EU-AU Relations: An Outlook for the Intercontinental Partnership

von Benedikt Zanzinger
Politics on Point - A Podcast by AIES Wien and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Wien


The war in Ukraine showed the EU’s ability to act as a key global player through its resilience, its ability to react quickly from the very start of the war, with military support, aid to refugees, and the ability to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. Due to the disruption of supply chains that already indicated serious dependence during the pandemic, the sometimes alternativeless dependency on energy supplies, and the need for a coherent approach in the face of security challenges, the EU should try to achieve strategic autonomy and create an independent geopolitical policy in order to become a “third power” in the changing world order, instead of getting lost between the rivalry between China and the US. The growing U.S.-China tensions will have a profound effect on the future of the multilateral system, current trends are pointing toward a further increase in geopolitical competition, economic protectionism and fragmentation. The goal of this podcast series is to assess the European Union's autonomy as an independent actor, with regard to its relations with the US, China, ASEAN, and the African Union. The changing nature of the multilateral system and the growing tensions between global actors no longer allows a postponement of the assessment from the perspective of liberal democracies, hence the European Union and its member states must not lose sight of systemic competition.


When it comes to Africa, the past years have shown that China has successfully positioned itself as a major trading partner and investor in Africa, replacing Europe as the most important partner in large infrastructure projects and the exploitation of raw materials. This competition by China puts European trade, investment, and development policies in Africa to a test. While the EU outperforms China on most performance indicators, China continues to gain ground in Africa, not least because China exercises soft power through its economic investments, using it to promote the “Chinese way of life”. In order to counterbalance the latter, the EU should leverage its proximity and existing economic and societal links to build genuine partnerships with Africa. On the economic front, the EU is Africa's largest trading partner, and the EU and AU have been involved in negotiations for a new framework for cooperation on trade and investment. Africa is a natural EU partner for several reasons, peace and security, migration, climate change, the digital transition and the crisis of multilateralism are all common challenges the two continents face, and Africa represents an opportunity for European growth as well.


In this episode, Kwame Owino, Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute of Economic Affairs Kenya (IEA), discusses the current state of EU-AU relations against the background of dramatic changes in the international system - above all the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This episode is the last in a 4-part special series on the EU as a global actor. Other episodes of this series focus on the EU's relations with China, ASEAN, as well as the US.


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Benedikt Zanzinger

Portrait Benedikt Zanzinger

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