Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Africa-Europe Partnership: A vision beyond migration


Africa-Europe Partnership: A vision beyond migration

Africa-Europe Partnership: A vision beyond migration
Photo credit: European Parliament

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini during the S&D 2018 Africa Week

This is the third important meeting that the [S&D – Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament] Group promotes on Africa and I think that it is almost revolutionary these days to have a conversation on our partnership with Africa beyond migration. I know that in this room this goes without saying, this seems self-evident, that we cannot even imagine having a partnership with a continent based on one issue – yet very relevant but one only.

I think that having the courage and the vision of saying “we have to work and we need to work” on our partnership beyond migration, with Africa, with the European Union on your side, is exactly the right political message to send, so thank you for this. I think this is exactly the kind of message we need in Europe today.

Yesterday, I know you celebrated Nelson Mandela’s one hundred years. He was a man who managed to inspire entire generations all across the world. His fight for freedom and justice was first and foremost for the people of his country – indeed a revolution – but it soon became a symbol of something much bigger. And all of a sudden, the story of one man and one country started to speak to the whole world, and brought change across the world.

Madiba’s liberation and his election sent a message of hope that touched the hearts and the minds of people all across the globe. It was a message of democracy, a message of social justice, equal opportunities for all – beyond ethnicity, beyond faith and social background.

But it was also a message of reconciliation, inside countries and among countries. He imagined a world where all countries had the same rights, and where international relations could be and had to be based on cooperation and partnership. At that moment in time, Africa was at the centre of the world with this inspiring revolutionary message. Mandela’s ideas inspired for sure my generation but also many others. I would say it gave us strength and courage to face things that were perceived as impossible.

My favourite quote from him is that “Everything seems impossible until it is done”, and I think this is something we should keep in mind especially in Europe nowadays. But today international relations are not the same that Mandela used to imagine. We face the return to a more dangerous way of interpreting, understanding, living global politics: a way of interpreting international relations based not on cooperation and partnership, not on win-win solutions, but more and more often as a power game, as a zero sum game.

Many of us have the feeling that there is little hope to move towards a more cooperative global order, and it is indeed very difficult in these days to be optimistic and to stay optimistic. Still, a big part of the world’s future, but also the world’s present, depends on Africa, and also depends on our partnership. I know that Africa does not always perceives itself as a major global player, well it is. Look at the numbers, look at the demography, look at the richness – natural resources, of the people. You are a big global player and together, Europe and Africa, can shape the features of international relations in quite a revolutionary way.

I often say that maybe for someone like me that comes from a place that geographically is quite close to Africa, it is natural. But today, it is all of the European Union that is aware of the strategic importance of the European-African partnership. It was probably not the case a few years ago, but today this is reality. I often make reference to an anecdote that explains very well how close we are: only 17 kilometres away. I had to fly from Tunis, Africa to Malta that at the time was holding the European Union presidency, and I was flying South – if you fly from Tunis to Valletta, you are flying South.

This to say that even the paradigm of a North-South divide, nowadays, is something we need to challenge together. We cannot do it alone as Europeans, I think you cannot do it alone as Africans, but I think, this is the challenge we are facing together. And this would be a service that we do not only to our people, but also to the rest of the world. Africa has a role to play and has a responsibility when it comes to shaping international relations. This not just because most of the world’s demographic growth is happening inside Africa, it is also about an idea of international relations and global politics.

In our daily engagements, we are showing that a more cooperative governance of global affairs is not just possible – it is – but it is actually the only effective way to deal with the challenges of our times: a) a global governance that is based on cooperation inside the regions. Africa is experiencing on a daily basis a strengthening of its regional and sub-regional organisations that inspires many of us. It is also inspired by much of what we have done in Europe, but this is a continuous learning process in which we exchange experiences, so a governance based on cooperation inside the regions and among the regions.

I am happy to say that in these years we have invested so much in our relations with the sub-regional organisations and with the African Union in an unprecedented manner: b) a governance that has inclusive growth and the fight against inequalities as its core objectives. We do not say that often but I think this is it and we have to face reality as it is. We often talk about the root causes of migration, namely poverty, climate change. Let us call things with their names. We are talking about inequalities: an unequal distribution of wealth and resources around the world. This is what we are talking about when we talk about the root causes of migration – also conflicts and crises, and many of them are caused exactly by inequalities and unequal distribution of resources.

We together can promote the idea – that we share as Africans and Europeans – that it is a false illusion to think that if my neighbour is strong in a sense of competition this creates a problem. I think we have understood from our history, both in Africa and in Europe, that if my neighbour has a problem I also have a problem. And the best way to invest in my strength is investing in my neighbour’s strength. This is how the European Union was built, after having experienced centuries of conflict, competition and wars, and I believe this is the lesson that also the African continent has learned over its history.

This is the kind of cooperation we have started to establish with Africa in these years. Beyond the donor-recipient relation, we went from the idea of having projects for Africa, which is something good and that we continue to do, to the idea of working with Africa, as I was saying, towards our common interests.

It is true that part of our work these years has focused on migration and particularly on fighting traffickers and helping people free themselves from traffickers. I think this is a common interest we share. We finally realised that the management of migration flows is not a South-North divide but it is a common interest to manage together. It is a complex challenge – also because most of the African countries are at the same time countries of origin, of transit and of destination nowadays.

So we have a common challenge to deal with and only together we can do it. I can give you the example: last year during the Summit we had with the African Union in Abidjan we decided that we wanted to tackle the awful situation in the detention centres in Libya. We established a joint task force – European Union, United Nations, African Union – and we managed in a few months to liberate tens of thousands of men and women from the detention centres and bring them back home safely with the support they need to start their lives again. This was made possible exactly because of our partnership, of cooperation. Europe would have not done it alone, Africa would not have done it alone and the United Nations neither.

Out of this cooperation, out of this partnership we managed to bring results and this needs to continue because we might fall into the illusion that this is done – it is not. We need to sustain the work that has been started. This is just one starting point of our cooperation.

I know our time is limited. But let me mention one other important point that is at the centre of our work, which is the work on security. We are exploring new ways to cooperate for our common security. Our cooperation with the G5 Sahel in this respect is particularly innovative.

We started from a very basic idea that no one knows Africa’s true security needs better than the people of Africa and so our African partners are now defining their needs and the strategy and we are giving our support to their initiatives, like in the G5 Sahel because that is also in our own interest. Sustainable security is essential for sustainable development and this is a pressing need. Yet, this is definitely not enough to guarantee a better present and a better future for Africans.

And so I come to the real centre of our cooperation and I close on this. Beyond migration, beyond security, our cooperation is now driven by two main goals: create good jobs and good opportunities for the African youth and engage constantly with the young people of Africa. I am happy to see here youth representatives because the rhetoric, the narrative of you being the future for Africa is simply not matching reality. You are the present of the continent and the only way to get it right is to let you influence the policies we are putting in place.

We have established as European Union, together with the African Union, initiatives to have the young generations of Africa and of Europe and of the diaspora heard and to get their voices, that are very clear and loud, to the decision making process. We have established in particular an [AU-EU] Youth Plug-In Initiative that created an opportunity for young people to create proposals on concrete projects. I am happy to say that next week in Paris they will be at the [Paris] Peace Forum to present their ideas to world leaders and influencers, to make these projects reality and some of them are supported by the European Union.

Let me finish by saying that I am proud of the work that we have started. It is still a long way to go. It will require a lot of political courage, determination, also resources, partnership, patience from time to time but I think we are on the right track to change the paradigm from the old traditional partnership based only on development cooperation to an equal partnership of friends. But let me say more than friends: brothers and sisters.


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