What steps for a shared policy between the European Union and the African Union?

By Domenico Moro

It is well known, in fact, that the world federalists were initially opposed to the European federation, whereas they now look upon it as a fundamental step towards world federation. I would like, however, to start with another event that took place in Montreux: The Congress of the Supranational European Federalist Movement (ex-Union of European Federalists – UEF) that took place in Montreux in April 1964. On that occasion, a federalist minority presented a resolution that, among other things, called for regional federations in what was then called the Third World. This was formulated one year after the signing of the Yaoundé Convention between the then European Economic Community (EEC) and many African countries. The African continent was thus the first continent with respect to which the federalists’ expectations were directed, but Europe at that time did not yet have the strength and competence to support the unification of the African continent, strength and competence that it has today.

I do believe, however, that we need to be more precise about the importance of this relationship, both regarding the policies to be promoted, and with regard to the interlocutor on the African continent with whom we need to engage in dialogue, especially if the EU really wants to support the continent’s path towards its own political unification.

The countries of the African continent have signed many treaties concerning the economic-monetary unification of the continent, but these treaties have never been ratified by all the countries that are part of the African Union – including the most recent treaty concerning the establishment of a free trade area -, and therefore cannot enter into force. The countries that have not ratified the various treaties are those involved in local wars or civil wars. This means – and as the European experience itself proves – internal security and peaceful relations between African states is a decisive condition for the African continent to gradually move towards its own unification. From this point of view, the EU can play an essential role, as shown by the fact that most of the civil and military operations conducted by the EU, almost always under UN mandate, are carried out on the African continent.

As a recent paper by SIPRI (‘EU military training missions: a synthesis report’) recalls, these operations have shown weaknesses, but the report does not highlight what are the political limits of these European initiatives: they intervene by exception, i.e. when problems have already erupted and do not involve the AU as such or even African regional organizations, but above all they are interventions that are not linked to a project shared with the AU and concerning Africa’s economic future. It would therefore be a question of seeing to what long-term project a joint EU-AU security policy can be linked. An important indication comes from the content of the declaration of the finance ministers of African countries following the meeting with the UN Economic Commission for Africa on 1 October 2021 in Addis Ababa.

African ministers seized the opportunity “to call for the establishment of a global price on carbon aligned to the Paris Agreement. African countries contribute the least to global emissions while also safeguarding some of the most important areas of biodiversity which are critical carbon sinks for all humanity. As such African countries should have the opportunity to leverage this critical role to raise financing to be invested in climate resilience and the green recovery to the benefit of their citizens“.

One can therefore think that sustainable development, to be pursued through the carbon pricing mechanism, may be the point on which there can be a strong convergence of interests between the EU and the AU. The EU certainly has an interest in cooperating with the AU to diversify the source of energy supply from fossil sources, but, above all, in financing investments in the renewable energy sector, without which the European goal of the transition to a carbon-free European economy by 2050 is unlikely to be achieved. The AU, for its part, has an interest in investing in the renewable economy sector because, as Brando Benifei MEP, speaking at the Turin conference, held on 22-23 October, entitled “African European Youth Conference (AEYC) – Designing a youth inclusive future for Africans and Europeans“, pointed out, the African continent can be the first continent, on a global scale, to pursue “the goal of its development without the use of energy from fossil sources“. Therefore, the EU and AU could, for instance, start agreeing to introduce a Euro-African “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism”. In such a political-economic framework, a Euro-African understanding for a common security policy could also develop.

For these reasons, as federalists, it was decided to promote a series of meetings, mainly remotely, on the topics of security and sustainable development. During 2022, the first initiatives on the topic of security were launched. In collaboration with the UEF and the WFM, a couple of conferences were promoted, remotely, on the topic of security on the African continent. The first was a webinar, entitled “Towards a comprehensive strategy for Africa: some proposals”, which was held on 9 February this year, shortly before the EU-AU summit held in Brussels. The webinar was organized in cooperation with the UEF, the WFM and the MFE in Turin and was attended by about 40 people.

The second webinar was supposed to be held at the end of last September, but it was then decided to merge it with a similar conference that a group of young people was organizing with the University of Turin. This was the event, mentioned earlier (African European Youth Conference). The event, promoted by the association Youth for Intra-Dialogue on Europe and Africa (Y-IDEA), to which the Centre for Studies on Federalism contributed, was supported by, among others, the European Parliament and the European Commission, and was attended by 250 young people and more than 50 connected remotely, and was therefore a great success. Next year, a webinar on the topic of sustainable development will be promoted, involving representatives of the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament.

To conclude, two observations:

During 2022, on the topic of EU-AU relations, initiatives were launched by the UEF and, on the initiative of JEF Vice-President Juuso Järviniemi, other initiatives with African youth groups. In addition, other young European federalists started the association, mentioned earlier, Youth for Intra-Dialogue on Europe and Africa (Y-IDEA). These initiatives have made it possible to establish collaborative relationships and acquaintanceships with African interlocutors interested in working around the idea of supporting the African continent to take steps towards the establishment of an African federation, as a further step towards the goal of a world federation and the only way to enable African citizens to speak with one voice in a world order undergoing profound change. This widespread interest, I believe, is also a clear manifestation of the fact that the conditions exist for the UEF and WFM to promote a more stringent political initiative on this issue, and that a broader discussion should therefore be opened in this regard.

The second observation concerns the EU’s interest in consolidating relations with Africa. The European Commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, speaking at the conference Med-Dialogues 2022, organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “relations with Mediterranean and African countries for the EU represent the future, so we must have a vision that addresses not only emergencies, such as the food and energy crises, but also strategic investments as a Union and not as individual member states“. This could mean that a political initiative involving Africa – such as the establishment of a Euro-African Maritime Safety Community, or the establishment of a Euro-African border carbon tax, or others – could also enjoy the financial support of European institutions, European governments and foundations, as was the case for the campaign for the International Criminal Court, which was financially supported mainly by the EU.