With this in mind, a Steering Group has been formed to prepare for the challenges ahead. At an informal seminar hosted by Casa Africa and the Spanish presidency of the EU in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria on 15 and 16 February, frank and open discussions took place on the most important issues to focus on in the run up to the summit.
Looking ahead and beyond
In Lisbon in 2007, the remit of the EU-Africa partnership was broadened to consider global issues, such as climate change; to move beyond the conventional post-colonial donor-recipient relationships; and to involve non-state actors as much as possible. These aims were backed up by the creation of the 1st Action Plan for the period 2008-2010. The mid-term review of this strategy shows that strides have been taken across the board: co-operation is stronger between officials, the Joint Declaration in Poznan, ahead of Copenhagen, demonstrated a shared commitment to fighting climate change, and electoral observation missions are carried out to plan. The challenge now is to continue the good work and use the upcoming Summit to unlock the full potential of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) in a future 2nd Action Plan.
The meeting in Las Palmas proved a useful forum to bring together for the first time members of the Steering Group created to make sure that the summit is a success and for the new Malawian presidency of the AU to find its feet. It offered the chance to bring all participants up to speed on key issues and working practices and to discuss ideas for how to move forward. The decision to apply the Chatham House rules of non-attribution meant that interlocutors could speak candidly without their words being ascribed to their institutions. Mahamet Saleh Annadif, Permanent Representative of the AU to the EU, who attended the seminar, welcomed this initiative by the Spanish presidency and declared himself very satisfied with discussion.
Themes to address
Throughout the event, hot issues were discussed, including peace and security, the Millennium development goals, and climate change and energy. Ways to exit the financial crisis and boost investment, trade and market integration also figured on the agenda. An ongoing reflection process will take place during the preparation of the summit and the topics for consideration are subject to change as the year progresses. AU Permanent Representative Annadif said, “We have to really work to find themes that captivate the Heads of State. The 2007 summit succeeded because all of the Heads of State wanted to attend and everyone wanted it to succeed.” The main aim of the Steering Group is therefore to develop a programme for the summit that will encourage as many government representatives as possible to attend.
HE Mr. James D. Kalilangwe, Ambassador of Malawi in Ethiopia, said of the upcoming summit, “We are looking forward to the summit with a lot of enthusiasm especially given the fact that the bulk of the vision of the new AU Chairman is covered already in the eight areas of co-operation between the EU and Africa. We do hope to build on these existing areas such as energy, peace and security, and climate change and make a difference from what has been achieved so far.” The consolidation of the existing action plan and formation of a new one must be prioritised in order to achieve this.
On 27 April, ministers from European and African governments will meet in Luxembourg. By then, a clearer picture of what needs to be achieved should have been formed and discussions can continue in the lead up to the November summit.