May 29, 2011

The future of Africa-EU Political Dialogue

Posted: 06:54 AM UTC

by Melissa Julian on May 29, 2011

The African Union Commission’s Mission to the European Union (EU) hosted a conference in Brussels on 24 May on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Africa-EU Political Dialogue. Ambassador Emile Ognimba, Director of the Political Affairs Department of the African Union (AU) Commission, Klaus Rudischhauser, Director General of the European Commission’s (EC) Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Directorate within DEVCO and Roger Moore, Director of the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) Directorate for East and Central Africa were the keynote discussants.

The Africa-EU Platform for Dialogue on Governance and Human Rights was launched on 12 November 2010. ECDPM and its partner, the Dakar-based African Governance Institute (AGI) were involved as facilitators in this process and remain involved in supporting the further refining of the details of the platform. This Platform is the culmination of the extensive work within the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), which was adopted at the first Africa-EU Summit in Lisbon in December 2007, and specifically it’s Partnership on Democratic Governance and Human Rights. The Platform provides an open, inclusive and informal space for dialogue, allowing the formulation of shared governance agendas and recommendations on issues such as economic governance and regional integration and in the enhancement of economic growth. The Platform also feeds the political dialogue between the two continents and allows for improved EU support for African governance initiatives such as the African Peer Review Mechanism and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Ambassador Ognimba outlined the charter and platform’s history and current state of play, and current work reviewing the EU’s Governance Incentive Tranche (an incentive mechanism funded by the European Development Fund that gives ACP partner countries access to additional funding, based on their commitments to achieve tangible results in their democratic governance reform programmes), the African Peace Facility (an innovative instrument for EU support to African-led peacekeeping operations on the African continent) and proposals for an African Integration Facility. He also noted the bureaucratic, slow allocation of EU funds and the AU’s request for the EU to create a pan-African envelope to support the JAES.

Mr. Rudischhauser started by regretting that this is the first time the two sides have met to discuss these issues since the EU-Africa Summit held in November last year and that the Commissions and Member States should meet more often to pick up where the debate left off, especially in view of the importance of democratic governance issues so starkly evident with the current changes happening in North Africa and the potential to work together on these. He also noted the importance of Member States leadership in JAES implementation. Stressing the importance of the democratic governance and human rights partnership, he said it is now necessary to operationalise the flagship Africa-EU governance platform and its ambitious action plan in order to strengthen governance on both continents, in particular economic governance in the start up phase of work of the platform.  The EU is ready to make the best possible use of the instruments at its disposal to support these activities. He noted that one instrument currently under discussion in the EU is how to best use the African Integration Facility and the possible creation of a pan-African instrument within EU financing instruments to finance implementation activities.

Mr. Rudischhauser then outlined the EU’s new institutional context following the entry into force of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in January.  The former DG Development unit responsible for the ACP has gone to the EEAS. The rest of DG DEV merged with the former EuropeAid into the new DEVCO. On 1 June, the full integration of the old DG Development and EuropeAid will take place with a new organisational structure, DEVCO. DEVCO includes an Africa directorate. Before it was within two DGs and was ACP. The new Africa Directorate includes responsibility for coordination for ACP countries too.  So the partnership with ACP and Africa is brought into one organisational structure in DEVCO. It’s the same in EEAS too. Matching structures in both services. He is convinced this will help to organise and mange the very developed and deep relations between the EC and the African group in Brussels and the AU in general. DEVCO will have to reorient and reshape its relations with the AU because it will share tasks with the EEAS. DEVCO will concentrate on the development side of the joint relationship. Since the EC will continue to play a strong role also in the JAES, DEVCO will remain the focal point in the EC for the EU Africa partnership – the first contact point for the JAES (for example, DEVCO is organising for the whole EC the AUC-EC college to college meeting next week)

DEVCO will do programming of projects and programmes together with the EEAS.  The EC and DEVCO will remain in charge of implementation of Community funding and together with the EEAS and in coordination with EU Member States. This is an important feature of the partnership and EU development policy.

