Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Fourth Report

CHAPTER 8: Realising the EU-Africa Partnership

380.  The EU Strategy for Africa commits the EU to developing the Strategy "in partnership with the African Union, NEPAD and other African partners, respecting the principles of African ownership, the importance of working more closely with African in multilateral fora, and in co-ordination with multilateral partners."[184]

381.  These principles can all be undermined by the various major challenges outlined in this Report: namely the need for better co-ordination, rationalisation of institutions and lack of institutional capacity (on both the European and African sides). This chapter considers what more needs to be done to overcome these challenges and build a genuine partnership and move towards a joint EU-Africa strategy.

Creating a broad-based dialogue

382.  Implementation of the EU Strategy for Africa through the use of dialogue raises the question of with whom this dialogue should be held. There is a tension between the need to consult widely in order to get a range of views on what is required in Africa, and the need to focus on a particular partner (or specific partners) who are able to make valid commitments on their own responsibilities in relation to a joint strategy and to monitor the EU's commitments.

383.  There are a number of possible dialogue partners for the EU: these range from the pan-African institutions such as the AU and NEPAD, regional organisations (particularly the RECs), individual state governments, and civil society.

384.  Myles Wickstead, the former Head of the Secretariat for the Commission for Africa, argued that whilst there had been "a mindset change that has happened over the last year or two where the international community has now determined to support what Africa puts forward" there remain "different layers of what Africa wants". (Q 78) The choice of dialogue partner for the EU is accordingly extremely important. This may depend on what discussions are due to take place.


385.  One of the most important issues for the EU to overcome in establishing a Strategy for the whole of Africa is the split between the countries north and south of the Sahara. In terms of developing a pan-African approach, the pan-African institutions, in particular the AU and NEPAD will be the primary partners for the EU. Lord Triesman argued that these were "critical institutions that are developing across Africa which take no account of [the regional] division whatsoever." (Q 53)

386.  As noted in Chapter Three, the AU has indeed been more closely involved in development of the Strategy for Africa than any other institution and will continue to be involved in the development of a joint strategy. We consider below its capacity to take on this role.

387.  The RECs are also crucial players in the development of an action plan for the Strategy. As the European Centre for Development Policy Management stated in their written evidence: "Ultimately the RECs should … be the actors that execute a lot of the pan-African development work that is required." (p 94)

388.  Dependence on the RECs requires them to co-ordinate with the AU and with each other. The biggest constraint in co-operation is the vast gap in capabilities among the various RECs. Furthermore they do not necessarily regard themselves as subsidiaries of the AU and may not always take into account AU decisions and initiatives. (p 65)

389.  Alex Vines, Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, stated: "[t]he members of the African Union themselves have to work out their relationships with each other and how the Regional Economic Communities relate to the African Union. Only they can do that; it is not something that outsiders can do." (Q 142) However, whilst there is no necessary coherence between the institutions, Alex Vines considered that the relationships could become clearer over the next few years. (Q 142)

390.  National level implementation is also important to the EU Strategy but many African states are weak and have limited capacity. (p 94) Chatham House suggested that the EU should work closely with anchor countries in African who can be champions in their respective regions on issues such as good governance, conflict resolution, democracy and economic intervention. (p 66)

391.  The European Centre for Development Policy Management drew attention to the difficulty of attempting to bring the various regions together in a pan-African approach. (Q 167) The Centre's Jean Bossuyt described the situation as "an institutional cacophony: all kinds of institutions doing the same thing". (Q 195) He noted that despite innovative mechanisms, such as the African Peace Facility funded by the whole of Africa, it was generally very difficult for the different regions to talk to each other. Even the APF had been "a nightmare to arrange." (Q 167)

392.  The European Centre for Development Policy Management argued that the way around the dilemma of how to deal with multiple state actors was "to invest in the unifying and co-ordinating structures created by each set of actors in Africa … and consistently use these as a framework through which to build higher levels of consensus and a more cohesive and unified strategy. Hence the importance the [Strategy] rightly attaches to the AU." (p 94)

393.  Although it is essential that the EU engage with all the various institutions within Africa, the African Union is the organisation which can best promote a pan-African consensus and the EU is accordingly right to focus on the AU as its principal partner in the EU-Africa dialogue.


