Until now the relationship between the two continents had been structured on the basis of two principal modalities. The first could be called the “historical channel,” i.e. the development aid activity conducted by the powers which had, at one time or another, assumed responsibilities in the context of the colonial system.
Until now the relationship between the two continents had been structured on the basis of two principal modalities. The first could be called the “historical channel,” i.e. the development aid activity conducted by the powers which had, at one time or another, assumed responsibilities in the context of the colonial system. The second, following the Lomé Convention of 1975, is the “community channel,” essentially acting through the Commission, of the department responsible for development, in this case the present-day DEVCO, and of the delegations in the framework of the so-called decentralisation policy of the programmes and projects.
These modalities need to be kept in place for quite some time, but are intended to give way in part to new relational options, which are emerging unobtrusively on the margins but which originate from long- term mechanisms which must be incorporated into the strategies.
When it comes to the actors and methods of cooperation, the need for a more diversified relationship relates to a number of factors that converge in the long term. Some arise from the actual evolution of the African continent itself and especially from the subregional and cross- border dynamics and others are the result of the deferred but inevitable effects of the expansion of the European Union; lastly, some are due to the arrival of new “donor-investors” on the African stage, upsetting a well-ordered arrangement with an element of conservatism, if not a cartelised organisation of the supply of aid, which is likely to explode once the cards are re-dealt as a result of the crisis and the new international division of labour.
Furthermore, and the year 2015 will provide the opportunity to demonstrate this, there is a lack of Euro-African dialogue on global issues and especially on climate change and the post-2015 Agenda that must be overcome before the Paris Conference, “COP 21,” if it is to be completely successful.
The Joint Africa-EU Strategy defined in 2007 at the Lisbon summit had the merit of highlighting the continental approach, alongside the two other sections of continued work with the ACP countries•1 in line with the Cotonou agreement and subregional and bilateral relations.
At that time, as we may recall, it had adopted five main objectives to promote:
— peace, democratic governance and human rights;
— basic freedoms and gender equality;
— sustainable economic development, including industrialisation;
— regional and continental integration; and
— full and effective implementation of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDG) in every African country.
The Tripoli Declaration and the second Action Plan covering the period 2011-2013 learned a number of lessons from the first Action Plan (2008-2010); this was particularly clear in 2011 in the organisation of the “Africa” unit of Baroness Ashton’s European External Action Service (EEAS). But the effectively continental nature of this joint strategy is still limited, owing to the events which had and still have a serious impact on the stability of some parts of Africa, but also because of the method chosen which relies on pilot countries, actions and priority themes or “on the spot” operations for handing emergencies.
It is not a question of challenging the usefulness or legitimacy of this type of highly visible intervention and therefore at high risk in case of failure, but instead to point out that diplomacy is not limited to the management of disasters. Not only are major issues broadly outside the remit of the EEAS, but also, it will be noted, there is scarcely any place, in the existing mechanism as a whole, for what is neither strictly speaking assistance on the one hand, nor a security policy on the other hand, although they constitute the key elements of the driving forces of development, which we have known for a good ten years now must be endogenous, joint and territorially-based.
There is reason to hope that the next summit will not be limited to a presentation by Europe of an offer of services accompanied on the African side by a presentation of the shopping list. Africa deserves better and Europe has better things to do! For a political meeting there should be political issues. But politics is never a global package. It is more a matter of showing some imagination by ensuring a well- designed “additionality” between the bilateral policies which will long remain unavoidable, the continental dialogue and “new geometries” which would link together a number of the 28 countries of the European Union to several countries or subregional groups of the African group of 55.
At first sight, the expansion of Europe in the East had appeared — and to some extent still appears — as an obstacle to North-South dialogue and to the priority relationship with Africa. In the 1990s a strong anxiety had become apparent concerning the prospect of having to share the Community resources formerly reserved for development with the directly neighbouring countries and especially with the applicants for membership. The reunification of Germany obviously resulted in something of the kind, even though the country maintained its desire to continue to be a significant player in the development sector through the action of its development agencies and NGOs.
