EP DEVE Committee hosts AU: Cooperation progress going well but African Union stresses its funding gaps

On the eve of the negotiations for a Post-Cotonou Agreement, which will manage the relations between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states after the Cotonou agreement expires in 2020, discussions between the stakeholders are intensifying. On 24 April 2018 the Development Committee (DEVE) of the European Parliament (EP) held a joint sitting with the Delegation to the ACP Group of States to discuss the reform of the African Union.Their progress for reforming the African Union was described as good, however the speakers focused on their funding gaps, and asked for the assistance of the EU as their “major partner”.

Willingness for closer cooperation between Europe and Africa and its regional economies was stressed, informing that the developments until now have been positive.The importance of financial independence and addressing the budgetary problems that complicate cooperation with third parties were stressed. The AU is hoping that the EU may be able to offer additional funding to address the financing gaps. As for trade, Awad Sakine Ahmat, Permanent Representative of the African Union (AU) to the European Union,  mentioned the AU’s effort to create a free trade zone to permit interconnections in trade between different African countries and with Europe “as its major partner”.

On a political level, Sakine Ahmat discussed the importance of strengthening the Pan-African Parliament, making it more representative and with more powers and, in the long term, achieve integration. Their goal is to make the functioning of the AU more efficient, highlighting key priorities at the national level (good governance, proper election procedures, peace and security). Furthermore, the Permanent Representative, as well as Members of the European Parliament, highlighted the importance of strengthening the relationship of the AU with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as 85% of armed conflict takes place in Africa; this shows, as they said, that it is vital that the AU gains more influence in the UNSC, for example by obtaining a permanent seat.

Apart from the objectives until 2025, they talked about their willingness to increase the involvement of youth and empower the civil society by strengthening the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).  Furthermore, another plan they would like to realize is to strengthen the Rapid Reaction Mechanism so that troops can interfere rapidly in case of conflicts. As for migration, Representative of the African Union underlined that there are consistent mechanisms like the Khartoum Process and the Rabat Process (theEuro-African Dialogue on Migration and Development); however, they said that “we need to stop and take stock to see how we will deal with migration”.