Role of the African Union's Permanent Mission in Brussels
Avenue Molière 186 - 1050 Bruxelles (Belgique)
Tel: (+32 2) 346.97.47/48 Fax: (+32 2) 346.97.28
Relations between the African Union (AU) and the European Union are well established. The AU's predecessor – the Organisation of African Unity (0AU) – brokered negotiations between the then EEC and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which led to the first Lomé Convention in 1975.
It was in the context of that Convention that the OAU set up its first permanent office in Brussels in 1979, with a mandate to assist the group of African ambassadors in Brussels to coordinate their daily work for the Convention with the collective work of the AU countries to promote the economic and social development of Africa.
The success of this North-South cooperation has convinced Africa and Europe that it is time to go beyond mere multilateral relations and seek a veritable strategic partnership that reflects their shared principles and objectives of development, integration and democracy.
In this spirit, the AU has upgraded its Brussels office to the rank of Permanent Mission to the EU and the ACP group, restructuring it to function effectively for an extended mandate in line with the above objectives. The Mission now has the following roles:
- To monitor AU-EU cooperation - the new joint AU-EU strategy and action plan for 2008-2010 require the Mission to work ever more closely with all the EU institutions – in particular the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The Mission also prepares and coordinates regular working meetings of the EU and AU Commissions in Brussels and Addis-Ababa, and the ministerial 'troika' meetings that have been institutionalised since the first EU-Africa summit in Cairo in 2000.
- To coordinate the group of African ambassadors in Brussels and monitor the implementation of the Cotonou ACP-EU partnership agreement - the AU has observer status in the ACP-EU institutions set up under the Cotonou agreement (the Council of Ministers, the committee of ambassadors and the parliamentary assembly). In addition to representing the AU in these bodies, the Mission coordinates the activities of the African countries (48 of the 78 ACP countries) and harmonises them with the development and international cooperation strategies of the AU. It also acts as secretariat to the group of African ambassadors and representatives of the 53 AU countries in Brussels. This role has become all the more important since the AU became eligible (in 2005) for ACP funding from the European Development Fund (Article 58b of the revised Cotonou Agreement). The Mission also coordinates the activities of other regional bodies with representatives in Brussels, like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
- To represent the AU in the 27 member countries of the EU - in this role, the Mission plays particular attention to the African communities throughout the EU, helping them strengthen and rationalise their structures and explaining to them the important role that the African 'diaspora' worldwide plays in contributing to African development and building the African Union.