Monday

18th Feb 2019

Turkey overshadows EU-Africa summit

The long red-carpeted corridors in the former Sacra Imfermeria of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in Malta’s capital city Valletta are crowded with EU leaders and other senior officials.

Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite is leaning up against a wooden rail, surrounded by aides, as she reads through a document.

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Further down, Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr is speaking with two men in grey suits. Nearby is Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

Behind the closed doors along the hall, bilateral meetings are taking place with African delegates following a two-day summit on slowing the number of migrants leaving for Europe.

Last year’s EU-Africa summit counted some 140 bilateral meetings in the margins. An EU official said a similar number is likely taking place at Valletta.

The end of the corridor leads to an enclosed courtyard. At the far end, on a bench, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel sits alone.

The chancellor is facing an internal political struggle over Germany’s role on the larger migration crisis taking place in much of the EU.

Broader issues

Earlier this week, in a move which surprised many, her government lifted an asylum transfer ban under EU Dublin rules to send Syrian refugees arriving in Germany to other EU member states.

The Valletta summit on Africa seems almost like distraction from the broader issues on the home turf, with Sweden now imposing border controls and Slovenia erecting fences.

“The recent events in Germany, in Sweden, in Slovenia, all show with upmost clarity the huge pressure member states are facing,” EU Council chief Donald Tusk told reporters on Thursday (12 November).

“Saving Schengen is a race against time and we are determined to win that race.”

In Malta, Merkel along with 24 other EU leaders, had earlier in the day signed off an €1.88 billion EU Africa Trust Fund.

But Europe’s most powerful leader appeared preoccupied with other more pressing issues.

The Valletta summit is being followed by an informal meeting of EU leaders to discuss, in part, a broader deal that will see Turkey prevent people from entering Europe in exchange for some €3 billion.

Turkey wants an EU summit in Brussels dedicated to it to help raise its profile. An EU source says it could take place at the end of the month.

Merkel told press the summit would take place late November-early December.

Africa projects

Meanwhile, the Valletta Africa summit’s political declaration and action plan promise to launch over a dozen projects before the end of next year to help with issues like development and migration management.

It includes plans to “promote cheaper, safer, legally-compliant and faster transfers of remittances.”

Global annual remittances to Africa average around $586 billion. The World Bank says money transfer companies charge around 8 percent to send a couple of hundred dollars to Africa.

The Valletta plan wants to reduce it to less than 3 percent by 2030 and “eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 percent.”

But more savings could also be made elsewhere to help parts of Africa pull itself out of the development cycle.

Senegal president Macky Sall, who also chairs the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), said tax evasion and other fraudulent financial flows zaps the continent of some $50 billion ever year.

“We have sufficient resources in Africa, we could do without aid,” he said.

Sall said part of the problem is that Africa is not getting a fair pay for its natural resources.

“This is a combat that we have been taking everywhere, taking it to G7 to G20 to the United Nations and we’ve also raised this here,” he said.

But issues of corporate tax avoidance and fraud in Africa by EU-based companies is not mentioned anywhere in the Action Plan.

Instead, it uses broad terms about boosting public and private investment in favour of agriculture and rural economy development.

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