The summit between the European Union and Africa should have taken place under the German presidency. The Portuguese Presidency expressed interest in seeing this happen in the first half of 2021. However, there are still doubts as to whether it will actually take place this year. The truth is that the heads of state and government of the two continents prefer a personal summit and the pandemic has stalled the schedule, which is not the responsibility of the European Parliament or the Portuguese Presidency, but that of the President of the Council. Charles Michel.
This week the European Parliament will discuss the report on a new EU-Africa strategy ‘a partnership for sustainable and inclusive development’, which will include Portuguese Carlos Zorrinho, a MEP elected by the PS and a member of socialist and democratic politics , is co-author.
The new strategy calls for “developing a real partnership between equals” and “urges both parties to go beyond the donor-beneficiary relationship”. Expresses concern that Africa “has become a new phase of great competition for power in many areas”. The growing influence of China is criticized by the authors of the report, who affirm the advantages of the European Union over the Chinese giant: “The European Union is motivated in its political and economic relations with third countries by promoting fundamental rights by supporting democratic institutions” while countries like China “have other worrying goals”. In the strategy, “regret” manifests itself in “other actors, particularly China and Russia, who advance their geopolitical interests and focus on growing unilateralism” and accuses these countries of gaining their own benefits “to the detriment of African sovereignty and European countries security ”. The EU, according to the report, “needs to play a greater geopolitical role in Africa and build relationships that take into account the well-being of all”.
Carlos Zorrinho explains what MEPs are about: “It is true that there are conditionalities in the European Union. But what is the Chinese conditionality like? The credits! China builds, lends and financially conquers these countries. What is Russian conditionality? The weapons. When I go to these countries or receive representatives, they say to me: “The EU is putting up some obstacles” and “The Chinese are doing this without asking”. Yes, but the Chinese are not at all concerned with the dynamics of civil society, the balance of society and the move towards a more robust rule of law. “
The truth is that in Africa there are “multiple competitors throwing different weapons”. Zorrinho, who says “he is neither proud of the European bureaucracy nor the excess of technocracy,” says he is proud of the “EU core values” based on human rights and the rule of law. “As a traveling salesman for a political idea, I am proud of the product”.
But at least for Zorrinho it is not about “imposing” the product in relation to human rights, namely women’s rights, on a continent where female genital mutilation is still a scourge. “The further we develop our business relationships, the qualification of the population, the support for health, the consumption of water and energy, the more movements arise that come close to a general principle of respect for human rights that we do not want to impose – the African Union is sovereign, African states are sovereign – but what we believe in. “
There is a € 79.5 billion neighborhood investment fund – although it is aimed not only at Africa but also at the Caribbean and Pacific countries. “The fundamental question is how did we manage to move from a development relationship to an economic and also a social partnership. The bet is to qualify so that there can be a partnership between equals. It is not just the EU, China and other countries that are looking for highly valued minerals or raw materials from Africa. It means enabling the continent to be able to produce, to be able to trade. This is the best way to develop a strong civil society and the ultimate goal of promoting the well-being of Africans and, in full, promoting human rights, freedoms, gender equality and democracy itself. “