Europe and Africa are two continents bound together by a common history, culture, geography, and not least by the very close exchanges which they entertain at a human, economic and political level. Cooperation between the EU and Africa has reflected early on the rich and diverse nature of the relations between both continents while also keeping up to speed with wider economic and political developments.

Two grand frameworks govern EU relations with African countries. The most long-standing one is the one established with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, enshrined in the 1975 Lomé Convention and updated in 2000 by the Cotonou Agreement. More recently, a continental approach gained ground with the adoption of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) by 80 African and European Heads of States in 2007. The Africa-EU Partnership, enshrined in the JAES, embodies a new forward-looking vision for relations between Europe and Africa as one single continent, and sets out the overarching political framework defining relations between both sides. Going beyond development, it seeks to establish a partnership among equals, determined to tackle issues of common concern together.

The 4th EU-Africa Summit took place in Brussels on 2-3 April 2014.
bringing together African and EU leaders, as well as those of EU and African Union institutions. Under the headline theme 'Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace', leaders of both continents discussed ways to seize further opportunities for cooperation and to expand their political, economic, investment and trade ties.

The EU-Africa Summit confirmed the commitment of both continents to the objectives set out in the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). However, leaders agreed that the implementation of the Joint Strategy should be further improved and that cooperation should be guided by a results-oriented approach. The summit therefore adopted a roadmap to frame EU-Africa relations for 2014-2017. The roadmap covers 5 key priorities and areas for joint action:

  • Peace and security
  • Democracy, good governance and human rights
  • Human development
  • Sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration
  • Global and emerging issues

Since the Summit, the EU has been able to reflect the new priorities in its programming process. Following the creation of the Panafrican Programme in 2013, financed under the Development Cooperation Instrument, with an allocation of 845 M€ for 2014-2020, the European Commission has approved its Multiannual Indicative Programme for 2014-2017, as well as the first 12 projects to be implemented, for a total amount of 107 M€. Those projects range from migration, higher education and research, to public finance management or the development of much needed statistical information.

The EU is a key partner for the African Union (AU) on peace and security issues, illustrated by the recent visit to Mali by the African Union Peace and Security Council and the European Union Political and Security Committee, the first joint endeavour by the two bodies. Much of the funding of African-led peacekeeping operations comes from the EU's African Peace Facility (APF), which has €750 million for the period 2014 – 2016. This support was allocated in particular to peace support operations (e.g. AMISOM in Somalia and MISCA in the Central African Republic).

The 7th College-to-College meeting between the European Commission and the African Union Commission took place on 22nd April 2015. It provided political and operational impetus to Africa-EU relations within the context of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). The meeting's objectives were (i) to strengthen further the strategic partnership between the EU and Africa, which is a priority for the European Commission, (ii) to take stock of on-going collaboration and to discuss African Union Commission and European Commission priorities, and (iii) to discuss future cooperation. The Colleges' discussions covered the five priority areas of the current JAES Road Map during a plenary session, co-chaired by President Juncker and Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma. Bilateral and thematic discussions were also held in the margins and during the meeting.

Against the backdrop of the tragedies in the Mediterranean, the meeting’s plenary session focused on migration, with participants calling for comprehensive measures to tackle illegal immigration and human trafficking. The European Commission informed about its intentions to present an action plan on migration in the forthcoming weeks. The discussions also covered other key cross-cutting topics, including the post-2015 agenda (and financing for development) with an emphasis on the importance of joint efforts towards a good outcome, global pandemics and climate change.

A Joint Declaration and three stand-alone documents with regard to (i) infrastructure, (ii) space, and (iii) agriculture were adopted within the respective competences of the two Commissions. Outcome documents of the meeting are available on the Africa-EU Partnership website: www.africa-eu-partnership.org