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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
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View the documentThe 18th ACP-EEC Council of Ministers
View the documentEC Development Council special initiative for Africa

The 18th ACP-EEC Council of Ministers

- Heavy agenda includes trade cooperation, commodities, development finance and emergencies in Africa

- Open debate on the future of ACP-EEC cooperation

Delegates from every European Community country and almost all the ACP States attended the 18th ACP-EEC Council of Ministers meeting on 18 and 19 May. This year's host was the Belgian capital, Brussels, seat of the EC Commission, and the meeting sat down to a particularly busy agenda.

The opening session was chaired jointly by Kigoma Ali Malima, Minister of Finance of Tanzania, and Helle Degn, Denmark's State Secretary for Development Cooperation, and attended by many Ministers and State Secretaries for Development, Cooperation, Trade, Finance or Foreign Affairs, though a fair number of ACP delegations were headed by diplomats.

Professor Malima began by paying tribute to the Lome Convention as a model for the conduct of development cooperation. Against a background of world recession, he said, the developing countries were hard hit by the perennial problems of falling commodity prices, debt servicing, the social consequences of structural adjustment and, in many cases, the cost of rehabilitation after famine, drought and civil war. It was time to look at ways of implementing aid more effectively. On a happier note, newly independent Eritrea had formally applied to join the ACP group and become a party to the Lome Convention.

Ms Degn, said in reply that Lome IV was a unique contract linking stable development to respect for human rights, and democratic values, and many ACP, partners had introduced democratic, changes which the EC welcomed. The Community had done its best to give countries undergoing special hardship more help than it was committed to by the Convention, while the EC Ministers meeting in political cooperation (the forum in which they discuss and take positions on foreign policy issues) had worked to help resolve conflicts.

A diplomatic difficulty for the Council was created by the arrival of two delegations from Zaire, one representing the present government and one dispatched by Etienne Tshisekedi, who was appointed Prime Minister to oversee the process of democratic transition but was later dismissed by President Mobutu. The Council decided to recognise the first of these, but nevertheless reiterated its support for the chairman of the National Conference which was continuing to work for democratic reform in Zaire. On Eritrea, which was about to declare its independence from Ethiopia, Ms Degn reminded the meeting that the Community and its Member States had already pledged to recognise it as an independent state; indeed, some of them, and Ethiopia, had already done so.

The EC Commission was represented by Vice-President Manuel Marin, who said it was looking at proposals for more effective implementation of development aid and had already overhauled its working methods. An impressive figure of ECU 2 billion in payments was evidence of the improvement. Support for structural adjustment had, he said, been a bone of contention but payments under that scheme were now proceeding more successfully than transfers under Stabex.

Trade cooperation

The Council began its substantive work with a commitment from Ms Degn that the EC would work for a rapid conclusion of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations in which the developing countries would receive special treatment. The Community had encouraged the ACP countries to play an active part and press for concessions. It would try to persuade the ACP countries' trading partners to open their markets wider to tropical products. Since the new United States Administration had taken office, there had been many EC-US contacts with a view to reactivating multilateral negotiations, including other major partners, in Geneva this summer and possibly reaching a conclusion by the end of the year. The negotiating mandate of the ACP-EEC Committee of Ambassadors, whose chairman is Ernest Mpofu, Head of the Mission of Botswana to the EC, was renewed for a further year.

The Council then turned to the contentious issue of bananas. Last December the Council adopted arrangements for future imports into the European Community which certain Latin-American bananaexporting countries fear (unjustifiably, according to the Commission) will cause a reduction in their exports to the Community. ACP representatives at the ACP-EEC Council said they appreciated the fact that the EC had invited the ACP group to join the GATT panel set up to examine the Latin-American objections. But there was concern at the instability on traditional markets, particularly France, which had recently asked the Community to implement measures to safeguard its own producers (in France's overseas departments, which are part of the EC, not the ACP). Mr Marin explained that the request had been made to protect the Community market against massive deflections, by countries outside Lome, of exports of bananas which were not from traditional ACP producers. The safeguard clause would therefore actually protect quotas delivered by ACP suppliers.

