Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Sixth Report

20 EU-South Africa Relations



COM(06) 347

Commission Communication: Towards an EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership

Legal base
Document originated28 June 2006
Deposited in Parliament10 July 2006
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 12 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council15 September 2006 General Affairs and External Relations Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared, but further information requested


20.1 In its introduction, the Commission describes South Africa as "a country transformed" having built "a democratic, tolerant and multiracial society" and having become "a leading nation and a peace broker in the region and on the African continent" with "authority not just in Africa but in global multilateral institutions".

20.2 For its part, the Commission says, "an enlarged EU has developed a new approach to North-South cooperation by adopting three key policy papers on the Millennium Development Goals, the European Consensus on Development and the EU Strategy for Africa. It is strengthening its foreign action and seeks to foster stability, security and prosperity worldwide. South Africa therefore is a natural partner to Europe on the African continent and on a global level."

20.3 There is already "a multifaceted, comprehensive partnership based on the "Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement" (TDCA) between South Africa, the European Community and its Member States. Today, however, the Commission says, relations between South Africa and the EU require "more coherence, clear objectives, and a shared forward-looking political vision with a view to strengthening joint political action". The partnership that the Commission advocates "needs to clearly spell out what both sides can expect from one another on the domestic, regional, continental and global fronts, and do justice to South Africa's and the EU's unique positions in the new, globalised world".

The Commission Communication

20.4 The purpose of this Communication is "therefore to propose a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated long-term framework for political cooperation" which would "do justice to the role of South Africa as an anchor on the continent and a key player on the international scene". The current organisation of political dialogue is based on exchanges with the EU Heads of Mission in Pretoria, regular visits by Ministers and senior officials in both directions and the annual Cooperation Council. In addition, exchanges between the European Parliament and South African Parliament are held through the EP Delegation for South Africa, and South Africa is an active participant in the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. "This institutional setup has been considered satisfactory in the past, but needs to be reviewed in the light of the strategic nature of the EU-South Africa partnership."

20.5 The proposed Strategic Partnership would seek to:

—  bring the Member States, the Community and South Africa together in a single and coherent framework, with clearly and jointly defined objectives, covering all areas of co-operation and associating all stakeholders;

—  move from political dialogue to strategic political co-operation and shared objectives on regional, African and global issues; and

—  enhance existing co-operation, developing stronger and sustainable economic co-operation and fully implementing the TDCA provisions on trade-related areas and extending co-operation to the social, cultural and environmental fields.

20.6 In addition, the Commission says, the Strategic Partnership "must build on the 'MDG Package', 'The European Consensus on Development' and the 'EU Strategy for Africa' by putting at the heart of political dialogue the progress towards attaining the MDGs along with governance issues and peace and security at both domestic and international level". On the basis of "these broad principles", the Commission proposes that it should draft an action plan for implementing the Communication, to be submitted to the Joint EU-South Africa Cooperation Council later this year and leading to a Joint Declaration by the partners. It suggests that such an action plan could focus on

—  strengthened political dialogue, leading to common political positions and joint action;

—  active joint involvement in regional and global issues;

—  implementation of a jointly drafted Country Strategy Paper in line with this Communication; and

—  revision and full implementation of the TDCA according to the above priorities.

20.7 In an Annex, the Commission sets out "the broad lines" of a Joint Action Plan, with a large number of suggested themes for enhanced political and economic co-operation and for joint involvement in regional issues — particularly the challenge of AIDS and "untangling the knot of regional cooperation and integration". It notes that nine Member States, and the South African authorities are jointly drafting a new 2007-13 Country Strategy Paper, which should aim to "translate" the broad political lines in the Communication and form part of the Action Plan.

20.8 Finally, the Annex notes that informal contacts between the Commission and South Africa about the TDCA have identified provisions that may need revising and suggested priorities for those provisions that have not yet been implemented. "Promising areas of cooperation that can be developed" include:

—  the environment, with particular emphasis on climate change;

—  economic co-operation;

—  information society issues;

—  education and training;

—  industrial, maritime and air transport including safety and security aspects, mining, energy efficiency policy and technologies;

—  justice, "where exchanges of information and cooperation on extradition could be developed";

—  Employment, gender equality and social protection;

—  Youth issues;

—  Enhanced cultural co-operation; and

—  Co-operation in press and information issues.

The Government's view

20.9 In a brief Explanatory Memorandum of 12 July 2006, the Minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman) says:

"The Communication makes good suggestions on how to streamline and simplify the EU-South Africa relationship. The EU already has strategic partnerships with the US, Canada, Russia, India, China, Japan, Latin America and Africa. Given South Africa's strategic importance in Africa and emergence as a global power, the UK supports the proposal to develop the EU-South Africa relationship into a truly strategic partnership, enabling further regional co-operation and enhanced dialogue."

20.10 He also notes that the TDCA issue is dealt with in more depth in a separate Commission document:

"This document invites the Council to provide the Commission with guidance for negotiations on the revision of the TDCA. The key issue of South African involvement in an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and SADC[60] will be addressed separately; the Commission will propose that the existing EPA mandate be adapted, with certain conditions, to include South Africa."

20.11 On the Timetable, the Minister says that the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid will present the Communication to the 15 September 2006 General Affairs and External Relations Council, with a view to the 14 November 2006 EU-South Africa Council making a Joint Declaration giving political support to the Commission's Action Plan.


20.12 The case for such an enhanced relationship with the new South Africa is self-evident and well made. But, as with all such strategies and Action Plans, implementation will be what really matters, which in turn requires both a realistic assessment of the starting point and sensible ambitions.

20.13 We are accordingly happy to clear the Commission Communication, but ask that the Minister write to us ahead of the November Cooperation Council meeting with further information about what Action Plan is agreed and his assessment thereof.

20.14 We also look forward to a further Explanatory Memorandum in due course on the proposed revision of the TDCA.

60   The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been in existence since 1980, when it was formed as a loose alliance of nine majority-ruled States in Southern Africa known as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), with the main aim of coordinating development projects in order to lessen economic dependence on the then apartheid South Africa. The founding Member States are: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe; see Back

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