Today the European Parliament defined its priorities for the EU relationship with Africa ahead of their 5th joint Summit on 29-30 November in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
Coming ten years after the adoption of the Africa-EU Strategy, the text approved by MEPs contains positive calls for the fulfilment of the 0.7 percent foreign aid commitment, support for small-farmers, and commitment to the process for a binding treaty on business and human rights.
However, the core principles of the text perpetuate the unequal relationship between the parties. Among them are calls for free trade in the form of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the externalisation of EU borders, the prominent role afforded to (European) multinationals and the deepening of public-private partnerships (PPP) as a model for development.
GUE/NGL MEP Marina Albiol highlighted missing elements in the Parliament´s position:
“The EU strategy for Africa is deprived of certain principles which we believe can truly ‘boost development’ and tackle inequalities and impoverishment.”
“This includes the recognition that poverty and forced migration are caused by the EU’s foreign, economic and trade policies. In addition, to focus development policies and funds to help governments to democratise their economy rather than misusing the money for the externalisation of our borders. Finally, the EU strategy should reject arms deals and agreements with tyrannical regimes, and to cancel the illegitimate, external debts with African nations.”
Spanish MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey echoed similar concerns:
“Relations between the EU and Africa should be based on mutual understanding and a cooperation between equals; overcome colonialism and paternalistic behaviour and effectively address common challenges such as climate change, poverty, inequality and to achieve sustainable development goals, which along with the strengthening of human rights should be the key objectives of the EU-Africa strategy.”
Portuguese MEP João Ferreira called for an end to EU interference in the internal affairs of African countries:
“Africa states and African peoples do not need to be given models of political and economic organisation. They need to see their sovereignty and legitimate choices respected in accordance with their needs and their wishes. They do not need self-interested help, which perpetuates relations of subordination and dependence and which is increasingly being used as an exchange currency for the imposition of EU policies and interests, whether in relation to migration or the agenda of trade liberalisation and deregulation.”
“They do need genuine cooperation that favours key sectors such as education, health, agriculture, and other vital sectors, and that respects the sovereign will of African peoples and their right to sovereign development.”
Likewise, French MEP Younous Omarjee denounced the prevailing colonial attitude underpinning the relationship:
“It seems more urgent than ever to think about decolonialism, because the relations between Europe and Africa are still one of domination, with free trade agreements that empty Africa of its own possibilities, organise the plunder of its resources and trap it in the macabre game of multinationals.”
GUE/NGL MEP Javier Couso concluded with a call for the abolition of debt for African countries:
“The Africa-EU strategic partnership over the last ten years has favored the neocolonial interests of certain member states or multinational corporations at the expense of the people. They are being trapped in development aid in the form of loans, which further increase the unsustainable debt of African countries. Help must be without usurious conditions.”