Author: European Parliament
Site of publication: Publication Office of the European Union
Type of publication: policy paper
Date of publication: 2017
Evaluating the implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy
The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) adopted at the Lisbon Summit in December 2007 can be considered as the capstone doctrine of Africa-European Union relations, consolidated in about fifty years of trade and development cooperation and substantially revisited over the last decade . It represents the overarching long-term framework of cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU), associated with an institutional architecture and specific funding for the implementation of its key actions.
The EU is still Africa’s principal partner, not only for trading but also for development and humanitarian assistance. Over the last decade, key sectors of cooperation have become increasingly important, ranging from governance to regional integration, from energy to climate change and from migration to science and technology. The JAES took stock of this evolution and developed a continent-to-continent partnership based on shared principles, underpinned by strengthened institutional ties and substantiated with operational priorities.
Implementation of the JAES has taken place in a rapidly evolving political context at the global level and specifically within Europe and Africa. The overarching objectives identified in 2007 still remain valid but concrete priorities need to be adapted to the new reality. Moreover, refinement of the Africa-EU partnership’s strategic vision has become urgent following adoption of the Agenda 2063 and the EU Global Strategy, new strategic frameworks for the African continent’s socio-economic transformation over the next 50 years and the EU’s foreign and security policy, respectively.
The political dialogue at continental level between Europe and Africa has been conducted mainly amongst Heads of States and Governments at successive Africa-EU Summits, in Cairo (2000), Lisbon (2007), Tripoli (2010) and Brussels (2014). The Lisbon Summit produced the JAES and the First Action Plan (2008-2010), while the following Summits represented high-level opportunities to raise political attention on the partnership and agree on concrete priorities for implementation (Second Action Plan 2011-2013 and the Roadmap 2014-2017).
Conversely, African partners’ dependency on the funding coming from external actors, including the EU, has been considered one of the key factors jeopardising African aspirations to provide ‘African solutions to African problems’ and impeding the full realisation of ownership principles and equal partnership enshrined in the JAES
Sensitive political issues and diverging interests also emerged during these gatherings. In November 2015, in the wake of the migration crisis in Europe, European and African Heads of State and Government gathered together in La Valletta for a Summit entirely dedicated to cooperation on migration and asylum14. The Valletta Summit was perceived by African leaders to have been dominated by the EU agenda, with a strong focus on security aspects, return and readmission issues, while African partners tried to maintain focus on development and better governance of migration and mobility.
Conversely, African partners’ dependency on the funding coming from external actors, including the EU, has been considered one of the key factors jeopardising African aspirations to provide ‘African solutions to African problems’ and impeding the full realisation of ownership principles and equal partnership enshrined in the JAES.
One of the shortcomings identified during implementation of the Joint Strategy was the lack of high level political dialogue between Summits. The official visits of the High Representative Federica Mogherini to the African Union to meet the Chairmanship of the AU Commission in 2015, 2016 and 2017 seem to have gone in the right direction for the reinforcement of this aspect.
The EU’s significant financial support to the AU, African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) as well as African countries generally has always been a central feature of Europe-Africa relations, representing true added value. Implementation of the JAES has benefitted from a number of different financial instruments developed by the EU to support its external partners. Among them, the European Development Fund (EDF) – including its African Peace Facility (APF) component – is the EU’s main instrument for supplying development aid to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries as well as other Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). In addition, Trust Funds (TFs) totally or partly funded through the EDF have been created.
Conversely, African partners’ dependency on the funding coming from external actors, including the EU, has been considered one of the key factors jeopardising African aspirations to provide ‘African solutions to African problems’ and impeding the full realisation of ownership principles and equal partnership enshrined in the JAES. Implementation of the JAES by the AU is linked to socio-economic difficulties in African countries, many of which are among the poorest and least developed countries in the world, but also to political constraints, due to the lack of commitment to invest resources in supranational institutions by their political elites. In addition, AU’s institutions have shown a limited absorption capacity for external funding, which is also connected with the proliferation of funding sources and reporting rules.
A people-centred partnership?
