EU-Africa Summit: a shift towards the future of multilateralism





African and European Heads of State and leaders are meeting in Brussels on February 17-18 for the 6th EU-AU Summit with the firm commitment to shape a more promising, coherent and effective roadmap of cooperation between the two Continents.

The particular context in which this Summit is going to take place, make it very clear that renewal is the way forward.

Africa’s international presence is growing stronger as the continent shows unexpected levels of resilience amidst the worst global pandemic ever experienced in centuries. Indeed, efficient Multilateralism has proven to the world that solidarity and international cooperation are often more valuable than any other form of assets, power or wealth.

The upcoming EU-AU Summit is called upon to reflect meaningfully on multilateral values by paving the way for a broad diplomatic understanding that: Partnership paradigms have evolved and so must the momentum of Africa’s interaction with its European partner.

This Summit is therefore, in many regards, a stress and compliance test for this much-needed Euro-African trust. It will be a unique opportunity to give renewed impetus to the AU-EU partnership, through political ownership at the highest level.

Of course such a perspective can only materialize on the ground if both partners define clear objectives and paths for their common future. To attain our shared ambitions, we have to begin by dealing with the overwhelming challenges arising alongside the process of UE-Africa rapprochement. But achieving a lasting and relevant partnership has never been an easy task.

One can argue that crises sometimes have the positive effect of fast tracking dynamics that would otherwise have taken longer to emerge. There is no doubt regarding the relevance of a global, deep and proactive AU-EU partnership. The question is not so much whether this partnership will continue to operate, but rather how to accelerate it, strengthen it and make it more efficient.

The destinies of EU and Africa are far from being distinct. They reflect on an actual and concrete common reality that is experienced on a daily basis on both sides, especially in the current context of the global pandemic crisis.

As a matter of fact, a strong EU-AU Partnership is not mere ambition but a necessary response to the cross-cutting issues at stake. North-South interactions require defined responsibilities, concerted action and proven solidarity that fully meet the needs of urgent and efficient actions with tangible benefit for citizens of both continents.

The proliferation of crises, whether migratory, climate, health or security-related, must not serve as a pretext for deepening the gaps between Africa and Europe, at the risk of paralyzing the ambitious projects that we have in common. On the contrary, more than ever, Africa and the EU need each other to build, together, the area of prosperity that underpins any cooperative approach. A strong partnership requires serenity and trust.

Beyond the health crisis, several areas of tension in the Euro-African neighborhood are becoming worryingly acute. Major political turmoil and persistent security crises are likely to result in alarming uncertainties about the future of regional and sub-regional peace and security.

While the commitment to security goes hand in hand with development, a global approach is needed to break out of the narrow circles of opportunistic diplomacy.

The recent election of Morocco for a three-year term on the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) echoes this continental commitment to lasting, inclusive and global peace. The Kingdom, under the leadership of His Majesty the King, Mohammed VI, has always had vocation to further peace and build security, through a holistic approach that puts the human being at the heart of its concerns. More over the Morocco – EU Partnership has always been one that unites destinies and bring communities closer together. In its many forms, this Partnership reflects beyond geographical proximity, on shared values and visions.

The driving force of this relationship is a common understanding that the future is built together, hand in hand, as equals, with full mutual respect and brotherhood.

This being said, one has to keep in mind that like any partnership, the EU-AU one is governed by specific features:

▪ The European Union is a complex institutional construction that naturally faces political and diplomatic dilemmas. The notion of common ground is more complex when it involves 27 countries with their own particularities and needs.

The concerns of some member states may not always be aligned with the priorities of others. The Euro-Atlantic partnership in the West, the emergence of Russia in the East, the extreme tendencies of certain European political parties, all put against the backdrop of Beijing and Washington economic empowerment, sometimes blur the understanding that Europe’s future is being built in the South.

▪ Africa, for its part, has broken free from the paradigm of a continent in need of assistance. Of course, much remains to be done and the continent must be able, through its own means and political will, to promote inclusive and sustainable development. Institutional reforms, dialogue, economic cooperation and coherent integration must first be inter-African before they can be fully Euro-African. It is clear that we will have to do our own internal homework to advance continental emergence, unleash economic potential and complete a political model of our own that is both in line with our respective priorities and enshrines the convergence of values around which we must all rally.

The African and European leaders are called upon to define, during the Summit, not yet another declaration of intent, but a common roadmap that requires them to stick, regardless how demanding it might be, to concrete commitments and inalienable responsibilities.

*Youseff Amrani is the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco to South Africa