Portugal: Possible central role in EU-Africa relations

The postponement of the 6th Europe-Africa Summit until 2021 gives Portugal the opportunity to again play a central role in the negotiation of the European Union’s policy towards Africa during its Presidency in the first half of 2021.

“One of the main responsibilities of the next Portuguese presidency of the European Union will be precisely to develop and implement an agenda” of partnership and cooperation between Europe and Africa, Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva told Lusa after the European Council on 15 and 16 October.

Portugal, which launched the 1st EU-Africa Summit (Cairo 2000) and oversaw the difficult negotiations for the 2nd Summit (Lisbon, 2007), now has the opportunity to push once again for a strategic debate that is essential to boost relations between the two continents.

The October meeting of European leaders confirmed the postponement of the 6th Summit between the EU and the African Union (AU), scheduled for the autumn of 2020, and scheduled a “mini-summit” for 9 December, which will bring together EU heads of state and government, the AU presidency, the AU Commission presidency and the presidency of several African regional organisations in Brussels.

The 6th Summit does not yet have a date, only the target of 2021, but could come under the Portuguese Presidency in the first half or Slovenian Presidency in the second half.

A repeat of the major EU-AU summit in December 2007, which brought together almost 80 heads of state and government from the two continents in Lisbon, is a far-off scenario, as the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has long since taken over the organisation of the meeting.

But Portugal, while insisting on its willingness to host a summit, has repeated that “whatever the date of the summit event, what matters is the substance”.

The agreement for a new strategic partnership between the two continents, which Prime Minister António Costa assured the press after the October Council met with “great consensus” among the 27.

Portugal also plans to organise an EU-Africa Green Investment Economic Forum in Lisbon, “ideally in April”, bringing together political and business leaders from both continents to “show the potential of green investment and how it can contribute to Africa’s economic development.

Other agenda items, put forward at a conference a fortnight ago by the Director of the Department for Sub-Saharan Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Luís Leandro da Silva, will be human development, including the importance of technical and vocational training “to give young people tools to promote economic growth.