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Africa-Europe relations

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On 29 and 30 November 2017, African and European leaders gathered in Abidjan for their fifth Summit since 2000. With the accession of Morocco to the African Union, it was also the first-ever AU-EU Summit. Its goal: to strengthen political and economic ties between the two continents and reserve a prominent place for the younger generations in the Africa-Europe partnership.

Which issues will European and African leaders discuss exactly? Which topics will they stay clear of, and why? What is the current status of the relationship and how can it be strengthened? Will both parties be able to shake off past habits, break with the vested interest of the past and fundamentally change the course of action? How can we make sure to link up discussions on the Africa-Europe partnership with negotiations on the future partnership between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States?

Ahead of and after the Summit, ECDPM tried to answer these questions. This dossier collects our analysis, blogs and events linked to the Summit.

If you would like to know about our work on Africa-Europe relations ahead of the Summit or share your thoughts, you can get in touch with our experts via our people page. For media and communications enquiries or initiatives, please contact Virginia Mucchi or Nina Thijssen.


Key analysis and opinion


A crucial week for Africa and Europe beyond 2040: A continent-to-continent approach: The African momentum
Emmanuel De Groof, Dalil Djinnit and Alfonso Medinilla, ECDPM brief, September 2018
Friday, 14 September 2018, will be key for the future of Africa-EU relations. On that day, the African Union Ministerial Council will discuss Africa’s Common Position in post-Cotonou relations with the EU. The discussion could help shape the EU-AU partnership for the years to come.

The AU-EU Abidjan Summit: Is there life beyond migration?
Geert Laporte, ECDPM, 4 December

Despite an ambitious agenda of common priorities, the migration issue seems to have monopolised a large part of the discussions at the AU-EU Summit in Abidjan last week, mainly because of the urgency relating to the dramatic situation of refugees and migrants in Libya. ECDPM’s Geert Laporte, who was in Abidjan, looks at what actually came out of the two days.

Can Africa and Europe jointly walk the talk on investment mobilisation?
San Bilal, ECDPM, 27 November 2017 | Photo by DIVatUSAID / Angaza

Mobilising investments for African structural transformation is one of key priorities the African Union wants to discuss at the AU-EU Summit. ECDPM’s San Bilal argues why the emphasis on investment is highly pertinent, and urges both continents to effectively work together rather than solely rely on EU own initiatives. (Voilà la version française)

How North Africa’s look towards the south can shake up AU-EU relations
Faten Aggad and Tasnim Abderrahim, ECDPM, 20 November 2017 | Photo by GovernmentZA

Morocco and Tunisia’s recent steps to join the African Union, ECOWAS and COMESA indicate a clear plan to move closer to African continental and regional organisations. This will inevitably have important repercussions. What remains to be seen is the effects that these dynamics will have on regional and, more broadly, on Africa’s relations with the EU.

Can EU-Africa relations be deepened? A political economy perspective on power relations, interests and incentives
Jean Bossuyt, ECDPM, 20 November 2017

At a time when challenges call for an efficient and mutually-beneficial partnership, the relationship between Africa and Europe seems to have come to a standstill. Before African and European leaders sit together in Abidjan next week, this analysis looks at why things are as they are between the two continents, and identifies the areas in which their relationship can move forward.

Africa-Europe relations: Time to reboot
ECDPM Great Insights magazine, ECDPM, November/December 2017

In our latest Great Insights magazine, a mix of authors share their perspectives on the evolving partnership between Africa and Europe. Each of their contributions touches on key issues, ahead of the AU-EU Summit.

Can the EU prioritise both the African Union and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group?
Alfonso Medinilla and Niels Keijzer, European Think Tanks Group, 20 November 2017

A new brief by the European Think Tanks Group argues that leaving discussions on the future of ACP-EU relations out of the AU-EU Summit agenda could be, in the long run, a major missed opportunity. Failure to engage now will lead to continued fragmentation and duplication in the relationship between Europe and Africa.

Time to strengthen strategic partnerships for peace and security in Africa
Volker Hauck, ECDPM blog, 13 November 2017 | Photo by UNAMID

A more strategic collaboration among African, European and international actors is paramount to ensure peace and security on the African continent. ECDPM’s Volker Hauck argues that the upcoming AU-EU Summit will offer an opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships.

