Recent and expected developments in EU-Africa relations
1. New roadmap for the EU-Africa Strategy from 2018 to 2020
The European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) will no longer follow the proposal for a new EU-Africa Strategy as initially announced for the 7 September 2016. Instead, the presentation of a roadmap proposal is expected in February 2017 comprising measures and priorities within the existing Strategy for the period between 2018 and 2010, succeeding the roadmap adopted at the 2014 EU-Africa Summit in Brussels. The EU-Africa Strategy has rather the nature of a joint declaration of intent and not the character of a legal agreement. It was adopted in Lisbon by European and African Heads of State and Government in December 2007. There is no expiry data set for the Strategy. It aims at achieving a stronger political partnership and cooperation between Africa and the EU at every level, going beyond mere development cooperation. The most important topics covered comprise migration, climate change, peace and security. The EU also initiated or concluded negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with several African regions; however, some states like Nigeria are still reluctant to join these Agreements.
The European Commission and the EEAS are currently considering new forms of cooperation so that at the next EU-Africa Summit taking place in the second half of 2017 (most likely in the Ivory Coast), besides the roadmap, also strategic goals can be agreed. The College of Commissioners met with the Commission of the African Union on 7 April 2016 and discussed besides security issues and their financing, also strategic cooperation in the field of the digital agenda and transport, eg. through the implementation of e-governance. This could strengthen the administrative structures of African states, which is necessary for their economic development. A cooperation regarding the introduction of biometric passports could also be envisaged, which could help African states to establish a population register. At the same time, biometric passports would also make the return of migrants easier. The European Commission indicated that the promotion of trade partnerships among the states of the region would be of high importance as well.
2. European External Investment Fund
In his State of the European Union speech on 14 September, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, proposed to launch a new Investment plan for growth in Africa and the Middle East, which should have the potential to raise €44billion and could even double if Member States join the initiative. The idea behind the new fund for external investments is to create infrastructure and jobs that will reduce the incentive for people to migrate to Europe.
3. Post-Cotonou Process
A major point of reference in EU’s Africa policy is the Cotonou Agreement which forms the basis of relations between the EU and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This partnership agreement was signed in 2000 and expires on 29 February 2020. The Agreement governs the political dimension of the economic, trade and development cooperation. The most important goal of the Agreement is the eradication of poverty and the integration of the ACP countries onto the global economy. In November 2016, besides the proposal for a revised European Consensus on Development, the EEAS and the Commission are planning to present a Communication on a new post-Cotonou policy framework. In the preceding public consultation, over 100 stakeholders assessed the Agreement as an overall positive contribution to social development. The legal nature of the Agreement was emphasized, wich legally binds the partner, for example, to respect human rights and the fundamental principles, yet many consultation participants critically remarked that the Agreement did not actually contribute to a greater protection of human rights, and they also suggested joint actions to intensify the cooperation in the field of peace-building and conflict prevention. Several consultation participants proposed to transform the current Agreement into an umbrella agreement which would be complemented by regional agreements. It has also been noted that under the current Agreement the improvement of social infrastructures and services could not advance in some regions as a result of population growth, insufficient financing, due to conflicts and natural disasters.
At the level of the Commission and de EEAS, it is being considered to geographically extend the Agreement to the Maghreb states (Algeria, Moroco, Tunisa) or even to the MENA region (North Africa and Middle East). It also means likely that the future ACP Agreement will focus more on security, migration (including return and readmission) and employment issues. The responsible Committee on Development (DEVE) of the European Parliament (EP) is currently compiling an own-initiative report on future relations between the ACP Group and the EU. It calls inter alia for a genuine partnership with ACP countries, for laying a particular focus on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it emphasises that the eradication of poverty shall remain an overarching objective. It also for a stronger participation of national parliaments, local authorities and civil society at all stages of ACP-EU policies and activities. Moreover, the draft report empasises the role of private sector in the development process. Measures linked to the Cotonou Agreement are currently financed through the European Development Fund (EDF) which is not part of the EU budget. The draft report suggests that the European Development Fund (EDF) should be included in the EU budget, which has met with some criticism by the Commission and some Member States.
4. Budgetary aspects
The considerations to strengthen the nexus between security and development in the context of the so-called “Migration Compacts” have raised budgetary concerns. Some MEPs of the DEV Committee requested a clarification by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) whether measures related to security and migration could be financed from the European Development Fund. Similar doubts exist with regard to a recent proposal to finance the provision of training, advice and non-lethal equipment to the military actors of third countries as part of the Security Sector Reform from EU development funds. In this respects, it is to be noted that Art. 41(2) Treaty on European Union forbids financing from EU budget for operations with military of defense implications.
5. Concluding remarks
Recently, the European Union has made a number of proposals that indicate a stronger focus on migration and security within its development policies. If state institutions lack good governance and trust, stability in post-conflict societies and fragile states might be at stake. In turn, the instable environment impedes the promotion of integral human development. This fostering security can make an important contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nevertheless, it should be ensured that the core principles of the development policy, in particular the overarching goal of eradication of poverty and hunger, and of empowerment of the local populations to become agents of their own development, are not undermined and overshadowed by other EU foreign policy interests.
Brussels, 28 September 2016
The Secretariat of Justice&Peace Europe