Africa's demands deserve more concern

15:18, December 03, 2010      

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The two-day Third Africa-E.U. Summit was closed in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Nov. 30. This was considered a major event in the process of developing African-E.U. relations. However, it is a pity that the "boycott and anti-boycott" during the last Africa-E.U. Summit occurred once again.

Although Libya withstood the pressure from the European Union to invite Sudan, Sudan still did not participate in the summit. In addition, rifts between Africa and the European Union were also exposed during the summit. Therefore, when people focus on the summit theme of "Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation," and the long-term development of the African continent, they also wonder just how long the road is for Africa and the European Union to achieve a real and equal strategic partnership.

There has been a long history of communication between Europe and Africa. However, the two continents faced dramatically different fates during the same period in history. A bright future and wealth came to Europe, while there was nothing but darkness and poverty for Africa. The European colonization in Africa caused the extreme imbalance in the development of the two continents, which in turn, led to the imbalance in their bilateral relations.

Although Africa is no longer made up of European colonies, European countries have continued to occupy a dominant position in the international political and economic systems and still maintain Africa’s dependence on Europe through various means. Since the 1970s, European countries have strengthened their control over African countries through economic means including large scale trade and assistance.

European countries attached conditions to their assistance, forcing African assistance recipients to follow the policies to open up their markets and transplant European political systems. The European Union did not propose to establish the strategic partnership with Africa until the “Joint Africa-E.U. Strategy (JAES)” was approved in December 2007 during the second Africa-EU summit.

In fact, the belated Africa-E.U. Strategic Partnership has reflected the European countries’ reluctance rather than their goodwill. There are four reasons for this conclusion.

First, there is the poverty and backwardness of Africa. More precisely the illegal immigrants flocking to Europe because of poverty, famine and war have directly affected Europe’s security, posing a major hazard to the continent’s peace and prosperity. Second, Africa has great potential for development thanks to its rich natural resources and large population. Certain African countries have maintained great momentum for rapid economic growth in recent years, while Europe has been losing momentum and needs to benefit from the development of Africa.

Third, the European Union is heavily dependent on imported energy, with its energy import dependency estimated to reach 70 percent by 2030. At present, 48 percent of the European Union’s oil imports and 96 percent of its natural gas imports are from Russia, Central Asia and North Africa.

Given the current Russia-Ukraine tensions and volatile situation in the Gulf States, the European Union needs to strengthen ties with Africa to ensure its energy security. Fourth, the European Union needs the support of African countries in many issues to maintain its existing status in the international arena, so it has to adjust its previously condescending attitude towards Africa.

The European Union obviously thinks more about themselves, which is inconsistent with the appeals of Africa. What the African people are most concerned with are development and poverty eradication. African countries hope to develop the African continent through improving their relations with the European Union.

However, the European Union is more concerned with their immediate interests. For example, during the negotiations about signing the "Economic Partnership Agreement," the European Union tried all means to promote trade liberalization, requiring that 80 percent of the product market in Africa should be gradually opened to the European Union with zero tariffs, while ignoring its negative impacts on African countries that have a fragile market environment and relatively backward level of production.

The two parties did not discuss the issue at the summit since they have greatly different views. The same reason also led to the failure to make a joint statement on climate change. The key whether an equal and fair "Africa-E.U. Strategic Partnership" can be carried forward is whether the European Union can consider the appeals of Africa, which is also an important factor affecting the development of African-E.U. relations in the future.

By People's Daily Online


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