European Union to deepen its strategic relationship with the Horn of Africa

The Council has approved a series of conclusions affirming the EU’s commitment to give new impetus to its partnership with the Horn of Africa and establish a new strategy for the region.

The EU’s geostrategic priority in this north-eastern region of Africa has undergone unprecedented developments in recent years and is now at a crossroads.

With this new strategy, the EU intends to further strengthen and deepen its strategic relationship and partnership with the Horn of Africa and its countries, notably with a view to reducing instability and promoting democracy and sustainable growth.

The strategy aims to reinforce a joint approach to democracy and regional peace and security, revitalising multilateralism and the rules-based international order, strengthening commitment to social and human development and boosting post-COVID socio-economic recovery and trade and regional integration.  The strategy also aims to strengthen the partnership with the broader region, notably the Red Sea, the Western Indian Ocean and the Nile. Among the main conclusions are the following:

1. The Horn of Africa is a strategically important region, with which Europe has long-standing political and economic ties.

2. The Council is establishing a new EU strategy, in line with the EU’s overall approach to Africa, to give new impetus to the relationship and sustain the EU’s political, security and economic interests.

3. The region has undergone important developments over the last decade and is increasingly witnessing shifting regional dynamics.

4. Demographic changes, urbanisation, digitisation and the emergence of new markets provide important opportunities. Yet, the region is affected by the dire effects of climate change and more frequent natural disasters. Governance challenges need to be overcome to address persistent poverty, socio-economic inequalities, difficult access to basic services and lack of decent job opportunities, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Beyond its strong political, economic and trade relations, the EU is a major, long-standing and reliable partner for peace, sustainable development and humanitarian assistance.

6. Ownership and commitment from regional, national and local authorities are necessary for the concrete, sustainable and long-term development of the region.

7. The EU strategy is based on the continued promotion and respect of human rights, gender equality, democracy, the rule of law and humanitarian principles, which will remain at the centre of all EU action.

8. The EU will strengthen its support for peace and security. Despite positive political developments, fragility and insecurity persist with destabilising effects on the whole region. Tensions within and between countries of the region are increasingly worrying and illustrate the need for an effective, multilateral approach to collective security, dialogue and confidence-building. The EU will keep working with the African Union (AU) and with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The EU is ready to work with the leaders of IGAD to assist them in further building IGAD’s capacity and making it a more effective multilateral body, fostering trust among the countries of the region.

9. While the region must take responsibility for its own peace and security, the EU, jointly with international partners, will continue to support, including through its missions and operations, the build-up of regional security capacities, such as African peace support operations and other security arrangements responding to all security threats, including at sea.

10. The EU will continue supporting maritime security, using naval diplomacy as a tool to encourage cooperation and synergies amongst regional actors. In this regard, the mandate of EUNAVFOR – Somalia Operation ATALANTA, a key maritime actor in the region, has been revised and further extended to support EU engagement across the Southern Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean. While its core task remains to deter, prevent and repress piracy, the operation will also contribute to fighting other maritime crimes and illegal activities.


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