The EU-Africa Heads of State Summit, held in Lisbon in on December 8-9, under the Portuguese EU Presidency, constituted an important opportunity for Africa and Europe to strengthen their political and economic relations. This revision is particularly important in light of a changing global geo-political landscape, with a need for the European Union and Africa to take into account changing global realities, new partnerships and good practices.
The political-economic climates on both continents have changed substantially in recent years. Africa, for example, has undergone significant political developments on both the continental and regional levels. It is at its most stable and democratic since independence in the 1960s (in spite of a few exceptions) and the creation of the AU and NEPAD in 2002 has provided the impetus for the development of a new set of initiatives and policies to govern the relationship between the two continents.
Within the EU context there have also been obvious shifts in the political and economic landscape with the expansion of the Union to 27 member states. The EU has expanded its range of foreign policy capabilities and its willingness to utilise them. This has had a profound effect on how the EU views its responsibilities as an international actor. The organisation’s rapidly developing Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and ESDP are increasingly affecting the EU’s policies and approach in Africa (notably with the planned EUFOR mission to Chad and the Central African Republic).
But it is also increasingly apparent that if the EU wants to remain a privileged partner of Africa it must be willing to reinforce and reinvent its current relationship with the continent on all levels – institutionally, politically and culturally - given the emergence of other actors such as China and India on the African scene.