EU-ACP relations : Building for tomorrow
by Kenneth Karl
1989 saw the end of the Yalta inspired twin-superpower
dominance. Nations had to examine their priorities in their desire for
integration in an international environment in which geostrategic and economic
realignment would be unavoidable. The philosophy which had served as a basis and
reference point for North/South relations throughout the Cold War period is now
being called into question and necessary adjustments in ideas have been
The Lomonvention, which governs the development-cooperation
relationship between the EU and the 70 ACP countries, is a unique North/South
cooperation agreement on account of its contractual nature, its durability, the
funds it allocates and the fact that it provides for a permanent dialogue. But
it is also now at a decisive point in its history.
Those who regard the Convention as out-of-date and in need of
renovation, and those more radical critics who believe that it no longer serves
any useful purpose and must be phased out, both argue that a new direction is
- Beyond all the criticism formulated against this system, the
fundamental question remains as to whether the Lomonvention will be able,
given the necessary changes, to carry on after its fourth version expires.
The years between now and the end of the century will,
naturally, see the application of the revised LomV, including the substantial
improvements made to it. However, this same period must also be used to prepare
the ground for ACP/KU development cooperation in the future, whatever form it
Shortly after his nomination as European Commissioner for
relations with the ACP countries and South Africa, Professor Pinheiro commented,
realistically, that the ACP countries are no longer 'in fashion'. The change of
emphasis can be seen clearly if one looks at the EU's burgeoning relations with
its eastern neighbours from the former Communist bloc (illustrated by the wide
range of European programmes now benefiting these countries). One might also
cite the strengthening of ties with countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Economic and security concerns underpin this development, but it undoubtedly
reduces the significance which was once accorded to the ACP states.
Moreover, the economic objectives of virtually all EU countries,
as they seek to reduce budget deficits and deal with increasing internal social
problems inevitably put pressure on the amount of development aid being granted
to the Third World.
This situation is, of course, not restricted to the European
Union - which in fact remains the world's main contributor of official
development aid. At the instigation of a Republican dominated Congress, the
United States is planning much more swingeing cuts in its contribution, both to
certain international agencies and to certain regions (including Africa).
This undeniable cutback in public development aid has been
offset in recent years by net increases in private capital flows, but the
geographical distribution is highly skewed. Only a few of the poorest developing
countries have benefited from the trend, the main 'winners' being the emerging
states of Asia. These include countries such as China, India and Indonesia
which, it is worth noting in passing, do not have particularly good human rights
records, in the sense that the term is understood in Europe. Despite the fact
that ACP countries have identified potential for attracting foreign investment,
they have not actually benefited from this change in resource flows.
In this climate, with official development aid in inaeasingly
short supply, innovative methods for making optimum use of the available
resources must be devised within the context of the Lomonvention.
On current indications, it is quite possible that in the year
2000, the Lomonvention will be filed away in the archives. ACP/KU relations
will certainly have to be more in step with recent developments on the
international scene. The initial reasons for the establishment of a cooperative
relationship between Europe and the ACPs, following the signature of the Rome
Treaty, are now outmoded. As Paul Valery has commented: 'One of the worst mental
aberrations is to think that things can survive when the reasons for their
existence have gone'.
So, what type of development cooperation should the countries of
the European Union and their ACP partners aim for in the future?
The EU has stated that it is in favour of a globalisation of aid
within an innovative framework. One of the first questions to be asked is
whether uniform cooperation with regions whose monolithic character is being
increasingly called into question is still desirable.
Variable geometry in development cooperation relations is
increasingly being seen as the trend to be followed.
If this option is chosen, there is a risk of the following
scenario being created: The EU's relationship with the Caribbean could become
diluted within its relationship with Latin-American countries and links with the
Pacific countries could become confused with economic relations with Asia. What
would then become of Africa, the continent needing most attention on account of
the wide range of its difficulties and its increasing marginalisation?
In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly, aware of the
African question, adopted a new agenda on development in Africa, thus making
that continent its number-one priority. Europe, on the other hand, must not
simply focus on Africa but must invent new modes of action which are more
concrete and more effective.
Secondly, recent trends imply greater conditionality. This has
been taken on board not just by EU Member States. A number of multilateral aid
agencies have also included it in their strategy. The OECD's Development Aid
Committee believes that future relationships between North and South will be
greatly influenced by conditionality and, indeed, the Organisation goes so far
as to advocate this approach.
However, conditionality in terms of development is a strategic
element which must be handled with extreme caution. If cooperation, whether
today or in the future, is to be based on conditionality, then it can only be
rendered effective if aid recipients (both governments and the governed) are
genuinely committed to the idea. They must be convinced, in a climate of
resource-scarcity, than the approach is motivated above all by a desire for
The European Union thus has a vital role to play, making full
use of its advantages in terms of dialogue and consultation in order to prevent
conditionality being perceived as a condescending mechanism. Thereby, it can
help to prevent conditionality from generating the well-known perverse effects
of 'tied' aid.
Of course, conditionality raises the thorny question of national
sovereignty, but it is important to observe that modern international relations
have moved on, both de jure and de facto, from a concept of absolute sovereignty
to one of relative sovereignty. This is illustrated by the trend towards
humanitarian intervention as a right, the requirements of the Bretton Woods
institutions, supranationality in certain regional international organisations,
and the very fact of world economic interdependence.