394.  Witnesses stressed the importance of engagement with all elements of civil society in African countries. The European Centre for Development Policy Management was reasonably optimistic about the prospects for this, citing a good past record by both the EU and the AU. (p 87) The submissions from BOND and Saferworld however were more wary of the prospects for dialogue with African civil society, considering that it was unlikely that such dialogue would be influential in the implementation of the Strategy. (pp 142, 164)

395.  Myles Wickstead agreed that it was necessary to find ways of deepening the dialogue with African civil society, many of whose members would argue that they were not consulted in the process of putting forward a joint strategy for Africa.

396.  The EU should, working in co-operation with the African Union, find ways to better engage all elements of civil society in African countries in putting forward ideas for implementation of the EU Strategy for Africa.

The AU's capacity to deliver

397.  Given that the EU Strategy for Africa identifies the African Union as the principal institution for EU engagement with Africa,[185] this places a major responsibility on the AU and its capacity to deliver. Our witnesses stressed that the AU is a new and evolving institution and highlighted a number of very positive developments as well as some serious areas of concern. Lord Triesman noted that the donors and the AU have embarked on a review of the AU's institutional capacity, which will be reported on mid-2006. (Q 61)

398.  At a general level, it is important to recognise the inherent tension between African ownership and EU support for capacity-building. The International Crisis Group stated that it is not possible to have African ownership without African capability, and that developing African capability requires extensive support. (Q 270)

399.  There have been encouraging signals regarding the AU's viability as an effective interlocutor for the EU. This is evident both in terms of the commitments made by AU Member States in the Constitutive Act of the AU and the statutes of its organs, as well as some of very concrete steps taken, including the establishment of new institutions such as the AU the Peace and Security Council (PSC). The creation of AU itself shows a determination by Africans to tackle Africa's problems.

400.  The transition from the OAU to the AU has been very positive. Bob Dewar stressed that the AU is not just the same organisation under a different name but a different type of body and he was encouraged by the steps it had already made. (Q 343) Other witnesses agreed, though the European Centre for Development Policy Management suggested that it could take 15 to 20 years to build a fully credible organisation. (Q 193)

401.  Our witnesses stressed that the AU has been most active in relation to peace and security, and they were more sceptical over the viability of its role in other areas at present. However, we consider peace and security to be the priority in Africa as a prerequisite to achieving effective development and it is of vital importance for a number of AU member states.

402.  Building effective capacity for peace and security also strengthens the AU more broadly as an institution and is catalytic in creating momentum for growth in other areas, as success encourages participation and support from African and donor partners. However, it is important that donor support for capacity-building at the AU recognises the seven other portfolios of the AU Commission beyond peace and security.

403.  The EU should provide support for breadth of the AU's responsibilities, including financial assistance and technical expertise. However, the EU must be careful not to swamp the AU with European personnel, as this undermines African ownership, and fails to acknowledge and incorporate African expertise.

404.  Jakkie Cilliers stressed that the AU has been remarkably effective as a norm-setting organization. (Q 112) The Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union includes the right of the AU to intervene in a member state pursuant to a decision of the Assembly, in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.[186] Furthermore, any member of the PSC which is party to a conflict or a situation under consideration may not participate either in the discussion or in the decision-making process relating to that conflict. Bob Dewar noted that these were significant departures from procedures of the OAU. (Q 343)

405.  The Chair of the AU Commission, HE Alpha Oumar Konaré, has made strong efforts to raise the level of the reputation of the AU and has also doubled its budget—although the budget for the current year, approved at the Sixth AU Summit in Khartoum from 20-21 January 2006, is still only around $130 million, which is very small for a continental organisation dealing with 53 countries.

