Trilateral cooperation key to successful foreign policy

#CriticalThinking

Picture of José Costa Pereira
José Costa Pereira

Policy and Communication Advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) Directorate for Africa

José Costa Pereira is Policy and Communication Advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) Directorate for Africa

The current state of our global world has increased the need for co-operation amongst those who believe in multilateral governance based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, with the United Nations at its core.

While some pundits foresaw the end of history more than 20 years ago, they underestimated the strength of those who still defend a relation between peoples and nations based on the classic notion of relative power ‒ military and economic in particular. Mid-nineties utopian visions of the future are now challenged by multiple threats, including non-state ones like terrorism, organised crime, piracy and climate change.

History never repeats itself ‒ contrary to popular belief – but lessons can be taken from the past. One is that those who respect democratic principles and a space for individual freedoms have to work together to support a rules-based global order.

Those who respect democratic principles and a space for individual freedoms have to work together

Africa, Japan and the European Union share values and principles that are convergent, and there is reason to believe that the increased acknowledgment of sticking together in the definition of foreign policy will bring benefits for all concerned. From the European side, the recently endorsed EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy which states that the EU “…will work with core partners, like-minded countries and regional groupings”, is a guiding principle of its foreign policy. In other words, we have an interest in forging alliances with other actors wanting to thread similar paths and defend a conception of the world that in our view will ensure the security and prosperity of the citizens. Both ours and theirs.

Africa is our neighbour, and what happens in the vast continent will impact the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Geographic proximity, historical links, economic interests, shared languages and expressive diaspora communities are all part of a process bonding us in a way that justifies a strong partnership. The Cotonou agreement and the Joint Africa-EU Strategic Partnership are instruments that codify our relationship and offer a platform for deepening and strengthening it. The Cotonou agreement, which is nearing the end of its life, will be renegotiated to achieve a new agreement in two years’ time, hopefully solidifying a relationship that goes beyond development and trade and that also assumes a political dimension already visible in our relationship with Africa.

The absence of a secure environment in some parts of the African continent remains an issue that needs to be tackled: by the Africans, first and foremost. However, that does not exclude contributions from those who share a stake in creating conditions to solve problems. The EU has been at the forefront in supporting the African Peace and Security Architecture. Our contributions through the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and training programmes, or through the African Peace Facility highlight the importance we attach to implementing a safer environment. Our efforts should be seen more holistically, however. Assessing root causes of conflict is as important, if not more, than dealing with its consequences. What we do to alleviate poverty, to support good governance, to contribute to credible elections and to provide infra-structures are all part of an integrated approach that Europe can take to help to build a more prosperous and resilient Africa.

Africa, Japan and the European Union share values and principles that are convergent

Nevertheless, we do not presume that Europe has a privileged position vis-à-vis other actors also present in Africa. To give some examples, we are working very closely with the UN ‒ we expect to soon sign a protocol with the African Union that will improve trilateral co-operation ‒, we discuss systematically with the United States, we have a permanent dialogue with China and we are very willing to establish a closer relationship with Japan. Tokyo has already been able to create a strong framework process of relating with Africa through the TICAD meetings, and the city is more present on the ground through its civil engineering training facility in Kenya that supports the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and through the Japanese Self-defence Force’s base in Djibouti.

Conditions are thus ripe to possible joint efforts with the EU in several areas: joint training of security forces, joint demarches on governance and contributions to financial instruments are some possibilities that come to mind. The two sides can then pursue to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the co-operation Africa still needs from its friends.

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