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EU-Africa relations

The Cotonou agreement

The overarching framework for EU relations with Africa is the Cotonou agreement. It was adopted in 2000 to replace the 1975 Lomé Convention for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It is the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU, covering the EU's relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Its central objective is to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty and contribute to the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy. It is based on 3 pillars:

  • development cooperation
  • economic and trade cooperation
  • political dimension

In November 2016, the Council began discussing the nature and structure of future relations between the EU and the ACP countries after the Cotonou agreement expires in 2020.

The basis for discussions is a joint communication from the European Commission and the High Representative, adopted on 22 November 2016. The communication focuses on three main aspects of future relations: the structure, the nature of a possible new agreement, and the geographical scope.

The joint Africa-EU strategy

An additional framework, the joint Africa-EU strategy (JAES), was adopted in 2007 as the formal channel for EU relations with African countries. This strategy was agreed by the African Union and EU institutions, as well as by African and EU countries.

The JAES is implemented through periodical action plans. In 2014, EU and African countries agreed on the roadmap for 2014-2017. This roadmap set 5 key priorities and areas for joint action.

In the Council

Formal dialogues

4th EU-Africa Summit (2014)

The EU-Africa Summit brought together more than 60 EU and African leaders, and a total of 90 delegations, to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations and reinforce links between the two continents.

The EU-Africa partnership is developed through formal dialogues at various levels:

  • EU-Africa summits, at the level of heads of state or government, are held in principle every three years
  • ministerial-level (or 'troika') meetings, held regularly, gather representatives from African and EU countries, the AU Commission, and EU institutions, including the Council of the EU
  • commission-to-commission meetings

Current areas of activity

1. Trade

The EU is currently negotiating a series of economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the 79 ACP countries. These agreements aim to create a shared trade and development partnership backed up by development support.

The Council provides the Commission the mandate to negotiate these agreements and has to sign the final agreement once it is finalised.

In July 2014, 16 west African states, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), initialled an agreement with the EU. The signature process is currently ongoing.

Also in July 2014, negotiations were successfully concluded with countries in the Southern African Development Community. On 1 June 2016 the Council authorised, on behalf of the EU, the signature and provisional application of the agreement. The agreement was signed on 10 June 2016 in Kasane, Botswana. It entered into provisional application on 10 October 2016.

In October 2014 the East African Community and the European Commission finalised the negotiations on an agreement. On 20 June 2016, the Council authorised, on behalf of the EU, the signature and provisional application of the agreement.

Negotiations with central African and some eastern and southern African countries are still ongoing.

2. Security - CSDP missions

Through the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) the EU takes a leading role in peace-keeping operations, conflict prevention and the strengthening of international security across the globe. It is an integral part of the EU's comprehensive approach towards crisis management. EU CSDP missions and operations are part of this effort.

The Council is the institution in charge of establishing a specific operation, through a Council decision which needs to be adopted by unanimity. It also prepares and agrees to the launch of the operation. 

Once an operation is ongoing, the Council can carry out assessments to decide when to move to the next phase. It can also introduce changes to the operation, including its reinforcement or a change of scope.

There are currently several active CSDP missions and operations in Africa.

3. Development

The EU supports programmes and initiatives benefiting multiple countries across the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. It also has programmes for further regional economic growth and development for specific regions within the ACP.

The EU finances most of its development programmes for ACP partner countries through the European development fund (EDF). These funds are not part of the EU's general budget. They are governed by an internal agreement between member states meeting within the Council.

 The 11th EDF, adopted in 2013, runs from 2014 to 2020 and includes a total of €30.5 billion.

There are also development programmes funded through  the development cooperation instrument of the EU's general budget for the other geographical regions.

4. Migration

Response to migratory pressures

The Council and European Council are working to establish a comprehensive European migration policy

Migration is an important aspect of EU-Africa relations. The framework for cooperation in this area is laid down in article 13 of the Cotonou agreement. This article includes points on improving conditions in countries of origin and transit, legal migration and return of illegal immigrants.

In April 2014, EU and African leaders adopted a specific declaration on migration and mobility, in the context of the 4th EU-Africa summit.

In November 2015, the EU and the most concerned African leaders held a summit to reinforce political cooperation on migration. They agreed on an action plan, including 16 concrete actions to be initiated or implemented by the end of 2016.

5. Consultation procedure (Article 96)

The Cotonou agreement establishes a procedure which may be used in cases where one of the parties does not comply with the essential elements of the partnership. These include respect for human rights, democratic principles, and the rule of law.

The goal of this procedure is to return to a normal relationship between the partners. If no agreement is reached, the party which launched the process may take measures regarding cooperation projects and development assistance.

On the EU side, the Council can launches this process through an invitation to consultations. It participates in the consultations and adopts the decision which concludes them.