Nouakchott — The 4th EU-Africa Summit kicked off on Wednesday (April 2nd) in Brussels. The UN and African Commission heads are among 90 international leaders attending the event.
The 2-day event - the first since 2010 in Tripoli - focuses on security, investment, climate change and migration.
African Union (AU) Chairman and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said he hoped "to see this meeting constitute a new departure in the history of our co-operation".
"Above all, investment in human resources entails investing in young people through education, training and conditioning in order to give them access to the labour market on a competent footing," he added.
Efforts must be stepped up to guarantee sustained growth and employment for the youth, he said.
The "interdependence between development and security has led African countries of in general and those of the Sahel in particular to co-ordinate their security policies in order to tackle terrorist groups and criminal organisations", he said.
Co-ordination with partners yielded concrete results and ushered a decrease in terrorist operations across the region, he added.
For his part, European Council head Herman Van Rompuy said that the chosen theme addressed the daily concerns of citizens, namely security, employment and people's futures.
He highlighted the importance of Africa's potential and Europe's willingness to co-operate with its neighbours in a "dynamic and effective manner embodying co-existence and reconciliation".
In his turn, European Commission president José Manuel Barosso said the summit would "make it possible to develop a balanced partnership and take greater advantage of opportunities for co-operation".
"The European Union has budgeted 43 billion euros to support development projects in Africa over the coming years," he added. Of those, he said that 800 million euros were already available.
French President François Hollande called for "the creation of an Africa-Europe alliance to deal with the challenges that both continents face".
He stressed "the need for close co-operation between both parties, including with regard to security, conservation of the environment and development".
According to Sidati Ould Cheikh, an expert on security matters, "relations between Africa and Europe are taking a new shape dictated by a new situation arising out of illegal immigration and security challenges."
"Terrorism has also changed the situation, and security is now at the heart of African and European concerns," Ould Cheikh said. "And with the situation in Libya, which is now the main corridor through which would-be immigrants travel, the situation is getting out of hand, hence the grave concerns of European leaders."
Malian journalist Ibou Sidibe noted that an action plan adopted during the last EU-Africa Summit in 2010 for 2011-2013 "set concrete goals in specific areas of co-operation, such as peace and security, democratic governance and human rights".
"The EU is heavily involved in security in Africa at the moment. It has devised an integrated Sahel strategy involving military training and the supply of equipment, especially in Mali," he told Magharebia.