Eight notable moments for Europe and Africa: Looking back at 2016 and ahead to 2017

As we’ve entered a new year, we look back at some notable moments from 2016 – a turbulent time for international cooperation and global development. What were some of the highlights, particularly in Europe and Africa? What did we have to say about them? And what will 2017 have in store?

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      1. The global refugee crisis continued to take centre stage

      History will recall 2015 as the year marking the start of the global refugee crisis, which continued to take centre stage in 2016. A year after the Valletta Summit on migration, Europe and Africa have made progress regarding the need to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacements, yet much more still needs to be done. The need for a better Africa-Europe partnership for regional migration governance is now stronger than ever.

      In the new year, our migration expert Anna Knoll will head our new programme entirely dedicated to migration. The programme will closely follow African and European progress on addressing the migration issues and will push for more action. Will the EU – which in 2016 adopted an increasingly self-interested attitude on migration – this year invest in closer cooperation and frank dialogue with partners? And will Africa agree on a common position towards the issue of migration, so as to strengthen its response to it?

      2. Brexit shocked Europe

      On 23 June, the United Kingdom shocked Europe by voting for its withdrawal from the European Union. The vote to exit the EU gave rise to political and economic uncertainty in the UK and raised concerns among its international partners. In the months to follow, the whole world speculated on the potential effects of Brexit on European and global finance, politics, trade agreements, and various related issues.

      ECDPM commented on the effects of Brexit on European development cooperation and looked into the consequences for the Caribbean. ECDPM’s San Bilal indicated Brexit will impact on EU trade agreements and future relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

      Yet, the true implications of the Brexit vote still remain to be seen, and perhaps this year will offer a bit more clarity. How will Brexit manifest itself in 2017? Will it give rise to a growing wave of populism in Europe? And how will the many upcoming European elections play out?

      3. Discussions on the future ACP-EU partnership took shape

      Discussions on a new partnership have been high on the agendas of European and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) policymakers for a number of years already. In 2016 discussions seemed to be picking up steam. EU and ACP institutions and member states prepared for their positions in the debate, and towards the end of the year the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) launched their Joint Communication on the topic.

      Our political economy analysis, as well as our study exploring the different scenarios for a future partnership visibly fed into the policy debates. ECDPM also presented an analysis of the joint EEAS and European Commission Communication, which was discussed at the 28 November Foreign Affairs Council. The challenge for 2017 will be to create more dialogue between the different parties involved and further elaborate the design of a future partnership that will be fit for a rapidly changing global context.

      4. Climate conference COP22 caused mixed reactions

      COP22, the 22nd edition of the United Nations climate conference, took place last year in Marrakech. Following 2015’s signing of the historic Paris Agreement, COP22 faced the challenging issue of implementation. Thus, the expectations were immense, as ECDPM’s Hanne Knaepen outlined in her blog just ahead of the COP.

      Yet, to many the outcomes of COP22 were somewhat disappointing. ECDPM’s Francesco Rampa argued that it did not deliver concrete policy and financing outcomes on the needed synergies between sustainable agriculture and climate actions. He stressed that more can and should be done in 2017 – a year offering relevant high-level donor platforms, such as the G7 Taormina Summit in May, and the EU-AU Agriculture Ministerial in July.

      5. The European Union launched its Global Strategy

      June 2016 saw the launch of the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, with the aim of making Europe stronger through a greater union. In a moment of major uncertainty, also following Brexit and the consequent withdrawal of the UK from the European project, the Global Strategy seems to offer a lighthouse for an EU in uncertain waters.

      Shifting from vision to actions, EU institutions are now focusing on how to implement this ambitious strategy. High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini presented a proposal at the end of 2016. The will is there, yet many challenges still need to be addressed, including the very existential crisis of the EU. ECDPM’s Damien Helly prepared a range of publications on the topic and dedicated a series of blogs to exploring the implications of the Global Strategy – a good way to delve into what can be expected in 2017.

      6. The EU presented a proposal for a new European Consensus on Development

      In November 2016, the European Union published a proposal to revise its 2005 European Consensus on Development, in order to set a new course for the way Europe commits to eradicating poverty and building a fairer and more stable world.

      ECDPM contributed to the consultations behind this new proposal and organised a public debate with European Commissioner Neven Mimica, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs and representatives of Dutch NGOs, universities, think tanks and the private sector – offering a platform to exchange views on the upcoming proposal. ECDPM’s Andrew Sherriff shared seven critical questions ahead of the review.

      The new European Consensus on Development is set to come into effect in 2017. More analysis is expected in the coming weeks from the EU member states. ECDPM’s experts will continue to closely follow and feed into ongoing discussions on the topic.

      7. Several African countries turned their back on the International Criminal Court

      African Union member states were instrumental in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and yet, in 2016, a number of African states turned their back on this international institution, expressing bitterness towards the perceived neo-colonial and unfair way in which the latter is operating in their view. South Africa, followed by the Gambia, Uganda and Namibia have started the process to withdraw from the court and more countries, such as Kenya, could possibly follow.

      ECDPM’s Faten Aggad and Philomena Apiko looked at the International Criminal Court, Africa and the African Union, analysing the reasons behind the withdrawals and investigating the way in which the African Union shall face this issue in the future.

      8. Preparations for 2017’s Africa-EU Summit took off

      After a successful fourth Africa-EU Summit in 2014, the partnership between Africa and Europe appeared to have lost political traction. Yet, in the past year migration, peace and security, governance and economic transformation issues have rapidly moved to the top of the agenda of the Europe-Africa partnership.

      Preparations are now in full swing for the fifth Africa-EU Summit, taking place in Abidjan on 28 and 29 November 2017. The central theme for the Summit will be youth, which has become a key priority for Europe as well as Africa, in a context of alarming African demographic trends creating major challenges for young people in terms of migration, security and employment.

      The European Commission and the EEAS will issue a Joint Communication in April that will set out the vision and strategic interests of the EU in a reinforced partnership with Africa. ECDPM will closely follow these discussions, provide independent analysis and facilitate dialogue between different African and European stakeholders in the run-up to the Summit.


      Your views

      Of course, much more happened in 2016 and there are plenty of other things to look out for in 2017. What did you think were 2016’s most remarkable moments for international cooperation, global development and Africa-Europe relations? And what do you think 2017 will bring? Tell us in the comment section!

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