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The convention at Work

The 19th ACP-KU Council of Ministers

- Positive results in implementation of the Convention

Mid-term review of LomV launched

The 19th session of the ACP-KU Council of Ministers took place as scheduled in Mbabane, Swaziland, from 18 to 20 May 1994. It was jointly chaired by the European union Council President, Theodoros Pangalos (Greek deputy minister of foreign affairs) and ACP Council President. Georgre Brizan (Grenada's minister of agriculture, trade and industry) and addressed by Vice-President of the European Commission, Manuel Mar and by the European monarch, King Mswati III.

Billed to examine progress in the implementation of the Convention and as the formal opening of negotiations for the mid-term review of LomV. the session had the additional significance, totally unforeseen, of convening at a unique period in the history of southern Africa A couple of days earlier South Africa had completed its peaceful democratic transition to majority rule with the swearing-in of Nelson Mandela as State President and the formation of a government of national unity.

South Africa and the Lomonvention

It should be recalled that South Africa has featured prominently on the agenda of almost every ACP-EC meeting (whether Council or Joint Assembly) since the inception of the Lomonvention Often poisoning relations. it once led to the holding of a special meeting in Lusaka. Zambia. in 1986 between foreign ministers of the European Community and those of the 'frontline' states. It was right and proper therefore. as Mr Brizan said. that the Council should feel proud of its own contribution to the change.

A source of tremendous satisfaction, especially for the exemplary manner in which change was brought about. South Africa, despite cropping up now and again during the three days of deliberation, in no way overshadowed the crucial objectives of the conference. It could not have, given the heavy agenda before the Council

However. what kind of association South Africa would have with the ACP Group and the European Union. which has exercised the minds of many since the country's democratication process began, did not emerge clearly. Mr Pangalos, in his opening address, referred to the cooperation programme unveiled in April which the Union is proposing to discuss with the new South African Government and to the meeting planned at the initiative of the German Government for September in Berlin to discuss cooperation between EU and southern Africa - a conference which the German representative, Mrs Ursula Seiler-Albering, said is not intended to be a one-off arrangement. Mr Pangalos pledged that the European Union will continue to support regional cooperation in southern Africa through the various instruments available under the Lomonvention. In this regard, Vice President Marinvited the countries of the region to suggest to him ways of moving this process forward

In the usual (probably the last) 'resolution on the situation in South Africa', the ACP-KU Council expressed 'the hope that solid and long-lasting relations will very quickly be established between the new South Africa, the ACP Group and the European Union in the interest of all parties'.

Dealing with main issues

The Council did not waste time in dealing with the issues of immediate concern to the ACP States with the mid-term review close at hand. Mr Pangalos set the tone in his opening address by praising the courage with which a number of African countries have undertaken political and economic reforms. He sought to reassure them, as well as the rest of the AcP Group of the Community's determination to continue its efforts to help them achieve sustainable development. The ACP-KU Council was meeting to take stock of what ACP problems were, to analyse them and seek solutions. 'Our ACP partners can count on the solidarity of the European Union' in this regard, Mr Pangalos affirmed pointing to the conclusion of commodity agreements and the Uruguay Round to which the Union has made positive contributions He expressed satisfaction with the implementation of financial and technical cooperation under LomV.

For his part, Mr Brizan emphasised the continued deterioration in the terms of ACP trade 'over the last ten years in particular'. he told the council, 'the movement of primary commodity prices can best be described as chaotic and the remuneration of producers has, for considerable periods. fallen below the costs of production'. The fall in export earnings and the resultant domestic fiscal crises have forced many countries into heavy borrowing and indebtedness and to undertake burdensome structural adjustment programmes whose costs are high and benefits uncertain. Change, he said, is not cheap. 'The human and material costs of change may be onerous and this is doubly true of those charges' that would be made to the LomV Convention.

