The European Business Council for Africa

A l’invitation de la Fondation Robert Schuman j’ai présenté lundi dernier quelques uns des principaux dossiers sur lesquels nous allons travailler cette année : apaiser les tensions dans notre voisinage, organiser un nouveau départ avec les Etats Unis, rééquilibrer nos relations avec la Chine, mettre en œuvre notre « autonomie stratégique » et relancer le multilatéralisme.

Lundi dernier, la Fondation Robert Schuman m’avait demandé d’intervenir sur le thème de “L’Union Européenne, un acteur global”. Ce fut tout d’abord pour moi l’occasion de saluer la mémoire de cet illustre ministre des affaires étrangères français qui joua un rôle décisif dans le lancement de l’intégration européenne avec sa fameuse déclaration du 9 mai 1950.

Right now, the acute question is about vaccines. Team Europe is working on preparedness of our partners. We are assisting partners with technical assistance and guidance to prepare national vaccination strategies, logistics, and information campaigns. National ownership and responsibility for preparing and deploying COVID-19 vaccines remains paramount.

Efforts to guarantee equitable vaccine for everyone started early on. We hosted a pledging marathon, which raised a total of EUR 15.9 billion to develop and deploy vaccines, tests and treatments. As a result, Team Europe’s support to the most promising manufacturers in both vaccine development and build-up of manufacturing capacity helped to speed up the process, which usually takes years, into less than one year.

27/01/2021 – HR/VP blog – On 25 January we launched the first pilot of the new Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) concept in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa. In addition to our existing naval operations in the Mediterranean and in the Western India Ocean, we are strengthening our role as a global maritime security provider.

On 23 January, pirates hijacked a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of West Africa, killing one crewmember and kidnapping 15. According to the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, 195 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been registered worldwide last year, 33 more than in 2019.

As the second largest exporter and the third largest importer in the world, the EU rely heavily on maritime transport and infrastructure. However, secure maritime routes are not only important for us: without them, about 90% of the goods currently available are at risk of simply not reaching their customers around the world. Thus, ensuring a safe maritime environment is a global public good that need international cooperation to fend off the increasing challenges related to geo-strategic rivalries, piracy and organised crime.

Europe and Africa must move away from a donor-recipient relationship, said the Development Committee, outlining its vision for a relationship between the two continents.

On Thursday, MEPs adopted a wide-ranging strategy on a new EU-Africa partnership by 20 votes, with two votes against and three abstentions. The strategy emphasises the need to go beyond simply cooperating on issues such as the green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance and migration.

As well as addressing these areas, listed by the Commission and the European External Action Service, human development must be central to future EU-Africa relations, said MEPs, who welcome this fresh approach to the relationship. The future partnership should prioritise education, including teacher training, reducing early school leaving, and concentrate on the inclusion of girls. It should also aim to improve health care and national health systems.

The Council today approved conclusions launching the first pilot case of the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) concept in the Gulf of Guinea.

The CMP mechanism aims to increase the EU’s capacity as a reliable partner and maritime security provider, offering greater European operational engagement, ensuring a permanent maritime presence and outreach in Maritime Areas of Interest as established by the Council, and promoting international cooperation and partnership at sea.

The conclusions establish the Gulf of Guinea as a Maritime Area of Interest and welcome the creation of the Maritime Area of Interest Coordination Cell. The pilot in the Gulf of Guinea will further enhance the EU’s coordination capacities in strategic maritime environments.

Today’s launch of the Gulf of Guinea pilot reinforces the EU’s efforts in the region, in line with the EU’s Gulf of Guinea Strategy. It will support efforts by the coastal states and the organisations of the Yaoundé Architecture to address increasing security challenges such as armed piracy and kidnapping for ransom, which undermine maritime security and good governance of the oceans.

