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SA, EU hope to finalise partnership action plan during German presidency

Creamer Media’s Engineering News | 24 January 2007

SA, EU hope to finalise partnership action plan during German presidency

The finalisation of a joint action-plan for the establishment of a so-called ’Strategic Partnership’ between South Africa and the European Union (EU) - proposed by the EU last year - would be prioritised during Germany’s Presidency of the EU, which runs from January to the end of June.

The action plan would seek to translate the proposed strategic partnership into a number of concrete operational elements, ranging from economic and trade cooperation, through to environmental protection and security and defence.

Speaking on Germany’s approach to its dual presidency mandate of the EU and the G8 during 2007, Germany’s ambassador to South Africa, Harro Adt, said Africa and South Africa remain key focus areas. This despite the fact that security in Eastern Europe and the Middle East were identified as important foreign policy objectives for Germany’s six-month term.

In an address to the South African Institute of International Affairs on Tuesday, Adt said that the EU and South Africa had committed themselves to a “Strategic Partnership that builds on existing relations in order to strengthen and add value to them and to support the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Southern African Development Community integration process”.

“During our presidency we will work together to develop a joint-action plan to foster the implementation of the Strategic Partnership,” he added.

Adt revealed that it was hoped that the plan would be ready in time for a so-called troika meeting, which would include Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in mid-May.

Adt acknowledged, though, that a number of SADC countries were somewhat uncomfortable with the fact that the EU had decided to prioritise a partnership with South Africa over of a broader regional-level agreement, but said that he was confident that a satisfactory solution would be found. But the prioritisation of the South Africa partnership agreement had already led some Southern African countries to boycott a recent roundtable meeting convened by the European Commission representative in South Africa. It is also understood South Africa’s awareness of the sensitivities, led Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad to convene a meeting of African ambassadors to discuss the proposed EU-South Africa strategic partnership, where he attempted to reassure them that South Africa saw it as part of its overall African integration vision.

For his part, Ambassador Adt pointed out that, over the next 18 months, the Presidency would also drive a broader EU-Africa strategy as well as a SADC-level economic partnership agreement. However, these action plans were only likely to emerge during the Portuguese or Slovenian presidencies, which will follow on from the German leadership in July and January respectively. However, it was anticipated that the much-anticipated EU-Africa summit, which could speed up the partnership process, could take place during 2007.

But despite the unpopularity of the single-country partnership proposal, it is being pursued primarily based on Europe’s analysis of South Africa as the “locomotive” of Africa economic development and integration.

Head of delegation of the European Commission to South Africa Lodewijk Briët said recently that the EU felt that South Africa could play an even more important developmental role in Africa and that was why the EU was continuing, at existing levels, its assistance to South Africa.

Last week, for instance, the European Investment Bank announce that it had received a new €900-million fourth financing mandate for South Africa on top of the €1,5-billion it had already committed between 1995 and the end of 2006 - the new mandate would cover the period 2007 through to 2013.

“So far, our call for this sustained level of support has withstood the onslaught from the European Council to make sure that there is sufficient funding available for the Middle East, be it Iraq, or Afghanistan or other activities in that region,” Briët explained.

 source: Engineering News