The European Union's partnership with the African Union is just three years old. At a summit in Tripoli, country leaders and delegates took stock of the progress made and the steps needed in the future.
Westerwelle wants to focus on the root of problems in Africa
Three years after their first commitment to work together, the European Union and the African Union held a two-day summit in Tripoli, Libya on Monday and Tuesday. Topping the agenda were the financial crisis, climate change and security.
"Africa has huge potential," said Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. "Both continents face serious economic crisis. We can achieve much together."
At the end of the summit, delegates agreed to an action plan that is meant to bring progress in economic development and reduce poverty in Africa over the next three years. The plan also addresses the various security challenges faced by the continent. The stated goal: an Africa that is capable of solving its own conflicts, prospers economically and speaks with one voice. Europe also pledged to support Africa in its efforts to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Both sides said they wanted to step up their efforts to promote faster economic development in Africa. In his address to the gathering, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned, however, that economic prosperity could only come about through security, and that long-term security could only be achieved under constitutional states that protect the human rights of their citizens.
He added that countries like Somalia and Sudan show that failed states, authoritarian governments, wars and violence all threaten the security of the entire continent, and had consequences for Europe as well.
Test case: Southern Sudan
Separation or unity? Voters in Sudan are set to decide
That's why Germany would be paying such close attention to the referendum on the independence of southern Sudan, Westerwelle said.
"Peaceful conduct of the referendum and honest results would benefit the whole region," he said, pledging that Germany would support both the north and the south of the country if the vote leads to an independent southern Sudan.
For Westerwelle, piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa is an example of how Africa and Europe increasingly have the same interests when it comes to global challenges. Another example is immigration, he said, through which Africa has lost so many skilled workers.
Westerwelle rejected the call from Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi for an additional five billion euros in aid to stem the migration tide. In addition to securing Europe's borders, the German foreign minister told the audience they must fight the root causes of this exodus: poverty, war and the lack of opportunities in Africa. "That is why Europe and Germany are so committed to this partnership and economic and social development in Africa," he said.
The "Tripoli Declaration," the final document approved at the summit, identified Sudan and Somali as key area to focus on for Europe and Africa. "We aim to continue working towards resolving regional crises in Africa, specifically in Sudan and Somalia."
A long-term partnership
According to Westerwelle, Europe is looking for "a long-term partnership" with Africa. Europe would be patient with Africa, he said, but also expected a deepening cooperation over time. Africa still has much of its economic development ahead of it, Westerwelle said, making Africa a continent of opportunity. "We want to be there when this continent develops economically," Westerwelle said at the close of the summit.
Author: Ute Schaeffer, Tripoli / hf
Editor: Joanna Impey