The European Union will contribute €25 million to enhance the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon who are, respectively, the first, second and fifth biggest cocoa producers, generating almost 70% of the world production. This funding strengthens the partnership between Team Europe (composed of the EU, its Member States, and European financial institutions) and the three cocoa producing countries and aims at ensuring a decent living income for farmers, halting deforestation and eliminating child labour.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “The EU trade agenda is underpinned by EU values. By investing in programmes to promote fair trade and sustainability in the cocoa sectors of Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon, we are strengthening our trade and investment relationships for our mutual benefit. Building the social and environmental aspects of the cocoa supply chain will deliver further economic benefits for local farmers and cooperatives.”

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states was due to expire in February 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU started negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. This time around, the main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions and to continue to promote the values enshrined in the EU Treaties. At the same time, the new partnership should take into account the United Nations' sustainable development goals, the redefinition of the EU's strategies for the regions concerned, the ACP states' new ambitions and the changing balance of power at the global level. Both the EU and the OACPS have agreed on the principle of a common foundation complemented by three regional protocols. These multi-level negotiations, the coronavirus crisis and difficulties in reaching agreement on sensitive issues, such as migration management and sexual and reproductive health and rights, prevented the new agreement from being finalised by the initial expiry date set in the Cotonou Agreement. Thus, to avoid a legal vacuum in relations, the provisions of this agreement were extended until the end of 2021. After two years of negotiations, a political deal was reached in December 2020, including on the most complex issues. The European Parliament insisted on maintaining the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly and was successful in this endeavour; in addition, three regional parliamentary assemblies will be created in the future institutional set-up of the partnership.

The journey of the new ‘Geopolitical Commission’ started in December 2019. We want Europe to be stronger in the world. President von der Leyen entrusted me with the role of Commissioner for International Partnerships in my mission letter, and asked me to ensure that the European model of development evolves in line with new global realities.

DG DEVCO, the service supporting my work as Commissioner, has now officially become DG International Partnerships (‘DG INTPA’). This is a timely and important moment. The new title, structure and mission statement gives DG INTPA a solid footing for contributing to the geopolitical ambitions of this Commission and supporting my work. It reflects the true change in paradigm towards equal partnerships.

In this ever changing, complex and competitive world, our generation is being tested by global calamities such as inequality, climate change and biodiversity loss, brought into sharper focus by COVID-19. Addressing these challenges alone is not an option.

Merci pour cette initiative qui est essentielle, parce que mettre la biodiversité au cœur du projet, c'est effectivement veiller à ce que l'on travaille tous ensemble, dans la coopération internationale, pour protéger notre environnement et pour protéger collectivement notre santé. Voici quelques points simplement en ce qui me concerne.

Premier point: nous savons toutes et tous, et la COVID-19 l'a remis en lumière de manière brutale, quel est le lien entre la perte de biodiversité et le développement des zoonoses, et nous savons à quel point le trafic d'animaux ou le commerce d'animaux sauvages peut engendrer de grandes difficultés. Nous savons qu'il y a d'ailleurs, dans la nature, 1,6 million de virus non encore détectés, qui sont probablement liés à cette transmission entre l'espèce humaine et les animaux.

Le premier point que je vais faire touche donc à la forêt et à l'importance de ne pas perdre de vue que 30 % de la surface terrestre est couverte par des forêts, qui représentent 80 % de notre biodiversité. C'est pour cela qu'il y a un enjeu majeur. Je salue les initiatives françaises sur le sujet, mais aussi l'ensemble des pays qui sont également mobilisés pour travailler à des alliances afin de mobiliser une protection de la forêt et une gestion durable de la forêt.

Today, the chief negotiators from the EU and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), formerly known as the ACP Group of States, reached a political deal on the text for a new Partnership Agreement that will succeed the Cotonou Agreement. The Agreement, which will have to be approved, signed and ratified by the parties, will cover a large number of areas, ranging from sustainable development and growth, to human rights and peace and security and will be geared to empower each region. Once in effect, the Agreement will serve as the new legal framework and guide political, economic and cooperation relations between the EU and 79 members of the OACPS for the next twenty years.

The EU and the members of the OACPS constitute an international force. Together, they represent over 1.5 billion people and more than half of the seats at the United Nations. With the new Agreement, EU and OACPS member countries will be better equipped to address the emerging needs and global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, ocean governance, migration, peace and security issues.