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What common EU policy towards Africa?

{When the European Communities were founded in 1957, the vast majority of the African continent was still part of the European colonial empires. This tells a lot on how ancient EU-African relations are.}

Africa is indeed the only continent to be fully included since the origin with the concerns of emerging European Union; this is made clear by articles 131 and 136 of the Rome Treaty establishing the European Development Fund (EDF) as the main instrument for EU aid to Africa (today extended to other states from the Caribbean and Pacific regions). It can be therefore considered that, from a European perspective, at the beginning of European construction, Africa somehow was also Europe.

Some 50 years later, after decolonization, after the many crises encountered by the African continent and after the creation of a fully-fleshed European Union made of 25 Member-States, the 9th EDF (2000-2005) illustrates the many difficulties met EU-African relations: with an allocation of EUR 13.5 billion, it covers now 70 states out which 47 only are African, while EUR 10 billion remain unspent from the previous EDFs (2000 estimation).

EU-African relations suffer from their being intermingled with some former colonial Member-States’ bi-lateral relations (France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Portugal in particular), from their depending on development aid, from their being focused on African States (the real children of decolonization) rather than on the Africans themselves. The history of EU-African relations is today taking a turn which requires long-term vision (at least one generation) in order to redirect its ends, methods and instruments.

On the European side indeed, just like any other original EU policy (CAP, ECSC…), the African policy should be reconsidered along the lines of 8 major European developments emphasized during the session:

1. enlargement has greatly diversified Member-States expectations and concerns, and is about to modify its very functioning (Constitution)

2. European funding processes are increasingly criticized in terms of efficiency and transparency: the next EDF budget – until today each state funded EDF freely and dictated the allocation and use of aid – show that the EU is taking the hand again on this aspect. There will then be a seperation between the identity fo the donnor and that of the beneficiary.

3. European civil society is erupting onto nearly the entire scope of EU fields of intervention, in particular in the field of external relations

4. globalisation strengthens inter-dependence among various EU policies (trade, investment, social affairs, environment, immigration, security, development)

5. public opinion increasingly doubts of the relevance and efficiency of 50 years of African cooperation (European or international)

6. European leaders seem now fully aware of the need to stimulate democracy all over the African continent

7. African crises have a growing direct impact on the EU in terms of immigration, health and security

8. Europe is now eager – all the more since the Irak crisis – to build a Common external policy including Africa in a global external vision.

In parallel to this, Africa and the Africans have changed a lot and new sustainable trends have appeared in the last 10 years. Year 1994 in particular can be seen as a turn, as it refers to both the greatest genocide ever perpetrated on the African continent (Rwanda) and the end of the last regime directly inherited from colonial times (end of Apartheid in South Africa). Since then, thanks to the impulse triggered by the new South African leaders, the Africans have undertaken wide-ranging projects in order to reorganise their continent, today taking the shape of AU (African Union) or NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) as the first truly African attempt to manage continental development.

The parallel was drawn on various occasions during the session between European traumas of the years 1914/1989 (civil wars, genocides, inter-state conflicts) and those encountered by Africa in the last 40 years (decolonization, inter-state conflicts, genocides, civil wars). « Comparison is no reason »; however it is a way to remind to the Europeans that their XXth-Century internal conflicts could just as well be called tribal or inter-ethnic conflicts, using words generally reserved to Africa. Over a period of 50 years, we however managed to overcome these conflicts and to build continental unity; the European example fuels reasonable hopes for Africa too.

{Recent African evolution presents 5 new features that should mark profoundly the conditions of future EU-African cooperation :}

1. emergence of South Africa as a regional « super-power », willing to play a pro-active role in the research of African solutions in Africa and on the international scene

2. quasi-simultaneous launch of two sustainable pan-African initiatives aimed at re-organising the continent (African Union) on the one hand, and at improving the continent’s process of development through greater control over international aid (NEPAD)

3. growing claim from African civil society (a very heterogeneous one in terms of development, but also a very dynamic one in some countries in particular) to be part of development policies, as well as of politics in general

4. awareness that many international challenges are now urgent (health, poverty, education) and can only be solved in a context of economic development combined with political democracy

5. gradual inclusion of the Africans (and not only of Africa) in global agendas (security, trade, resources, environment…), Africans therefore more and more courted by various continents (and no longer automatic partners of the EU).

Those various developments affecting Europeans and Africans enable to envisage the coming decade as one for some mature Euro-African relations assuming on both sides their common history. Neither European nor African leaders in the years 2010/2020 will have experienced colonial times, not even direct post-colonial eras. The past should not weigh too heavily on their mentalities. In any case, that will be the case on the European side. Africa will therefore be seen as a continent inhabited by Africans with whom Europeans will want to have a privileged relation based on a common history and some joint interests; and no longer as some abstract entity referring to a glorious or painful past, and to cartographic or litterary images. Such evolution will facilitate the transformation of development aid instruments (such as EDF) which should be re-focused on mid- and long-term efficiency rather than on preserving past and present interests. This change will go along a growing influence on EU-African policies on the part of countries without strong ancient bilateral relations to Africa. Such countries can easily be convinced of the importance of African cooperation however they will be more pernickety as to its efficiency. Thus, one can hope to see the EU’s official and operational attitude start converging with that its public opinion.

