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Africa-Europe relations

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This year will be crucial for Africa-Europe relations. The sixth EU-AU summit, taking place in Brussels towards the end of 2020, will be an important occasion to bring forward the partnership between the two continents.

We have been looking at this relationship for more than 30 years from a variety of different and equally relevant perspectives – be it trade, finance, migration or peace and security.

We will continue to cover Africa-Europe relations and share insights and analyses before, during and after the 2020 EU-AU summit.

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Get in touch

If you would like to know about our work on Africa-Europe relations, give us feedback or share your thoughts on specific issues, you can get in touch with our experts via our people page. For enquiries related to outreach and media, please contact Nina Thijssen.

Key analyses and opinions

The EU and Africa: Should, would, could… but how?
Bruce Byiers, ECDPM blog, 16 March 2020
Last week, the EU communicated its proposal for a new Africa strategy. While the list of proposed actions is commendable, it raises the questions: Who? And how?

Beyond good intentions: The new EU-Africa partnership
Alfonso Medinilla and Chloe Teevan, ECDPM paper, March 2020
The EU and Africa are each trying to find their place in an unstable world. The authors of this paper argue that the needs and expectations on both sides call for a new and more interest-driven partnership between the EU and Africa.

New year, new aspirations for Europe-Africa relations?
Luckystar Miyandazi, ECDPM blog, 13 January 2020
This year, the African Union will likely continue to gain more bargaining power in its partnership with the EU. Luckystar Myandazi argues that the upcoming AU-EU summit may be an opportunity for a partnership that is more clearly based on mutual benefits.

Africa and EU-Africa partnership insights: Input for Estonia’s new Africa strategy
Nadia Ashraf and Jeske van Seters, ECDPM paper, January 2020
Input provided to inform Estonia’s Africa strategy, looking at the economic, social and political landscape in Africa and development cooperation activities of EU institutions, member states and other main donors in Africa.

Von der Leyen in Addis Ababa: Seven ingredients for a successful first date
Op-ed by Amanda Bisong and Chloe Teevan for Euractiv, 6 December 2019
Ursula von der Leyen’s first trip outside of Europe as president of the European Commission will be to Addis Ababa. The symbolism of this is powerful and gives some substance to her commitment that Europe is seeking a new partnership with Africa.

Mission possible? The Geopolitical Commission and the partnership with Africa
Chloe Teevan and Andrew Sherriff, ECDPM brief, October 2019
This brief explores the opportunity that this geopolitical framing offers for a more strategic EU-Africa relationship – and a real partnership of equals and mutual interest. At the same time, it points to the dangers of empty rhetoric for the EU’s credibility as a foreign policy actor.

Governance in Africa-Europe relations: Modesty, realism and working politically
Geert Laporte, ECDPM brief, October 2019
Since the 1990s governance has been a top priority in the Europe-Africa partnership. This briefing note identifies some of the political and bureaucratic hurdles in dealing with poorly governed states and suggests possible ways forward.

Crafting the African response to European external migration policies
Amanda Bisong, ECDPM blog, 30 September 2019
Current EU strategies on migration from Africa will have an impact on development on the African continent. African countries and European partners should therefore prioritise long-term migration solutions through regional and continental avenues, as these balance the benefits of migration and promote safe and regular pathways within Africa.

Our work on Africa-Europe relations around past EU-AU summits

2017 summit

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 2017

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.

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.