Introduction: Global actors competing or co-operating?

Valeria Bello, Belachew Gebrewold

Producció científica: Capítol de llibreCapítolAvaluat per experts


The urgency attached to the agenda of international terrorism and human and drugs trafficking has forced the European Union (EU) into new cooperation with various regional actors. In this context Africa and Asia have become increasingly significant. Such inter-regional relations have taken on new dimensions in the context of contemporary international politics framed by new security challenges and new competitive forces particularly from Asia. Africa is a significant actor mainly as a supplier of natural resources and as the origin of an increasing number of illegal migrants to Europe. The EU presents itself as an international ‘civilian power’ (Duchêne 1972; Telò 2006; Whitman 1998, 2002), which attempts to use soft power to influence international affairs and to strengthen its relationships with Asia and Africa, and a ʼnormative power’ (Archibugi 1995; Manners 2002), which tries to commit other areas of the world to regulated global governance, insisting that international anarchy will not benefit anyone in the long term. Described as a unique political community with its particular form of regional integration and non comparable governance model, the EU is moving beyond its territory, and attempting to promote regional integration in Asia and Africa. The EU’s policies towards Africa and Asia are intended to shape its role as a global player, and to enhance the prospects for peace, security and development in Europe, Asia and Africa. On 10 November 2008 the Council of the EU issued its conclusions on trilateral talks and co-operation between the EU, China and Africa. The primary objectives of these trilateral talks and co-operation are to promote peace and security, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa. Africa is already a strategic partner of the EU, within the framework of the Action Plan adopted at the 2007 Lisbon Africa-EU Summit. China is not only an important economic partner of the EU, but it has also become a very significant player in Africa, challenging the EU’s role there. China’s commitments have been boosted by the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC). Following these developments the EU, which is very sensitive about AU-China relations, in accordance with its postulated normative approach to international relations, instead of competing directly with China, has pushed to co-ordinate efforts around priorities which reflect the common needs of all (Council of the EU 2008). The 2006 EU-China Summit showed the increasing importance of EU-Chinese co-operation and interdependence. This relationship is a logical consequence of the process to strengthen the EU’s bilateral partnerships with both China and Africa and to identify common interests and areas for cooperation. The European Council has already proposed trilateral co-operation regarding peace and security in Africa, support for African infrastructure, sustainable management of the environment and natural resources, and agriculture and food security. Such trilateral co-operation aims to contribute to the stability of African countries and to strengthen African crisis management capabilities (Council of the EU 2008). It is widely acknowledged that both the attainment of security and responses to security threats are a multifaceted process. Through a ‘comprehensive security’ strategy the EU underlines the interdependence of the political, socio-economic, cultural, ecological and military dimensions of security (Council of the EU 2003). Comprehensive security implies the need to formulate integrated policies on all of them. This comprehensive approach is translated into the overall objective of ‘effective multilateralism’, i.e. a stronger international society, well functioning international institutions and a rule-based international order. At the global level, the EU seeks to pursue this objective mainly through the United Nations (UN), which the EU Strategy 2003 sees as the core of the international system, and through other global and regional partnerships and organisations (Biscop 2005: 23-4). Its co-operation with Asia and Africa is part of this strategy. However, the question is whether this effective multilateralism is realistic or whether states are destined to betray such glorious ambitions while pursuing national or regional interests. In practice, the EU has developed various strategies towards Africa and the Asian regions. The Commission issued to the Council on 4 September 2001 a communication called ‘Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships’. In this communication the EU set out a comprehensive strategic framework for relations to strengthen its political and economic presence in Asia and its regions. The strategy focuses on the following key points: engagement in the political and security fields, mutual trade and investment flows, partnership in reducing poverty, human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law, global alliances to address global challenges within international organisations, and mutual awareness respect and understanding between the EU and Asia (Council of the EU 2001). Faced with China’s increasing activity on the international scene, its desire for respect and recognition from the international community, and its re-emergence as a major global power, the EU’s engagement with China has increased accordingly. The