The European Union and Africa are tied by a common history, geography and shared values and languages, according to President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.

In his speech at the opening of the fifth African Union-European Union Summit in Abidjan on November 29, Tajani said: “We have to nurture this comparative advantage on a daily basis not to let it slip away. Let us not forget that together we make up more than a third of the countries of the world.”

Tajani stressed that together, the EU and Africa can adopt common positions and achieve common goals in multilateral fora, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.

“This is our strength and that is the strategic interest which should bring us together and give us unity of purpose,” he said. “Well beyond our ties, we have common challenges and common interests. I would mention just four: migration flows, the fight against terrorism, the fight against climate change as well as economic growth and employment.”

Tajani also suggested that these summits should be held every two years instead of every three years.

Ahead of the summit, Tajani stressed the importance of democracy, human rights and job creation.

“Our first aim must be to create jobs in an effort to tackle the population question,” he said. “This will require huge investment delivered by means of innovative financial instruments which will have a direct impact on ordinary people. Businesses must be encouraged to invest in Africa by means of European economic diplomacy which brings with it know-how and technology transfer, thereby boosting the private sector, SMEs and entrepreneurship.”

As regards human rights, Tajani condemned the re-emergence of a form of slavery recently seen in Libya. “This is unacceptable, and we must not close our eyes to the phenomenon. And not only because we have seen pictures of what is taking place in Tripoli. It is sure to be happening elsewhere.”

The participants at the Parliamentary Summit signed a Joint Declaration affirming the important role of National and Trans-National Parliaments in democratisation and cooperation between the EU and African Union and the reciprocal will for a political partnership between the two continents to face common challenges.

Also in Abidjan for the summit was a delegation of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament. S&D Group Leader Gianni Pittella, said: “The Pan-African Parliament and the European Parliament Summit adopted an appeal that put the parliaments of both continents at the heart of the relations between Africa and the European Union. African and European heads of state and government must listen to the voice of the people, especially young people and women, who ask ambitious and concrete proposals from the summit and not vague declarations and promises.”

He called on the African Union and the European Union to address the untenable situation of refugees in Libya, to put an end to the inhuman treatment in the camps and any cases of slavery.

“A short-term strategy on Africa, based solely on a security-based approach, will not solve the root causes of irregular migration flows. EU and AU member states must ensure that any migratory movement is safe, legal and voluntary,” he said.

According to Cecile Kyenge, S&D negotiator at the PAP-EP Summit and ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly vice-president, the summit was strategic.

“We have to change the narrative of our partnership: Migration has to be safe, legal and voluntary. We must recognise the outstanding role of the diaspora in bringing positive development to promote peace, democracy and good governance,” she said.

“Strengthening political dialogue through parliamentary inter-relations needs to be strengthened and must be inclusive and multi-stakeholder oriented. Our partnership must be guided by new economic flows, evolving strategic interactions with stakeholders and including the participation of women, young people and civil society.”