This House believes Cape Verde’s regional future lies with Europe, not Africa

Cape Verde[1] is an archipelago nation with a population of around half a million people 500km off the coast of West Africa[2]. Formerly a Portuguese colony, it gained independence from Portugal in 1975 - the year after the collapse of the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. The independence movement, founded by Amilcar Cabral, a pan-Africanist, was linked to independence campaigns elsewhere in Africa, such as that of Guinea-Bissau[3]. Links between the two nations however weakened after Guinea-Bissau’s 1980 coup[4]. Cape Verde has had democratic elections since 1991, and is listed as having top scores and status as a "Model for political rights and civil liberties in Africa" according to Freedom House[5]. Other islands groups off the coast of North-West Africa include the Azores and Madeira, which remain part of Portugal, and the Canary Islands, which are an integral part of Spain.

Cape Verde has recently attempted to position itself towards Europe (an EU membership bid was mooted in 2005[6]), including a “Special Partnership” with the European Union which increases “cooperation at a political level and on security, regional integration, the knowledge-based society and poverty alleviation.”[7]  If Cape Verde’s government is set on integration in to the European sphere, the ultimate goal would be membership of the European Union, the tight knit political and economic organization which contains 28 nations, covering much of the continent. Indeed, Cape Verde has changed its national flag to one featuring a ring of stars not dissimilar to that of the European Union. Cape Verde's currency, the Escudo, is pegged to the Euro.

Cape Verde is not the only nation separated from the main European continent which is a part of, or has attempted to join European organisations. Morocco applied to join the European Union in 1987, but was rejected, citing geographical reasons[8]. The Council of Europe counts Azerbaijan, in Central Asia, as one of its members[9]. On a sporting level, Israel’s national football and rugby teams have competed in European competitions for political reasons[10], the state not being formally recognised by many other nations in Asia. Israel has been suggested as an EU member too, although a wide variety of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict make membership unlikely.

[1] The official name used by the government in English is Cabo Verde, the Portuguese term for its name in English. However, as Cape Verde is more commonly used in English, this will be used throughout the debate.

[2] Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Cabo Verde’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,

[3] See MacQueen, Norrie, “Widening trajectories: Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde since independence”,, 2006,

[4] BBC News, “Cape Verde Profile”,, 2014,

[5] Freedom House, “Cape Verde”, Freedom in the World 2013,

[6] Nn, “Cape Verde could seek EU membership this year”, EUbusiness, 2005,

[7] Nn, “Special partnership with Cape Verde”,, 2007,

[8] See nn, “W. Europe Bloc Bars Morocco as Member”, Los Angeles Times, Jul 21 1987, archived copy – only abstract available -

[9] Council of Europe, “Member States”,,

[10] See UEFA, “Israel make their mark”,, no date,


Cultural links

Cape Verde is not a good fit with the much of the history of Africa. It has been joined at the hip with Europe, if other things had gone other ways this debate would not be happening as the islands could have remained an integral part of Portugal as with Madeira and the Azores. Not all Cape Verdeans do consider themselves to be Africans[1].

Cape Verde culturally and historically has more in common with Europe. It has a longer standing relationship with a European state than other African nations that were colonized; it was first settled by the Portuguese in 1462 and unlike much of Africa it was uninhabited before Europeans arrived[2]. It history has therefore been one that is linked to Europe not Africa.

A future orientated towards Europe would not have to be culturally exclusive. Cape Verde would not be giving up its independence, any more than Ireland gave up its independence by becoming part of the European Union. Cape Verde would still be free to explore cultural and historical links with Africa.

[1] See Duarte, Diana, “Diana Duarte on Blackness and Cape Verde”, Unchain Africa Press, 2009,

[2] Schultz, Colin, “These are all the places  Europeans actually discovered”,, 16 August 2013,


While Cape Verde may have a history and culture that is closer to Europe than all other African states this does not mean it does not have an African culture. There are of course many African states all with their own histories, culture and independence dates – from Ethiopia in time immemorial through Namibia in the 1990s to the birth of South Sudan. Some will have more in common with European states than others.