EU and China are co-operating to promote sustainable development and improve trade and economic relations. They have strengthened bilateral co-operation in various fields including science and technology, migration and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This shows that there is a strong desire on both sides to deepen and expand their relations (CEC 2006). However, the EU’s demands that China should strengthen the rule of law, implement reforms to protect human rights and minorities, and increase transparency on military expenditure and objectives, still remain a point of friction between the EU and China. Besides China there is another emerging global player: India. Through the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 16 June 2004 an ‘EU-India Strategic Partnership’ was proposed. The objectives include strengthening co-operation through multilateralism, promoting peace, combating terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhancing commercial and economic interaction, co-operation on sustainable development, protecting the environment, mitigating climate change and combating poverty and the improvement of human rights and strengthening of civil society (CEC 2008). In the EU-Africa strategic partnership agreed in December 2007 the African Union and the EU expressed their intention to pursue four political objectives: to work in a partnership of equals, to promote peace and security, good governance, human rights, trade and the regional and continental integration of Africa and to offer joint responses to global challenges, including migration, mobility and employment. Migration policy has become a key area for co-operation between Europe and Africa due to the increasing number of illegal migrations from Africa to Europe, which are seen as a threat to European economic and political security. In June 2006 in Rabat (Morocco) and in November 2006 in Tripoli (Libya) both sides endorsed these objectives and areas of co-operation in order to address the migrationsecurity nexus. Because of its economic power the EU has been able to enjoy its role and a great power as a dominating and inscrutable actor, not only while pursuing its economic interests but also as a value-based actor, promoting human rights (Bretherton and Vogler 2006: 88). Addressing transnational crime is one of the key components of the European Security Strategy of 2003. However, the fight against transnational crime focuses not only on individuals within EU territory; the objective is to secure the Union as a political system in the global context. This demands a structuring of external relations. Using its political and economic resources the EU has been playing a leading role in the definition of models used for international co-operation in the fight against transnational crime (Longo 2003: 168-70). Co-operation with Asia and Africa has become indispensable for this. But both Asia and Africa are sceptical about the EU’s intentions when they feel that the EU attempts to export its values in the form of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Through this ‘soft diplomacy’ of political conditionality the EU has politicised its co-operation by proposing values (Petiteville 2003: 134). Furthermore, the EU sees itself as a ʼnormative power’ which represents certain normative positions; specific models of development associated with core values such as good governance and democracy. Such norms and values have pervaded the EU’s negotiations with foreign partners (Smith 2007: 534-5). Indeed, what we sustain in this book is that, rather than proposing its values to others, the EU is trying to defend them from the dislocating effect of globalisation on production and the consequent loss of employment in societies and countries with a responsible approach to environmental and social rights. If the EU does not try to defend its social model from the effects of unregulated globalisation, it is likely that we will assist to the dismantling in Europe of social, political and environmental rights. However, conditionality and in particular the social and environmental clauses imposed by the EU have been the focus of most of the criticisms from those (scientists, economists, non-governmental and governmental organisations) who consider economic development to be the only feasible solution to the problems of developing countries, even if it results in an unfair distribution of benefits across their societies. In addition, the EU’s political conditionality has led to the strengthening of relations between Africa and Asia (mainly China), in an attempt to sideline the EU, as illustrated in this book. China and India have taught the EU, and its member states, the economic significance of Africa. Previously, Africa has been generally regarded by the EU as the origin of problems such as illegal migration and disease, or as a security threat, and as an immature player. But the EU’s perception has started to change, thanks to China and India, and to the consequent ability of the African Union (AU) to make the EU take Africa seriously. For the EU, Asian involvement in Africa has been a late wake-up call.

Idioma originalAnglès
Títol de la publicacióA Global Security Triangle
Subtítol de la publicacióEuropean, African and Asian interaction
EditorTaylor and Francis Ltd.
Nombre de pàgines12
ISBN (electrònic)9781135239350
ISBN (imprès)9780415496575
Estat de la publicacióPublicada - 1 de gen. 2009
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