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Joint Op-Ed by European Union Ambassadors to the African Union and Ethiopia

Five months ago, 67 leaders from Africa and Europe met in Brussels for the sixth European Union (EU) – African Union (AU) Summit. This was a landmark for our partnership, based on reciprocity, trust, mutual respect and understanding. Given the strategic importance of Africa for Europe - and vice versa - leaders decided to strengthen ties between both continents that share an interest in building a common space of peace, security, prosperity and progress. As the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said at the African Union Summit in Lusaka earlier this month, “this is our common promise; this must be our common duty to the young generations of Africa and Europe”.

Our partnership brings concrete added value, for African and European countries and citizens alike. The EU supports the manufacturing of vaccines in South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda and Senegal. EU, AU and our Member States jointly build roads and railways, promote academic and scientific exchanges, invest in energy and communication grids, and support Africa’s free trade area. €150 billion of investments will be mobilised in the coming years as part of the Global Gateway initiative.

At this moment, we are facing multifaceted challenges. Just a few days after the forward-looking EU-AU Summit, Russia started its unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine. Just like our African brothers and sisters, we know from experience the devastating realities of war, notably the suffering of innocent civilians.

The Russian aggression questions the foundation of international order, the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. These principles may seem abstract, but in fact they protect us all, every single European and African State alike. Russia is currently trying to recolonise Ukraine, 30 years after its independence, in the most brutal way. In order to justify the unjustifiable, it invokes the criterion of linguistic unity, of the alleged desire of the populations not to belong to Ukraine anymore. If we allow Russia’s invasion to go unchallenged, no country will be safe any longer. What is unfolding before our eyes will determine the world in which we will live.

Russia’s war has disastrous consequences not only for the Ukrainian people, but also for people all over the world. While the European continent is bearing the brunt of this unjust war in multiple ways, people in Africa have also become direct victims. Economic shockwaves have hit the African continent, food and energy prices as well as inflation are skyrocketing at a time when countries are barely starting to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Russia has acknowledged that the sanctions are not preventing it from delivering food and fertilisers to Africa. Yet, people thousands of kilometres away from Ukraine are suffering because Russia has been deliberately blocking food products and fertilisers from leaving Ukraine overseas, and destroying agricultural and transport infrastructures. Only after very long and difficult negotiations, Russia started showing interest in lifting its blockade. It is in our common interest that this war of aggression is stopped as soon as possible. The EU strongly condemns Russian missile strike on Odesa’s seaport. Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements is particularly reprehensible and again demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments.

We are collectively determined to work with our African partners to resolve these simultaneous crises, and most urgently the food crisis. The EU is mobilising over €7.7 billion up to 2024 for global food security. We are stepping up emergency relief, boosting local food production, keeping markets open and getting Ukrainian grain out to the countries that need it via alternative transport routes in the EU.

Europe and Africa have chosen the path of multilateralism, political and economic integration on the basis of common values and objectives. These instruments are essential to protect small States against the arbitrariness of great powers. What Russia proposes is quite the opposite. Europe’s vision is to build a common future with Africa in which our African partners play their rightful role in shaping and managing a rules-based global order. Let us continue to cooperate on sustainable development, education, health, science and innovation, trade, the green transition and much more. Together, we have the capacity to bring about positive change today and for future generations.

EU Delegation to the AU, EU Delegation to Ethiopia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.