From Past to Present: Renewing U.S., EU, and African Relations
On September 29th 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a roundtable discussion in Brussels on EU, U.S. and African relations. This meeting, held under the Chatham House rule, featured Ambassador Patrick Gomes, Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Kristin de Peyron, head of the Pan-African affairs division in the European External Action Service (EEAS), Dr. Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), and Cristina Barrios, Senior Analyst from the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). The discussion was moderated by Madeleine Goerg, Program Officer for GMF’s Wider Atlantic Program.
The speakers addressed the changing relationship between the EU, U.S. and the African continent and discussed the current expectations of these partnerships from African countries. Speakers noted the securitization of relations with African countries on the part of both the United States and the EU. This has led to perceptions of Africa being used as a testing ground for new forms of interventions by the U.S. and the EU. While President Barack Obama’s second term has placed greater emphasis on relations with Africa, American approaches to security have reinforced a division of labor along former colonial ties for U.S. and EU intervention in Africa. The EU remains one of the largest supporters of peace and security efforts in Africa. Recent events have, however, supported the view that key member states have, through the EU, multilateralized endeavors which were once unilateral pursuits. Speakers agreed that both the EU and U.S. heavily base their Africa policies on their own interests, often leading to a gap in needs and expectations with regards to governance, transparency, rule of law, and development goals. From the U.S. and EU perspective, issues of security, migration, human rights, trade, and investments were among the main points of engagement – stressing the need for more coordination between the EU and the U.S.
Speakers pointed to the need to critically assess support of African institutions and to redefine expectations and structures of these institutions tailored to the respective societal needs and contexts. Institutions such as the ACP Group have a wealth of experience and can serve as platforms for dialogues. The ACP also draws on its status as the only legally binding north-south arrangement of its kind. The discussion touched on a reform of the UN Security Council where there is a clear need to bring in external players.
The roundtable opened for a lively discussion and concluded on a call for the further diversification of partnerships for African countries and the need for more EU – U.S. dialogue and coordination since no platform currently exists.