The maturity of Euro-African relations will also convey the possibility to set up the transparent agenda that has been missing so badly in the past decades, on both sides. Indeed, those “hidden agendas” of the Euro-African cooperation (support to “friendly regimes”, massive fraud in the aid programmes, induced corruption in Africa as much as in Europe) are largely responsible for the many failures of this cooperation.
Moreover, some transparency as to the motives and objectives of the EU when it comes to its relation to Africa is key in the credibility of any EU policy towards Africa both in Africa and in Europe. Indeed the Africans are more and more enticed by other global powers such as the USA (in the field of trade and security), China (trade, raw materials), India (for a very Indian vision of the Ocean with of the same name) or Latin America (today mostly in the field of WTO talks); therefore they have no reason to get involved in a sustainable way with the European Union if the latter does not comply entirely with its role of « privileged partner ».

{In order to build credibility and transparency of the agendas, a number of measures are required:}

{{1. Speeding up the pace towards multi-lateral frames of cooperation, in particular through AU and NEPAD:}}

In order to be credible, EU policy towards Africa must be consistent. To be consistent, it requires to take place within a multilateral frame of cooperation enabling internal compatibility among the various European policies affecting Africa:

– {Launch of a direct political dialogue between the EU and NEPAD} aimed at inventing the new instruments of development cooperation between Africa and the EU (or at profoundly renewing the existing instruments), and accompanying this policy within economic and trade international organizations (G8, WTO, …) (just like what the British initiative « Africa Commission » intends to contribute to, for instance)

– {Launch of a direct political dialogue between AU and EU} aimed at discussing common security related issues (the creation of a Euro-African Alliance for Security, some sort of a EU-African NATO, was evocated during the session) and at defining common or at least compatible positions as regards to major global challenges inside the UN in particular. In relation to this, the EU will soon have to adopt a clear position concerning the role it wishes Africa to play in a reformed UN.

– {on the European level, preparation of this dialogue by creating some coherence among the various European policies} directly affecting Africa (trade, agriculture, immigration, …). We can no longer tell Africa that we want to contribute to its development and allocate billions of Euro to EDF on the one hand ; while on the other hand, we establish tariffs preventing Africa to export towards the EU or on the opposite destroying key food security crops to the benefit of exportable products.

To head for this direction, no need to be 25 at every step. Pionneer-groups have been at the origin of every important development (Euro, Schengen, defence); in the field of Euro-African security policy namely, it is possible that a limited group of countries gets involved into this cooperation (this is true for both sides). It is important however that Belgium, France and the United-Kingdom are part of it, being the most active at this stage in this field. This evolution should also be based on some “early-stage alarm » systems going along multinational military presence (such as « operation Artemis »).

{{2. Supporting the Africans in their regional integration:}}

Assistance can be provided along 3 lines:

{- Helping the Africans to modify Africa’s internal frontiers}

The European construction was made possible thanks to multiple border changes all along a period going from 1914 to 1989. Ex-Yugoslavia shows the last stages of these developments. It is vain to pretend to believe that the frontiers inherited from colonial times (regardless of ethnic, economic and geographic realities) can contribute to something else than more conflicts. The theme is considered a “taboo”; however it seems that it is mostly a “taboo” for European states and for their relays in Africa. What is certain today is that invoking the « taboo » by fear of generating conflicts no longer makes any sense given the millions of casualties in the last years. The Europeans have a historical role to play here: on the one hand because they invented the concept of Nation-State and abruptly exported it to Africa; and on the hand, because they invented peaceful regional integration which overcame – by integrating it within a wider entity – this very Nation-State. If the Africans are interested (and it seems they are considering AU and NEPAD), it is imperative that the EU helps them to « reform » the political structure of their continent and to adapt it both to the 21st century and to African realities.

In the same sense, the EU could help African regional integration by pushing for a reduction of the number of African « regional communities » (at least 14), most of which do not work ; and encourage the two big Euro-African « families » – English-speaking and French-speaking – to play fairly the trans-African game.

Among UA’s objectives, the 5 Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are to develop into Regional Communities of Integration and benefit from transfers of sovereignty. In a [document->http://www.nepadforum.com/PDF-documents/VISION%20ET%20MISSION%20de%20l%20UA.pdf] dated February 2004, there is the precision: « It is is be underlined that the dynamics of integration should be triggered by groups of countries becoming a locomotive among Regional Economic Communities or between them. In other words, it should not be required that all countries are ready to initiate the integration Process, variable speed evolution must be conceivable »

The 5 RECs (plus a 6th one: the Diaspora) play an essential role. Up to the point that the Commission (equivalent to the European Commission) interconnects with the RECs thus becoming Regional Commissions.