This does not mean that the developing states should sell off
their sovereignty to the highest bidder but that conditionality should be the
subject of negotiation. Donors must be more flexible in their demands and
thereby give the country in question such room to manoeuvre as is necessary for
programmes to succeed.
Thirdly, development of the private sector appears now to be
approved by all parties. Since independence, the State has been omnipresent and
omnipotent in most productive areas of ACP economies. Given the failures of the
public sector, private enterprise is now being called in to help. Its
development is one of the sector specific policies which will and must receive
The development of the private sector must permit better
distribution of the fruits of the growth that it generates and promote
integration of the ACP countries into the market economy. There can be no
question of pitting private enterprise against the public sector, because any
Manichean approach in this sphere might prove to be risky. It is important also
to stress that free market development cannot take place overnight and that it
is subject to inescapable macro and microeconomic preconditions.
Indeed, the birth and expansion of a dynamic private sector
depends on the politico-economic fabric. This includes reliable financial
bodies, functioning financial intermediation, adequate infrastructures,
technical qualifications and training, a suitable legal/ regulatory framework,
institutions to support private businesses, the channelling of the informal
sector and a public sector which is prepared to play fair, aware of its
regulatory role. These, in short, are the necessary ingredients for the
adjustment of the private sector to permit the development of a true enterprise
The development of a harmonious private sector will make it
possible more easily to achieve the transformation and export objectives
required by international competitiveness. It should, therefore, help to
counteract the erosion of commercial preferences generated by the Uruguay Round.
The latter's time limits should, in any case, be extended, because it seems
clear that the ACP countries will be unable to fulfil their obligations by the
end of the moratorium obtained by the EU during the negotiations.
The notion of compensating for inequality that is found in
international development law, implies the adoption of a normative system to
counteract the weak trading position of developing countries vis-a-vis their
competitors in the North. But in recent times, this idea has been losing ground
and it is unlikely to cut much ice with the WTO authorities. Legal equality in a
situation where there is structural inequality is not, in fact, equitable, and
it is therefore necessary to find some other way of mitigating the adverse
effects, looking at it in a global context.
Promotion of domestic and foreign investment should be better
supported. People talk of the 'risk/ country' threshold that deters foreign
investors. It may be that this can be measured objectively by looking at
economic and other indicators, but even if this is not possible, it clearly
exists as a psychological barrier. This is a problem for many ACP countries and
it needs to be crossed, using measures which tackle the many obstacles to
Changing the culture of development cooperation
Besides all the technical aspects, one could argue that the
shortcomings of the Lomonvention stem also from the perceptions of those
involved in development cooperation. In short, it is the actual concept and
culture of development aid which must be changed.
On the European side, the colonial legacy has conditioned
attitudes, imprinting on them a dominant patemalism which is prejudicial to the
aim of development. This European concept of cooperation must be overturned.
Moreover, development cooperation must not be seen as the art of the possible
but as the art of making possible what is strictly necessary, by virtue of
genuine negotiation with the countries which have resolved to move forward.
Moreover, it is desirable to have a better developed policy of
informing European public opinion about development cooperation. An effort is
needed to counter false impressions, such as the one left by the French
journalist who wrote: 'Official development aid is like taking money from the
poor in rich countries to give it to the rich in poor countries'. Better
information is needed to ensure that the public can decide such matters for
Coordinating the Union's policies with those of the Member
States now presents an enormous challenge. The political obstacles are huge and
development cooperation may well suffer as a result of them if the objectives of
coordination, coherence and complementarity contained in the Maastricht Treaty
are not achieved.
As for the ACP countries, success in their economic development
depends on many factors, cooperation being only one of them. Many political
leaders in these nations have too often described cooperation with the North as
the only way in which they can develop. In fact, this should be seen as nothing
more than an additional factor - supporting the national effort and a genuine
desire for development. It is pure fantasy to believe that development can be
set in motion solely on the basis of an external impetus. To succeed, it must
come from within a country. This is why future cooperation between the EU and
the ACP countries must progress towards reinforcing the aptitude of the latter
to devise, master and control their own development process.
In the future, the ACP countries must propose concrete and
responsible solutions to their partners, doing so by means of the dialogue
system. They must also promote development based on participation, particularly
with the involvement of young people and women.
The fact that the ACPs can offer a credible prospectus for
development must be acknowledged. It is undoubtedly a challenge, but it can
successfully be overcome if a climate of stability, security and confidence is
created, matched by an unambiguous political will.
In KU/ACP relations, programmes must include the long-term
vision necessary for sustainable development. Too often in the past, the
strategy has been aimed at an immediate and ostentatious result. Successful
development in the future will depend crucially on a change in such
Let us know what you think
The debate about the future of cooperation between the European
Union and the ACP states is now beginning to gash' pace. Last year, we
established the 'Analysis' section in The Courier to report on this debate-and
give readers an opportunity to express their own views on the subject.
The response so far has been encouraging, but it has come mainly
from the European side. We are keen to receive contributions from ACP readers as
well. If you have you own ideas or opinions about what should happen after LomV expires, why not put them on paper and send them to us. Our address is on the
inside front cover of the