The Foreign Minister of Jamaica, Paul Robertson, interim chairman of the ACPEC consultative committee on bananas, stressed that decisions on production, transport and marketing in the banana industry required certainty as to the rules of the market, and called for greater clarity as regards transferability of deliveries between traditional supplier countries, the definition of operators and the workings of the licensing system. Measures to assist ACP suppliers in the form of income support and aid for restructuring, for which a proposal was still being considered by the EC Council, should, he said, enter into force with the new market regime in July.

The Council briefly noted progress so far by the trade development project provided for in Annex XX to Lome IV. Helle Degn observed that trade liberalisation, the abolition of protectionism and the opening of markets were vital to world economic growth, and looked forward to further practical work to achieve those ends.

Stabex

ACP countries had complained at the delays in paying transfers to offset losses in export earnings in 1992. Despite incomplete information as to the resources available and the losses incurred, Ms Degn was able to confirm that there were not enough Stabex funds to cover all such losses. (In 1991 the shortfall came to some ECU 640 million, partly covered by a transfer to the system of an extra ECU 75m). Mr Marin said Stabex transfers would have to be recalculated as the forecasts for coffee and cocoa earnings had not been confirmed. There was ACP concern at the steadily declining rate of coverage and the disappointing rate of disbursement. The accumulating debt this was causing had virtually brought economic growth to a halt in some ACP countries. A decision had to be taken on whether to extend the 'all destinations' derogation granted to 13 ACP States under Lome, whereby their exports to all countries, not just the EC, attract Stabex payments on certain conditions. The Council delegated its powers of decision on this matter to the ACP-EEC Committee of Ambassadors.

Sugar

In a review of developments in the sugar sector since last year, the Minister of Agriculture of Mauritius, Madun Dulloo, said that discussions on the guaranteed price for ACP sugar in 199394 had not been concluded in time, with adverse consequences for ACP producers, refiners, buyers and exporters. It was, however, gratifying that the final tranche of the ECU 30m marketing premium for ACP raw sugar was being disbursed. ACP countries were comforted by assurances that the guarantees in the Sugar Protocol would not be compromised by the GATT negotiations or the reform of the EC's common agricultural policy, but were frustrated to see that ACP sugar was still not getting access to the Portuguese market. Mr Dulloo thought Portugal could provide a market for Zambia, which now met all the conditions for accession to the Protocol. The quota for sweeteners should not be expanded to include the new artificial sweetener, inulin. Any disruption in the workings of the Protocol would upset the economic stability of ACP countries and could upset their progress towards political reform and democratization.

Replying for the Commission, Peter Pooley, Acting Director-General for Development, said it was impossible to fix a price for ACP sugar which was much higher than that paid to the EC's own producers. The Community was fighting to preserve the best features of the Sugar Protocol despite changes in world markets. With regard to inulin, the EC's own sugar beet growers shared the same interests and anxieties as the ACP's sugar suppliers and were therefore their natural allies. Before admitting Zambia to the Protocol, the EC looked forward to receiving assurances from that country that it could be relied on to deliver regular supplies in years to come.

Commodities

The dramatic collapse in commodity prices had, said Prof. Malima, severely reduced ACP countries' purchasing power and crippled them with debt; the development process in most of them had come to a halt. A joint declaration on coffee and cocoa adopted by the meeting noted that the situation had been further aggravated by the failure of producers and consumers to conclude negotiations for agreements with economic clauses for those two commodities. It hoped that negotiations on a new International Coffee Agreement could resume and that an effective and economically viable Cocoa Agreement could be concluded.

Development finance cooperation

Without discussion, the Council approved the report of the ACP-EC Committee on Development Finance Cooperation, covering financial and technical cooperation in 1991, joint evaluation of cooperation in 1991-92, the implementation of structural adjustment resources under Lome IV, regional cooperation and integration, the development of the least developed, landlocked and island countries, and a joint study on implementation procedures. A resolution on the last-mentioned issue stressed the importance, if Lome was to operate smoothly, of full respect for the equality of the partners and of more effective co-management of projects and programmes, and called on national authorising officers, the Commission and its delegates to discharge their responsibilities rapidly.

