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Taking EU-Africa dialogue forward

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Taking EU-Africa dialogue forward

This communication aims to contribute to continuing discussions and cooperation between the European Union (EU) and Africa and to allow for a substantive discussion on the likely prospects, most promising avenues and future modalities of EU-Africa dialogue and cooperation, with a view to establishing an operational EU-Africa Agenda.


Communication from the Commission to the Council: The EU-Africa dialogue [COM(2003) 316 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The communication looks at how the EU can mainstream the new pan-African dimension into its cooperation and speaks of the need to build bridges between the different agreements that already exist between the EU and Africa: Cotonou, Euro-MED agreements and the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement with South Africa (TDCA). This could apply to the area of trade, to procurement rules for EU-funded projects, and to the programming of aid.


The main aims of the EU-Africa dialogue are:

  • to strengthen political, economic and socio-cultural EU-Africa relations;
  • to eradicate poverty and attain the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, as well as implementing commitments recently made in international conferences (Doha, Monterrey and the World Summit on Sustainable Development);
  • to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Africa.

The EU-Africa dialogue is organised around eight priority themes in order to achieve concrete outcomes:

  • human rights, democracy and good governance;
  • prevention and settlement of conflicts;
  • food security;
  • HIV/AIDS and other pandemics;
  • environment;
  • regional integration and trade;
  • external debt;
  • the return of illicitly exported cultural goods.

The communication takes each theme in turn, reports on the progress achieved and considers what future progress might be made.

Human rights, democracy and good governance

Dialogue on these themes is conducted around the topics of human trafficking, support for African institutions and the fight against corruption.

The Commission adopted a further communication in October 2003 on governance and development which proposes a new, more pragmatic approach to the promotion of good governance.

With a view to promoting good governance, the EU also proposed an action plan to combat illegal logging in its October 2003 communication on forest law enforcement and forestry management. Illegal logging in some countries has become such a chronic problem that it undermines the rule of law and principles of good governance.

The EU also wishes to deepen cooperation with Africa in the area of human resource development, especially universal primary education for both boys and girls, which is an essential element of the promotion of good governance.

Prevention and settlement of conflicts

The African Union gives priority to addressing conflicts, as shown by the decision taken by the African Union (AU) in July 2002 on setting up a Continent-wide Peace and Security Council and the adoption of a work programme on peace and security by all AU Member States.

In November 2003, the EU Council approved a draft decision on the financing of a Peace Facility for Africa from the European Development Fund (EDF) in response to a request made by the AU summit in Maputo in July 2003. This initiative, designed to support African institutions and measures to promote peace-keeping, will require cooperation between the AU, African regional organisations, the EU and the United Nations.

It is also essential to include measures to improve governance of natural resources within the framework of the EU-Africa dialogue on conflict prevention. Wars are actually waged to gain control of valuable resources for the purposes of private gain and natural resources, which could be exploited to raise money for the public purse, have frequently been used to fund and prolong armed conflict. This phenomenon is now acknowledged as being a major cause of conflicts in Africa.

Food security

The EU-Africa dialogue adopted a joint document reflecting a shared understanding of food security and the role of food aid which provided a basis for developing common positions in the areas of biotechnology, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, animal diseases and agricultural research.

The future dialogue should focus more on the political dimensions of food security, tackling such issues as access to productive resources (land, water) and equity.

HIV/AIDS and other pandemics

The EU and the countries of Africa agree that there is a need to strengthen health systems in African countries within a comprehensive framework of prevention, treatment and care and to increase health financing by the national governments and the international donor community. They also agree on the need for a joint approach in the areas of tiered pricing arrangements, technology transfer and local production so as to improve access to affordable medicines.


While the fight against drought and desertification is considered the main priority, other priorities under this heading include:

  • international environmental governance;
  • cooperation in preparing national strategies;
  • the link between poverty and the environment;
  • the regional dimension of environmental issues;
  • strengthening the capacity of the African countries to negotiate and implement international environmental agreements;
  • jointly looking for ways to improve the Global Environmental Facility;
  • integrated water resources management;
  • the prevention of natural disasters.

Note the EU Water Initiative which promoted the setting up of a European Water Facility to help give people in the African Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Similarly, the creation of a European Energy Facility for ACP countries demonstrates the commitment of the EU to supporting the provision of adequate, affordable, sustainable energy services.

Mainstreaming of environmental issues into poverty eradication efforts should be a basic principle in EU-Africa cooperation considering that environmental protection is not a limitation to development but the base for sustainable livelihoods.

Regional integration and trade

Since the first EU-Africa summit, the EU has stepped up its support for regional integration by contributing to the integration of African countries into the world economy.

The Cotonou Agreement, signed in June 2000, for example, attaches a high priority to promoting regional cooperation and integration. It made substantial changes to the existing system to bring it into line with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and to allow the ACP States to participate fully in international trade. October 2003 saw the opening of negotiations on new regional economic partnership agreements with CEMAC (the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa) and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States).

The EU and Africa will continue their cooperation and regular dialogue on WTO matters notably in the context of the Doha Development Agenda with a view to mainstreaming the development dimension in all areas of negotiations.

External debt

This sensitive issue has generated considerable debate and arguments on either side. As a contribution to the dialogue on debt, the Commission has decided to finance a study that will investigate the sustainability of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative. The Commission will ensure that the study reflects the views of the Member States, African countries, World Bank/IMF and other interested partners. Once this study is completed, the Commission is willing to table the relevant elements as a contribution to the EU-Africa dialogue.

The return of illicitly exported cultural goods

A set of guiding principles and concrete recommendations for action has been drawn up in the framework of the EU-Africa dialogue. The EU has established a preliminary inventory of all relevant ongoing cooperation activities between EU and African stakeholders.

The dialogue fosters adherence by all countries in the EU and Africa to the relevant international conventions, in particular the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.


The communication also highlights ways in which Europe and Africa could initiate a more flexible, simplified, direct and political dialogue.

Potential lines of action are envisaged for strengthening institutional ties between the European Community and the AU:

  • at senior official level;
  • in bi-regional working parties;
  • between the AU and the EU Heads of Mission based in Addis Ababa in the framework of the regular dialogue and coordination for peace and security;
  • between the Brussels-based African Heads of Mission;
  • and, lastly, between the AU/EU Commissions.


The dialogue at continental level between the EU and Africa began in Cairo in April 2000 at the first EU-Africa summit. The aim of the dialogue is to build a strategic partnership with the whole continent based on shared objectives and common values. These can be found in the Treaty of the European Union, the Cotonou Agreement and the Barcelona process, as well as in the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU), created in 2002, and in the manifesto of NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, launched in 2001.

At a crucial point in time for EU-Africa relations, this communication takes stock of the dialogue between the two parties and proposes ways of taking it forward.

Last updated: 18.07.2007