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EU Africa Foreign Policy after Lisbon


This seminar is part of a two-years research project on “Ensuring peace and security in Africa: Implementing a new EU-Africa partnership” launched in 2009 by the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Chatham House, and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. The aim of the research is to assess the main developments of the Africa-EU relationship on peace and security issues against a number of parameters: comprehensiveness of the EU Africa security policy; coherence; partnership; and ownership. The overall objective is to offer a contribution in terms of policy recommendations and analysis, in order to strengthen the EU – Africa partnership.

Two conferences have already been conducted in 2009 (http://www.iai.it/pdf/Convegni/Africa-EU_091007-9.pdf) and 2010 (http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/events/view/-/id/1716/). A publication with contributions from the three leading institutions and African experts has also been produced (http://www.iai.it/pdf/Quaderni/Quaderni_E_17_selection.pdf). The present seminar will conclude the project’s conference cycle, in addressing the challenges of EU foreign policy in Africa after the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty.

Lisbon and its consequences for the setting of Africa – EU relationships

The EU is still in a transitional period following the Lisbon Treaty. One of main purposes of Lisbon treaty is to enhance the coherence of EU’s external action by gathering all available instruments at the service of diplomatic objectives. Major organizational and institutional innovations have taken place. While new tools have been created, competencies in foreign policy have also been redistributed between the various agencies and actors of the EU. These innovations will create new opportunities for developing the EU into a fully-fledged international actor, while shaping a new diplomatic profile for the EU in the coming years. The installation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in particular will most likely have a strong and long term impact on EU’s relations with the African continent, regional organisations and States.

Until the implementation of the Lisbon treaty, Europe was represented in Africa by its EC delegations and the Member States. The division of labor between the Council and the Commission was relatively clear and it now has to be reinvented in a post-Lisbon environment characterized by: the presidency role of the EEAS over EU external action on the one hand, and structural turnarounds on the other (transformation of delegations into EU representation bodies; revised role of EUSRs; technical innovations aiming at an enhanced sharing of information). In Tripoli last November, African and European chiefs of state and government adopted their second action plan to implement their Joint Strategy. During the summit, the question of EU’s political representation and its consequences for the AU-EU partnerships were raised. On a strategic level, the EU-Africa relationships will require a reinvigoration of political leadership, in sound coordination with bilateral initiatives (such as the Francophonie or the Commonwealth Summits) that also have a strong impact. One of the challenges for the EU is to move beyond the monopoly of historical linkages between some Member States and African countries and to find pragmatic burden sharing formats. The bilateral relationships between influential EU Member States and African countries have not always allowed for a proper and coherent EU foreign policy to take place in Africa. The EU still does not have a clear definition of its interests in Africa. As a result, the EU has sometimes been perceived as lacking credibility and consistency, in spite of being the largest trade and aid partner in Africa.

Coordination and cooperation issues: enhancing the coherence of EU foreign policy in Africa

Coordination and cooperation issues within EU bodies, and between the EU and its Member States will remain central. De facto, the creation of these new tools of action raises numerous inter-institutional challenges. As a merger between the Commission and Council, the EEAS can be a good leverage for the EU external influence, provided it can fulfill its coordination and facilitation role between the various organisms in charge of the European foreign policy on the one hand, and Member States on the other hand. In addition with “traditional” national interests and agendas, professional and cultural issues should not be underestimated, since various departments, agencies or ministries do not necessarily share the same views on foreign policy or security issues.


The integration of development aid and cooperation within the EEAS has for instance raised serious concerns among the development actors (NGOs, think tanks) community. They fear that the integration of the development agenda within the broader framework of external action might end up in the submission of the former to foreign and security policy objectives. The risk of a lack of coordination and fragmentation should not be neglected. One of the challenges for the EEAS will be to find a balance between overarching and underperforming, and to conciliate or negotiate the scope of its own work with continuous Member States African policies.


