Quo Vadis ‚Geopolitical‘ Europe? – COVID-19 Has Derailed EU-Africa Strategy

Written by | Monday, September 28th, 2020

Talks on a new EU-Africa partnership have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, EU High Representative Josep Borrell conceded on Monday (21 September), speaking after a meeting of EU Foreign Affairs ministers. In a clear reference to a key summit of the two sides having been postponed until 2021, Borrell also stressed that “the coronavirus restrictions have been slowing down our outreach efforts, but not our ambition to move our partnership to the highest possible level.”
In March the European Commission unveiled a 19-page document titled ‘Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa,’ intended to kick-start a six-month consultation process that would culminate in a new blueprint to be agreed at the EU-African Union summit next month. “We have to use the coming weeks to agree on joint priorities that should pave our cooperation for the next decade,” Borrell added. The document proposed partnerships covering green transition; peace and governance; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; and migration and mobility, while a Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) could provide up to €60 billion in guarantee operations to stimulate sustainable investments between 2021 and 2027, focusing primarily on Africa.
However, the EU-Africa Summit, originally planned for October, has become one of the diplomatic casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, owing to travel restrictions to and from Belgium, which would make a physical meeting impossible. Although a meeting between EU and African foreign ministers planned for next week has also been cancelled, EU development ministers will discuss EU-AU relations at a meeting on 28 September. Both sides believe now that, in the words of Botswana’s EU Ambassador, “the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the fact that we need each other now more than ever.”
Several issues are high on the aganda, including trade and economics, financial support from the EU to provide additional support for African countries worst hit by the pandemic, and also sexual and reproductive health issues and human rights questions. Meanwhile, EU member states have been divided over whether to offer more generous or tougher conditions on migration and legal migration pathways, with the latter being a key demand of the African Union. African leaders are expected to demand that the new EU-AU partnership strategy involves mechanisms to promote investments in their infrastructure, manufacturing and the diversification of exports.

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