The 5th Summit African Union (AU) – European Union (UE) was held in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) the 29-30 November 2017 with the title “Investing in the youth for a sustainable future,” The origin of these Summits between both institutions started in 2000 with the aim of dealing with issues that affect the two continents. Thus, while the Cotonou Agreement is the general framework for the EU’s relation with some African countries (and other Pacific and Caribbean countries), the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) adopted by Heads of State in 2007 is the legal framework for the AU-EU Summits as the formal path for political and economic bilateral relations between the EU and African Union.
The AU-EU summits are held every three years with the desire for mutual collaboration between the two institutions, but despite the fact that JAES states that it is a partnership on equal, the starting point of economic reality and the concerns of the two continents are completely different. Nor the concerns nor the priorities of both continents are shared. The Council and the European Commission have adopted in the last years three regional strategies for the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel. We observed that these Action Plans for the period of 2015-2020 have in common their concerns about three priorities: the security (terrorism), irregular migration and forced displacement. Unfortunately, only in the background they mention African priorities as concrete actions on how boast investment that promotes development in Africa, create quality jobs and promote better access to education.
During the summit “Youth” has been the overarching topic discussed due to the relevance that this segment of the population has for both continents. However, once again the motivation of both EU and UA are different. Africa has 200 Millions of youth population between 15 and 24 years old according the estimations of World Bank. Moreover 31% of these populations are unemployed; in some countries like in Senegal, South Africa or Congo the rate is even higher and 60% of the African population is under the age of 25.
Despite of these political structures and the preparatory meetings like the 4th Africa-Europe Youth Forum, the 6th Africa-Europe Business Forum or the Civil Society Forum, have only been reached two Joints Declarations of the African Union and the EU. Even worst, a week after the Summit the most relevant document (the Joint Declaration AU-UE), has not been published because a lack of consensus in the way to carry out the agreement. It is supposed that the AU and UE have engaged in promoting new public-private investment throughout the new EU External Investment Plan to boost African economies that promote new jobs among African youth. Alongside the main objective of this plan is to promote peace and Security in the African continent, assure the border control of African countries and cooperation to improve the good governance in African countries.
The second AU-UE Joint Declaration in Abidjan has been on Migration related to the recent situation of migrants in Libya. The public opinion have been shocked once again for the current situation of migrants in the North of Africa due to the media reports on inhuman treatment of African migrants by criminal groups. Both AU and EU have condemned strongly such criminal acts. The Declaration has expressed their will to work together for an end of these criminal practices and to ensure their return to their countries of origin. However, there is a disagreement between EU and AU about if this return must be voluntary or not and who is going to assume the cost of the repatriation.
The EU has tried to update these legal framework agreements (JAES) but the true is that the vested interests of the European Union continue to be imposed on the interests of African countries. On one hand, African countries are still trapped in economic structural dependence from the EU and other developed countries. On the other hand, the EU is interested in controlling an economic development of Africa that is for its benefit by establishing in what and how investments and economic aid are made. In Spite of this misunderstanding the dialogue between the EU and UA is still needed because there are many international commitments that require mutual collaboration between the parties on issues like Climate Change, Sustainable Development Goals and peace agreement or the Economic Partnership Agreements.
A recent study published by CONCORD about the economic aid send by the EU to African countries shows the inefficiency of those aids destined in theory for development but in fact it is used to control security in Europe, control borders and prevent immigration. African countries are open to receive economic and development aid but the recent aid has been diverted for its original purpose. African countries have not chosen the use of this economic aid or have been heard their priorities, once again the EU have decided how and where these aids have been used. Thus the real intention of this aid is not the sustainable development in Africa but the European interest.
Finally, AEFJN denounce the treat received by the Civil Society Organization. For a meeting of one and half days they received less than 30 min to express their concerns and suggestions for a more balance relationship between the European Union and African countries. As it is happening in the WTO in Argentina, it is not acceptable that the voice of the people be silenced once again. People must be the centre of any decision of these summits and never can be an uncomfortable guest.
José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda
AEFJN Trade Policy Officer
 ECDPM, November-December 2017 http://ecdpm.org/wp-content/uploads/GREAT_Vol6_Issue5_EU_Africa_relations_TimetoReboot.pdf