406.  Key African leaders have demonstrated a commitment to address continental problems, carrying out numerous visits to conflict zones and using political pressure, through the traditional African way of resolving problems, to get warring parties to sign a ceasefire and to work towards a political agreement. (Q 352) In particular, we commend that AU for its handling of the situation in Darfur, given its limited resources. It should be remembered that the EU's early attempts to engage in conflict resolution in the Balkans in the early 1990s were highly problematic.

407.  The fact that the AU is new has a positive dimension, as the relationship that it develops with the EU and other partners can be shaped simultaneously with the evolution of the organisation itself, thereby building an effective partnership over time.

408.  However, the seriousness of the challenges facing the AU should not be underestimated by the EU or other partners seeking to engage with it. The scale of the problems in Africa present an extremely heavy workload for the AU across a wide range of issues. Jakkie Cilliers noted that the AU is a collection of the 53 weakest and poorest countries in the world. (Q 112) The AU has very severe resource constraints, not least in terms of weak human resources capacity which has a very negative impact across the breadth of its activities.

409.  Zimbabwe underscores the problems relating to the political weakness of the AU; the failure of the AU to respond robustly to the situation in Zimbabwe presents a major challenge.

410.  EU engagement with the AU should recognise the progress in Africa that the AU represents, as well as the scale of the challenges which it faces.

411.  In deciding to build capacity within the AU there needs to be a careful evaluation of the added value of the AU in relation to the RECs and other key actors. There is currently a serious problem with many institutions carrying out overlapping tasks. The AU is in the process of trying to clarify matching specific institutions to specific responsibilities. For example, the relationship between the AU and NEPAD is going in the right direction.

412.  The EU must support the AU's efforts to rationalise both its internal functions and its interaction with other African institutions.

413.  Governance of the AU itself is also a key issue, managing its various instruments such as the Pan-African Parliament and its member states. The legitimacy of the AU is dependent on AU member states' support for it, including the issue of financing its budget. Support for the AU by powerful African states such as South Africa and Nigeria has been highly significant, but is balanced by indifference or even resistance to the AU by a number of other AU member states. African support for the AU is vital to its sustainability.

414.  EU budgetary assistance to the AU should take account of the level of support provided by African Union countries themselves. Over time, the EU should oversee a process whereby the AU's financial requirements are fully met by its own member states.

The EU's capacity to engage in dialogue with Africans

415.  Given the size and funding of the EU, its capacity for dialogue should not be in question. Certainly there is no shortage of officials in Brussels willing to discuss matters with the AU and other African bodies. But, given the limited capacity of the AU, it is necessary that the EU should be fully represented in Addis Ababa in order to engage in dialogue regularly and consistently.

416.  Bob Dewar, the United Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the AU, informed us that there is a very large diplomatic community based in Addis Ababa because it is the principal point of contact with Africa for many countries and that a significant part of the work of those on the ground in Addis is on the pan-African agenda. (Q 346)

417.  The EU and its Member States are represented in Africa in three forms: the Commission delegations, Special Representatives acting under the High Representative Javier Solana, and national diplomatic services. We were concerned to hear that there are some weaknesses within these services, and also that relationships between them were not good.

418.  Commission delegations came in for particular criticism. The delegations could play an important role in ensuring programmes and strategies are coherent with those of the partner countries. However, Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that the existing delegations were weak, under-resourced, not well-qualified and lacked diplomatic training. He argued that secondment to national diplomatic service would help to strengthen the delegations and increase their knowledge and skills. (Q 247)

419.  Bob Dewar was more optimistic in his assessment of the delegation based in Addis stating that he had been very impressed by the officials based there: "I have felt that they have spent a lot of time and good effort in their engagement." (Q 351) However, even he agreed that "there is an issue in terms of the skill base for the evolving Strategy" amongst Commission staff. (Q 351)

420.  The Commission should seek to strengthen its delegations throughout Africa in order to enable full implementation of the Strategy. This will require increased numbers of staff in some delegations, and improved levels of training and expertise.

