GMF-EUISS Transatlantic Workshop US and EU approaches to Africa: Where do we stand?
On June 24th, the Paris Office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States co-organized, with the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), a workshop on EU and US approaches to Africa. The workshop took place at the EUISS in Paris, and was divided into two panels. The first panel was moderated by Martin Michelot, Program and Research Officer at the GMF in Paris and focused on EU and US common strategic interests in Africa. The panelists, Matthew Walsh, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State, and Dr. Joseph Siegle, Director of Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, presented on the four major issues tackled by U.S. policy in Africa: economic growth; democracy, human rights and governance; and on security- and broader development issues.
In terms of regional focus, Mr. Walsh underlined that, while President Obama’s first term focused essentially on Eastern Africa, the second term insisted on the Great Lake region, notably through an $8 billion commitment to regional development. He insisted on the fact that this development program was mainly funded by the private sector, showing a change in the development policy logic. Dr. Siegle began his presentation by asserting that the E.U. and the U.S. both have overlapping security interests in Africa and are facing an increasing number of crises on the continent. Building on this, he insisted on the need for cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic, but more crucially on communication, stating that transatlantic partners need, in each country, to raise awareness on the priorities in Africa and the means to implement them. Furthermore, a better comprehension between countries of “who is doing what” is necessary to avoid duplicates and to allocate resources more efficiently. Then focusing on cooperation, he insisted on the fact that U.S. and E.U. assistance to African states will probably become increasingly necessary in the future, considering that the transnational nature of the security threats in Africa are too important for the African states to face them alone. International cooperation and assistance should therefore focus on increasing African states’ capabilities to address those threats. Dr. Siegle also underlined that African capabilities have so far expanded in peacekeeping operations but need more support to take the lead on peace “enforcement” operations as well. He underlined that the E.U. could help develop African cooperation through flexible mechanism for crisis response.
After the two presentations, the discussion was opened to the audience. A series of questions were addressed to the panelists. The debate notably started with the question of what place Africa has on the political agenda, both in Europe and the U.S. in the context of the crises in Ukraine and Iraq. Other questions focused on more technical matters such as the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the training missions, both from the E.U. and the U.S., and the importance of the partnership with the African Union.
The second panel focused on transatlantic security cooperation in Africa and the action of both actors on the ground. It was chaired by Eva Gross from the EUISS and featured Fernando Moreno, senior strategic planner at the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate of the European External Action Service, and Colonel Ian Clark, acting Director of Outreach at AFRICOM. Mr. Moreno opened the discussion with a formal presentation of the E.U.’s engagement in Africa. He emphasized on the role of the documents providing the framework for operations in the area, such as the E.U. Africa Strategy and the several regional sub-strategies, namely in the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea. Mr. Moreno then presented an overview of the E.U. Common Security and Defense Policy in Africa. The continent hosts nine of the fifteen E.U. operations in the world, including four military operations in Mali, Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the Central African Republic. He also presented the various financial instruments the E.U. can mobilize in Africa, especially the African Peace Facility that has been used to fund the African force “AMISOM” in Somalia.
Colonel Clark then provided a general overview of the Africa Command, its place in the U.S. military architecture, and its purpose. He focused his presentation around the idea that AFRICOM primarily aims at strengthening the capabilities of the U.S.’ African partners, because, even though there are important transnational challenges in Africa, they do not pose immediate threats to the U.S. This explains the fact that AFRICOM does not normally act on a unilateral basis, but in coordination with African partners, unless the President directly gives the order to act. It also explains the absence of an operational command with considerable military capabilities, which is the case for the U.S. Pacific Command, for instance. Colonel Clark concluded his presentation by calling for a stronger E.U. – U.S. cooperation on Africa: stop “admiring the problem” and start tackling it together instead.
The Q&A session was notably marked by a discussion between Matt Walsh and Fernando Moreno about the E.U.’s financial instruments, their volume and their purpose. The discussion also focused on the need to address European military capability shortfalls such as Strategic Airlift, and the need for more European States to get involved in Africa to help France and the United Kingdom who are both strongly committed in the region.
The workshop was attended by more than twenty academics and scholars, as well as officials from the European External Action Service, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Africa Command.