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The Prospects for the Future of European Union–African Union Relations in Uncertain Times

  • Conrad Rein (a1)


The importance of Africa for Europe was highlighted in the 1950 Schuman Declaration. Although the overarching framework for relations between the European Union and Africa is embedded in the 2000 Cotonou Agreement, cooperation between the European Union and Africa became increasingly institutionalized through the European Union–Africa Summits of 2000, 2007, 2010 and 2014, during which political leaders from both sides made strong rhetorical commitments to a strategic partnership. Yet, for the wider public, the relationship between the European Union and Africa appears to be both obscure and complex. The fifth European Union–Africa Summit is scheduled to take place in Ivory Coast in November 2017. This article will provide an overview of the development of European Union–Africa relations that coincided with the emergence of the African Union, the successor of the Organisation of African Unity. The so-called ‘strategic partnership’ between the European Union and the African Union represents the most comprehensive partnership the African Union has with any non-African actor. By highlighting current challenges affecting both, such as irregular migration, this article will, however, demonstrate that cooperation between the two is limited and somewhat lacking in strategic direction.


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1.The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
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16.Established with Decision 2003/3 of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP)-EC Council of Ministers).
17.According to the International Organisation for Migration, irregular migration refers to: movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving countries. There is no clear or universally accepted definition of irregular migration. From the perspective of destination countries it is entry, stay or work in a country without the necessary authorisation or documents required under immigration regulations. From the perspective of the sending country, the irregularity is for example seen in cases in which a person crosses an international boundary without a valid passport or travel document or does not fulfil the administrative requirements for leaving the country. There is, however, a tendency to restrict the use of the term ‘illegal migration’ to cases of smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.
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19.Sahel/Lake Chad: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal; Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; North of Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.
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21. European Commission (2016) Proposal for a New European Consensus on Development Our World, our Dignity, our Future. COM(2016) 740 final (Brussels, European Commission).


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