Furthermore, the incoming new countries were regarded, perhaps wrongly, as devoid of any sensitivity to Africa because they had no colonial past and because a number of them did not have external sea borders. Such a view tended to ignore the experience gained in other forms through their membership of the old system of international relations which prevailed between the “socialist” or non-aligned countries, through infrastructure projects, technical assistance or academic exchanges. Nonetheless, it is true that these factors were regarded as marginal or residual in comparison with the powerful suction effect which was becoming apparent on the eastern borders of the European Union. And furthermore, the African countries openly complained of a kind of “falling out of love” with them, both on the part of the Commission and by countries like France and Belgium who were their traditional partners.
Since then the situation has changed. First of all, some African countries have realised that it was potentially in their interests to diversify their suppliers of aid or expertise, not to mention their models of governance, which is perhaps debatable but has been done quite often over the last 15 years. As regards the European offer of aid, the development of syndicated approaches, the influence of the Scandinavian countries, the general climate of untying of aid and the selection procedures which are often objectively favourable to agencies, consultants or consulting firms, have led to a shift in the balance which, while not actually marginalising the big traditional operators, has nonetheless dissipated the somewhat “oligopolistic” impression which used to characterise the earlier period.
An initial formula would consist of creating a link with the partner historically established in a country or in a subregional area of other supporting countries. A very typical example is the decentralised cooperation between France, Germany and Burkina Faso which has been operating since 2006 in the water and sanitation sectors, involving about 20 French towns, a similar number of their German counterparts, agencies such as GTZ, now GIZ, Capacity Building International, InWEnt and pilot territories in Burkina Faso. Such activities often have to be carefully managed because of national traditions but when they come to maturity can be productive and sustainable.
Moving from the example to the model, we can only recommend more frequent use of joint approaches to demand. This offers the advantage of combining the virtues of the bilateral approach — in- depth knowledge of the partner and the situation on the ground — with those of multilateralisation. For example, the countries best placed by their history or by linguistic solidarities to work in a country or region will take care to make a place, a minority one indeed, but significant nonetheless, for other European partners which, although they may have less knowledge of the terrain in which they are becoming involved, by contrast have the advantage of a certain distance from the colonial and postcolonial past together with exportable topical expertise. Just to take the example of current or potential partnerships involving France and Germany, it is quite clear that they are significant in countries like Benin and Cameroon and that it may be in France’s interests to combine with the German programmes geared towards Ghana and Namibia, taking advantage of the co-operation strategy based on the comparative advantages and diversification of supply.
In addition to what can be similarly undertaken with other countries of the European Union such as Belgium for 13 African countries,•2 or even Italy, despite the extreme difference in operational methods, and the United Kingdom, we must not ignore the amazing work being done by Swiss cooperation in 12 pilot countries, including some African countries, particularly in the Great Lakes Region (Rwanda and Burundi), nor must we underestimate its role in the peace processes resulting from the Arusha and Pretoria agreements.
At the present time, the Central European country which seems to be most prepared to become committed to an “African policy” is undoubtedly Poland. For example, this was demonstrated by the first visit made by a minister of a European country to Libya after the tragic events experienced by that country, opening the way to intergovernmental cooperation in the national reconciliation sector and the re-establishment of the rule of law. As an aside, this trend is being seen not only in the interstate model, but also in that of inter- territorial cooperation; looking at only a few indications from current events which reveal Poland’s specific inclination to engage in long- term collaboration with Africa, let us quote the conference to be held in Olsztyn on the topic of migratory movements in Africa3 on 23 May 2014. Specifically, the region of Warmie-Mazurie stands ready, in the context of the partnership which it maintains with the Côtes d’Armor in France, to develop actions with both its eastern neighbours and with the countries of the South. More broadly, we should mention the meeting at Lodz of the first Congress for partnership and cooperation between Poland and Africa, Poland-Africa 2013 (26 and 27 November 2013) with its quite significant economic stakes. The Czech Republic, which currently devotes 0.15% of its GDP to development, could be the next country to demonstrate its interest in the African continent. The boundaries are shifting!
