The European Union presented a new strategy for relations with the African Union on Monday that emphasizes an overhaul in climate and digital policies with the aim of putting to rest a legacy of colonialism and development aid.
A 19-page communication from the European Commission, entitled “Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa,” laid out a road map for the 27-nation E.U. bloc to create a more even playing field for its complex political and economic relationships with the 55-nation A.U. bloc.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has paid two visits to the A.U.’s headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa since taking office in December, plans to use the document as the basis for talks on a joint strategy to be adopted at an E.U.-A.U. summit at Brussels in October.
“Today’s strategy with Africa is the roadmap to move forward and bring our partnership to the next level. Africa is the European Union’s natural partner and neighbor,” she said in a statement. “Together we can build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all.”
The strategy includes proposals for more cooperation in five key areas: clean energy; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility.
But the E.U.’s order of priorities differs sharply from that of A.U. leaders, who concluded their annual summit last month pledging to devote more resources to mediating an end to regional violence from a surge in civil wars and countries mired in conflicts among warring groups.
And while A.U. leaders also urgently want to build up jobs, development and infrastructure, the A.U.’s talks in Addis Ababa focused on the continental organization’s more pressing, underlying theme of “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”
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‘The language of openness’
A.U. Commission Chair Moussa Faki told a news conference during one of his counterpart von der Leyen’s visits to Addis Ababa there are strong differences over international criminal justice, sexual orientation and identity, the death penalty and the A.U.’s role in handling its own crises.
“These differences are normal, given our cultural, sociological and even spiritual diversity,” Faki said. “Only the recognition and acceptance of these differences, the language of openness, will allow us to remove the obstacles that may hinder our cooperation.”
European Commission Vice President Josep Borrell said a part of Europe’s future is at stake in Africa, much of which was colonized by Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain more than a century ago.
“To face our common challenges, we need a strong Africa, and Africa needs a strong Europe. There is everything to gain from reinforcing our already very strong partnership in areas such as peace and stability, poverty and inequalities, terrorism and extremism,” said Borrell.
“Both our continents need each other to strengthen themselves, to strengthen each other,” he said, “and to achieve a common ambition: a better world based on a rules-based international order.”
Jutta Urpilainen, the E.U. commissioner for international partnerships, said her key priority now is to ensure the strategy is “owned by the youth and women, as it responds to their aspirations.”