The African Union and the European Union have reaffirmed their commitments to strengthen their partnership. The African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, reaffirmed these commitments as they discussed approaches to critical issues impacting both Africa and Europe.
They met in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday 20 October 2015, during the first official visit of the European Union High Representative and Vice President. The EU HR/VP also utilised the opportunity to address the AU’s Permanent Representative Council (PRC), and members of the diplomatic corps in Addis Ababa.
The bilateral dialogue, a follow up to the conversations held in Brussels in April in 2014, served as a route for devising a way forward with regards to the AU/EU partnership. The conversation was centred on issues of migration, peace and security, climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the benefits of regional cooperation and integration, among others. The AU Commission Chairperson took the opportunity to highlight the AU’s medium and long-term approaches in addressing the issue of migration, , highlighting the fact that when the youthful population migrates out of Africa it should be out of choice and not out of desperation.
During the bilateral discussions, Dr. Dlamini Zuma reiterated her position that the AU is keen to see a partnership not only “based on the exportation of natural resources from Africa to Europe”, but on “long-term investment and technology transfer, to boost industrialisation and job creation.”
On the issue of climate change, the AU Commission Chairperson affirmed that mitigation and adaption remain “central to the agenda”, and all parties “need to be accountable on the basis of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.” Dr. Dlamini Zuma further emphasised that efforts need to be centred on the generation of clean energy.
The EU HR/VP agreed that it is crucial to coordinate efforts in addressing the climate change problem, because no one is safe from the repercussions and all will suffer the consequences of inaction. She asserted that “concrete commitments” are needed to ensure that a deal is reached at the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP) to be held in Paris later this year. The EU Chief also mentioned that given all the work that is currently underway, she is “confident in the possibility of great results.”
On the matter of peace and security in Africa, Dr. Dlamini Zuma reaffirmed that cooperation is essential, because there is “never a guarantee that conflicts will not erupt, but we can take charge in our attempts to manage and solve them.” Here she cited the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and the collaboration that was necessary to contain it. Ms. Mogherini, concurring that “managing a crisis before it becomes conflict is the best approach”, stressed that African players must bear the main responsibility and take the lead, as local actors are critical to the prevention and containment of conflict.
In her keynote address, the EU HR/VP, after citing this quote by Nelson Mandela: “Africa is a region of vast untapped potential”, said that “making the most of Africa’s potential is the goal of the AU/EU partnership”. She also affirmed that Africa’s greatest natural resource is its people, and although Africa is already getting stronger, it will to do so even more markedly when it cashes in on its demographic dividend by 2025.
Ms. Mogherini also raised the question of whether or not the international community is willing to listen to Africa. According to the EU Diplomat, Europe is willing because “there is a new generation in Europe who is looking at Africa with new eyes”. She emphasised the need to focus on a common future, with the new question being “what can we do with Africa, what can we do together?”
Before the delivered of the keynote address, the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, Erastus Mwencha, welcomed the EU HR/VP on her first ever official visit to the AU. He highlighted various areas of cooperation between the AU and the EU, hailing the long-standing partnership between the two regional bodies and expressed AU’s gratitude for the support and assistance that the EU has been providing to the AU.