Joint Statement by EESC President Christa Schweng and EESC REX President Dimitris Dimitriadis
On the eve of the African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Summit (17-18 February 2022), and awaiting the conclusions of the Summit, Christa Schweng, EESC President, declared:
I deeply regret that the two consultative bodies of the European Union and the African Union, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), were not invited to the EU-AU Summit. Such an invitation would reflect political recognition and allow to build on first-hand knowledge of the civil society organisations (CSOs) we have involved in the partnership since 2014. Employers, trade unions, consumers, cooperatives, small-scale farmers, fishermen and non-governmental organisations are indispensable bridge builders for a strengthened partnership between the EU and Africa.
Mr Dimitriadis, President of the EESC External Relations Section, added:
In these challenging and changing times, the EU and AU must jointly use the expertise of CSOs and place social and civil dialogue at the core of a new partnership.
The EESC is launching an appeal to policy-makers, echoing the Seventh meeting of the Africa-EU economic & social stakeholders network, which proposed, to put infrastructure at the heart of future of the EU-Africa partnership.
On this particular occasion, participants called on AU and EU leaders to boost local African manufacturing capacity for essential health products and technologies in a joint effort to overcome the slow distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and travel bans.
Mindful of the Green Deal, civil society also called on the AU and EU Heads of State to deploy small investment tools under the new Partnership, which can meet the renewable energy needs of communities that are not connected to national grids.
African economic integration is also at stake. The network recommended establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue to accompany the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). To be successful, economic integration should include different actors, different backgrounds, different countries, and civil society groups, also coming from Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The EESC will keep actively contributing to the Joint AU-EU Partnership, through the development of its shared economic and social network, as well as structured activities with CSOs and consultative bodies of organised civil society in the African Union.