Cape Verde has strong links to Africa; much of its population were originally slaves brought from Africa. The World Factbook gives its ethnic  groups as 71% Creole (mulatto) – mixed race, 28% African, and only 1% European.[1] With its population being descended from slavery despite its history having been controlled by Europeans its peoples’ historical experience is more in line with other African countries that were the victims of slavery.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Cabo Verde’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,

Its the economy, stupid!

Cape Verde doesn’t dislike West Africa – it just has no real economic connection to the region. Cape Verde’s main economic partners are in Europe, with over half of imports coming from Portugal and The Netherlands, and more than three quarters of exports going to Spain and Portugal together[1].

If Cape Verde were to join the EU Internal Market, as discussed[2], it would give Cape Verdean exports total unfettered access to the whole market and integrate them in to the systems of standards. Joining would mean lower tariffs so in turn Cape Verde goods being exported would be cheaper in their main European market so boosting exports while imports would be cheaper for consumers in Cape Verde meaning the residents are able to buy more.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Cabo Verde’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,

[2] ‘Cape Verde could seek EU membership this year’, EUbusiness, 7 May 2005,


That’s what the status is now. If Africa is indeed rising, surely that is a better bet for Cape Verde? Cape Verde is already being integrated into Africa; it is a member of the Economic Community of West African States. There is an intention for these regional African communities to at some point merge into a market stretching across Africa; The African Economic Community. Cape Verde should increase its integration with a community it is already a member of.

Looking to the European Union also ignores China, India and other important economise – including millions of fellow Portuguese speakers in Brazil, one of the much touted BRIC economies.

EU membership is good for tourism

Tourism is a key industry for Cape Verde. The archipelago is a popular destination for many from Europe. While the country is resource poor in terms of natural resources, three quarters of the country’s GDP comes from services[1].

Integration with Europe could see a number of advantages. The Schengen agreement allows visa free, and border control free, travel between its members so this would mean a potential boom in the tourist industry. Joining the Euro would also mean a common currency with other European nations – the Cape Verde Escudo is already pegged to the Euro, and prior to that, it was pegged to the Portuguese Escudo.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Cabo Verde’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,


Schengen membership is not the same as EU membership – some non-EU states, such as Switzerland are part of Schengen, the UK and Ireland are EU member states but are not. Joining Schengen would involve the politically sensitive issue of undocumented migrants, which could not only be fatal to Cape Verde joining Schengen but to integration with Europe itself. Even if it is unlikely, is it that difficult for people to show a passport?

Besides, tourism is not just from Europe to outside – a Euro move would only stop Europeans from needing to change currencies. The peg is the best of both worlds in that it means that the currency is stable.

Joining Europe is unrealistic

A move towards the European sphere of influence might seem logical, but success is not guaranteed.  In terms of population, Cape Verde would be the second smallest EU member state after Malta meaning it would have little influence over the Union when it joins. And there is little reason for the EU to desire Cape Verde’s membership as it will provide no real gains to the Union.

Also, its human development index is lower than that of Iraq[1], over fifty places behind that of lowest EU member state Bulgaria – which when it comes to governance and development is subject to little more than ridicule in the media of other member states. Not every European nation would get in on economic criteria – Moldova joining is not likely in the near future either.

The only success from orientating towards Europe would be a burning of continental bridges with Africa.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Iraq’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,


Size is not necessarily a problem; it means it is much simpler for the EU to pull Cape Verde up to European standards than it would be with a larger country. It also means there will be few concerns about membership; no one is going to be worried about emigration from a country with a tiny population.

The process would also not be immediate; countries take at a minimum five years and often over a decade to join the EU. There are other potential candidates such as Moldova, with a lower GDP per capita, which has been touted as a potential member by Romania[1]. Cape Verde has a service based economy, like many EU member states. It is already a member of the WTO, and has had good solid economic growth[2]. Moreover the entire accession process is built around helping potential member states achieve these criteria, and Cape Verde, due to its small size, would not face the biggest challenges to get in.

