EU and Africa enjoying 'partnership of equals'

José Manuel Barroso says the fourth EU-Africa summit has seen concrete agreements for addressing problems facing both continents.

By José Manuel Barroso

12 May 2014

At the beginning of April we held the fourth EU-Africa summit. This was my third summit as president of the European commission and I can confirm that it was one of the most successful summits ever held between our two continents, illustrating the shared commitment to maintain and deepen relations as equal partners. The presence of more than 80 delegations, 61 being led by a head of state or government, demonstrated the wide support for the partnership in both Africa and Europe, and I was struck by the positive working atmosphere throughout the summit.

This summit followed those held in Cairo in 2000, Lisbon in 2007 and Tripoli in 2010. The Lisbon summit adopted a joint Africa-EU strategy (the JAES) which remains the guiding document for our partnership of equals. What we added to that in Brussels was a fresh look at the practical challenges that both our continents face, and an agreement on concrete steps to address them. The objectives set out in the JAES remain valid, but we recognised the need to be more effective on how we put them into practice - and this is exactly what we did.

"Although Africa is increasingly attractive to investors from around the world, the EU remains Africa's first partner for trade, investment, development and humanitarian assistance"

The discussion was based around the theme of 'investing in people, prosperity and peace'. Africa is currently one of the fastest growing continents in the world, but both of us face the challenge of generating enough growth to provide jobs for our young people. Investment and trade are key to this, and a clear consensus emerged from the summit to intensify trade, investment and economic exchanges in both directions. Although Africa is increasingly attractive to investors from around the world, the EU remains Africa's first partner for trade, investment, development and humanitarian assistance. Just as an example, over the period 2014-2020, more than €28bn will be provided by the European commission to foster the economic and social development of African countries. But we need to be proactive in developing this economic partnership, for the benefit of both continents. So we agreed to expedite the negotiation of balanced and development friendly economic partnership agreements and to explore ways to facilitate technology transfers, promote industrialisation, develop infrastructures and boost agriculture to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. The business forum held in the margins of the summit saw more than 1100 participants, mainly business representatives, coming together, exploring investment and trade possibilities and providing straightforward useful recommendations to achieve that objective.

Nevertheless, peace remains a prerequisite for any form of growth and development. The EU has been strongly engaged over the past decade in supporting Africa's aspiration to ensure its own security. Through the African peace facility, the EU has provided more than €1.2bn to support the African peace and security architecture, helping deliver African solutions to African problems. There was a clear consensus at the summit to continue and extend our joint efforts in that area. The EU is willing to provide additional advice, mentoring, training and equipment. By the end of 2016, the EU will have trained more than 10,000 African troops and 7000 police and gendarmes. Such support not only benefits Africa. It is a key contribution to tackle global threats such as terrorism or the trafficking of human beings, drugs or weapons. These threats affect us all and need a joint, coordinated response. The presence of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the summit was also a clear signal of the importance of trilateral cooperation between the EU, the African Union and UN in tackling security problems on the continent.

Everyone at the summit recognised that people must remain at the heart of our partnership. They are our greatest asset, and we focused on using the summit to deliver outcomes that would help them. We agreed to contribute to the empowerment of our populations by promoting human rights, fighting all forms of discrimination, developing their skills, providing education and sustaining their health. In this regard, we all agreed that special attention must be paid to youth and women.

I was particularly pleased that the summit was able to mark an important step forward on the difficult question of migration. We were all determined to prevent tragedies such as the ones that took place in Lampedusa or in the Sahara desert. To that end, the summit adopted a declaration on migration and mobility which set out a five-point action plan and defined the next steps in our cooperation.

The summit adopted not only a political declaration, but also a roadmap framing cooperation for the period 2014-2017. These documents set in detail our common approach and will provide the framework for EU-Africa relations until the next summit in Africa in 2017 - appropriately 10 years after the adoption of the JAES.

Finally, I want to stress that this summit was the first multilateral summit ever organised by the EU institutions, and the largest ever held in Brussels. This new prerogative in fact derives from the Lisbon treaty. The successful holding of the summit shows how much progress has been achieved since the adoption of the treaty. The establishment of the European external action service and the close working relations with the commission, the council and the European parliament have helped to bring more coherence and impact to the EU's engagement with Africa. The summit represented the progress we have made, so we can be proud of the work achieved.

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