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ECR Group endorses EU-Africa partnership

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The ECR Group in the European Parliament believes that strengthening the bonds and economic co-operation between the European Union and Africa is of the utmost importance and to the benefit of both sides. Helping Africa in their development could win the EU a gigantic, new trading partner and could reduce the migration pressure anticipated for the future. Last, but no less important, are international security concerns. In pursuit of global security, the EU should act to prevent Africa from becoming a forecourt of Russia or China.

In the debate ahead of today’s adoption of Parliament’s own initiative report on a new EU-Africa Strategy, ECR Foreign Affairs Coordinator Anna Fotyga, who had drafted the opinion of the Foreign Affairs Committee, pushed for moving beyond the donor-beneficiary relationship by highlighting the impact of the growing presence of China and Russia on the continent.

Anna Fotyga said: “We must remain strategically engaged, conducting dialogue with the people of Africa.

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“The European Parliament rightly calls on the EU to develop a strategic and long-term response to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The EU's involvement in Africa is much more valuable and constructive than any actions of our rivals – China and Russia, who mostly try to increase their spheres of influence.”

ECR Shadow Rapporteur Beata Kempa said: “Europe today shows that it is a real ally of Africa. I believe this is the right time to attempt to evaluate our engagement in this region, and to discuss the directions and possibilities for change.

“The European Union should help Africa to develop socially, to improve digitally, to foster investment, economic growth and sustainable development, as well as to redistribute its wealth more fairly.

“It is time to invest in Africa’s youth, its human capital, to allow young Africans to pursue their dreams where they were born.”

Kempa also stressed that the largest challenge is Africa’s health sector, that is in need of support. According to Kempa, this challenge should be tackled in cooperation with international institutions. In this context, she referred to the COVAX vaccine distribution program.

The Report has been adopted with 460 votes in favour, 64 against and 163 abstentions.

Africa

Tunisia crisis underscores risks of European push for democratization in northern Africa

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While the European Union and the United Nations struggle to keep Libya’s transition to elections on track, the dramatic events unfolding next door in Tunisia have raised the spectre of upheaval and instability in yet another North African member of the European neighbourhood. In a series of moves that leaves the Arab Spring’s only success story at risk of backsliding into authoritarianism, Tunisia’s populist president Kais Saied (pictured) has disbanded the rest of the country’s government and granted himself emergency powers under the terms of the country’s 2014 constitution, writes Louis Auge.

In addition to disbanding Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending the highly fractious national parliament, within which Rachid Ghannouchi’s Islamist Ennahda party represented the largest group, Saied has also shuttered the offices of al-Jazeera and removed multiple top officials, all as Tunisian foreign minister Othman Jerandi seeks to reassure EU counterparts that his country’s democratic transition is still on track.

Fledging Tunisian institutions fall flat on COVID and the economy

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Kais Saied’s power grab has understandably provoked outrage among his Islamist political opponents, but his dismissal of Prime Minister Mechichi and his dissolution of parliament were also the central demands of nationwide protests in Tunisia over the past several days. As Tunisia lurches through Africa’s most lethal COVID epidemic, a growing cross-section of Tunisian society is losing faith in the ability of the country’s deadlocked political institutions to address widespread joblessness, corruption, and endless economic crisis.

Between Tunisia and Libya, the EU finds itself face to face with both the best case and worst-case outcomes of the Arab Spring, each presenting its own challenges for European foreign policy in North Africa and the Sahel. Despite the supposed success of its transition, the number of Tunisians who traversed the Mediterranean to reach European shores increased fivefold as their elected officials brawled on the floor of the Assembly in Tunis last year.

The experience has made European leaders understandably wary of pushing other countries in the region towards overly hasty political transitions, as demonstrated by the French and European handling of the situation in Chad since the battlefield death of President Idriss Déby three months ago. When the tenuous stability of multiple countries could be at play, decision makers in Brussels and the European capitals have proven more patient with transitional African counterparts of late.

Prioritising stability in Chad

The news of President Déby’s death this past April immediately, if only briefly, threw the future of French and European policy in Africa’s Sahel region into question. Under its former leader, Chad emerged as France’s most active and reliable ally in a region overrun by jihadist groups taking advantage of weak governance in countries like Mali to carve out territory for themselves. Chadian troops have been deployed alongside French forces against jihadists in Mali itself, and have borne the brunt of operations against Boko Haram in the region surrounding Lake Chad.

A breakdown in government authority in N'Djamena along the lines of the collapse seen in Mali would have been catastrophic for European foreign policy and security priorities in the Sahel region. Instead, the country’s immediate stability has been ensured by an acting government headed by the late president’s son Mahamat. In a sign of the country’s importance to European interests, both French president Emmanuel Macron and EU High Representative Josep Borrell attended the late president’s funeral on April 23rd.

Since then, Macron has welcomed Mahamat to Paris in his role as head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council (TMC), both to discuss Chad’s 18-month transitional period to elections and to define the parameters of the two countries’ joint fight against jihadism in the Sahel. While France’s long-running Operation Barkhane is set to wind down between now and the first part of next year, its objectives will shift to the shoulders of the French-led Takuba European task force and to the G5-Sahel – a regional security partnership of which Chad has proven to be the most effective member.

Delicate balancing acts

While the TMC has ensured the continued stability of Chad’s central government in the short term, regional security challenges help explain why neither the EU nor the African Union (AU) are pushing the country’s interim authorities too hard on speedy elections. The transition to civilian rule is already under way, with PM Albert Pahimi Padacké forming a new government this past May. Next steps include the appointment of a national transitional council (NTC), a national dialogue bringing together both opposition and pro-government forces, and a constitutional referendum.

