A Common Future for EU-Africa: Towards a Dynamic Partnership

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    Africa and Europe are bound by their history, their geography, their interests and even more by a common future.

    The first transcontinental summit between the EU and Africa was held in Cairo in 2000, 14 years ago. Since then, our relationship has grown stronger, in a close institutional partnership based on a shared political vision and tighter cooperation in all areas. In 2007, the Joint EU-Africa Strategy further deepened this community of values ​​and interests in the fields of peace and security, energy, mobility, governance, the fight against climate change, scientific cooperation, and social as well as human development.

    Implemented for over five years now, this strategic partnership has already produced significant results in many of these areas. They should encourage us to pursue the path of our mutual commitment, to deepen our political dialogue and cooperation while taking up the developments that we have seen on both sides.

    Since the Lisbon Summit in 2007, the world has experienced profound changes. The emergence of new economic powers, the globalization of the financial crisis, and the revolutions of the "Arab Spring" are factors that have had a major impact on both continents. The EU has deepened its integration and a new Treaty has been adopted, bringing significant changes both institutionally and politically. Only eight kilometers from our shores, Africa has also changed with unprecedented speed. Democratic consolidation progresses, economic growth is sustained, domestic and foreign investment is rising sharply, and the development of a continental architecture for peace and security is in progress. All this shows that a positive momentum exists despite the persistence of crises and conflicts, notably in Mali, the Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau, and in spite of the challenges that lie ahead in terms of governance and a vulnerability that still affects part of the population.

    If Africa is changing, the relationship of the world to Africa is also changing due to the new economic and geopolitical reality of a multipolar world in constant motion. Africa has moved from a forgotten continent to a coveted one. This new interest in Africa is primarily based on three types of issues: economic, security, and environmental. Today more than ever, Europe and Africa have a common interest in maintaining a balanced and dynamic global partnership in order to take full advantage of new opportunities of today’s world and to meet its challenges.

    Europe and Africa, despite their different situations, have to face the same challenge: promoting a model of economic growth that is both sustainable, inclusive and generates jobs. On the European side, the agenda "Europe 2020" sets out our growth strategy for 2020. The "Agenda for Change" strengthens the European development policy, focusing on sustainable growth, governance and the private sector while recalling the priority for Africa in EU cooperation. Africa has embarked for its part on the development of a strategic framework for the long term. It can also rely on a number of programs and policies in major sectors vital to its development, such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP ), or even in the area of ​​governance, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), to name but a few.

    In the light of security issues on the African continent, joint efforts, both on the regional and on the continental level, to strengthen African capacities for conflict prevention and peacekeeping have to be pursued. Peace and stability in Africa are also fundamental to help Europe fight against trafficking, piracy and terrorism. African conflicts cause, among other things, internal displacement and migration, which primarily affect neighboring countries but also Europe. It is for these reasons that the EU supports the efforts of our partners politically and financially, notably through the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), but also the African Governance Architecture (AGA).

    In order to have a real impact on the international agenda, Europe and Africa share the same major interest to better coordinate our positions on the long list of our common interests in the light of global challenges such as peace, climate change, environment and biodiversity, trade and human rights. This joint work has begun, but it must be reinforced significantly. In this regard, the debates around the post-2015 global development agenda will give us another opportunity to strengthen common positions to influence the global debate.

    To meet these challenges, the EU-Africa partnership enables us to develop frameworks for coordinated action. Dialogue and the exchange of experiences are essential on the political and institutional level, but they are even more important between civil society and the private sector. The EU intends to play an active role in this partnership, including through the implementation of financial cooperation instruments under the 2014-2020 fiscal years.

    The European Development Fund will allow a continued financial commitment to Africa. It will be supplemented by a Pan African Programme to develop a real continental approach. We can also count on the sectoral programmes of the Development Co-operation Instrument (DCI), which will ensure complementarity, enhancing cooperation with non-state actors and local authorities by initiating actions focused on democratic governance and by concretizing the European contribution to global public goods.

    Our working and cooperation methods will also be amended. This should ensure both greater consistency of interventions by the Commission and Member States, as well as an efficiency reinforced by an effort of concentration. Under the new 2014-2020 programming cycle, joint programming will take place. Innovative financing instruments will be launched, allowing the mix of grants and loans in order to maximize our potential funding.

    Beyond our financial commitment that remains important despite the crisis in several EU countries, our aim is to go beyond the traditional donor-recipient relationship by enhancing exchanges on various topics of common interests such as peace and security, agriculture, regional integration, research and energy. In this endeavor our institutional cooperation with the African Union remains critical. The 6th meeting of the two Commissions on April 26 in Addis Ababa allowed various European Commissioners to continue this commitment with the new team of the African Union Commission and its Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

    More cooperation, or regional integration, is also a key to the future success of Africa. Europe has always supported this process and it was a great honour for me to speak on behalf of the European Union during the recent commemoration in Addis Ababa of 50 years of the Organization of the African Union. This integration must continue.

    In April 2014, the EU and Africa will hold their 4th continental summit in Brussels. At that point we can both take stock of what has already been achieved and provide the necessary impetus for the future. Together, we will re-define our joint strategy to make our political dialogue and our cooperation more effective, to cope with rapid changes and the common challenges of the world around us. We will encourage civil society organizations, the private sector and youth organizations to get involved in the success of the summit, and to deepen their partnership relations.

    This summit will give us another opportunity to reaffirm that the alliance between Africa and Europe remains an indispensable alliance.

    José Manuel Barroso is the President of the European Commission.

    This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 2, Issue 6 (September 2013).

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