Looking north and moving south: Little enthusiasm for a continent-to-continent approach – North Africa's double pursuit: Part I

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In a two-part paper, we look at the role North African states play in Africa-Europe relations, and how political actors on both continents are influencing this role.

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    In the first part, we focus on the North African perspective. North African countries are seeking to ‘move south’, meaning towards continental integration, especially for sub-continental market access and political cooperation, but keep on ‘looking north’ to safeguard their relations with the EU.

    In spite of this double pursuit and their geographic location, North African countries show little enthusiasm for developing a comprehensive continent-to-continent approach under the auspices of the AU. This happens despite the historic involvement of some North African states at the inception of the AU as well as the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, and despite recent reassurances from the AU that their privileged relationship with the EU would remain intact.

    North African countries show little or no interest in being associated with a renewed deal between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU either. ACP-EU negotiations are ongoing, and the EU allowed the “involvement or accession” of third states. But for North African states, the ACP-EU framework adds no value. They also fear that a renewed agreement might downgrade their relations with the EU.

    In short, the status quo seems a safer bet than a more comprehensive continent-to-continent arrangement, no matter under which diplomatic framework.

    This paper is the first in a double edition: North Africa’s double pursuit – Part II: Mixed messages from Europe and Africa stand in the way of an intercontinental deal

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