Maurizio Carbone is Professor of International Relations and Development and Jean Monnet Chair of EU External Policies at the University of Glasgow. He has published extensively on the external relations of the European Union, particularly aid and trade, and the politics of international development. Currently, he is writing a book for Oxford University Press on the relations between the EU, Africa, and the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.
This paper shows how the process launched in the early 2000s which had the objective of complementing and eventually replacing the ACP-EU cooperation framework – whereby Africa was subsumed into a broader cluster of states, which also included Europe’s former colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific, known as the ACP Group – with a more strategic partnership between the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) has delivered only in part. A number of examples are discussed, ranging from economic policies including the EU’s response to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the launch of the EU Global Gateway on investment, to political affairs with clashes between the two sides occurring over the issue of return and readmission of irregular migrants and different categories of human rights. In doing so, this paper embraces the decentring agenda in the EU, which has invoked a paradigm shift to recalibrate Europe’s external relations, as well as calls to recentre Africa’s international agency vis-à-vis the EU and, more generally, in global affairs.