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Warm words but too many tough decisions have been postponed

Failure by the European leaders to move substantively on vaccines rankled with their African counterparts

After two years in the making, the European Union's summit with the African Union summit in Brussels on 17-18 February veered towards an anti-climax.

Despite a series of impressive-sounding initiatives on vaccines, medical technology transfer and investment announced in the run-up to the summit, few details then emerged (AC Vol 63 No 4, Brussels tries to reset relations amid pandemic fall-out).

There was lots of media management, including keeping reporters well away from the delegates, and less attention to policy substance.

The six-page joint declaration released on 18 February included pledges on investment and African economic development, peace and security, migration and mobility and healthcare but no clear sense of what policies and funds would support them (AC Vol 63 No 3, EU offers new migration deal).

The EU announced a series of initiatives to provide funds and logistical support for Africa to develop its vaccine production and the pharmaceutical sector, deflecting attention from the fact that the bloc did not move on the main African demand of a temporary waiver on intellectual property to allow production of Covid vaccines.

The EU also announced the donation of an additional 29 million vaccines, which the Commission says will move it closer to the target of 450m donated doses.

The Commission and the AU will now hold technical talks ahead of a possible deal that will have the consent of the World Trade Organization on vaccine production.

Little progress was made on pledges to reallocate to Africa a sizeable portion of the Special Drawing Rights distributed last year by the International Monetary Fund, of which around €170bn is now in European hands (AC Dispatches 9/4/21, Points of light as finance chiefs plot economic recovery).

The joint declaration states that several EU member states have, between them, pledged $13bn out of a total of $55bn for countries most in need.

Given that France, Italy and Spain had already pledged 20% of their new SDRs, that represents a disappointingly low figure. It's also a setback for France's President Emmanuel Macron, who has made this his personal campaign.

Elsewhere, on climate change and energy, the EU refused to budge on giving African states an exemption from the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, though Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stated that the green transition would be a slower process for African states most reliant on coal.

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