421.  The EU should create a more unified structure for the different functions performed by the Commission and the Council Secretariat in Addis Ababa. There should be a single overall EU mission which brings together expertise on development, governance and security, and which can be an effective interlocutor with the AU on all these matters.

422.  Bob Dewar also noted the need for increased co-ordination in individual African countries between the delegations and Member State missions. The United Kingdom mission in Addis has benefited from having a regional conflict advisor and a specialist specifically for engagement with the AU. (Q 351)[187] This is a level of expertise not held by the Commission delegation. He stressed that there was, accordingly, a real benefit to be had through sharing expertise and working together with the Commission in a joined-up way:

"It is important that we do take harmonisation seriously … There could be scope for sharing of experiences between African Union missions should one have more experience in one domain than another and that is the way to go." (Q 351)

423.  The Head of Cabinet to Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner accepted in evidence given to the House of Commons International Development committee that the Commission still needs to work on the institutional relationship between the EU foreign policy machinery and national diplomatic services. President Barroso and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner were both very keen to develop a more ambitious two-way exchange programme involving staff in the delegations and staff working in national diplomatic services.[188]

424.  All EU and Member State missions based in Africa, especially to the African Union, should share their expertise and co-ordinate their structures in order to ensure a harmonised approach to relations with each African state and regional organisation.

425.  Finally, witnesses drew our attention to "the utter lack of co-ordination" between the Commission delegations and the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs). (Q 271) The International Crisis Group, in a report on Afghanistan, for example, had found that there were no regular meetings in Kabul between the EUSR and the delegation based there.[189] Having drawn attention to it in their report weekly meetings are now being held. They considered that this situation was common in those places with a Special Representative. (Q 271)

426.  There should be close co-ordination and regular meetings held between the Special Representatives based in Africa and the relevant Commission delegations.

A second EU-Africa Summit?

427.  The development of a joint EU-Africa strategy would clearly benefit from political buy-in at the highest level: i.e. endorsement from a second EU-Africa Summit to follow the Cairo Summit in 2000.

428.  The United Kingdom is very clear on the prospects for holding a second summit. Lord Triesman acknowledged the desirability of such a summit, but stated that, "so long as that summit is going to be held in Europe and so long as the African Union as a whole is prepared to support Robert Mugabe's attendance representing Zimbabwe then it will not happen." (Q 62) He added that, although not all EU Member States supported this position completely, the EU nevertheless remained cohesive on the issue and the EU would continue to pursue dialogue through the ministerial Troika meetings in the meantime. (Q 62)

429.  Representatives of the Belgian government, in their evidence to us, were less enthusiastic about the capacity of the Troika meetings to deliver progress on the Strategy. They stated that the gap since the first summit was beginning to takes its toll on the relationship between the EU and Africa. They added that, while dialogue at ministerial and lower levels has its place, as long as there is no event that marks the moment where the Strategy commitments are evaluated by both partners at the highest level, it will be very difficult to proceed. (Q 230)

430.  As a solution to the problem, the Belgian representatives recommended continuing to work with AU member states to adopt a firmer position against Zimbabwe, highlighting analogies with the situation relating to Burma/Myanmar's possible Chairship of ASEAN. (Q 230)

431.  The AU-EU Ministerial Meeting at Bamako, Mali, on 5 December 2005 made commitments to explore creative ideas to bring about the holding of an Africa-EU Summit as envisaged in the Cairo Plan of Action, and mandated senior officials to submit concrete proposals for consideration at the subsequent ministerial Troika meeting in Vienna on 8 May 2006.

432.  However, no further agreement on the holding of a Summit was reached at this meeting, despite a joint recognition that the holding of a Summit was desirable. Instead, ministers "agreed that the present Troika format could be opened as appropriate to allow for more representative participation in the dialogue and that an EU-Africa Senior Officials meeting could be a further step in this direction."[190]

433.  We believe that a second EU-Africa Summit is important for enlisting African support at the highest level for the establishment of a strategic partnership, and to ensure that EU policies are in line with African objectives. A second Summit would also considerably enhance prospects for the effective implementation of the Strategy. The EU should continue to explore avenues to enable the holding of the Summit. In the meantime, the EU should vigorously pursue all other mechanisms for dialogue with Africa in particular, but not solely, through the ministerial Troika meetings.

