By Javier Solana
The European Union and China need to work more closely together in Africa in 2007. We have both made important commitments to our African partners, but much still remains to be done to deliver these commitments effectively.
Africa is on the move, diversifying economically. It is also enjoying substantial growth rates after years of stagnation and crises.
A new generation of African leaders is under way to truly integrate African societies in the world economy and to ensure the political place Africa deserves. Democracy is gaining ground and the number of armed conflicts in Africa is diminishing. We are coming closer to the point where vicious circles of instability, poverty and war turn into a virtuous circle of growth and stability.
The EU and China have both responsibility and interest in cooperating more closely in fostering these developments, supporting peace, security and development. We are both already active. But we can achieve even more if we are pulling together in support of agreed objectives.
For this reason, I warmly welcome the agreement at the most recent EU-China Summit in Finland in September last year to establish a regular senior official-level dialog on Africa. To be more effective we need better understanding of what we each are doing, of the policies and programs we each are pursuing, not least to ensure that our efforts do not cut across each other as they sometimes have in the past.
Even before this decision, our Africa experts had already met informally, but it is important for us both that such a dialog is taken forward, and I am keen that the first such meeting take place early in this new year.
There is already of course a significant framework of international commitments to guide our action and cooperation. Both China and the EU are committed to the achievement of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, which are supplemented by the principles in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
Working with African partners, we are making progress on poverty reduction and sustainable development, underpinned by peace and security, human rights, good governance, democracy and sound economic management. There has been African ownership and control of this process since the beginning this is essential to success and is a fundamental principle of our engagement.
On this basis, the EU committed itself in November 2005 to a clear and ambitious strategy for partnership with Africa, in parallel with a commitment to substantially increase aid and to promote debt cancellation.
This strategy highlighted the importance of peace and security, good governance, trade and regional integration for growth, support for improvements in African infrastructure, assistance in the fight against AIDS, increased funding for health and education and stressing the importance of African ownership.
In delivery of this strategy, the EU has intensified its dialog and partnership with Africa, most notably with the African Union, and has begun to prepare a joint EU/Africa strategy this underlining once again the importance of African ownership which should be adopted at the second EU-Africa Summit in the second half of 2007 in Lisbon.
The European Commission has taken the strategy as the basis for its programming of relevant aid instruments, which includes allocating about €20 billion (US$25.8 billion) to sub-Saharan Africa from the 10th European Development Fund between 2008 and 2013.
In the field of peace and security, the EU has allocated €350 million (US$452 million) to the African Peace Facility available for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, in line with a new EU concept for strengthening African capabilities in these areas.
The EU has also given some €240 million(US$310 million) in support of the AU Mission in Sudan, and allocated some €2.7 billion (US$3.5 billion) between 2008 and 2013 to support good governance globally. Finally, €5.6 billion (US$7.2 billion) has been allocated in 2008-13 to support the proposed EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure.
The EU recognizes and welcomes the significant bilateral commitments made by China in parallel to Africa, most recently at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit which took place in Beijing in November 2006. There is close and positive correlation on a number of points between EU and Chinese strategies.
Increased economic cooperation and trade should have significant benefits for Africa, and the commitment to double Chinese aid to Africa by 2009 is welcome, together with commitments on debt cancellation and tariff reductions and the high priority given to environmental protection and sustainable development.
The EU recognizes the importance of China as an emerging donor and will continue to work to support effective integration of China into the international donor community, working together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to implement the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.
As concrete manifestations of our commitment, both China and Africa are closely engaged with our African partners in helping to resolve crisis situations on the continent. EU and Chinese soldiers and experts have been deployed in support of UN and African-led missions, most recently in Sudan (Darfur) and Congo.
The EU and its member states, together with China, have also played a key role in leading the international response to these and other African issues, most importantly in the United Nations. China's place in the Security Council gives it significant influence as well as responsibilities, and I welcome the role it has played in seeking resolution of crisis situations in Africa.
For the EU it is essential to empower and enable our African partners to resolve these and other crises themselves. This is what Africa wants and therefore what we want too. It is welcome and important that China shares this aim.
The strengthening of the institutions and capabilities of the African Union is of critical importance and, as can be seen from the above, the EU has made a significant political and financial commitment to deliver this objective, including through the funding we are now providing through our African Peace Facility.
I welcome President Hu's commitment at the November FOCAC summit to strengthen China's cooperation with the AU and to support the AU's leading role in resolving African crisis situations.
Africa is an important focus for the EU's comprehensive strategic partnership with China. The EU and China are both committed to helping deliver peace, stability, development, prosperity and good governance in Africa. I look forward to working ever more closely with my Chinese colleagues in helping to address these important challenges, in partnership with Africa.
The author is High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union. This article was originally published in English in China Review and in Chinese in China Youth Daily. It is reprinted in agreement with Javier Solana, China Review and China Youth Daily.
(China Daily February 7, 2007)