THE LIKELY IMPACT OF THE WAR IN UKRAINE ON AU-EU RELATIONS
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will undoubtedly impact relations between the EU and the AU. The unfair treatment of of a part of the African citizens trying to cross the border to safety was witnessed by the world, and condemned by the AU. As the conflict continues, at least two domains will be particularly important for the EU-AU partnership to monitor.
First is the repercussions of the crisis for energy markets (particularly gas). These will certainly affect exporting countries such as Algeria, Nigeria and Niger, which recently signed an agreement to develop the trans-Saharan pipeline. Replacing Russia’s gas with new African suppliers is just one of the options available to European countries, and it will be important for the EU to keep its level of ambition high with respect to its sustainable and just energy transition promises. Sanctions on Russia may generate gains for other countries that are rich in raw materials, like South Africa, which is the world’s second-largest producer of palladium (a key component for the automotive industry) after Russia.
Second, countries that are highly exposed to rising costs of energy, wheat and fertilisers are set to be hard hit by the crisis. Rising energy costs may slow plans to cut fuel subsidies announced by several countries, including Zambia23 and Nigeria. Moreover, for countries that are very dependent on agriculture and those already struggling due to rising fertiliser costs, the war in Ukraine may undermine food security. Russia and Ukraine account for 30% of global wheat exports, and more than 36% of Ukraine’s wheat exports were destined for Africa. Export bans and export tariffs could therefore have huge consequences for the food security of countries like Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia. The EU and the AU have a clear interest in analysing the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the partnership and in formulating a coordinated joint response to it.
In this respect, the war in Ukraine represents an important test for the AU, whose Constitutive Act supports the inviolability of borders and the norm of territorial integrity. Some countries, like Kenya, have been very vocal on this subject, condemning Russia’s use of force and warning that these actions risk “plunging us back into new forms of domination and oppression”. At the same time, the war should have provided a unique opportunity for the EU and AU to forge their commitment to building new alliances in multilateral fora, such as the UN General Assembly. Yet, in a recent General Assembly vote, African countries represented the largest regional group choosing to abstain (17 out of 50). If their aim is to build a basis for a new multilateralism.
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