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EU seeks to mend ties with African Union countries

Good morning and welcome to Europe Express.

The EU’s record on Africa is patchy at best and the pandemic hasn’t exactly improved its reputation, given the slow pace of vaccine donations and bloc’s opposition to a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.

Negotiators are meeting later today to iron out the final statement of the EU-African Union summit starting on Thursday in Brussels. Meanwhile, Poland has threatened not to sign up to the statement because of its rule of law dispute with Brussels. (It won’t have a real impact, the EU can still adopt it without Warsaw.) I’ll run you through the outstanding differences and why organisers opted for a wedding reception style gathering with large round tables on different topics.

Meanwhile, EU officials yesterday acknowledged that its leaders could be summoned on Thursday morning for an emergency meeting on Ukraine if the security situation worsens. A decision in this regard could potentially be taken after Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz returns from his meeting with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin later today.

Several European airlines have started to avoid the Ukrainian airspace, and we’ll look at the guidance and concerns this industry has in respect to a renewed conflict in the country.

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Peak summitry

The long-delayed summit between EU and African Union leaders will aim to restore trust between the two continents (and their institutions) with extra funding, more vaccine production in Africa, and a diluted focus on migration.

Fitting 80 delegations with sometimes clashing agendas into one room was a near-impossible task from the outset, so organisers have broken down discussions in groups of countries seated around tables with different topics and co-chaired by a European and an African leader.

Germany and South Africa, for instance, will co-chair the discussion on “health systems and vaccine production”.

Talks on migration, meanwhile, will be part of a broader set of topics, with a senior EU official confirming that one of the roundtables at the summit will be dedicated to migration, mobility, training and skills.

If the EU wants to make progress on the issue of returns and readmissions of migrants, it will be necessary to engage in a “broader partnership” with the Africans, and particularly with priority countries where the issue is most relevant.

“We have for the first time in many years the occasion to have direct dialogue with African leaders on this topic,” said the official. “I do not exclude that this will be an intense debate, but this is not a problem.”

As a quick reminder, the EU took the AU by surprise when it decided at a summit in 2018 to set up “disembarkation platforms” in African countries where they would deport migrants who reach Europe. The plan was quietly shelved amid outrage from the AU itself.

The language on migration in the draft statement differs considerably between what the EU suggests and what the AU is willing to accept. The AU objects to the expression “irregular migration”, and instead is referring to “the root causes of forced displacement, notably those induced by climate change”.

On vaccines, the AU would have liked a commitment from the EU for 700mn Covid-19 vaccine doses by mid-2022 to benefit Africa, while the bloc is only willing to commit to its existing goal of providing 700mn doses to developing countries, of which 450mn will benefit Africa.

European governments, the European Commission and EU financial institutions (so-called Team Europe) also pledge a yet undecided billion-euro amount as an “Africa-Europe investment package” for the continent’s energy, transport and digital infrastructure.

But the AU’s request to include a reference to the World Trade Organization process aimed at obtaining a patent waiver for Covid vaccines (Trips) is likely to be rejected — and it hasn’t been included in the current draft statement.

Chart du jour: Market reaction

Column chart of Percentage moves for Stoxx 600 trading since beginning of January  showing European stocks pitch towards second-biggest daily decline of 2022

European stocks fell yesterday to the second-lowest point this year, while natural gas contracts for next-month delivery jumped 10 per cent and the international oil benchmark Brent crude rose at the highest level in more than seven years, after US warnings that an attack by Russia against Ukraine could begin “any day now”. (More here)

Looming ban

How long will people still be able to catch a flight out of Ukraine?

A handful of airlines including Norwegian and KLM have decided to stay clear of Ukrainian airspace following the increased tensions with Russia, and airlines bosses were joined yesterday by EU and member-state officials on crisis calls to try to chart a path forward, writes Philip Georgiadis in London.

On the surface, not much has changed. Airlines have taken advice from their own in-house security teams, and for now the majority are still willing to fly into and over Ukrainian airspace, said a person briefed on the discussions.

But behind the scenes many are taking action, including shorter turnround times on the ground, daylight-only operations and carrying extra fuel to allow them to rapidly respond to any changes to the security situation, according to trade body Airlines for Europe.

Some airline bosses are also expecting clearer guidance from the EU’s Aviation Safety Agency imminently, which has said it is “monitoring the situation closely”.

The situation is particularly fraught given the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014, which killed 298 people and led air safety officials to declare a “no-fly zone” over a swath of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

What to watch today

  1. Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Vladimir Putin in Moscow

  2. European Commission puts forward its defence and space strategy. (More here)

  3. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg holds news conference ahead of defence ministers’ meeting tomorrow

Notable, Quotable

  • A name for Kyiv: Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian politician turned sanatorium boss was named as Moscow’s possible choice to lead regime change in Ukraine, according to US intelligence made available to the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

  • Spanish right: The poor result of the centre-right Popular party in Sunday’s regional elections cast a spotlight on the predicament of a party that, like many of its European counterparts, is struggling to retain voters attracted to the more clear-cut message of the far right.

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hello, I am Flora Khan and i work journalist in allnewshouse website i work in other sites like forbes and washington post with 5 years in experience.

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