Thursday, November 04, 2010

Making the African Union-European Union Relationship a Progressive One

If it is true that everything changes but the sea, then it must hold
that as the Treaty of Lisbon goes into full swing (with the
operationalisation of the EEAS in December), new configurations will
be created. In other words, a "revised" EU that might probably be more
insular and parochial--even as it seeks to project itself on the world
stage as a global player.

I came across two pieces of literature recently that sought to confirm
the delusions of grandeur that the EU has. I will, however, focus on
one of them this entry.

The piece in question is "EU Cooperation with the African Union:
problems and potential." Written by Cristina Barrios, it operates from
the premise that if the Joint Africa Union European Union (JAES)
summit to be held in Tripoli in November is to be relevant, then both
sides should revise their positions.

In her view, the EU must "simplify its partnership with Africa and
cease to use ACP grouping as the main basis for Africa-EU relations."
And for the AU, it must do more to "prevent and condemn military
coups".

This might appear simplistic, but I believe it makes sense.

Let's look at the fact that the ACP-EU framework has been around since
1975. Now, in 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon means new powers for the EU.
It makes sense that these powers will be inimicable and probably
incompatible with the old system predicated mostly on trade and aid. I
believe it makes sense to ditch the ACP-EU framework, and pick the
relationship up through the prism of the regional economic communities
(RECs).

The RECs are perhaps an area that the EU has focused little on--save
in the context of the Economic Partnership Agreements. And even with
the EPAs, let's be frank, the EU has sought to pressure the regions
not only into signing but by creating what is in essence an illegality
of the "Eastern and Southern Africa" region--one that does not have
legal personality in the eyes of the AU-mandated RECs of 8 regions.
There is no ESA region, but the AU has done little to talk about it.

Perhaps, therein lies some of the AU's problems: expecting that the EU
should come and bail it out in a number of areas.

Barrios is more explicit when she writes how while the EU was keen to
show support through the Africa Peace and Security Architecture(APSA),
"the AU insisted on food security and health issues, and asked about
financial transfers." She writes that "this showed its limits as a
strategic institution."

That's quite a key word--"strategic", and the AU has often been found
wanting on being just that.

Forget the fact that the AU has been a place where leaders like Robert
Mugabe can hide behind the cloak of African solidarity, or where
Gaddafi can exhibit more of his eccentricities, and let's look at how
it has a comparative advantage with the RECs over the EU, but has not
been capitalising on it. Even the author writes that:"in general, EU
policy-makers have limited knowledge about sub-regional
opportunities." They have demonstrated this lack of expertise by
asking ECOWAS to merge with UEMOA, while seemingly oblivious to the
immense experience that both ECOWAS and SADC have on peace and
security interventions.

So, could the future be to predicate the relationship of the AU and EU
on security and democracy imperatives?

The author actually did not use the word "imperatives", but in my
view, it seems the most appropriate, given that she's talking about
"security cooperation" and "fighting autocratic trends."

In sum, "security cooperation" is basically about the EU supporting AU
peace and security structures like "Exercise Amani", including support
for the operationalisation of the African Standby Force, which
incidentally has just ended off the East Coast of Africa as "Exercise
Carana"(http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/New-African-Standby-Force-Faces-First-Test-105518428.html).
It is also about strengthening the African Peace and Security
Architecture (APSA) through the JAES framework, which Barrios
maintains "is a key EU priority."

Similarly, the author is advocating a kind of securitization of
policies as the the basis upon which relationships should continue. In
other words, "the EU-AU partnership should articulate a more
comprehensive security approach", and secondly "the EU needs to be
attentive to the politics in the AU's Peace and Security Council
(PSC)..." I have to emphasize that the politics she talks about is
shrouded in mystery as she does not highlight what particular politics
she is talking about--save the fact that it is understaffed (old
story) at the military level, and "there is no multi-annual budget to
guarantee resources."

On "fighting autocratic trends", we are faced with a crystal-clear
understanding of where she's coming from, and she is more explicit in
this respect when she writes about how the EU "needs to bring
democracy to the forefront of its African agenda, countering AU
timidity and the persistent control of autocratic elites." In short,
the EU is being entreated to co-opt the AU on democratic ideals to
kind of rein it in, and ensure that it becomes more efficient.

In the final analysis, what Barrios is in essence saying is that both
the AU and the EU must be serious about their goals and ideals. The AU
has to be more consistent on countries like Madagascar and Zimbabwe,
and the EU has to be more creative in its future relations with this
52-member bloc. So far, it looks like the regional economic
communities (RECs) will remain a very critical leg upon which a future
could be crafted. It would really now be up to the RECs and the AU to
stress this point the best it can to ensure that a critical and
progressive approach to regional integration is maintained.





labels: african union, european union, AU, EU, comparative approach,
EEAS, Lisbon Treaty