Africa, an EU strategic partner
The ’objectification’ of Africa and her peoples should be avoided.
Africa is in transition, a mixture of hope and lack of expectations. The initial optimism regarding the social upheavals in the Maghreb is turning to weighty uncertainty. The renewed outbreak of violence in Nigeria (with attacks against several churches and Christians), the aftermath of the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, the continuing instability in the Great Lakes region, the humanitarian emergency in the countries of the Horn of Africa, or the crisis which has gone on for years in Somalia are some examples of painful experiences. But apart from its vast natural reserves, the people with their great openness of heart and spirit are the most prominent African resource.
The EU approach to Africa is also a picture of lights and shadows: it is the biggest donor in the world to Africa; but uses the funds to promote, among other policies, the so-called “reproductive health” agenda (including abortion and sterilization) following the 5th Millennium Development Goal of the UN. The EU is also the biggest trade partner of Africa (in 2009, 36% of total imports to Africa originated in Europe, and 37% of African exports go to Europe); but fairness in the exchanges can be improved. The EU supports its African neighbours depending on their progress in building and consolidating democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law: but unfortunately, here “human rights” include also, same sex marriage; as stated by the United Kingdom Ambassador to Nigeria, who during a meeting with government representatives expressed his opposition to the projected bill banning same-sex marriage, which is supported by Nigerian politicians, civil society, Christians and Muslims.
Since the Africa-EU Summit of 2007 in Lisbon, mutual relations changed as shown by the thematic common partnerships implemented in the current Strategic Action Plan 2011-2013. Nevertheless, political instability, social injustice and unjust distribution of goods and resources among the members of the national and local communities, as well as corruption, lack of the rule of law and even intolerance, discrimination or persecution (for ethnic, political or religious reasons) in some countries, are strong reasons for migration. As Benedict XVI recently highlighted, “migration inside and outside the continent thus becomes a complex drama, which seriously affects Africa’s human capital, leading to the destabilization or destruction of families.” The scale of this movement, which affects every country, reveals the hidden magnitude of the different types of poverty brought about by deficiencies in public administration. On the other hand, the legal recognition of a common citizenship – even at the constitutional level - and the full respect for religious freedom that religious minorities are entitled to, are key aspects for social peace in Africa.
A better joint governance of migration and mobility within a development perspective by the EU institutions and Member States and the African States of origin and transit is a common interest. This includes visa facilitation, a reasonable return and readmission policy, facilitating circular migration, and implementing a fair and balanced family reunification system. The fight against trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, and the due protection of asylum seekers have to be part of the EU’s concern.
EU societies and States can also take further concrete initiatives: empowering Diaspora organizations; facilitating the portability of pensions; promoting rural banking services for remittances from migrants to their families in the countries of destination; further mobility of students, researchers, teachers and other professionals; avoiding a brain drain (e.g., in the implementation of the blue card) through, for example, transferring knowledge to Africa and practising ethical recruitment standards, especially in sensitive sectors such as that of health.
True development cooperation will help Africa in its transition to modernity guided by sure criteria based on the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life. All of these values exist in the context of the common good which must take first place, and which must constitute the primary concern of all in positions of responsibility.
José Luis Bazán