One important component of the JAES is to promote a ‘people-centred partnership’. Both organisations have acknowledged that ‘the Joint Strategy should be co-owned by European and African noninstitutional actors’ and they are willing to make it a ‘permanent platform for information, participation and mobilization of a broad spectrum of civil society actors’. This open door to non-state actors prompted creation of the Africa-EU Intercontinental Civil Society Forum in 2010, a transregional platform comprising a cross-section of African and European civil society organisations (CSOs), led by recognised JAES Civil
According to the Roadmap, the EU should also support the full operationalisation of the African Governance Architecture (AGA)’. The AGA is a platform for dialogue between the various stakeholders who are mandated to promote good governance and strengthen democracy in Africa, in addition to translating the objectives of the legal and policy pronouncements in the AU Shared Values.
Society Steering Groups from both continents.However, despite formal calls in various policy documents, the partnership has not been able to involve civil society groups. Civil society is broadly involved in the partnership mainly through a monitoring and consultation role, but its specific inclusion in strategic decision-making and the implementation of financial instruments is still insufficient. Indeed, from the outset there were signs that the impact of African and European civil society organisations would be limited in regard to the JAES’ design and implementation.
Evaluating the implementation of the Roadmap 2014-2017
Another important aspect in the text of the Roadmap is the recognition of the importance and validity of high-level political dialogue conducted between AU and EU institutions under the Strategy including Summits, ministerial meetings, college-to-college meetings between the two Commissions, AU PSC-EU PSC meetings and contacts among African and European leaders. At the same time, it recognises the shortfalls in technical expert structures as well asthe need to identify alternative working mechanisms and structures.
The main flagship programme of the Roadmap is Africa Union Support Programme III, started in June 2016 with two main objectives: (1) enhanced European-African Union policy dialogue and efficiency of the AU Commission and (2) effective implementation of the Roadmap by the AU Commission, in particular priority areas 2, 3, 4 and 5. It will run until June 2019 and is worth EUR 51 million (85% European Union and 15% AU Commission).
Peace and security
The first priority area for cooperation between the EU and Africa remains peace and security, as in the previous Action Plans, with the strategic objective ‘to ensure a peaceful, safe, secure environment, contributing to human security and reducing fragility, foster political stability and effective governance, and to enable sustainable and inclusive growth’.
Democracy, good governance and human rights
The second priority area of the Roadmap 2014-2017 is focussing on democracy, good governance and human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. The strategic objective is ‘to ensure a transparent, democratic and accountable environment in the respect of human rights and the rule of law, contributing to reducing fragility, fostering political stability and effective governance, and enabling sustainable and inclusive development and growth’.
Democracy and good governance
According to the Roadmap, the EU should also support the full operationalisation of the African Governance Architecture (AGA)’. The AGA is a platform for dialogue between the various stakeholders who are mandated to promote good governance and strengthen democracy in Africa, in addition to translating the objectives of the legal and policy pronouncements in the AU Shared Values. However, in a nutshell, whereas general EU support to the AGA was formal, but not practical, individual Member States (e.g. Germany) were more directly supportive.
In the democracy and good governance domain, the role of Parliaments seems also limited. The European parliamentary members could take a more active role in electoral observation missions. Both African and European members could also play a stronger role scrutinizing the implementation of the JAES or fostering the presence of the President of the European Parliament to the AU’s institutions and African countries and vice versa. A real legislative role of the PanAfrican Parliament, for instance through the implementation of the so-called Malabo Protocol, could reinforce the cooperation on the African side.
Priority area 3 of the Roadmap 2014-2017 has the strategic objective to ‘promote human capital development and knowledge and skills based societies and economies, amongst others by strengthening the links between education, training, science and innovation, and better manage mobility of people’.
Sustainable and inclusive development together with growth and continental integration
Priority area 4 of the Roadmap 2014-2017 covers a broad set of economic sectors, including the specific domain of agriculture and food security. The key strategic objectives identified by the document include: economic growth promotion and poverty reduction; job creation and sustainable entrepreneurship empowerment, particularly among youth and women; development of private sector and SMEs; continental integration, notably in the sectors of infrastructure development, energy, industrialisation. In order to achieve these objectives, the Roadmap defines two main key areas for cooperation.
