Tuesday April 12th, 2005 02:52
By ROBERT WIELAARD, Associated Press Writer
They also pledged continued financial and other support for AU peacekeeping operations in wartorn African lands such as Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Ivory Coast.
At a daylong meeting, the two sides debated ways "to strengthen our dialogue," said Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn, whose country now holds the EU presidency.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Olu Adeniji, leading the AU delegation, hailed the EU as a "very faithful ally."
At a joint news conference with Asselborn, he said Africans "must take the initiative in resolving conflicts that have plagued our continent" but count on material help from Europe.
The EU has already provided financial and other aid for AU peacekeepers in Somalia.
EU officials plans to continue such assistance _ that covers planning help, training, communications and airlift, among other things, but not European troops.
EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel said he will soon issue a new EU development strategy stressing the need for more African security and regional economic integration.
"We need to move beyond the idea it suffices to open (European) markets to ensure that North-South trade is fostered," Michel said. "That will happen when there is a strong South-South element. When there is regional trade in Africa."
The 53-nation African Union was created in 2002 as the successor to the Organization of African Unity.
Modeled after the EU, with an executive commission, a pan-African parliament and a court of justice, the AU is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and is committed to spread democracy, human rights and economic development across the African continent.
EU-AU relations have been touchy
In 2003, an EU-African summit in Lisbon was canceled when some African nations balked at the EU refusing to let Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe attend. The EU has imposed a travel ban on Mugabe and his government in response to his authoritarian policies.
At Monday's meeting, Asselborn said the "EU expressed its concern about the parliamentary elections held in Zimbabwe at the end of March," which were widely denounced as flawed.
He said the EU and AU delegations discussed such issues as good governance, election monitoring, human rights, terrorism and the United Nations summit opening Sept. 5 in New York that will be devoted to U.N. reforms and development issues.
At the same time as the Luxembourg event, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addressing a Sudan donors conference in Oslo, Norway, called for US$1 billion (A€780 million) in urgent aid to help southern Sudan recover from Africa's longest civil war.
"In the south, we will run out of food for 2 million people in a matter of weeks," Annan told the 60-nation meeting.