|The Courier N° 127 May - June 1991- Dossier 'New' ACP Export Products - Country Reports Cape Verde - Namibia (EC Courier, 1991, 104 p.)|
|Namibia: Meeting challenge of nationhood|
· It was you who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the Community for the accession of Namibia to the Lomonvention. How did you carry out this process?
- I visited Namibia for the first time in February 1990. I had the opportunity then to inform President Nujoma of the importance attached, and support given by the Commission over many years to the struggle for the independence of the Namibian people. From a personal point of view, I was struck by the political maturity which Namibia displayed, and by the spirit of reconciliation which characterised the work of the Constitutive Assembly. I believe that the speed with which the Constitution was drawn up underscored the determination of Namibians - of all persuasions - to put an end to the confrontations of the past and to work on building the nation.
In these circumstances I was naturally very satisfied when, a mere nine days after gaining independence. Namibia lodged its official request to accede to the Lomonvention.
On the side of the Community, as well as that of the ACP countries, there was no argument about the principle of Namibian accession. The negotiations for the renewal of the Convention explicitly foresaw the entry of Namibia once it had moved to independence and made an application to join. Accordingly, the negotiations with the Namibian Government focused solely on the specific problems which Namibia chose to raise and which were not already covered by the general provisions of LomV.
· What particular elements were covered in the accession process?
- In order to take full account of the particular circumstances of the Namibian economy, it was considered necessary to make a number of specific arrangements, notably in four areas. These were: conferring least developed status on the country for a period of five years, with the possibility of extension; inclusion of Karakul pelts in the Stabex system: continued membership of the Southern Africa Customs Union and establishment of a beef protocol.
It was this last point which proved to be the most difficult to settle. Having heard the Namibian viewpoint, and recognising the importance of this sector for the country, I proposed an annual quota of 15 000 tonnes. Following what were undeniably difficult negotiations in the Commission and the Council of Ministers, Namibia obtained an annual quota of 10 500 tonnes of deboned beef for this year and 1992, rising to 13 000 tonnes for the remaining three years of the beef protocol.
It is my view that these arrangements which we succeeded in obtaining, along with the general provisions of the Convention, represent an overall package which can make a significant contribution to Namibias development. It was against this background that all the implementing measures were agreed by Trade Minister Amathila and myself on 19 and 20 November 1990.
· Do you think that Namibias independece process could provide an example for other countries?
- Certainly. The political and constitutional success of Namibia is now a model for change and democracy in Africa - doubly so in southern Africa.
In the first place, Namibia has shown that peace and national reconciliation are vital if one wishes to achieve the objective of rapid economic growth with social justice. Secondly, the Namibian experience points up a reality which is sometimes neglected and which, in my view, applies to the whole African continent. This is that there is not one democracy for white people and another democracy for black people.
The slogan one man, one vote, I am convinced, does not only apply to apartheid countries. Having said this, it is natural that there might be nuances - the evolution may vary according to the political, economic and cultural circumstances of each country.
· Do you think that the political success of independence is sufficient to guarantee success at the economic level, and in development?
- Clearly not. The former is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient in itself. I am fully aware of the current problems which the Government and people of Namibia have to tackle. As you know, I myself come from a country - Spain - which moved peacefully to democracy after a dictatorship of 30 years and I know well that that inevitably results in greatly increased expectations, particularly among those who have long struggled for political change.
In the final analysis, responsibility for development rests with the Namibian people. Having said that, the Commission fully supports the course chosen by the Government with its emphasis on autonomy and national sovereignty. We are ready to assist the process, whether at a bilateral level or in the framework of SADCC and I hope that the Lomonvention will be a valuable instrument in helping to meet the aspirations of this young yet wise nation.
· There is, however, one field of EEC/ Namibia relations which? is not covered by Lom fishing agreements. Nevertheless, this is an important sector for the country.
- For Namibia as well as a good number of other developing countries fishing is, in fact, one of the main sources of revenue. Namibias coastal waters, although rich in resources, were subject to very serious overfishing in the period prior to independence. Therefore, it was important for Namibia to establish its 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without delay and to evaluate the situation of its marine resources as of independence. It is obvious that Namibia, like all other sovereign states, is completely at liberty to establish its own fishing and resource conservation policies.
On the other hand, we should not forget that the negotiation of fishing agreements between the Community and developing countries is something which is completely independent of the Lomonvention. The possibility of such an agreement was not even looked at during the negotiations for the accession of Namibia to LomV which I oversaw personally.
That said, after the signature of the Convention, Namibia and the Community agreed that it was an opportune moment to begin negotiating a fishing agreement. The Commission, which has exclusive competence in matters related to fishing, therefore initiated negotiations for what we hoped would be a multi-annual agreement.
· It would seem, however, that these negotiations are going through a sticky patch?
- The Namibian Government fixed the total allowable catch for 1991 at 60000 tonnes. Thats a lower amount than has been fished in the past but Namibia, logically, wants to allow its stocks to recover. That is quite normal and we accept it without reservation. However, when we began the negotiations this year, we discovered that the Namibian Government wanted to reserve 85 % of this 60 000 tonnes for certain shipowners, notably Spanish but also from other Member States, who have been fishing in Namibian waters, on the basis of individual licences. The EEC/ Namibia fishing agreement would thus relate to a proportion of the remaining 15%; in other words to a fraction of 9000 tonnes of fish annually. This quantity would still have to be divided proportionally among several Member States who have already made applications (France, Portugal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands).
In addition to this problem of quantity, there is equally, a very serious problem of illegal fishing. As you know, several fishing boats from one Member State - Spain - have been arrested in Namibian waters while fishing illegally. It has happened several times and it is intolerable. On this subject, my position is exactly the same as that of the Namibian Prime Minister, Mr Geingob who recently declared that an agreement was impossible so long as Community vessels continued to plunder the waters of this country. I would go even further. Namibia has the right to bring to justice and to impose penalties on all illegal fishing activities, in accordance with the legal provisions which are in force.
The only authority with the capacity to adopt measures which can be applied to discourage illegal fishing on and for all, is the Community Member State concerned. But in the absence of such measures, I decided, after a great deal of thought, that the Commission must indicate clearly and unambiguously, its respect for the legitimate rights of Namibia, by seeking to induce the country in question to adopt the necessary measures.
It was for two reasons - the need to clarify the position regarding the illegal fishing and the obviously insufficient percentage of catch which is being offered to the Community in 1991 and 1992 - that I decided temporarily to suspend the negotiations on the fishing agreement. I explained this to the Fisheries Council of Ministers on 18 April and they, of course, supported my action.
· If the Commissions reasons for the suspension are so clear, how do explain the negative reaction from certain quarters in Namibia?
- I must admit that that reaction surprised me. I thought that my decision would be appreciated for what it is - a gesture of solidarity and of support for the legitimate rights of the Namibian people.
I have recently written a letter to President Nujoma, explaining to him in detail the position of the Commission, because I remain convinced that the negative reactions you refer to are ill-founded.
But in the midst of these events, we must not be allowed to forget the excellent relations which the Community has always had with Namibia. I can assure you that the Commission will press on with its efforts to achieve a fishing agreement which is balanced, and which reflects both the mutual interests of the two sides and the necessity of ensuring proper conservation and management of Namibias fish resources. If all sides share this interest, we will get there. Otherwise, EC/Namibia cooperation can continue to develop normally in other fields, and particularly in the context of the Lomonvention.