AU and EU meet to re-examine the value of their partnership
by Elissa Jobson, bdlive.co.za
ADDIS ABABA — Senior officials from the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) are gathering in Addis Ababa on Thursday and Friday for their biannual joint task-force meeting.
The discussion, the first since the new AU Commission took office in November last year, will centre on a review of the partnership between the two organisations and will begin a process or reassessment that will culminate in the fourth Africa-EU summit, which is due to be held in Brussels in April next year.
“The meeting is a platform to take stock of where we are and to build momentum with the new commission,” Gary Quince, EU ambassador to the AU, told Business Day.
“We have to ask: ‘Does the partnership work? Does it deliver?’”
The meeting comes at a critical time for both organisations and their partnership — one of the AU’s most valuable. The EU is in the process of finalising its budget for the seven years from 2014-20, the AU is formulating its strategic plan for the same period, and the AU-EU three-year joint action plan expires at the end of this year.
On the question of whether the partnership is delivering, the jury is out. In relation to this, one European diplomat questions whether the joint AU-EU strategy, which was adopted in December 2007 and formalised and delineated the relationship, has really fulfilled its promise.
The joint strategy was supposed to help the EU and AU transcend the traditional donor-recipient imbalance. It identified thematic areas of partnership: peace and security; democratic governance and human rights; trade, regional integration and infrastructure; the Millennium Development Goals; energy; climate change and the environment; migration, mobility and employment; and science, information society and space.
Critics say that even in the arena of peace and security, where arguably the partnership has been most active and effective, it is difficult to say how far the joint strategy contributed to success.
Many of the other areas have been neglected, including trade and integration — the inspiration and blueprint for which Africa looks towards Europe.
Mr Quince admitted that there was room for improvement in the partnership, pointing out that as well as the highly visible successes, such as those in peace and security, there were lots of smaller programmes which were difficult to present to the public. He pointed to a recent meeting on using outer space for development and EU support for the African Continental Free Trade Area as examples.
“We need to join up the dots between them,” he said, adding that this meeting, and others to follow throughout the year, will likely address this. One of the key questions to be addressed over the coming days is financing for future joint action plans.
The EU is one of the AU’s principle donors and nowhere is this more obvious than in peace and security. Through the African Peace Facility, the EU has been substantially bankrolling the AU’s peace support missions in Somalia (Amsiom) and the Central African Republic (Micopax). Since 2004, when the African Peace Facility was created, the EU has funnelled €1bn into the facility.
Last week, for the first time in the EU’s history, leaders agreed to cut the commission’s budget, leaving doubt over whether the organisation can continue its existing financial commitments to the AU. Mr Quince is fairly confident that, even though the budget has been cut, the overall “envelope” of funding for Africa will not drastically reduce.