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Can Cape Verde become an EU country?

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

It is usually agreed that EU Member States keep strong relationships with former colonies as illustrated by the relationship between Cape Verde and Portugal and that these relations are determinant factors in the cooperation between the EU and third countries and regions.

Praia, Cape Verde

Since 2005, Portugal and Cape Verde have been working together in order to help the archipelago to build closer ties with the EU. As a result from their colonial past, both countries have strong bilateral ties and Cape Verde was prompted to go beyond the Cotonou Agreement in its cooperation with the EU. In March 2005, Mário Soares, a former President of the Portuguese Republic, Diogo Freitas do Amaral, at the time Portugal’s Foreign Minister, and Adriano Moreira, a former Portuguese Minister of the Overseas Territories, supported Cape Verde’s candidacy to become an EU Member State. Cape Verdean authorities did however not submit an official membership application. The idea of Cape Verde becoming an EU Member State has also never been formally rejected. One could argue that Cape Verde will never become an EU Member States because of its geographical location but Cyprus could be an interesting counter example. Cyprus became an EU Member State in 2004 and its geographical location is questionable as it is closer to the Middle East than to Europe. Cape Verde being part of Macaronesia and geographically close to the islands that compose it (the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands) could arguably also be located in the EU’s geographical proximity if the same perspective is taken. Even though it seems today that Cape Verde will not become an EU Member State anytime soon, Cape Verde still beneficiates of favourable mobility conditions towards the EU than its neighbours and we could imagine that in the future new steps could be taken to increase Cape Verdeans mobility options towards the EU.

In January 2007, a Task Force aiming at creating a Special Partnership for Cape Verde was created. In the second semester of 2007, the Council was presided by Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates and the Commission was chaired by José Manuel Durão Barroso, a former Portuguese Prime Minister. Both officials wanted the EU to focus more on Africa and were sensitive to the aspirations of Cape Verdeans’ having a closer status with the EU. The perfect configuration for the conclusion of the Special Partnership with Cape Verde was in place. In December 2007, the EU and Cape Verde concluded a Special Partnership. Linked to the conclusion of this Special Partnership was the adoption of a Mobility Partnership between Cape Verde, the EU and Spain, France, Luxembourg and Portugal on 21 May 2008. Hitherto, the cooperation on migration issues between Cape Verde and the EU was essentially conducted by Portugal alone.

Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos De Almeida Fonseca And His Wife Ligia Dias Fonseca At The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on December 10th 2018.

Portugal strongly supported the conclusion of the Mobility Partnership with Cape Verde leading multiple meetings with different EU Member States, to raise awareness on the case of Cape Verde in order to promote the Special Partnership as well as the Mobility Partnership linked to it. The Cape Verdean ambassador in Brussels was responsible for the negotiations of the Mobility Partnership. Cape Verde was also proactive in its attempts to be selected as a pilot country for the Mobility Partnership. The Cape Verdean ambassador in Lisbon approached Portuguese officials and the Cape Verdean ambassador in Brussels discussed a potential Mobility Partnership with the Permanent Representation of Luxembourg.

At the time of the negotiations, Cape Verdean officials saw in the Mobility Partnership an opportunity to enhance the mobility perspectives of Cape Verdean citizens. Cape Verde is a country that highly depends on remittances from its nationals abroad. With more possibilities to legally travel and work abroad, more Cape Verdeans could be sending remittances, a positive for the national economy. It should also be considered that at the time of the conclusion of this pilot Mobility Partnership the economic crisis had not yet hit the European economy and several labour mobility schemes were envisaged, as for example the one with France. At an early stage of the negotiation of the Mobility Partnership, the idea of granting a visa exemption status to Cape Verde was presented, but because of the start of economic and migration crises in Europe, it did not gain further traction.

In the future, visa exemption might be considered again for Cape Verde. A Portuguese representative interviewed in Cape Verde, said that he expects a visa exemption for Cape Verde to be put in place in the next five to ten years. However, for now, this vision does not seem to be shared by the EU.

Author: Dr Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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