Eu-Africa Summit 2014

EU-Africa: beyond dialogue and for a real renewal

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The bilateral summit in April has revealed many positive aspects in their desire to deepen relations, but there is much to (re) do

Changes in Africa and Europe after the adoption of the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy are of the type that mark an era and produce societal shifts. They include leadership and institutional reforms (the creation of the EEAS in 2012 and South Africa’s leadership of the African Union Commission); socio-economic challenges (the global financial crisis, widening gap economic inequalities and the rise of populism in Europe); the Arab revolutions with their progress and set-backs and the rise of intra-state conflicts (Mali, Central Africa Republic and South Sudan in Africa, the Ukraine crisis in Europe). Africa is more assertive in its relations with Europe and at times it has stepped up its anti-western and Pan African rhetoric. The EU finds it hard to keep up with it and to abandon the old model of donor-recipient relations.

The leaders’ Summit held in Brussels in April, confirmed the importance of relations between the two continents and the high level of delegations demonstrated an interest in political dialogue.  Various stakeholders have prepared for the Summit with an intercontinental civil society forum, a youth forum, a business forum and a series of debates organized by the European Commission to discuss issues of relevance for both partners. These initiatives indicate an ongoing desire for participation by actors at all level. The Summit has led to redefining the political agenda around five thematic areas: peace and security; democracy, governance and human rights; human development; sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration; global and emerging issues. EU and African representatives have also agreed to simplify the procedures and institutional arrangements for implementation of policy commitments. Yet with the lights gone down, it is now possible to identify areas for further work.

As important as it is, political dialogue is not an end in itself. Before the Summit, analysts from both continents had indicated the need to address divisive issues such as international justice institutions, climate change, Economic Partnerships Agreements, migration and the human rights of sexual minorities. However, leaders at the Summit have not been able to go beyond generic statements on these topics and have adopted only a stand-alone declaration on migration.  Deliberations at the Summit also reveal a democratic deficit that contradicts the partnership’s  ‘people centred’ objectives: the final declaration and roadmap hardly mention the role and place of civil society or of continental parliaments. The proposed  institutional reforms , dictated by the need to streamline, do not seem to facilitate inclusive consultations.

Secondly, the reduction from eight to five thematic priorities adopted by both partners does not augur well for an increase in depth and focus. Commitments undertaken under the five (very broad) areas of the roadmap are extremely vague and can be summarized in the intention to have further political dialogue. This can be attributed in part to the difficult months of diplomatic negotiations prior to the Summit. However, it leaves the door open to years of further negotiations in order to identify the ‘priorities of priorities’ and activities for their implementation.

Thirdly, an open evaluation of the two previous action plans (2007-2010 and 2010-2013) and their concrete achievements did not take place. It is not clear how ideas generated at a series of discussions and round tables in the period leading to the Summit have contributed concretely to promoting more focus on deliverables. Consultations have taken place in parallel to the Summit but there is no evidence that they have been taken into account by decision makers in the resulting documents. A proper and participatory evaluation would have permitted to ground thematic priorities on more solid reasoning and develop a better understanding of commitments required in the future.

Observers and institutional actors alike had indicated the need to simplify structures and procedures of the partnership. Yet the Summit has not clarified how this will be achieved and how the Partnership would be more effective as a result. Civil society had suggested the establishment of multi-stakeholders working groups aligned with the thematic work-streams but there are no indications for ways to standardise civil society and other actors’ participation. Suggestions to adopt a dedicated envelope for effective civil society consultations have resulted in vague provisions for inclusion in the Pan Africa funding instrument, at the level of project implementation.  This points to a gap between the desire for participation and the effective mechanisms for inclusiveness developed in the EU-Africa Partnership resulting in a strengthened top-down approach by both partners.

Perspectives for a renewal of Africa-EU relations should go back to a few essentials. First of all, the emphasis on people, rather than processes, should guide any consideration regarding economic development, peace and security and responses to shared challenges such as food security/climate change and migration. Keeping the ultimate beneficiaries in mind, would help identify concrete policies and programs guided by inclusiveness and equity.

Political dialogue must address specific difficulties and help prepare partners for engagement in global fora such as the UN or the post-2015 development process. EU-Africa partners should focus on resolving tensions linked to the Economic Partnership Agreements and establish clear positions, particularly vis-à-vis WTO dynamics,  that are considerate of differentials in partners’ development. In addition to developing measurable indicators for progress in partner countries, post-2015 discussions should promote more donors’ accountability and measurement of donors’ commitment.

Future relations and agreed commitments would also greatly benefit from the inclusion of monitoring and verification mechanisms in the Partnership that would ensure the pertinence of priorities and the ability to respond to concrete and unplanned challenges.

Marta Martinelli is Senior Policy Analyst, EU External Relations at the Open Society European Policy Institute. Writes in her individual capacity