There is no reason why Cape Verde joining the EU is somehow impractical on an economic level.

[1] Nn, “Romania urges EU membership date for Moldova”, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 19 March 2014,

[2] World Bank, “Cabo Verde Data”, data.worldbank.org

Cape Verde should be a beacon for Africa

Rather than joining the European sphere or even looking towards Europe, Cape Verde could act as a beacon for the rest of Africa. Africa has a need for countries that are setting a good example in governance for others to follow. The country is already at the top of several sections in the Mo Ibrahim Index, notably those relating to human rights[1].

Its former President Pedro Pires has also won the Mo Ibrahim prize for “transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity”. The prize is only awarded when there is a peaceful, democratic transition and is in many years not awarded to anyone, it has not been awarded since Pires in 2011.[2] Instead of abandoning it Cape Verde should help build up Africa – a rising continent, rather than taking the tempting option of moving.

[1] ‘Cape Verde 3rd/52’, Mo Ibrahim Index, 2013,

[2] ‘President Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, Cape Verde’, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, 2011,


Cape Verde should determine its own role in the world – not be beholden to the interests of a continental bloc.

Paradoxically by moving towards Europe Cape Verde could be a much better model for the African continent – it would show that African states, even small ones, are capable of becoming developed countries. An African country successfully joining European institutions would give hope to the rest of the continent that there could be closer integration and cooperation in the future.

Geographical stretch too far

Cape Verde is just too far from Europe – it is 400 miles off the coast of Senegal compared to almost 1,900 miles from the Portuguese mainland.[1] The European Union has never had a member from Africa, and neither have other European institutions such as the Council of Europe.[2] The Canary Islands and similar archipelagos are not helpful as a precedent because they are integral parts of other nations that are themselves clearly positioned on the European continent.

The sole condition for EU membership is that the applicant must be a European state, something Cape Verde is not. Would the EU really be willing to have a member so far from it as a full member, when Morocco, just across the strait of Gibraltar, was rejected for that reason?[3]

[1] ‘Distance from Praia to…’, timeanddate.com

[2] ‘Member States’, coe.int

[3] ‘Legal questions of enlargement’, Briefing No 23, europarl.europa.eu


EU member states regularly have territories even further abroad than off the coast of West Africa – including even territory on the mainland of South America, French Guiana, a French overseas region. Cyprus is an EU member state too, in the Eastern Mediterranean sea sandwiched between Turkey and Syria. Cyprus is over 300 miles from any other EU territory, over water. In an era of telecommunications and international trade, is this distance too much of a problem? 


BBC News, “Cape Verde Profile”,, 2014,

Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Cabo Verde’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,

Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Iraq’, The World Factbook, 11 April 2014,

Council of Europe, “Member States”,,

Duarte, Diana, “Diana Duarte on Blackness and Cape Verde”, Unchain Africa Press, 2009,

“Cape Verde could seek EU membership this year”, EUbusiness, 2005,

“Special partnership with Cape Verde”,, 2007,

“Legal questions of enlargement”, Briefing No 23,,

Freedom House, “Cape Verde”, Freedom in the World 2013,

“W. Europe Bloc Bars Morocco as Member”, Los Angeles Times, Jul 21 1987, archived copy – only abstract available -

MacQueen, Norrie, “Widening trajectories: Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde since independence”,, 2006,

“President Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, Cape Verde”, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, 2011,

“Cape Verde 3rd/52”, Mo Ibrahim Index, 2013,

“Romania urges EU membership date for Moldova”, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 19 March 2014,

Schultz, Colin, “These are all the places  Europeans actually discovered”,, 16 August 2013,

“Distance from Praia to…”,,

UEFA, “Israel make their mark”,, no date,

World Bank, “Cabo Verde Data”,,