AUC’s opening remarks at the Joint Africa-EU Task Force Meeting

AU On the Occasion of the Joint Africa-EU Task Force meeting Ambassador John K. Shinkaiye, AU Commission Chief of Staff, delivered the following opening remarks in Brussels yesterday:

On behalf of the African Union Commission (AUC), I would like to express our appreciation to the European Commission (EC) for the warm welcome and hospitality, as well as the excellent facilities provided for this twelfth Joint Africa-EU Task Force meeting, the first since the 3rd Africa-EU Summit held in Tripoli, Libya, on 28-29 November 2010. I also would like to join my colleagues EU Co-Chairs in welcoming all participants, including non-state actors to this meeting.

Let me start by commending officials on both sides for their invaluable contributions to the success of the 3rd Africa-EU Summit. That Summit was significant in many respects, chiefly that it was yet another manifestation of our common resolve to consolidate and accentuate our strategic and patterned Partnership to the mutual benefit of our two sides. This Joint Task Force meeting should therefore begin the process of implementing the outcome of that Summit as well as the commitments of the Tripoli Declaration. The implementation of the 2nd Action Plan is our shared responsibility and every one of us has a duty to contribute to its success.

Allow me to mention at this point, some concrete achievements in the implementation of the 1st Action Plan, namely; the establishment and operationalization of relevant institutional architecture, enhanced political dialogue within the framework of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, and successes recorded by a number of thematic clusters notably, in Peace and Security.

Much more could have been achieved had we not confronted challenges such as lack of a dedicated financing mechanism for the Joint Strategy and technical constraints related to the effective operationalization of our institutional architecture for delivery. In the short to medium term, there is need to mainstream the Strategy into existing financing instruments, be they managed by the EU Institutions, EU Member States bilateral instruments, or African contributions. In the long term, all options, including possible new Instruments, should be considered.

In this context, we reiterate the earlier African proposal for the establishment of an African Integration Facility to support the implementation of the Joint Strategy and its Action Plan. We believe this is a credible option that will help address the financing problem in a sustainable manner. There is also need to encourage the full participation of all stakeholders (the RECs, civil society, private sector, parliaments, etc.) in the partnership process in order to galvanise significant operational resources, and obliterate the perception on the African side, that the Partnership focuses more on meetings and not enough on concrete outcomes or results. Finally, there is need to continue to uphold a fundamental principle of the Joint Strategy, which is to “treat Africa as one”. This principle is critical as it aims at propelling Africa towards the attainment of continental integration and development. It underpins the importance of unity in the integration process.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me reiterate the point that the implementation of the newly adopted 2nd Action Plan is our joint responsibility. Our meeting today and the following day is an opportunity for collective reflection on how to ensure its effective implementation. As we break out into working groups, I wish to urge that emphasis be placed on identifying priority activities and projects that could be implemented in 2011, with focus on areas that would yield concrete results. In this respect, it would be important and necessary to learn from the successes and challenges of the 1st Action Plan and to build on these experiences.

It is our desire that the shift from “declaration” to “implementation” should characterise all our statutory meetings so that at the end, the agreed programmes and projects would yield tangible results.

In other words, we need to improve on the pace of implementation through the operationalization of some of our jointly agreed proposals aimed at improving the performance of the Joint Expert Groups (JEGS), the involvement of stakeholders and the strengthening of the coordination mechanism, among others. I am glad to note that the Joint Task Force has been enhanced to allow for the participation of other stakeholders which will assist the effective implementation of the Joint Strategy. I am also glad that through the Second Action Plan, we have jointly committed ourselves to consider establishing a mechanism that will financially support its implementation. Needless to say that, such a mechanism must be based on the peculiar needs of each partnership with emphasis on supporting the administrative and technical aspects, that would enhance the operational effectiveness of our institutional architecture.

In the area of institutional cooperation, I note that much progress has been achieved. It is hoped that those identified areas of cooperation would be effectively implemented for the benefit of our two institutions. In this regard, we look forward to the forthcoming tripartite (AUC-EC-UN) meeting that will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, in the next few days. I believe that, those colleagues responsible for driving the AUC-EC institutional relations agenda, who are not here with us today, will make the best of the Nairobi meeting to come out with concrete deliverables. In this regard, I urge that EC’s delegation to the Nairobi meeting will be such that there will be interaction not just on administrative matters, but also on finance and audit matters which we agree, will not be dealt with during this JTF Session.

Let me mention that the African side takes note of the setting up of the External Action Service by the EU and its likely impact on our existing institutional arrangement, and would like to be briefed on the current state of play in the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and how this change would impact on our engagement. I would, however, make an appeal here and that is that, the opportunity should be taken of this evolution to implement one of the provisions of the Lisbon Declaration and our JAES, of treating Africa as one. This is an important element in our relationship and we urge that the EU uses the opportunity it now has to really treat Africa as one.

I am glad that, although the External Action Service will take the lead in the engagement with us, it will do so with the Development Directorate. DG Dev was a reliable and committed partner in this process and we take this opportunity to express our appreciation to our colleagues in that Directorate.

On our part, a few changes have been introduced in our follow-up mechanism and representation at the Ministerial Political Dialogue/Troika, with a view to reinforcing the efficiency and effectiveness of our engagement. We will be sharing the details with you at the appropriate time.

Finally, let me raise, very briefly and with all sense of sincerity, that we have some unease lately, in the manner in which our partnership has been conducted, particularly on events happening in Africa. One of the major principles of the partnership between Africa and the EU is that of being equals. What does this entail?

Briefly, it means that when decisions on actions to be taken are being made, they are made after due consultations on the content of such decisions. It means that when a meeting is to be held in which Africa’s participation is desired, the timing, date and venue should be discussed with Africa as with others who will participate in those meetings. It means also that such crucial meetings are not fixed to coincide with important meetings involving African leaders on the same subject. It means further that when Africa is not able to attend those meetings called by its partners, its inability to honour last minute invitations should not be interpreted as refusal to cooperate.

Most importantly, it also means that the considerable efforts that African leaders and African institutions make to proffer solutions to unfortunate events in Africa, should be taken into full account by others who are helping to deal with those same issues.

It equally means adopting the same approach, the same solutions to comparable situations and not applying double standards depending on what interests our partners might have in one or the other situation.

Today, both Africa and Europe face the enormous problem of migrants from Africa who have fled to Europe and elsewhere and whose presence is of major concern to Africa and the receiving countries and yet, in a meeting of the JTF we cannot discuss the subject because Africa’s co-chairs is Libya. A meeting of equal partners will ensure that the partners do not impose their wishes on each other and must provide the avenue to discuss issues frankly with the aim of resolving outstanding matters.

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is the hope of the African side that this crucial Joint Task Force meeting will lead to successful outcomes and will reinforce the principles upon which our partnership is built.

I thank you for your attention.

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