Following the transition to democracy in 1994, relations between South Africa and the European Union have increased significantly. Considering the many post-Apartheid challenges of the time, South Africa and the EU in the mid-nineties identified the need to enter into a broad framework agreement that would cover all spheres of cooperation. This led to the signing of the SA-EU Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) on 11 October 1999. The TDCA was provisionally implemented on 1 January 2000 and was fully implemented with effect from 1 May 2004, following full ratification by all parties. The TDCA was the first such framework agreement entered into by both parties, and forms the legal base for cooperation in areas of trade, political dialogue, development cooperation, economic and other areas of cooperation
Despite the success of the TDCA, in 2004 both parties identified the need to further deepen cooperation in order to help address the many global and regional challenges. This led to the adoption in Brussels on 14 May 2007 of the SA-EU Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan (JAP). The Strategic Partnership is built on the many shared values and common interests of the EU and South Africa and serves as an instrument to jointly pursue both parties’ commitment to promote liberty, peace, prosperity, security and stability in the world, and in Africa in particular.
South Africa and the EU now cooperate with each other at various levels and in many forums. Other than trade and development cooperation, various dialogue fora address issues pertinent to South Africa, the EU, Africa and the rest of the world. These include dialogue fora on trade, development cooperation, environment, science and technology, space, energy, transport, health, migration. These functional dialogue fora operate in addition to annual summit meetings and 6-monthly Ministerial meetings held at the political level.