Third EU-Israel Strategic Roundtable 2018
The Third EU-Israel Strategic Roundtable, organized by the Forum of Strategic Dialogue (FSD) and the European Leadership Network (ELNET) EU & NATO in close cooperation with our partner, the European Policy Centre (EPC), focused on EU and Israeli development approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa. The roundtable took place on 11 July 2018 involving around 30 participants from Israel, Europe, Africa and the US.
Participants included a select mix of high-level representation from the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the European Commission, senior Israeli current and former officials, representatives of the private sector and NGOs, as well as, for the first time ever in our Strategic Dialogues, senior representatives from an African diplomatic mission in Brussels. The vibrant discussion was held under strict “Chatham House” rule, which allowed for a very open and constructive high-level discussion.
Africa is important to Europe and Israel alike and they face shared challenges. With the influx of refugees to Europe over the past few years, European and Israeli policy makers have realized that new approaches have to be brought to the fore. Since 2016, a new framework has been adopted to guide EU policy in Africa, which is more strategic and flexible in its approaches and instruments and takes into account the continent’s diversity and dynamics. On the Israeli side, “a return to Africa,” by individuals, organizations, and the government can be observed after decades of absence. Israel has a vibrant, energetic and entrepreneurial business and NGO sector which could form a fruitful basis of cooperation with the EU. Today, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has a good cooperation with several EU member states, and Israeli NGOs interact with EU instruments, but there is no formal cooperation between Israel and the EU itself regarding development cooperation in Africa.
A new EU financial tool (since 2016), namely the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) was presented, which aims at improving the investment climate in developing countries and putting forth a new investment narrative in development cooperation. It is a budgetary guarantee that will allow the EU to work more efficiently with EU agencies and EU member states’ development agencies, which in turn will need to bring their own financing to the table. It will also serve as a platform where businesses can partner and engage on investment and climate concerns. The European External Investment Plan amounts currently to 1.5bn euros, aiming at 60bn euros for the future. In general, this new EU initiative was welcomed by the private sector and generated interest on the Israeli side. Interlocutors discussed challenges they face in Africa, such as a lack of maintenance, corruption, and governance issues.
A way forward for Israel and the EU could be to discuss priorities where the Israeli private sector could be engaged, such as in agriculture, water management, security, border control, and counter terrorism (CT). There is a growing understanding that Africa needs to become responsible for its own development and can’t continue to depend on aid. A speaker emphasized the role of the private sector and the need for job creation, especially for the youth, to be on the forefront, as well as the need to go into the root causes of development problems. EU instruments should be adapted to home grown policies in Africa, and the right people need to be identified to channel the resources. In the course of the discussion, the work of the Institute of Higher Business Studies (IESE) was also presented, which has an Israeli-US-European development program based on scalable business opportunities in various African countries including Kenia and the Ivory Coast. Overall, in development work, one needs to have a balance between short and long-term actions, as well as more scalability of development projects.
Interlocutors discussed new strategic approaches to development, addressing the development-security nexus and explored opportunities for trilateral cooperation. There is a growing awareness on the EU side to address the development-security nexus. A speaker called for the EU and Israel to work together instead of developing their own strategies in parallel. General elements of a strategy were put forth: the importance of public-private partnerships (PPP) and access to capital, the need for locally driven projects and African ownership, a focus on communities, smaller but more flexible financing, as well as a need for more effectiveness and flexibility. Some issues were raised regarding the concept of trilateral cooperation: too complex, and no clear understanding of its ramifications. A general concern and issue upon which the interlocutors agreed was the sustainability of China’s development work. The role of different African institutions as potential partners was discussed as well.
“The Roundtable brought a more thorough understanding of the Israeli actions in Africa.”An EU participant