In the Joint Communication, the priority actions to be included in the next Roadmap 2018-2020 are anchored to an African vision, but mainly linked to the EU’s strategic interests. This approach is aimed at reviving the partnership as an effective and sustainable tool for the EU’s longstanding relation with the African continent, in line with the ‘principled pragmatism’ defined in the EU Global Strategy.
The Strategic objectives identified within the Roadmap 2014-2017 Priority area 5 to a large extent appear vague and undefined. Indeed, implementation of the JAES in this area is expected to (generally) contribute to the achievement of ‘common positions in global fora and international negotiations and jointly address global challenges’.
In the Joint Communication, the priority actions to be included in the next Roadmap 2018-2020 are anchored to an African vision, but mainly linked to the EU’s strategic interests. This approach is aimed at reviving the partnership as an effective and sustainable tool for the EU’s longstanding relation with the African continent, in line with the ‘principled pragmatism’ defined in the EU Global Strategy
Climate change and environment protection is certainly among the most relevant challenges: however, contrary to the JAES Action Plan 2011-13, which assigned Climate change and Environment to a specific Partnership (No 6), quite surprisingly the new Roadmap downgrades the importance of this issue, which is now included in the area of the more general Global Challenges Priority. Under implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda (adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs), the list of issues addressed by Priority area 5 is completed with reform of the international governance system and disarmament.
Climate change and environment
In the last few years, the fight against climate change has been at the centre of the Africa-EU political agenda. In the April 2014 Summit’s declaration, the parties reiterated their willingness to work together to fight climate change and reach an effective deal during the 2015 COP21, which then successfully concluded with the signature of the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, following the US withdrawal from the agreement in June 2017, the EU and the AU immediately released a Joint Communiqué, reaffirming their strong commitment in continuing to address climate change challenges.
Joint Communication for a renewed impetus to the AfricaEU partnership: priorities and challenges
A Joint Communication was released in May 2017 aimed at giving renewed impetus to the Africa-EU Partnership ahead of the AU-EU Summit in November. This document is a welcome initiative by the EU to address key challenges identified in the chapters above and put forward proposals for the future of AfricaEU relations, to be reflected in a new Roadmap for 2018-2020. As such, it can be considered as a position paper produced by the EU to inform and influence the Summit’s deliberations, in an attempt to prioritise and communicate the EU’s strategic interests in the Partnership’s framework more effectively.
As stated in the document, the Communication: (1) builds on strategic documents recently released by both the EU and AU, namely EU Global Strategy and Agenda 2063; (2) contributes to ongoing reflection launched through the Joint Communication on ‘A renewed partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific’131; (3) is guided by international frameworks such as the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (although the implementation of the SDGs is never mentioned into the text), its Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development and the Paris Agreement on climate change; and (4) it is consistent with other relevant EU policies.
Strengthening Africa-EU cooperation: the way ahead
In the Joint Communication, the priority actions to be included in the next Roadmap 2018-2020 are anchored to an African vision, but mainly linked to the EU’s strategic interests. This approach is aimed at reviving the partnership as an effective and sustainable tool for the EU’s longstanding relation with the African continent, in line with the ‘principled pragmatism’ defined in the EU Global Strategy. This can be the stimulus for a more frank partnership based on clearly identified mutual interests and incentivise the buy-in of Member States, but at the same time it carries the risk of overlooking the issue of African ownership and a fair assessment of local needs.
The current international environment and the changing context in Africa and Europe have triggered the adoption of two new strategic documents on both sides: Agenda 2063 and the EU Global Strategy. A thorough reassessment of the strategic vision of the JAES could facilitate the identification of more effective actions and instruments at political and operational level to address the main gaps assessed above. But it has to be the result of a joint and inclusive process, based on the participation of the main stakeholders at continental, regional, national and local level, beyond institutions, Addis Ababa and Brussels.
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