Difficulties within the EU-Africa relationship

The recent developments between the EU and Turkey have highlighted how easily migration partnerships, or ‘deals’, can lead to breakdown which  can have far-reaching consequences. The decision to extend the post-cotonou agreement to allow extra time for negotiations and the recent working paper released by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) show the difficulties – especially on the issue of migration – in the relationship between two other partners, namely the European Union (EU) and the African Union. 


The Cotonou Agreement

The negotiations on the post-Cotonou Agreement are proceeding with difficulty. This shows that the relationship between the EU and the African countries is complex. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement governs the EU relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and is one of the oldest frameworks of partnership between the EU and third countries. It was established in the year 2000 and was due to expire on 29 February 2020. Regarding the difficult negotiations, the decision was made to extend the agreement until December 2020. 


The world has changed significantly since the Cotonou Agreement was adopted. The global and regional context (both in Europe and Africa) has changed considerably – and with it the common global challenges and opportunities. These changes are a challenge in the current negotiations between the EU and the ACP. Differences on the issues of migration and trade regimes have made it impossible so far for the partners to reach a consensus. It is therefore necessary to review the key objectives of the Partnership in order to adapt them to the new realities, like Brexit and China emerging as a global power. 

Many of the current challenges in the region, such as human development and peace, migration and security issues, need a joint, multilateral approach in order to achieve tangible results on a cross-border level. A good example of a multilateral approach is the Paris Agreement on climate change in which the EU-ACP partnership already proved to be working. Together, the partnership can make a difference and set a global agenda in international fora.

The coming months will be crucial as the EU is about to enter a new era in its relations with the ACP countries. The negotiations will set the stage for a new dynamism and cooperation that goes further than the traditional development dimension.

EU Africa Cooperation on Migration 

Difficulties between the EU and the African countries on the issues of migration are highlighted in a working paper released by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) on February 28.  The paper is written by Andrew Songa and describes the cooperation on migration within the European Union – African Union (EU-AU) relationship. This working paper presents various recommendations on how to rebalance the asymmetric emphasis on return, readmission and reintegration and how to focus on the future EU-AU cooperation. This, the paper argues, is key to dispelling the tensions over the different priorities.

The AU’s 2020 theme, “Silence of arms: creating favourable conditions for Africa’s development”, offers opportunities for further cooperation in the prevention of armed conflict and its contribution to forced migration, which is one of the greatest challenges in Africa, according to the working paper – another key opportunity to change the focus from ‘deals’ to ‘partnerships’.