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Lisbon looks south

As President of the European Council this year, Portugal is prioritising commercial and security ties with Africa

João Gomes Cravinho, Portugal's defence minister, wants to strengthen political dialogue between the European Union and African decision-makers. Most European countries have military missions in Africa but they have a mixed success rate.

Portugal, which holds the six-month European Council presidency, is prioritising EU-Africa relations. It hopes to sign off on a new 'strategic partnership' between the EU and African Union before July, which will emphasise defence cooperation.

A summit of EU defence ministers initially scheduled for 2 and 3 March, has been postponed to the end of May so it can take place in Lisbon with African leaders, Cravinho said on Thursday (18 February).

'Although the European missions are almost all in Africa the political dialogue with African decision-makers is insufficient, so we need to improve this bridge,' he said.

Several national defence ministers and the leaders of regional organisations for West Africa and the Horn of Africa have accepted invitations to the summit.

Last month, Portugal's foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva said the bloc should step up its security cooperation with Mozambique, primarily by training local forces, to help combat Islamist insurgents in Cabo Delgado province (AC Vol 62 No 1, Nyusi running out of road). 

Lisbon's initiative has not been matched in Brussels and other European capitals. European Council President Charles Michel and High Representative on Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell attended the G5 Sahel summit earlier this week but they offered no new commitments on military or financial support to the French-led mission (AC Vol 62 No 4, France holds tight in the Sahel).

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