Image via WikipediaA special Eurobarometer on EU-Africa relations published ahead of the EU-Africa Summit in Libya on 29/30 November shows that European citizens broadly agree with the focus of cooperation between the two partners. For Europeans, the main challenges for cooperation are to tackle poverty (38%), peace and security (34%), and human rights (33%). This focus is consistent with the primary EU development policy goal of eradicating poverty, as laid out in the Lisbon Treaty and reflected in the Commission’s recent Green Paper on “EU Development Policy in Support of Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development”.
European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs said: “Achieving the Millennium Development Goals and overcoming poverty remain at the heart of Europe’s partnership with Africa. I am encouraged to see that this is also a priority for citizens across Europe. Earlier this month, the European Commission has presented proposals on how to consolidate our relationship, by adding strength to it and focusing on inclusive and sustainable growth in the long term. The Summit in Tripoli will be an excellent occasion to discuss ways of how to improve our cooperation in this respect.”
This Eurobarometer “EU and Africa – Working towards closer partnership” looks at how Europeans perceive relations between the two continents. 34% of Europeans think that Africa will become a more important partner for Europe over the next decade, whereas 42% believe that the relationship will remain the same. The results vary significantly between the EU countries. In Sweden, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Slovenia and Portugal most respondents thought that Africa’s importance as a partner would increase. Lack of information remains a challenge in the whole of Europe as almost 15% of the public do not have a precise opinion about the EU-Africa relationship. Since the EU-Africa Summit in 2007, the focus of relations has moved from a simple donor-recipient approach towards a true partnership where problems are tackled together, reflecting the interests of both parties.
Different trends can be observed in EU15 and EU12. The latter tended to mention poverty and hunger first, while the former attributed greater importance to democracy and good governance in EU-Africa cooperation.
Furthermore, Europeans do not see migration as an area of major importance despite relatively high media coverage of illegal immigration issues, particularly in Southern Europe. Although respondents in Spain (11%) and Malta (18%) do attach significantly higher levels of importance to this issue than the average European (6%), migration is, on average, still seen as less important than poverty and human rights.
Europeans’ positive images of Africa largely revolve around the continent’s natural beauty (28%) and wildlife (24%). 41% of Europeans associate Africa with other positive issues such as arts, lively markets, technological innovations and sporting successes. Among these traditional images of Africa, one in ten Europeans cited technology and economy-related positive images of the continent, which reflects progress in key areas targeted by the EU-Africa partnership.
The European Commission fosters these growing alternatives to traditional perceptions at a political level in its Communication on consolidating Africa-EU relations (published on 10 November): it pushes for EU-African cooperation that prioritises an environment conducive to investment, trade and job creation. These issues will be further addressed during the 3rd EU-Africa Summit in Tripoli, under its overarching theme of “Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation”. The summit will aim to take cooperation between the two continents to a new, more ambitious level and foster growth and employment on both continents, to the benefit of people in Europe and Africa alike.
In 2007, 80 Heads of States and Government from Europe and Africa launched the Joint Africa EU Strategic Partnership to pursue common interests and strategic objectives together, beyond the focus of traditional development policy. The EU-Africa Partnership is the only continent-to-continent strategic partnership that the EU has. Eight thematic partnerships ensure the operational follow-up: Peace and security , Democratic governance and human rights, Trade, regional integration and infrastructure, Millennium development goals (MDGs), Energy, Climate change, Migration, mobility and employment, Science, information society and space