The development of a joint EU-Africa strategy

434.  Aligning EU policies and African objectives is fundamental to the effective implementation of the EU Strategy for Africa. The "underlying philosophy" of the Strategy stresses "African ownership and responsibility".[191] The ultimate aim of this philosophy is the development of a genuine joint EU-Africa strategy.

435.  Bob Dewar pointed out that there was consultation with Africans on the drafts of the EU Strategy. He stressed that the Strategy is an EU initiative, but that it was welcomed in Africa. However, he added that Africans were likely to have views which they would want to put forward if there were ever to be a truly joint EU-Africa strategy. (Q 354)

436.  At the EU-African Troika meeting in Vienna on 8 May[192] the two sides reiterated the agreement reached in Bamako to transform the EU Strategy for Africa into a joint strategy. They agreed that this should be "a focused, political document, setting out a vision of EU African relations in the decade ahead, and building on a dialogue that should be flexible, deeper, more frequent and include new areas of common interest."[193] The joint strategy will be structured in four clusters: peace and security, human rights and governance, trade and integration and development.

437.  Saferworld suggested that for the EU Strategy to develop into a joint EU-Africa strategy it needed to "show more clarity about what practical steps the EU will take, where funding for its activities will come from, and how it will co-ordinate with other EU instruments concerning the countries involved." (p 162) The matrix goes some way towards achieving this goal, but not completely. It does specify particular steps towards implementation, but, importantly, does not specify how much will be spent on each step, nor does it address the larger issue of rationalisation of European and African institutions and instruments. Whilst many of the Strategy's aims can be met without such rationalisation, ultimately a joint EU-Africa strategy, as envisaged by the ministerial Troikas, will require that this question be properly addressed.

438.  In providing detailed targets the joint implementation matrix agreed in Vienna on 8 May is an important development in the implementation of the EU Strategy. We agree that it also has symbolic value due to its joint formulation by both the EU and the AU. However, it remains essential for realisation of the partnership that a full joint EU-Africa strategy be agreed by heads of state and government, preferably at a second EU-Africa Summit.

439.  Some rationalisation of both European and African institutional structures will be necessary to avoid duplication and turf-fighting. The EU should consider how best it can rationalise its own institutions and instruments and the way they work.

440.  The EU has to acknowledge the many challenges noted in this Report and work with the Africa that exists, and not the Africa that Europeans would like to see. If this happens, there is a real chance that a genuinely joint strategy for Africa will emerge and be of value to all concerned.

184   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 9(a). Back

185   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 9(b). Back

186   Article 4(h) of the AU Constitutive Act: the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, Appendix Five. Back

187   Since Bob Dewar's evidence the FCO has cut-back its representations in Africa which will have an adverse impact on the level of expertise available within United Kingdom missions. Back

188   International Development Committee, Oral Evidence (2005-2006) EU Development Co-operation and External Relations Policy (HC 745), Q 28. Back

189   Rebuilding the Afghan State: The European Union's Role International Crisis Group, Asia Report No 107, 30 November 2005. Back

190   Final Communiqué: EU-Africa Ministerial Troika Meeting 8 May 2006, Vienna, Council of the European Union 9333/06, p 4. Back

191   The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership Council of the European Union, Brussels, 19 December 2005 15961/05, paragraph 3. Back

192   Final Communiqué: EU-Africa Ministerial Troika Meeting 8 May 2006, Vienna, Council of the European Union 9333/06. Back

193   Final Communiqué: EU-Africa Ministerial Troika Meeting 8 May 2006, Vienna, Council of the European Union 9333/06, p 4.  Back

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