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4th EU-Africa Summit
Apr 09, 2014

Leaders from the European Union and Africa wrapped up a two-day summit (3-4 April) in Brussels, pledging to deepen ties in security, commerce and migration control. The meeting was dominated by the crisis in Central African Republic, the latest conflict to draw in European Union troops and money. For all the talk on other issues, the summit produced few concrete results.

In a joint statement, the EU said it has earmarked grants worth €28 billion ($38.5 billion) for Africa over the next 7 years. That includes €3 billion to develop Africa's agriculture and a new €844 million programme to promote economic integration. Most of these programmes had already been announced.

The leaders agreed a 3-year plan aimed to facilitate legal migration in exchange for greater efforts to police borders and fight trafficking in human beings. But six months to the day after a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank, drowning at least 355 people, there were no concrete measures ensuring such tragedies could be avoided in future.

The president of the Commission of the African Union, NkosazanaDlamini-Zuma said, “African and European leaders have spoken at the summit's concluding session. We have demonstrated that there is much that we can and must do together to confront common challenges and take advantage of opportunities."

A special meeting was also held on the Central African Republic crisis. France says it needs thousands more peace-keepers in that country, where Christian civilians have killed thousands of Muslims in almost daily massacres. A contingent of 2,000 French peace-keepers and 8,000 African troops have been unable to stop those pogroms; Central African Republic is about the size of France itself. The number of peace-keepers there fell by nearly a thousand when Chad—the landlocked desert country to the north—ordered its entire peace-keeping contingent to return home. Those troops had been tasked with evacuating Muslims to refugee camps. They'd also been accused of firing into crowds of civilians—although Chad's government said troops only shot at civilians that shot at them.

Chad and the Chadian people have been turned into scapegoats in a gratuitous and malevolent campaign that seeks to blame them for all the sorrows that Central African Republic is suffering. That's further shifted the burden in Central Africa onto the EU, which has been drawn increasingly into African conflicts in recent years. France, which was a past colonial power in Africa, sent troops to Mali in early 2013 to put down an offensive by Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants. It also runs a series of other military and civilian operations across the continent.

To bolster African military capacities, EU leaders said they would double spending on the African Peace Facility, a joint EU-African Union fund supporting African-run peacekeeping and conflict resolution missions. The EU will give €800 million to the fund over the next three years.

This week, the EU formally launched its delayed military mission to the Central African Republic. The operation aims to secure and restore calm in the area around the main airport and two districts in the capital, Bangui. That will free up French and African Union troops to stem violence elsewhere.

Bloodshed spread in this country of 4.6 million after an alliance of Islamist rebel groups from the north united to overthrow the former president. Christian militias have attacked anyone perceived as supporting the now-defunct Muslim rebel government. Tens of thousands of people have fled gathered near the airport after fleeing violence in the capital.

The EU mission will include 800 people, including troops from nine countries. The mission should be able to carry out its main tasks by the end of April. It's expected to be at full strength in late May. The operation is only supposed to last six months from then.

The EU has longtime ties with Africa and is its number-one trading partner, its largest donor and top provider of foreign direct investment.

As in the past, this week's summit has generated some controversy. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe stayed away, even after the EU waived his visa ban, because the bloc didn't allow his wife, who also faces sanctions, to come.

The last EU-African summit was hosted in late 2010 by the late Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Months later, he was toppled in a U.K.-French led military mission.


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