Whether we like it or not, Africa is no longer an annex of Europe and has opened up to the world and to the complex issues of globalisation. This will be seen at the Paris Conference next year where the specifically climatic issues will be inseparable from the post-2015 agenda.
The best service that the European Union can render to the Euro- African cause is first to support the remarkable subregional dynamics which are appearing on the continent. It has accepted the change in principle but now it needs to express that in its budget priorities and in the governance of its programmes. Development is increasingly a three-stage rocket: territories, national economies and multi-State solidarities, like those seen in the River Basins, following the example of what is being done under the authority of the OMVS (organisation for the development of the River Senegal), initiatives which can be regarded as just as structuring as CECA was over sixty years ago for Europe’s Group of Six, which could also be done — and let us hope to the same extent — for the Niger and Congo Basins. Without neglecting the curative or remedial post-conflict actions for which the European Union is by far the principal donor and operational coordinator (cf., in slightly different forms, still difficult to evaluate, the actions in Mali and in the Central African Republic), that is where the new dynamics of peace need to be sought through the intertwining of interests and pooling of solutions. What is true for the rivers is just as true for the fight against desertification, the only credible means of restoring Sahel solidarity, the bulwark against terrorism and destabilisation activities. And it has undoubtedly also proved true in the crucial spheres of food security or of innovation.
Neither the European Union in its community aspect nor the countries historically engaged in Euro-African solidarity should be concerned by these new trends which, far from complicating the game, are managing to fill some gaps in the existing system. On the contrary, it is a new challenge which must encourage them to support their African commitment in a difficult context that is both more competitive and more stimulating. At a time when France is passing its first law of guidance and planning for development, prepared by Minister Pascal Canfin, and when it operates under new forms which go far beyond the traditional but outdated concepts of the “private preserve” and of areas of influence, we can see that this is a time of refocusing on the African priority when it is certainly not possible to talk of disengagement!
In this context, the meeting place provided by the Africa-Europe summit of April 2014 must not be regarded as an isolated diplomatic goal, especially as other summits relating to Africa have taken place in different formats, including meetings with China, Africa’s top trading partner — the 200 billion dollar barrier was smashed in 2013 — and a major investor, even though its interventions are obviously the cause of mixed feelings.
In addition to these extremely current burning issues which will certainly be tackled, there will probably be occasion to refer to the critical evaluation which had been conducted, specifically in view of this summit, at the meeting held by the African Union in Zanzibar from 10 to 13 June 2013. Of course, new events have intervened since then, but some basic expectations have not yet been fulfilled. And, perhaps more seriously, there is a certain tendency to replicate procedural solutions which in terms of their structure belong to the past, even though they have had to confront the realities, sometimes successfully (the pre-membership or neighbourhood programmes) and sometimes less successfully despite the considerable sums involved, for example MEDA or the activities to promote stability in the Near East. This meeting will probably also have to consider the question of abolishing the economic partnership agreements, a very wide ranging area of activity. In fact it is necessary to check whether (to coin a neologism) the formulas and strategies which will be proposed are actually “future-proof,” which is a question being posed right now in the context of the proceedings of the ECDPM think tank •4 or in very similar forms by the Global Local Forum.
To sum up, although Europe can no longer claim in 2014 to be an essential financial, technical or political route for the achievement of all the initiatives emanating from the African continent which wants to get its voice heard directly in the world concert, by taking into consideration the deep-rooted and durable changes that the 55 States of the African group are experiencing in various forms, Europe can demonstrate that it remains for them, now more than ever, the most reliable and most constant of its partners.
•1 Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of countries, in accordance with the Lomé Convention and the Cotonou Agreement.
•2 The 13 African countries benefiting from Belgian cooperation are: Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda,.
•3 Journées 2014 de l’Afrique, University of Warmie and Mazurie at Olsztyn (Poland) and Institute of History and International Relations.
•4 Making EU-Africa Relations Future-Proof, European Centre for Development Policy Management, Maastricht, Netherlands, in collaboration with the Department of Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission, 28 February 2014.
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