Mr. Moore explained that the EEAS is a continuation of the work of two geographical directorates of DG Development. The EEAS has taken over responsibility for relations with partners and programming outside of thematic lines. The EEAS has a specific Africa department and managing director reflecting the importance of Africa in the EU’s external relations. The EEAS will allow the EU to play a catalyst role to strengthen political dialogue and engage with the African Union Commission. Regarding the institutional architecture of the JAES, the EEAS is responsible for setting out the EU’s strategic political objectives and ensuring coherence in conducting political dialogue. The EEAS is also responsible for thematic policy dialogue on peace and security in close coordination with the EC. The EEAS is also responsible for AU-EU human rights dialogue. The governance and human rights platform will facilitate exchange of views and reach common positions.

In reply to questions from participants, who included ACP Ambassadors, civil society and the media, Rudischhauser said the EU was considering a pan-African support instrument as a way to overcome past problems of implementation. He said the EC is in the process of preparing financing instruments for all its policies in the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-20. In the context of preparation of instruments for external action, the EC is developing a concept for a pan-African support instrument which would directly support the JAES. It would not be the only instrument that would support thee JAES since there should be a use various complementary sources – national, regional, funds from Member States, etc. to implement various aspects of the JAES action plan. The pan-African envelope would be complementary, subsidiary and finance activities that other instruments do not. It would fill gaps. The EC is also engaged in discussions with the AUC to see how to link this to the African Integration Facility.

Rudischhauser explained that discussions on the pan-African envelope are difficult because of existing constraints like the fact that North Africa has association agreements with the EU and their financing source is linked to that and cannot be changed. For sub-Saharan Africa, there is the European Development Fund (EDF). If the EDF is brought into the EU budget and integrated with the EU development cooperation financing instrument, this would result in having one financing instrument for Africa (because the neighbourhood instrument can fund North Africa). But not everyone wants budgetisation. He said an EC meeting next week will discuss the future of external financial instruments – EDF, development cooperation, etc. An EC Communication will be issued on 29 June on the future financial framework of the EU.  He did not comment on what kind of financing will be available after 2020.

He also said that the fact that there is no ACP directorate in either DEVCO or EEAS is not

a signal that it is the end of the ACP. The new set-up reflects how EU ministries organise their work in units - most have a sub-Saharan Africa unit, North Africa in a near neighbourhood directorate, etc. The EC had an ACP directorate before because of history, but the change in the organigrammes has no impact at all on policy. He said the ACP is a very interesting, important, committed partner and there is no intention to jeopardise the coherence of the ACP group. On the contrary, it could be a model for relations with other groups of countries because the EU has no other partnership so wide ranging with such substantive coverage. And this arrangement also goes well with the AU-EU partnership he said. The ACP relationship is a legally binding partnership with the Cotonu Agreement. The African Union-EU partnership is a political partnership.  The EU can pursue both partnerships well and exploit synergies well.

With regard to the role of North Africa and DEVCO, cooperation is financed by the EU’s neighbourhood instrument so there is no need to reflect this in the organigramme. In the next multi-annual financial framework, the EU will make sure there is better synergy between financial instruments for Africa, development and North African countries. The EU has learned its lessons he said and will ensure better synergy between instruments. The pan-African instrument will create a useful bridge in that context.

Roger Moore explained that there was a year-long debate about the role of the EEAS - whether it would be just for political relations or for political and development relations (a main instrument of external action). The final compromise was that the EEAS would do political external relations work and part of the development work (the programming work). So the directorates dealing with those aspects in the old DG DEV and RELEX were transferred in block to EEAS.

With regard to who represents the EU (DEVCO or EEAS) in political dialogue with Africa, he said this depends on the level of dialogue. If it’s a summit, it would be the EU or EC President. If Ministerial level, it would be the EU High Representative. He explained that with the ending of the former EU Troika system which allowed for political level representation from the EU presidency, the EC and Council, the EEAS now faces the problem that the one EU High Representative cannot be everywhere at the same time and she has a busy agenda, so choices have to be made depending on logistics and the importance of the issues being discussed. There is currently a legal debate ongoing on if the High Representative can ask the EU Development Commissioner to replace her or If it has to be an EU minster. He said that his personal view was that as the work increases, there is a need for more political people to do the work and a need to multiply the political figures entitled to speak for the EU.

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