Joint Assembly

The ACP-EEC loins Assembly held in Gaborone, Botswana, this year adopted a series of resolutions of which the ACPEEC Council took official note without any discussion of their content. These were fully reported in issue No 139 of The Courier, May/June l 993; suffice it to say here that they concerned the political and economic situation in various ACP countries, environmental issues, regional cooperation, famine and food aid, and commodities.

Emergency situations

One of the countries which featured in the Joint Assembly resolutions was Somalia, and unsurprisingly the tragic events there also came up for discussion in the Council, where the ACP side applauded the efforts the international community had made to scale down the violence in that country and appealed to the EC to step up its support for reconstruction. The EC and its Member States had contributed troops and money to the 'Restore Hope' operation, said Ms Degn, and would continue helping with rehabilitation if the situation in Somalia remained stable. The Minister of External Economic Cooperation of Ethiopia, Abdulmejid Hussein, appealed for help for Somalis-many of them in EC Member States-who wanted to return home to help stabilise the country. Ethiopia and Eritrea had already started discussions on taking the first steps towards setting up a confederation, and the Minister was heartened to know that the people in control of north and south Somalia were disposed to do the same. A settlement in Somalia would lift a heavy burden from the shoulders of its neighbours as well.

Events in Angola in the last six months had disappointed the hopes of all sides. The EC and its Member States said UN resolutions must be observed, and were ready to offer help to the millions of victims of the conflict. All parties, the EC co-chairman said, must allow humanitarian assistance through the areas they controlled.

South and Southern Africa

Zimbabwe's Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, S.K. Moyo, introduced a discussion of the latest developments. He deplored Unita's rejection of the election results in Angola and the procrastination of the international community while Unita sought to overthrow the democratic process by violent means. The peace process in Mozambique, in contrast, now seemed to be on track. It was of paramount importance to set up mechanisms for disarming current or erstwhile belligerents so that they could not challenge democratically established authorities. In South Africa, ACP countries were anxious to see the establishment of a provisional national executive representing all parties. All the countries in the region were grateful for EC assistance during last year's drought.

Helle Degn offered the Community's help in investigating the murder of ANC leader Chris Hani. Now that negotiations on the future of South Africa had been resumed, the Danish Minister would visit that country in June as an official observer for the EC. In Mozambique, demobilisation and reconstruction were starting, and the Community and its Member States would help the country rebuild.

Future cooperation

The second day of the ACP-EEC Council was devoted to a free exchange of views on the future of cooperation between the two sides, against the back ground of the declaration the EC and its Member States issued last year on their development policy in the run-up to the year 2000. Their targets are to bring about the sustainable development of their partners, integrate them into the world economy and alleviate poverty, while contributing to the furtherance of human rights, good governance and democracy. Both sides expressed concern at the human costs of structural adjustment and stressed the need to take account of health, food security, education and training and the problems of vulnerable groups. ACP delegations appealed for EC help over debt-in some countries it swallows up three quarters of export earnings, which are themselves falling headlong because of the drop in commodity prices-and one EC delegation said it hoped consensus could soon be reached among creditors to reduce the developing countries' debt by half. There was agreement on the need to stimulate private investment and enterprise in developing countries; ACP countries would have to try harder to attract these, for example by setting up local capital markets and guaranteeing protection for private property, as competition for available funds from other parts of the world would be fierce.

Human rights

On promoting democracy and human rights under Article 5 of Lome IV, it was felt that these were an essential part of sustainable development but that donors, rather than trying to introduce Western models, should fund internal processes of democratisation and channel aid towards countries which practiced pluralism, transparency and government accountability, although these were not set out as requirements in any international treaty. Ordinary people fighting for their rights, but with no influence in high places and no access to resources or training, should not be forgotten. There was a suggestion that Article 5 should be expanded to make express reference to the right of people to development, which ultimately meant a right to life.

This last part of the proceedings, perhaps because no conclusions were required to be reached, heard some remarkably frank speaking on both sides about the relations between them, and it was seen as a fruitful precedent for future ACP-EEC Councils. The next Council is in fact to be held in Swaziland in May 1994.
Robert ROWE