Questioning old certainties – Challenges Inbrief 2012

ECDPM ECDPM is currently reflecting on the content and orientation of the next issue of its annual Challenges Inbrief. This publication is published at the start of each year, and aims to identify key issues for policy making for EU-Africa relations in the year ahead. The paper, in traditional ECDPM style, aims to be informative and ‘facilitating’, helping readers identify key debates and moments in EU development cooperation and external action.

The writing process provides us with an opportunity to take a step back from our day to day work to look forward and to reflect – helping us ensure we do not miss the wood for the trees. The paper is a snapshot of our ongoing analytical work that gives an indication of the context and nature of challenges we foresee for Africa-EU relations for 2012:

For this year we feel the context in Europe and in Africa could not be more different. Europe is on the brink of a “double-dip” recession with the Euro-crisis. The feeling is one of uneasiness, and uncertainty. Compare this with Africa, where the Arab Spring has provided a breath of fresh air to many countries and, while presenting many challenges, sets high hopes for future democratic initiatives. African Union initiatives of shared values, regional integration, domestic resource mobilization, pan- African governance frameworks, high growth rates and new partnerships all feed into this new sense of “afro-optimism”.

As we go into 2012, Europe with the Lisbon Treaty seeks to re-emphasise a values-based approach in its foreign policy towards developing countries. Yet at the same time many EU member states governments are voicing their national foreign policy interest more strongly. How is Europe going to reconcile its values and interests in its external action?

In this context both the EU and Africa are confronted with a number of challenges and opportunities on their own grounds and, intertwined with those, regarding their future relationship. Both still have mutual but also contradictory interests. ECDPM’s Challenges Inbrief will aim to identify the European 2012 policy context  for its relations with Africa to help identify win-win situations and to enable all stakeholders involved to make more informed policy decisions.

As mentioned above, the writing process of the Challenges Inbrief is a moment to look forward and to reflect. Thus we would welcome your views on the above and ask you to share your thoughts on the following two questions:

  1. If you agree with the observation that ‘afro-optimism’ is on the rise, where do you see this ‘afro-optimism’ leading?
  2. Are there particular moments in 2012 when Europe will be confronted with the dilemma to act either in its interest or according to its values? Are there moments when it will be possible to reconcile both?


The ECDPM Challenges Team consists of James Mackie, Simone Görtz and Quentin de Roquefeuil.
James Mackie is Head of Programme Development Policy & International Relations,
Simone Görtz is Junior Policy Officer Development Policy & International Relations,
Quentin de Roquefeuil is Junior Policy Officer Economic and Trade Cooperation.

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