EU and AU Commissions come together to discuss Partnership

EU website. Commissioners from African Union and European Union are meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the 8th June 2010 in college format to discuss the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership. They are due to hold talks on the close relationship between the two continents, assess the 1st Action Plan and prepare the ground for the next Action Plan, to be adopted at the upcoming 3rd Africa-EU Summit.

The meeting will seek to reinforce existing institutional relations which will lead to solid links between the two entities on matters of strategic thinking and policy. The meeting comes at a crucial time for both institutions as it will provide further guidance to the upcoming third Africa-EU Summit to be held in Libya on 29-30 November 2010.

The talks are expected to strengthen political co-operation and enhance technical aspects of the partnership. Through meeting at Commissioner level it is hoped it will send a strong message to further implement the 1st Action Plan and speed up preparations for the Africa-EU Summit. It will also provide a chance for Commissioners to give high-level contributions for the future political agenda of Africa-EU relations over the next 5-10 years. A solid bond between the two Commissions is instrumental in driving the partnership forward.

Thematic meetings

Commissioners from both sides will split up into seven thematic clusters to discuss more in-depth policies:

  • administrative co-operation and institutional capacity building
  • political affairs, peace and security, governance and human rights, and humanitarian affairs
  • energy, environment and climate change
  • social affairs, gender, employment, migration and health
  • trade, regional integration, economic affairs and infrastructure
  • science and technology, space, information society and education
  • food security and safety

Expectations

Both sides will hold wide-ranging discussions on the most pressing political topics and policy challenges that face the two continents presently. As 2010 has proved to be a politically intense year, discussions are expected to be fruitful. These will centre on the development of the African energy sector, the development of infrastructure and renewable energy sources in Africa, preparation for the next round of climate negotiations to be held in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010, discussions on the fight against desertification and protection of biodiversity which includes the Great Green Wall of the Sahara/Sahel initiative, development of a crisis response mechanism, the implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture and, particularly pertinent in recent times, co-operation on maritime security and safety.

Looking forward to the Millennium Development Goals Summit to be held in New York in September, the two sides will finalise details for a joint AU-EU statement. Additionally, they will work on a joint workshop on employment to be held in Dakar, Senegal on 30 June – 2 July. The Commissioners will repeat their commitment towards the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme.

A major innovation in this College to College meeting as opposed to the previous ones is the inclusion of African Regional Economic Communities (RECs). They have come to symbolise important pillars of African regional and continental integration efforts. Despite consecutive Africa-EU Ministerial Meetings calling for their inclusion in meetings at various levels, this constitutes the first time such a call has been heeded. The fact that they are taking part in this meeting shows the essential role they play in the co-ordination between the two Commissions’ work in all of the eight partnerships.

The Commissioners are expected to adopt a joint declaration at the conclusion of the summit as well as a Memorandum of Understanding.

Administrative capacity building

A specific issue that will be discussed is a programme of support from the European Commission to the AU institutions administrative capacity building. A mid-term review of the programme is now underway, which will open up the opportunity of including the AU Commission’s new strategic plan (2009-2012) into the reckoning.

The road so far

Since the signing into force of the Strategic Partnership in Lisbon, Portugal in December 2007, both continents have made significant headway in their common goals. Some of the notable successes include adopting a joint declaration on climate change ahead of the UNFCCC Poznan Conference at the end of 2008; working together to secure sustainable energy for Africa; the EU support to  an African Peace Facility which contributes to the global funds supporting the African Peace and Security Architecture and peacekeeping operations; opening of an Information and Management Centre on Migration (CIGEM) in Mali; and African observers were present for the recent 2009 European Parliament elections.

Additionally, the partnership foresaw the creation of institutional follow-up mechanisms which would allow both sides to monitor progress at regular meetings. These include the Joint Expert Groups (JEGs), which exist for each of the eight partnerships and are co-chaired by a European and an African representative. A Joint Africa-EU Task Force is a platform for consultation between the different actors and institutions concerned by the implementation of the partnership. Africa-EU Political Dialogue Meetings, take place at Ministers level, and are an opportunity to take stock of the political direction the partnership is going.

A ‘people-centred partnership’ is mentioned in the Joint Strategy, and both sides have yet to increase participation of the  civil society in partnership implementation.

Upcoming Summit preparations

Groundwork for the 3rd Africa-EU Summit is well underway, with a joint Africa-EU Steering Group set up to discuss concrete deliverables. The key topics up for discussion at the summit are:

  • peace and security (2010 is the year of peace and security in Africa)
  • MDGs (possible joint AU-EU position for UN MDG summit in New York in September)
  • climate change (possible Africa-EU common position for Cancun climate summit in December)
  • economic growth and investment.

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