Since the birth of multi-racial democracy in South Africa in 1994, a strong relationship has evolved between South Africa and the EU.
The Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) signed in 1999 provides the legal basis for relations between South Africa and the EU and underpins close relations on trade, development, economic cooperation and political dialogue.
The Strategic Partnership (2007) has further consolidated relations, with the focus on:
A presidential summit has taken place yearly since 2008, most recently in Pretoria on 18 July 2013. This occasion also provided the opportunity to pay tribute to former president Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday. The main theme of the Summit was job creation, economic growth, investments and skills, but included broader political discussion on the regional and global agenda.
It meets yearly, and its next meeting is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 15 October 2013.
Together, the EU and its member countries provide roughly 70% of all cooperation funds given to South Africa - 1.3% of its budget, and 0.3% of the GDP.
EU development cooperation with South Africa is financed from the EU's Development Cooperation Instrument. The EU's annual financial commitments to South Africa have averaged €125 million since 1995. The sum allocated for 2007-13 is €980 million.
Recent programmes focused on health, primary education and job creation.
Having decided to focus its development funding on the world's poorest countries, the EU is currently considering whether upper middle-income countries like South Africa should continue to receive financial support from 2014. South Africa has advocated for continued EU assistance to help tackle its deep economic and social inequalities as a legacy of the apartheid era. A decision is expected before the end of the year once the EU inter-institutional debate is concluded.
South Africa is the EU's largest trading partner in Africa and is by far the strongest of sub-Saharan Africa's economies.