As they navigate the next stages of the transition, actors both within and outside of Chad could look next door to Sudan for lessons on how to move forward. Despite the fact more than two years have already passed since the overthrow of longtime president and alleged war criminal Omar al-Bashir, Sudan will not be holding elections to replace Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok’s transitional government until 2024.

At a major conference held in Paris and hosted by President Macron this past May, Sudan’s European partners and creditors made clear they understood the long time horizon was necessary for Hamdok and other post-revolutionary leaders in Khartoum to focus on the urgent problems facing post-Bashir Sudan. Alongside an economic crisis that makes even basic commodities hard to come by, Sudan is also juggling tens of billions of dollars in external debt and a “deep state” of officials loyal to the deposed president. In an endorsement of the transition’s progress thus far, Hamdok came out of the conference with a pledge from IMF members to clear the arrears Sudan owns them, while Macron also insisted France supported clearing the $5 billion Khartoum owes Paris as well.

If N'Djamena and Khartoum can navigate their perilous transitions to democratic governance in the face of “staggering” challenges, Chad and Sudan could jointly revive hopes for Arab democracy in both European and Middle Eastern capitals – even if the last flame of the original Arab Spring appears to be flickering out in Tunisia.

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Libya

A Documentary about Libya: Another Bogus Story?

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The British state broadcaster and news agency BBC sent an inquiry to the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) with announcement of its intention to make a documentary about the fate of Libyan citizens. The description of the project states that the film will feature serious human rights violations which were allegedly documented during the fighting in the Tripoli`s vicinity.

The BBC editors wanted to find out from Prigozhin what role Russians play in the life of the North African country. Representatives of the British state media noted that they would probably refer to Prigozhin`s comment in their research.

The press service of the Concord Catering company, headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, published the entrepreneur`s response.

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He reminded foreign journalists that the US authorities plunged the North African republic into civil war when they killed Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and filled the country with extremists and terrorists. The latter are even integrated into the power structures of Libya. Moscow, unlike Washington, helps residents of other countries, according to the businessman.

Prigozhin also suggested that BBC staff should ask for comments from the Russian Anti-Repression Foundation if this media wants to learn more about human rights violations by Washington and its allies.

“I have not heard anything about the violation of human rights in Libya by the Russians and I am sure that this is an absolute lie. But if you want a detailed list of such violations by the United States and its allies around the world, then I recommend that you contact the Anti-Repression Foundation for more detailed comments. Or Maksim Shugaley who was thrown into the Mitiga prison in Libya without trial or investigation, where he survived deprivation and torture and who knows more than anyone else about the violation of human rights in this country. My advice to you is to operate with facts, not your Russophobic sentiments,” the businessman told the BBC journalists.

According to the press office of the Concord Catering, the company has repeatedly published explanations on a number of submitted issues. In particular, they reported that Yevgeny Prigozhin has nothing to do with those Russian citizens who were allegedly participating in hostilities on the territory of Libya. Among the unfounded accusations, there is also an allegation that the Russian businessman is connected to the Euro-Polis LLC, which, according to rumors, is a company supplying military equipment to Libya. The press office denies all allegations related to connection of Prigozhin with the Libyan conflict stating that catering and the supply of arms are unrelated businesses.

The press service of Concord Catering also mentioned that the BBC is not the first media which sends the same type of questions. Many other international media holdings have been engaged in the replication of rumors.

It is noteworthy that earlier the British Independent Press Standards Organization upheld a complaint by Prigozhin`s against the Daily Telegraph for spreading false information about the situation in Libya.

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Africa

EU and Republic of Kenya launch strategic dialogue and engage towards implementing the East African Community Economic Partnership Agreement

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The European Commission has welcomed the launch of the Strategic Dialogue between the European Union and the Republic of Kenya, and the strengthening of multilateral partnership between EU and the East African Community (EAC) region. In the context of the visit of president of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis met Adan Mohamed, cabinet secretary for East African Community and regional development. Both sides agreed to engage towards implementing bilaterally the trade and the economic and development cooperation provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the East African Community.

Executive Vice President Dombrovskis (pictured) said: “I welcome Kenya's efforts and leadership in the region. It is one of EU's most important trade partners in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Chair of the East Africa Community. The recent decision of the EAC Summit allows EAC members to implement the regional EPA bilaterally with the EU, based on a principle of ‘variable geometry'. The EU will now engage with Kenya - which has already signed and ratified the regional EPA - on the modalities towards its implementation. The EPA is an important trade and development tool and its implementation with Kenya would be a building block towards regional economic integration. We encourage other members of the East African Community to sign and ratify the EPA.”

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, who exchanged with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo added: “I welcome the new impetus to the EU-Kenya bilateral relationship with agreement on the launch of the strategic dialogue together with a renewed engagement with the East African Community. This will create a dialogue focusing on common policy aims and real benefits for all involved. We will immediately begin work on a roadmap to implement the strategic dialogue. We are committed to accompany the country's ambitious green transition, job creation and digitalisation efforts. In addition, investing in People, in education or health, will be paramount to build resilience and help tackle COVID-19 challenges and we are working intensively on Team Europe initiatives to support small and medium enterprises and pharmaceutical industries in Africa to complement the efforts at country level.”

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More information is available in the press release.

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