracy thanks to the formulation of common values and the introduction of penalties when these values are not respected.
Following this meeting, in December 2003, the EU Council approved a decision on the financing of a peace facility for Africa from the European Development Fund. This move was in response to a request made at the AU summit and is intended to support African institutions and peacekeeping measures. It will require cooperation between the AU, regional organisations in Africa, the EU and the United Nations.
In recent years, EU-AU dialogue has been stepped up and achieved results on a number of fronts. In 2005 the EU undertook to increase public development aid by EUR 20 billion per year by 2010, of which over half will be earmarked for Africa. A new Africa strategy was also adopted in October 2005 to support the continent's efforts to achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs).
This strategy proposes forging a strategic security and development partnership between the EU and Africa. The strategy focuses on key requirements for sustainable development such as peace and security, good and effective governance, trade, interconnectivity, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. New initiatives have been launched, most notably a governance initiative and a Euro-African Partnership for Infrastructure, which was launched in July 2006.
Under the Governance Initiative, the EU will, for instance, provide support for reforms triggered by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a unique tool for peer review and peer learning in good democratic governance by and for Africans. And in the context of the Partnership for Infrastructure, the EU will support programmes that facilitate interconnectivity at continental level to promote regional trade, integration, stability and development.