The Council of the European Union on Monday (19 April) approved conclusions affirming the EU's determination to renew and strengthen its strategic partnership with its Southern Neighbourhood. The new objective is to address common challenges, take advantage of shared opportunities and unlock the region's economic potential for the benefit of its people.
A statement issued through the Council of the European Union says the following:
Spurring sustainable long-term socio-economic recovery and job creation in the Southern Neighbourhood is a key shared priority and the innovative cornerstone of the new Agenda for the Mediterranean. Working together, the EU and its Southern Neighbourhood partners can turn climate and environmental challenges, and digital transformation, into major opportunities for sustainable development, contributing to a just and inclusive green transition. The EU will use all its available instruments, including the NDICI-Global Europe and the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+), and engage with financial institutions to achieve this objective, paying particular attention to the human dimension and opportunities for young people.
Good governance, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic institutions and the rule of law are also considered to be essential for long-term stability, security and sustainable development in the region. The EU will step up its engagement on these issues, and renew its efforts on conflict prevention and resolution, as well as on cooperation on security, migration and the preparedness and response capacities of healthcare systems.
The EU intends to strengthen the political dialogue across the Mediterranean by setting up annual meetings of EU member states’ and Southern Neighbourhood partners’ foreign ministers to review progress in the implementation of the new Agenda for the Mediterranean.
Read the Council of the EU conclusions on the Mediterranean and Southern Neighbourhood in full here
On the same day, the Council of the European Union approved conclusions reaffirming the importance of a solid and long-term partnership between the EU and the Sahel region in Africa, and of stepping up that partnership through an ambitious EU strategy setting the framework for its policies and actions in the region.
Since 2012 the Sahel has faced a profound security crisis that has hampered its development and, together with other long-term trends such as climate change, demographic pressure, the access to natural resources and epidemic risks, risks wiping out the progress made in recent decades.
During the period of the previous EU Sahel strategy (2011-2020), the EU has mobilised all instruments at its disposal, from humanitarian aid to security forces, to support the Sahel populations, and now intends to intensify its political efforts through a new, ambitious, inclusive and flexible strategy based on the principle of mutual accountability with Sahel partner authorities.
In line with international co-ordination efforts within the Sahel Coalition, the EU emphasises the importance of a 'civilian and political leap forward' focusing both on short-term stabilisation and long-term prospects for sustainable social, environmental and economic development, above and beyond military involvement.
The promotion protection and fulfilment of all human rights will continue to remain at the heart of EU support for the Sahel, as well as efforts in the areas of governance and the rule of law, anti-corruption, and the provision of basic public services to all people.
Recognising past as well as emerging trends, the EU will continue to support Sahel partners in fighting terrorist armed groups, and support their efforts in the field of security sector reform.
The EU will continue strengthening the multilateral system, with the United Nations at its core, alongside regional organisations, especially the African Union, ECOWAS and the G5 Sahel.
Read the Council of the EU conclusions on the Sahel in full here
commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment that the two sets of conclusions between them outline a clear EU strategy towards its Southern Neighbourhood, an area of huge strategic importance for the EU, and where it is expected to play a leading role. In both regions the EU is faced with the challenge of making development part of the process of stabilising and securing the two regions from radicalisation. Offering the youth of the Southern Mediterranean and the Sahel opportunities for jobs and decent living is a core task intrinsically connected with the security of the two regions, and ultimately Europe. The two sets of conclusions adopted on Monday (19 April) set out a clear vision and strategy. They now have to be implemented in a timely and efficient manner for the benefit of all.