Stormy times ahead? – The Africa-EU relations in the run-up to the 2017 Summit
Read the full concept + program here
The last EU-Africa summit, which took place in April 2014, was seen by most observers as a rapprochement between the continents after a period of political disagreements. Not only did more than 60 heads of state and government take part in the summit, demonstrating the importance of the relationship, but there was also a noticeable shift in the deliberations. Although discussions about European aid and financial commitments featured prominently, there was also a strong focus on trade and investment which suggested a change in the nature of the partnership, towards a more pragmatic approach and away from a donor-recipient logic.
The political landscape in Africa and Europe and also globally, has changed radically since the last EU-Africa summit. Africa’s rapid economic rise has slowed down significantly due to a decrease in the global demand for raw materials. Large parts of Africa are still struggling with challenges such as inequality, underdevelopment, violent conflict, terrorism, bad governance, corruption and a very young job-seeking population. Europe, on the other hand, is still reeling from an economic crisis coupled with high unemployment rates in many member states, and widespread public discontent with the performance of the EU as a whole. In addition, the EU is also confronted with a political crisis which was triggered by increased migration into Europe, an issue that played – among others – a significant role in the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Since the last Summit in 2015, the rising numbers of migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015 has had the most significant impact on the partnership. Even though Africans were only accounted for less than 20 % of the new arrivals the EU shifted its focus and is now concentrating its attention on anticipated migration flows from Africa in the near future. The new approach the EU introduced has already caused friction between the partners and has the potential to alter the relationship fundamentally, and becoming a major bone of contention in the future relationship. Other issues that are posing challenges for the relationship are demands by the European side that the African counterparts share some of the financial burden. This has resulted in cutbacks in the area of peace and security, as well as in the signing and implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that have been criticised for undermining common regional and continental positions.
Meaning of the Africa-EU Summit in Abidjan
The summit will be organised at a crucial time for both continents. Africa and Europe are facing multiple challenges which might not always be the same but are interlinked, and hence will impact on the partnership. Now would be the time to openly discuss these issues and address them collectively. This would also have to include a re-evaluation of some of the areas of co-operation against the rapidly changing political environment.
The summit will also give the European Commission the chance to fully engage with the new AU Commission, build trust and a good working relationship.
The overall aim of the conference is to holistically address key areas of common concern and interest in the Africa-EU partnership that could contribute to the agenda setting of the Africa-EU Summit in November 2017. Specific objectives of the conference include:
Both the FES-CCPAU meeting and the subsequent report will contribute to shaping a realistic and forward looking agenda for the Summit.
Read the full concept + program here