From yesterday, Thursday, to today, Friday, the 6th AU-EU Summit took place in Brussels under the motto Europe and Africa: A Common Vision for 2030. The summit was supposed to have taken place in autumn 2020, but was postponed several times due to the pandemic. In the run-up to this year’s summit, there were many calls to redefine the foundations of relations between the European and African continents in order to abandon the old donor-recipient relationship in favour of a strategic partnership based on common interests. In the wake of the Corona pandemic, the European-African relationship had suffered in view of the unequal distribution of vaccines and the unjustified travel restrictions imposed. Thus, expectations of the summit were not very high, especially on the part of the AU. The summit focused on vaccine equity and production, the design of an economic and financial New Deal, climate protection and equity, as well as security and migration issues. In the area of health, the EU had last Monday rejected the demand of African countries for a waiver on vaccine patents. The Joint Final Declaration speaks of voluntary technology transfer to get vaccine production going in Africa. It was also announced that 450 million vaccine doses would be made available to the African continent by mid-2022, in collaboration with the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT). As part of the New Deal, the Global Gateway Africa-Europe Investment Package was unveiled, which will see €150 billion invested in Africa in the areas of green transition, digitalisation, job creation, health and education over the next seven years. Part of the Global Gateway Programme announced in early December, the initiative is seen as the European response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. With regard to climate issues, one of the AU’s main concerns was the possible financing of fossil fuels by the EU. The AU sees the use of gas resources as indispensable in order to provide electricity to the 600 million people who currently do not have access to it. The final declaration, however, remains vague in this regard, speaking of the recognition of the importance of using existing natural resources. In the areas of security and migration, the AU and EU reaffirmed their cooperation. The summit was overshadowed by the official French troop withdrawal from Mali, which was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday morning, although Mali itself was not on the agenda and thus only played a role at the sidelines of the summit. Overall, initial reactions to the summit are cautious, as the topics of defence and security, migration and climate change in particular were concluded without concrete measures.
Foreign Minister Baerbock in Egypt
On the last stop of her Middle East trip, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and her Egyptian counterpart Samih Schukri in Cairo. During the visit, which was also her first official visit to the African continent, Baerbock spoke about arms exports from Germany, which in future, except in justified individual cases, should be made more dependent on the human rights situation in the respective recipient countries. A draft arms export control law is planned for the second half of the year. Zhukri replied that his country does not make its relations with other countries dependent on conditions and that for him international cooperation is based on respect and non-interference in internal affairs. The Egyptian foreign minister spoke of the necessity of arms deliveries to his country due to Egypt’s decisive action against terrorist groups that threaten national security as well as due to the protection of the borders, which in the course of curbing illegal migration has a direct impact on Europe. Should Germany no longer be available as an exporter, Egypt would look for another trading partner. For the past three years, Egypt has occupied a top position in the German arms statistics and, under the old German government, secured mainly sea and air defence systems worth 4.34 billion euros from Germany in 2021. The deliveries to the authoritarian state are viewed critically in view of al-Sisi’s repressive policies. According to estimates, around 65,000 people are in political captivity. In addition, the situation of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press in the Egyptian media is considered devastating. Consequently, other topics, such as investment, security policy and climate protection, dominated the coverage of Baerbock’s visit. In view of the manifold security challenges in the region and in the search for a solution to the Middle East conflict, Egypt is considered an important partner for Europe, despite its internal political grievances. Moreover, the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh will host the UN World Climate Conference (COP 27) in November.
In other news
On Wednesday, the German company BioNTech unveiled a mobile vaccine production factory housed in shipping containers that will bring the production of mRNA vaccines against the coronavirus to Africa, improving the availability of much-needed vaccines on the continent. The first so-called “BioNTrainers” are expected to arrive on the African continent in the second half of 2022 and are scheduled to begin production about 12 months after delivery to the final locations – Rwanda and Senegal, and possibly South Africa. BioNTech will initially be responsible for supplying and installing the modules as well as providing staff for the facilities. Later, the know-how will be passed on to local staff to enable independent operation. While the WHO welcomed the development of the BioNTrainer, critical voices also arose who see an immediate technology transfer and investment in local infrastructure as a cheaper and faster alternative to start vaccine production in Africa.