Europe says it is seeking a fresh start with its African partners, to work together against poverty and political wrangling. But new trade and aid deals have led some of those invited to Lisbon to say the EU is still old-fashioned in its ways.
The first arrival ahead of this weekend’s EU-African Union summit was Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, greeted by Prime Minister Jose Socrates of the EU’s current presiding nation Portugal.
Analyst Fernando Cardoso told EuroNews: “What we should expect here, foremost, is a symbolic action: a doing away with post-colonial period relations, which are donor and receiver based, and the beginning of a new era. This will take time. It will be a post-post colonial era, based on a dialogue between the two parties.”
EU-Africa trade totalled more than 200 billion euros last year. China-Africa trade totalled 43 billion.
Increasing Asian investment has raised concerns in Europe about Beijing’s growing influence in the continent.
Development Commissioner Louis Michel at a pre-summit news conference in Brussels was beset with questions about China.
Michel said: “I’m always being asked, ‘What about China?’ I’m not going to give an opinion on China. I’m not against Africa’s working with China. It is Africa’s strictest right that Africans work with the Chinese and other partners.”
The Lisbon summit is the first between the EU and Africa in seven years. The Europeans insist they must end big trade preferences they give the Africans, to meet WTO rules. This is expected to fuel tense debate.