Transatlantic tensions on the Africa policies

Date - 10 / 04 / 2019

Transatlantic tensions on the Africa policies

Transatlantic tensions, cooperation and the Africa policies of the United States and the European Union

Gorm Rye Olsen
Roskilde University, Denmark

Donald Trump’s entry into the White House in January 2017 led to the launch of a new foreign policy of the United States. Dan Hamilton describes it as ‘Jacksonian’ (Hamilton 2017) with its strong emphasis on American interests and priorities under the headline ‘America First’. The Jacksonian foreign policy has a highly skeptical attitude towards the European Union and towards transatlantic cooperation. The Jacksonian inspired foreign policy of Donald Trump did also manifest itself in a remarkable limited interest for Africa. The lack of attention to the continent was clearly emphasized by the postponement of the appointment of an assistant secretary of State for Africa until September 2018 as well as the lack of filling of important ambassador positions like South Africa after two years in office.

It is not the first time, the transatlantic relationship has been severely strained as it has been under President Trump. The relations between Washington and Brussels, including individual European capitals were characterized by deep divisions and disagreements under George W. Bush, not least in the wake of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The paper asks if the strong disagreements across the Atlantic have affected the Africa policies of the two actors and if it has affected their inclination to cooperate on Africa. The ‘Africa policies’ of the US and the EU mainly refer to security interventions. Only to a limited degree, it refers to their development aid policies leaving humanitarian aid out for the analysis.

It is the argument that the Africa policies of the two Western powers and the cooperation on Africa are not affected by the policies of the shifting administrations in Washington and neither by the possible straining of the transatlantic relationship. It implies that the paper argues that the determinants of the policies and of the cooperation on Africa related issues have very little to do with the ups and downs in the relationship between the US and the EU. Using the terminology of historical institutionalism, the Africa polices of the US and the EU including their cooperation on African issues are assumed to be “path dependent” implying they are basically determined by domestic circumstances and not by changing transatlantic relations.

The paper is structured as follows. The next section presents the analytical framework. It is followed by a brief presentation of the Africa policies of the United States and the European Union during the period covered by the presidencies of George W. Bush (2001-2008), Barack Obama (2009-2016) and Donald Trump (2017ff). After the overview of the Africa policies, a section follows that looks into the potential impact of leadership perceptions and into the possible impact of the strategic culture on policies and cooperation between the US and the EU. The last two sections deal with state-society relations and with the role and impact of government institutions on policy-making and implementation of policies on Africa in Washington and Brussels.

(Please continue reading the above text in the attached paper, for use of the Network only.)

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The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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