In the year 2011, Africa is already facing serious challenges in terms of democratic transition / consolidation, with electoral processes planned in major countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and DRC, and potential knock-on effects of recent transformations in North Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, the recent events in Côte d’Ivoire demonstrated the fragility of so called “post-conflict” societies, despite a strong international – and EU – support for the elections. Key security issues are still undermining parts of the continent stability, while being directly linked to security EU interests (Sahel, Horn of Africa). Meanwhile, Africa’s geopolitical importance has been rising, as shown by the growing interest of powers like Brazil, India and China for the continent. African elites have also demonstrated their willingness to engage with these new partners. In Tripoli last November, African and European Heads of State and government adopted their second action plan (2011-2013) to implement their Joint Strategy. During the Summit, the question of EU’s political representation and its consequences for the AU-EU partnerships were raised.


Within this context, the EU reformed institutions are likely to set a new agenda for EU’s Africa Foreign Policy, and is likely to rejuvenate the intercontinental dialogue. The treaty raises some new questions: How has EU been engaging with Africa in the post-Lisbon context? What lessons can already be drawn after almost a year of implementation? How are EU regional strategies designed and implemented in a post-Lisbon environment? Will the EU increasingly speak with one voice in Africa and will policy coherence towards the continent be enhanced?



The seminar will address these issues through the examination of concrete case studies (country and regional specific, as well as thematic policies). It will adopt two complementary approaches[1]:

  • The current and future concrete working modes of EU foreign policy actors.
  • Concrete case studies of EU’s engagement in specific African regions, countries and crises on the basis of existing and to-be-adopted strategies and policies.

4 cross cutting issues will be dealt with in each case study:

  1. EU Coordination both at an inter-institutional level (within Brussels organizations) and between the EU delegations / representations and Brussels bodies
  2. Priorities and interests articulated in EEAS policies between Member States’
  3. Relevance of regional (AU) and sub-regional (RECs) frameworks for the EU Africa foreign policy
  4. Engagement with other international actors (US, BRIC, Canada, Turkey) and organizations (UN, Arab League, OIC)

The seminar will be held on the 18 October 2011. It will be organized in partnership with Chatham House and IAI, and within the framework of the Observatoire de l’Afrique. Working languages will be French and English (without translation).




08.00 – 08.30


08.30 – 09.00

Welcoming Address

1.      Álvaro de Vasconcelos, EUISS Director

2.      Damien Helly, EUISS


09.00 – 09.30

Opening Address

3.      Nicholas Wescott, Managing Director for Africa, EAS

4.      AU representative (tbc)


09.30 – 11.00

Session I. EU regional strategies: Sahel  and beyond

5.      Chair: Alex Vines, Chatham House


6.      Manuel Lopez Blanco, Director for West and Central Africa, EEAS

7.      Massaer Diallo, Institut d’Etudes Politiques et Stratégiques (Dakar)

8.      Alain Antil, IFRI (Paris)

9.      Discussant: Mr Damien Helly, EUISS (Paris)


11.00 – 11.30

Coffee break


11.30 – 13.00

Session II. Engaging with African emerging regional players: Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia

10.  Chair: Geert Laporte, ECDPM


11.  Daniel  BACH, CNRS (Bordeaux)

12.  Elizabeth Sideropoulos, SAIIA (Pretoria)

13.  Andebrhan W. Giorgis, Revival Africa Initiative (Brussels)

14.  Discussant:

13.00 –14.30



14.30 –16 .00

Session III. Democracy promotion beyond elections: DRC, Zimbabwe and Kenya

15.  Chair: Denis Tull, SWP (Berlin)


16.  Koen Vlassenroot, Egmont Institute (Brussels)

17.  Daniel Compagnon, Centre Emile Durkheim (Bordeaux)

18.  Binaifer Nowrojee, OSI (Nairobi)

19.  Discussant Paul-Simon Handy, ISS (Pretoria)


16.00 – 16.30

Coffee break

16.30 –18 .00

Session IV. Crisis Response and Lessons Learned: the cases of Ivory Coast and Somalia

20.  Chair: Walter Stevens, CMPD


21.  Christina Barrios, FRIDE (Madrid)

22.  Gilles Yabi, ICG (Dakar)

23.  Sally Healy, Chatham House (London)

24.  Discussant: Nicoletta Pirrozzi, IAI (Roma)


18.00 – 18.15


25.  Damien Helly, EUISS

26.  Alex Vines, Chatham House

27.  Gianni Bonvicini, IAI


[1] Although of a great interest and importance, the EU trade policies with Africa will not be addressed in this  seminar, since trade remains outside the scope of the EEAS and would deserve a seminar in itself.