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European Commission


Brussels, 17 September 2012

EU strategic partnership with South Africa

The European Union is committed to pursuing its engagement with South Africa and to strengthening the strategic partnership with its largest trading partner in Africa. The fifth EU-South Africa Summit will take place in Brussels on 18 September. The EU will be represented by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. In addition, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, will also be present. The Republic of South Africa will be represented by President Jacob Zuma, accompanied by Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Minister for Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, Minister for Trade Rob Davies, and Minister for Energy Dipuo Peters.

The following issues will be discussed:

  • Bilateral cooperation and the EU-South Africa strategic partnership, including sectoral cooperation and development cooperation.

  • Regional issues: The presidents will have an exchange of views on the situation in Syria, on the Sahel and in Somalia as well as on Zimbabwe. The negotiations for an economic partnership agreement between the EU and countries of the Southern African Development Community will also be raised.

  • Global issues: Leaders will address topics relating to the G20, global economic governance as well as sustainable development: the follow-up to the Durban climate conference and preparations for COP18 in Doha. They will also assess the "Rio+20" conference on global sustainable development.

During lunch, leaders will debate political and economic developments both in the EU and in South Africa.

The summit will welcome the recent launch of the EU's largest development cooperation programme to date with South Africa, €250 million, to support the country's national development priorities. It aims to improve the living conditions of South Africans, along the lines of the South African national development plan and the government's approach to growth and development: creation of decent jobs, skills development, public service delivery and public sector reform. The programme features strong components to strengthen civil society's role in achieving South Africa's development objectives (€20m), capacity development in Public Financial Management (€20m) and support to pro-poor and evidence-based policy making (€10m).

In addition, the conclusion of the negotiations on an EU-South Africa agreement for cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy will be welcomed, creating a legal framework for political, technical and industrial cooperation.

Leaders will also welcome new areas of cooperation launched in 2012: In March, a declaration on EGNOS (European Global Navigation Overlay System, which supplements the Galileo positioning system) was signed by Commissioner Tajani and his South African counterpart. It opens the way to the extension of EGNOS coverage to South Africa. In May, Commissioner Vassiliou and her South African counterpart signed a joint declaration on cooperation in the field of higher education. It provides a framework for a policy dialogue on higher education and reinforced cooperation between the Commission and the South African government in the field of education and training.

The EU-South Africa strategic partnership

A strong relationship has evolved between the European Union and South Africa since the advent democracy in South African in 1994.

Its relationship to the EU is underpinned by the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) signed in 1999, which provides the legal basis for close relations on trade, development, economic cooperation and political dialogue. The EU-South Africa Joint Cooperation Council meets annually to oversee the overall implementation of the Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement (TDCA), most recently on 17 July in Pretoria.

The significance of South Africa for the EU was consolidated with the establishment of a strategic partnership in 2007. The strategic partnership has two main pillars: (i) enhanced political dialogue on issues of shared interest like climate change, the global economy, bilateral trade, and peace and security matters and (ii) policy dialogues and sectoral cooperation on a broad range of areas (environment, science and technology, transport, space, etc.).

The four previous EU-South Africa summits were held in Bordeaux in 2008, in Kleinmond, South Africa in 2009, in Brussels in 2010 and in the Kruger National Park in 2011.

Cooperation in science and technology

2012 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the entry into force of the EU-South Africa agreement on science and technology. South Africa is the fifth most active third country partner in FP7 (EU Research framework programme 2007 - 2013), after Russia, the US, China and India. Researchers from the country are involved in 64 projects in fields like health, environment, aviation, food, biotechnologies and ICT, with a Commission investment of more than €25 million.

Development cooperation

The EU is by far the most important donor to South Africa: the Commission and the EU member states together provide approximately 70% of the total cooperation funds received by South Africa.

EU development cooperation with South Africa is financed from the EU budget (Development Cooperation Instrument). It has been operational since 1995, and since then annual financial commitments have averaged €125 million. For the years 2007-2013, the indicative amount assigned by the EU to co-operation with South Africa is €980 million, i.e. €140 million a year. This is the largest EU bilateral envelope worldwide. Its main objective is the reduction of poverty and inequality in South Africa.


South Africa is an open economy with merchandise trade at 46% of GDP in 2010. The EU as a whole is by far South Africa's largest trading partner: it accounted for just under 30% of South African trade flows in 2010. The EU is the largest importer of manufactured goods from South Africa. In contrast, South Africa's exports to BRIC countries are mostly dominated by raw materials.

Since 2004, total trade between South African and the EU has increased by 128%. EU-South Africa trade in goods represented €47.1 billion in 2011, up from around €42 bn in 2010 and topping the pre-crisis totals of 2008. EU-South Africa trade in services amounted to €10.9 bn in 2010.

Bilateral foreign direct investment has grown five-fold since 2004, with the EU providing over three quarters of foreign direct investment inflow to South Africa. In 2010, EU companies invested €7 bn in the country.

The EU is South Africa's main destination for exports, with a share of 28% of total South African exports in 2010. The EU is also the main source of South Africa's imports, with a share of 31% of total South African imports in 2010.

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