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Strategic Partnership with South Africa

This communication proposes that a strategic partnership be established between the European Union (EU) and South Africa, building on existing relations between the two parties and a strengthened political dialogue. The aim of the partnership is to promote peace, security and stability in Africa and allow closer cooperation between the two parties at regional, continental and world level. It also sets out to enhance existing cooperation on development and trade and to extend cooperation to other fields.


Communication of 28 June 2006 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Towards an EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership [COM(2006) 347 final - not published in the Official Journal].


Since the first elections by universal suffrage which consolidated the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has made remarkable progress in a number of areas. It has created a democratic society based on equity, non-racialism and respect for the rights of religious, cultural, linguistic and indigenous communities, and has brought about internal and external macroeconomic stability. However, there are still wide social and economic disparities affecting the whole of South African society. Also, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has reached an alarmingly high rate and the Government's efforts to stem crime have not yet borne fruit.

South Africa plays an important role at regional and global level. It is part of the Southern African Customs Union and accounts for 75% of the total GDP of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It is also one of the founding countries of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and plays a key role in the African Union (AU). On the international scene it is one of the leading members of the Non-Aligned Movement and a very active member of the group of 20 emerging countries (also as part of the BRICS group, alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China). South Africa is also a member of the WTO and the Commonwealth.

South Africa and the EU

South Africa and the EU share common values such as democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of law and good governance, tolerance, equality, a commitment to fight poverty and social exclusion, and the promotion of sustainable development. The legal basis for relations between South Africa and the EU is the Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA). In particular, all relations between the parties are overseen by the "Cooperation Council", a joint ministerial body that maintains political dialogue.

The EU is South Africa's main trade partner, and South Africa is the EU's main African partner.

In terms of development cooperation, the EU is the leading donor, providing around 70% of total aid. The two partners have also concluded agreements in other fields, for example scientific and technological cooperation and trade in wines and spirits.

A strategic partnership between the EU and South Africa

This communication follows up the conclusions of the Joint Cooperation Council in November 2004 and 2005, which acknowledged the need to establish a more coherent strategic framework between the EU and South Africa. The purpose of the proposed partnership is to pursue strategic political cooperation and shared objectives with regard to regional, African and global issues. It also seeks to enhance existing cooperation and to extend it to other fields.

The essential component of the partnership is active political cooperation, which enables the two parties to find common ground on issues of mutual interest, to support each other's political agendas and to take joint political action. As regards the development of trade relations, it is proposed that the free-trade agreement provided for in the TDCA be replaced by a harmonised regional trade regime under the economic partnership agreement for Southern Africa, incorporating new commitments on matters such as services, government procurement and investment. The strategic partnership also seeks to extend cooperation to regional policy and social cohesion and to step up economic cooperation.

The 2007-2013 development cooperation programme, signed in Pretoria on 10 October 2007, takes into account the country's specific context and needs. For example, it must ensure the protection of natural resources and the environment, address the bottlenecks in the delivery of social services and take account of the South African government's economic policy.

Because of its key position in the SADC, South Africa plays a crucial role in implementing the SADC's Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and hence in the regional integration of Southern Africa.

For the continent as a whole, South Africa is one of the driving forces of the AU and NEPAD, an important investor and an active player in conflict prevention. It is therefore important that a closer partnership between South Africa and the EU should encompass political and diplomatic cooperation on African issues, in particular security and peacekeeping.

Finally, the partnership envisages cooperation on the global scene and in international organisations, with the aim of defining a common position and defending the mutual interests of the two parties on global issues, for example countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, abolishing the death penalty and combating terrorism.


The partnership proposed in the Commission communication was endorsed in General Affairs Council Conclusions of 17 October 2006 and the joint declaration by the EU-South Africa Cooperation Council of 14 November 2006.

EU-South Africa strategic partnership - joint action plan adopted on 14 May 2007

The joint action plan for implementing the strategic partnership between the EU and South Africa establishes the Mogôbagôba dialogue, which will cover existing areas of cooperation (development, trade, science and technology) and promote cooperation in other fields such as the environment, climate change, regional policy, information and communication technologies, social affairs, education and training, culture and the crackdown on international crime. The cornerstone of the strategic partnership is strengthened political dialogue. In particular, the two parties have now agreed to meet twice a year: once at ministerial and once at the level of Heads of State and Government.

Last updated: 19.12.2007