Given the scope of its task, AU creates variable speed core-nuclei of integration. RECs therefore are key to African integration.

{- Contributing to the Africans’s education to their continent’s development}

In terms of human resources, it was highlighted during the seminar that African developments suffers from a tragic paradox: on the one hand, elites trained in the Western world are too many (and most of them stay in the US or in the EU because they cannot find well-paid qualified positions in Africa, or because their skills do not correspond to African needs); while on the other hand the well-trained intermediate executives required to manage a modern economy are cruelly missing in Africa (higher technical experts, middle management executives, small entrepreneurs, civil administrators,…).
Upon this statement, 2 strategic directions appear for the EU:

. support to the creation of complete curricula (including higher education up to doctorate level) in Africa, adapted to the African needs, in particular in the field of all the « trans-national » disciplines required to integrate the continent (normalisation, networks, telecommunications, transports, languages, law…). These curricula can be combined to education for short/medium term priorities such as conflict prevention (following the example provided by Belgium in the Great Lakes)

. and above all, massive contribution to the development of vocational and technical education all over the continent.

{- Contributing to build trans-African infrastructures:}

A participant emphasized that Africa still depends too much on its former metropole as regards to its modernisation (higher education, technology…) and globalisation (transports). Simultaneously, many of the important issues (access to water for instance) are in fact regional issues requiring trans-border investment (for instance, [Niger Basin Authority->http://www.abn.ne/webfr/index-fr.html], result and success of NEPAD policy, greatly supported by [France->http://www.ambafrance-cm.org/html/actual/niger.htm]. The EU owns a unique experience in the field of great projects of trans-national infrastructures that can be useful to AU and NEPAD in developing and implementing an inclusive vision of their needs in trans-African infrastructures.

{- Contributing to establish economic security for African populations and for European economic operators:}

Economic inequalities, weakness (sometimes even absence) of property rights (and often non-compliance with existing law),… contribute to keep Africa under-developed. Unfair access to the riches creates instability easily instrumented into ethnic conflicts (thus shown in many African countries by the regular outbursts of violence directed against immigrant workers coming from border-countries). Simultaneously, instability and uncertainty of the validity of law (as opposed to strength…) are powerful obstacles to European investment in Africa, thus restricted to specific operations with no return on the country’s development. On this aspect too the EU can act by making its partnership conditional upon the improvement of this two-fold situation. The rule of law is a condition for development and democratisation of any society. Including African NGOs in EU-African processes of political and economic partnership, would serve this purpose.

{- Freeing EU-African partnerships from the historic operators of cooperation:}

Beyond the very weak involvement of African NGOs into EU-African processes, it appeared during the session that it was high-time to « withdraw Africa and the Africans » from the monopoly built up by the « historic » operators of African cooperation. Administrations inherited from decolonization – and whose vision of Africa still owes a lot to their predecessors -, or « development/Africa specialist » NGOs, a number of little « post-colonial » empires were established, which see Africa as their reserved sector and cooperation budgets and their natural income. By doing so these institutional and non-governmental operators prevent the Africans from staying connected with the evolution of European society and relays; and perpetuate through the media an out-dated paternalistic vision of the Africans. African civil society should now be exposed to the entire spectrum of European civil society and no longer only to those “watching over” them. European and national institutions can play a key role there. They only can initiate a large process of opening and transparency of the partnership between European and African societies. The result of it would be a strong acceleration of African civil societies’ maturation; as well as fast changes in the respective image of European and African societies and of the use of EU-African partnership. Part of the “bad image” of European support to Africa relates to the perceived obsolescence of its operators on the European side. One participant from a New Member-State emphasized that including operators from the new Member-States – which, even though in a very different context, have just experienced straining political and economic transitions – would be extremely useful.

{{To conclude}}, the two coming decades seem ripe for the Europeans and the Africans to start a new era of cooperation, based on a balanced partnership. For the Europeans, this is a very challenging goal: Africa will be the test of their new security policy while the Africans can become key partners of the EU on the international scene; a dynamic and integrated Africa would suppress a major risk of instability in the direct neighbourhood of the EU. Shall this United Africa have priorities and global visions to share with the rest of the world? The EU can certainly help on this aspect as long as it gives up its illusions on the end of a world. In 20 years time, – the question was asked in the session – what could be the dominant language used in trans-African relations? The answer was: Swahili. Even on that aspect, the Europeans cannot take for granted that the Africans will keep on using one of their languages (French or English). But in fact, this might result in healthier relations between the two continents by 2020.
{This document is the sole responsibility of Europe 2020 and does not reflect the views of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs}

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