A message to African and European leaders: ‘More of the same is not good enough’
Geert Laporte, ECDPM blog, 23 October 2017 | Photo by European Parliament

There are plenty of important issues for European and African leaders to chew on during the fifth AU-EU Summit. Yet, the agenda once again stays clear of the potentially controversial topics. ‘We need to break the silence and the aversion to take risks if we want a stronger partnership’, Geert Laporte says. ‘More of the same just isn’t good enough this time around’.



Time to move to an interest-driven Africa-EU political partnership (part two)
Geert Laporte, ECDPM blog, 26 June 2017 | Photo by European Parliament
Geert Laporte proposes eight measures for Europe and Africa to build the strong partnership that everyone seems to want. But is everyone willing to support the tough decisions that these measures would entail?

Time to move to an interest-driven Africa-EU political partnership (part one)
Geert Laporte, ECDPM blog, 19 June 2017 | Photo by European External Action Service
Geert Laporte takes a critical look at the state of the Africa-Europe partnership and the European Commission’s Joint Communication, and gives an answer to the question that the document did not even dare to ask: why is this partnership not delivering the desired results?

Do values still matter in the Europe-Africa partnership?
Geert Laporte, ECDPM blog, 24 February 2017 | Photo by European External Action Service
Does Europe still prioritise values such as democracy, rule of law and human rights in its partnership with Africa? Geert Laporte argues that both continents are now at a crossroads. They should either pull back on the values agendas, or make it an essential component of their partnership again.

Matching means to priorities: Challenges for EU-Africa relations in 2017
James Mackie, Matthias Deneckere and Greta Galeazzi, ECDPM challenges paper, 8 January 2017 
In the 2017 edition of our annual ‘challenges paper’, we explore some of the political challenges for the year 2017, adopting issues of financing for development and Europe-Africa cooperation as a guideline, and exploring ways to match means to emerging priorities.

Youth: a shared priority for Europe and Africa
Greta Galeazzi, ECDPM blog, 23 February 2017
During the 2017 edition of Yo!Fest, ECDPM invited young people to discuss the relations between Europe and Africa, voice their concerns for the future and outline their recommendations for policymakers. In this blog Greta Galeazzi reflects on the discussions and the challenges for young people in Europe and Africa, as well as their relevance for Europe-Africa relations.


Our work on the 2014 Summit


The Bulletin of Fridays of the Commission – Making EU-Africa relations future-proof
ECDPM and the African Union Commission, 20 June 2014

Beyond the 2014 Summit: Which way forward for EU-Africa relations? Report of the informal high-level seminar hosted by ECDPM
ECDPM, 6 June 2014

The global game has changed: What role for Europe-Africa relations?
Europe-Africa Policy Research Network, April 2014

Are Africa and Europe turning a new page in their relationship?
James Mackie and Faten Aggad-Clerx, 11 April 2014

Don’t ignore the elephants in the room – Will the Africa-EU Summit revitalise the partnership?
Geert Laporte, 28 March 2014

The implementation of the Joint Africa Europe Strategy: Rebuilding confidence and commitments
Damien Helly, Essete Abebe Bekele, Sahra El Fassi and Greta Galeazzi, March 2014

A question of leadership? Challenges for Africa-EU relations in 2014
James Mackie, Sahra El Fassi, Camilla Rocca and Sebastian Grosse-Puppendahl, December 2013

Challenges for Africa-EU relations (video playlist)
ECDPM, March 2014

Five challenges in Africa-EU relations (infographic)
ECDPM, March 2014

Africa-Europe relations #post2015 (blog series)
ECDPM, May 2013 to November 2015


Our work on the ACP-EU partnership


If you liked this dossier, you might also be interested in our dossier on the future of ACP-EU relations.

The EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States have governed their relationship since 1975 through a sequence of partnership agreements. The most recent of these is the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which expires in 2020. Although official negotiations for a new partnership will not start until 2018, the future of the ACP-EU partnership has already been hotly debated for a number of years.

ECDPM, with more than 30 years of involvement in ACP-EU relations, helps guide this debate towards realistic and workable scenarios for the future that benefit all parties concerned. This dossier collects our past work on ACP-EU relations as well as our recent analyses of a future partnership.