Vice-President Manuel Mar however, put the review exercise in its proper context. Since the ACP States and the Community sat together to work out the philosophies and the content of LomV, he said, there have been very important developments in the international scene: the fall of the Berlin Wall and efforts to find new geopolitical equilibria the signing of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union and the institutionalisation of Community development policy, the conclusion of a new global trade pact and the emergence of new forms of North/South interdependence. These were realities which, whether one liked them or not. have become part of our world. That was why the Commission has proposed to adapt the Convention. The proposals are along three main lines: 'more emphasis in the Convention on democracy, human rights and good governance, new procedures for poliydialogue, and of course the review of a certain number of LomV provisions to make them more effective and to eliminate some of the red tape which exists in our relations'.

The article 5 boomerang

As already mentioned, South Africa was rarely absent from the minds of delegates. As a country which indirectly influenced (as far as many ACP States were concerned) the adoption of article 5 on Human rights in the LomV Convention, the irony of the situation was lost on no one The new democratic South Africa contrasted sharply with the situation in many ACP States which is still characterised by political instability. violence and undemocratic practices. The very grave situation in Rwanda. for example, was constantly evoked with speakers calling for an end to the massacre of innocent citizens, a halt to the fighting, the engagement of political dialogue and the emulation of South Africa's peaceful national reconciliation The proposal to expand article 5 to include democracy, the rule of law. good governance and human rights in the mid-term review could not have sounded more convincing and appropriate. While admitting that some ACP States still have to undertake remedial measures in the area of human rights, Mr Brizan stressed that the Group has not been found wanting in its embrace of these principles. 'All three regions can point to stable and reputable democratic regimes. some of which pre-date the introduction of democracy among some current members of the KU'. he said. 'Elsewhere, the citizens of ACP States have themselves taken up the struggle against autocratic and dictntorial regimes', he pointed out, citing the examples of the Congo, Madagascar and Zambia. Thus the ACP States accept the need to modify article 5 constructively to promote the desired goals, but Mr Brizan warned against the use of punitive measures as 'the principal instrument of change' These can be 'dysfunctional', he claimed. During his address, King Mswati III described the recent democratic reforms in his kingdom which he said were introduced after widespread consultation.

If there is any country where the Lomonvention has had very visible development impact it is Swaziland. The king enumerated some of the most important EDF projects in his country, and thanked the European Union for the support given not only to Swaziland but also to the ACP States as a whole - support which he described as reliable and constant. ln times of rapid change like this we naturally tend to rely more on our friends and partners to help us maintain a sense of economic stability in our efforts to develop and improve', he said. He expressed the hope that ACP EU cooperation will not stop in the year 2000 but will continue well beyond.

But, as Mr Pangalos pointed out at the formal opening of negotiations, survival is what is at stake in the mid term review. 'The continued vigour and survival of our cooperation are dependent on our capacity to face up and adapt to new circumstances and constraints', he said. Returning to the subject of democracy Mr Pangalos spoke of the Community's intention to seek the insertion in the Convention of an 'essential element' clause that would enable 'appropriate measures to be taken in cases of grave and persistent violations of human rights or serious interruption of the democratic process It is understood that such measures will take into account the specific nature of our relations with the ACP States, that they will be guided by objective and fair criteria and Will be in proportion to the seriousness of any case which may arise'.

In contrast to the Union, ACP States are laying considerable emphasis on trade cooperation in the mid-teom review in view of what they consider as the erosion of their preferences in the Community market. Vice-President Marpromised in his speech that the Commission will look carefully at their requests. 'We wish to enter into this exercise in an open and fraternal spirit. We are prepared to have a dialogue and look for solutions that are satisfactory for all parties'.

In between the opening ceremony and the formal opening of negotiations for the midterm review, the ACP-KU Council of Ministers examined progress in implementation of the Convention in several areas, notably on trade cooperation. Stabex and financial and technical cooperation. The Council's deliberation here was considerably eased by work already done by various ministerial committees.