My comment on the EU-Africa Summit and my perspective for this political year
"The 6th Summit should be a decisive turning point in EU-Africa relations. An equal partnership should establish a permanent dialogue with the driving forces of African countries and take into account the needs of our partners. Any helper mentality must be abolished and trust placed in local expertise and local knowledge. After more than six decades of independence of African countries, the EU's relationship with the African Union should be an equal partnership that promotes the development of countries through the creation of industries and jobs and can lead to the autonomy of the young generation."
The often postponed EU-Africa Summit has now taken place on 17 and 18 February and I read my own previously formulated, expectant words about it with a certain disillusionment. "Passed the stage" is a phrase that can perhaps be taken literally in this context. The critiques of the summit staging show that everything is a question of perspective. If one compares the reflections of the European press on the meeting of representatives of European and African countries with the reflections of the summit in the African press, one gets the impression that Europe and Africa attended different conferences.
Of course, there are critical European voices and African positions that emphasise the positive tendencies of the partnership. Nevertheless, it is clear, both in the context of the debates on vaccine access and vaccine distribution as well as in the context of trade and security policy issues, that something like the much-invoked "eye level" of the two continents is still a long way off. And it would be so important for future generations on both sides.
It is clear that the assumption that knowledge production and interpretative sovereignty lie on one side, namely on the European side, is largely unbroken. This assumption is, of course, poison in the context of a healthy and equal relationship, and so after this summit I come to a very clear reiteration of my demand for an honest reappraisal of the European-African colonial past. A careful look at the past is the basis for attending to the wounds of the present and addressing urgent issues such as migration, food security and climate protection in a just manner.
In the report on the new EU-Africa Strategy, I had the opportunity as shadow rapporteur to introduce the following amendment:
"[The European Parliament] calls on the European Union and Africa to establish a 'duty of memory' (devoir de mémoire) that would enable the two continents to identify the traces of colonial regimes in today's relations and negotiate appropriate measures to address them."
The past EU-Africa Summit encourages me to consistently uphold the claim of this amendment. Overcoming colonial continuities can thus be understood as the foundation of my political action in general, but also as the heading for small, concrete steps. Thus, the topic of restitution is high on the agenda for my parliamentary work this year. The restitution of objects of African provenance, which were looted in colonial times and are now in museums in many European countries, is an important step towards the recognition of autonomy and dignity.
Another important step is to ensure that Black Studies becomes a permanent feature at European universities. We have to ensure and repeatedly bring up the fact that Black history and the associated perspectives in academic work at the level of different disciplines are indispensable for achieving "eye level".
Successive decolonisation, i.e. the liberation of thought and action from deeply rooted, structural inequalities, is a painful process for all sides. But, as they like to say in Bavaria, "It doesn't help!". On the way to a more diverse and freer world, we have to face up to it. As Europeans, as Africans and as politicians anyway.