The 10th meeting of the Africa-EU Task Force, held on 18-19 March in Brussels, brought further progress in consolidating the partnership between the two continents. The main objective of the meeting was to prepare the way for the third Africa-EU Summit that takes place at the end of November 2010.
Welcoming delegates to the crowded conference room in the Borschette Centre in Brussels, Stefano Manservisi, Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Development, emphasised that areas such as peace and security are central to the joint intent and success of the partnership. “There is a need to empower – to give African countries the means to take care of their mutual peace and security,” he said.
Ambassador John K. Shinkaiye, AU Commission Chief of Staff, stressed the importance of "an objective evaluation of performance in the implementation of the Joint Strategy and Action Plan which should include proposals for significant changes if these are deemed necessary to ensure the effectiveness and credibility of the 2nd Action Plan".
In his opening remarks, African Union Commission (AUC) Chief of Staff, Ambassador John Shinkaiyé, welcomed the large number of representatives from African countries, civil society and other stakeholders who had come to the meeting. “You – the stakeholders - need to share ideas with the task force to move the process forward,” he told delegates. “Tangible results are more urgent than ever as we move towards the next summit.”
It is now two years since the adoption of the implementation plan of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) and Ambassador Shinkaiyé stressed the need to identify areas of strength and weakness and to prepare solutions that were for the benefit of both continents.
He noted that the level of progress in the JAES varied from partnership to partnership. “The peace and security area is often cited as a success,” he said. “It is a fertile reference point from which we can learn with a view to replicating the experience in other partnerships.”
Manservisi also stressed the need to help relaunch economic growth. “The EU and Africa are not separate in this issue,” he said and highlighted a specific reference to Africa in the recently launched Europe 2020 initiative for economic growth. A mechanism to generate mutual economic growth must be part of the deliverables for the forthcoming summit of African and EU leaders. “A concrete shared vision was needed to work through to the end of the year,” he concluded.
The Task Force meeting brought together European Commission and AUC staff, Joint Expert Group co-Chairs and national JAES coordinators from Member States, with representatives from civil society, the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament. On the first day JAES-related plenary discussions addressed cross-cutting issues, focusing in particular on Summit preparations, the further involvement of key stakeholders in the strategy, and resources.
Two days parallel thematic working sessions were chaired by the African and European Commission officials and stakeholders looked at the state of play of the eight thematic partnerships within the JAES, and tried to clarify the priorities and potential concrete deliverables for the Summit.
Director Klaus Rudischhauser thanked participants for their inputs, which help to update the implementation roadmaps in the eight partnerships and to have a first discussion on the substance and working methods for the next JAES Action Plan that will be cover the period 2011 to 2013.
Before the meeting the EU’s Ambassador to the AU, Koen Vervaeke, noted a tangible shift in the relationship between the AU and the EU. “There has been a change in the way we work with the African Union,” said Ambassador Vervaeke. “We listen and consult with the AU before taking decisions on the EU side. We may not always agree but we always consult – this is important. And we support, in most cases, actions taken by AU: we support them politically, in terms of capacity, and financially.”
Director René Kouassi from AUC, also commented before the meeting. “The dialogue model between the EU and AU is very important,” he said. “We are both looking in the same direction. But our aspirations must now be translated into concrete actions and executed.”
The Task Force meeting clearly mobilised stakeholders for discussions and proposals to be presented to the Ministers at the forthcoming political dialogue meeting, scheduled for 27 April 2010, and put down markers for ensuring successful preparations for the Summit and progress on JAES implementation throughout 2010.