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Mixed messages from Europe and Africa stand in the way of an intercontinental deal

North Africa's double pursuit - Part II

04-02-2019

Emmanuel De Groof and Jean Bossuyt, ECDPM paper, February 2019.

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European and African leaders have underlined the merits of a hypothetical fully-fledged continent-to-continent partnership on several occasions, most recently in a EU-AU Joint Communiqué of January 2019. But in practice, they are sending mixed signals or even acting dividedly and divisively.

During 2018 the African heads of state and government had announced that the African Union would negotiate a continent-to-continent partnership directly with the European Union. Direct negotiations might have compromised or affected the ongoing negotiations between the ACP Group and the European Union for a successor to the Contonou Agreement. In any event, government ministers of both North African and sub-Saharan states did not follow suit neither on the principle nor on the execution of direct AU-EU negotiations.

At the same time, the EU created an opening for North African states in the context of the ACP-EU negotiations, which traditionally excludes them. However, the so-called ACP-EU framework does not appeal to those states. Besides, not only the Maghreb itself but also sub-Saharan countries have shown opposition to a North African involvement in this framework. Furthermore, also beyond the ACP context, EU policies and instruments continue to lack pan-African coherence, despite modest signs of improvement.

This two-faced approach on both continents, and the tensions surrounding the appropriate diplomatic framework, AU-EU or ACP-EU, stand in the way of setting out the contours for a fully-fledged continent-to-continent partnership.

As a result, North African countries have even less incentive to bridge the diplomatic divide and prefer to continue their double pursuit of ‘looking south’ to pursue economic opportunities and political cooperation within Africa while ‘looking north’ to safeguard their relations with the EU.

This paper is the second in a double edition: North Africa’s double pursuit – Part I: Looking north and moving south

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Photo courtesy of Jemma Harwood via Flickr.

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European external affairsDiscussion Papers (series)Political economy analysisAfricaEuropeNorth Africa