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close this bookThe Courier N 130 Nov - Dec 1991 - Dossier: Oil - Reports: Kenya - The Comoros (EC Courier, 1991, 96 p.)
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View the documentLow-key Joint Assembly in Amsterdam
View the documentThe Joint Assembly - as seen by four of its members

The Joint Assembly - as seen by four of its members

Joanna Rwabyomere

The Hon. Mrs Joanna Rwabyomere, who is a member of Uganda’s National Resistance Council (Parliament) believes that the Joint Assembly provides a very good model of cooperation. She approves in particular of the atmosphere of free debate and constructive criticism leading to consensus on a range of issues. As she points out ‘the more we communicate, the more we understand each other’. Mrs Rwabyomere concedes that there can sometimes be frustrations when one finds oneself wondering ‘where all the talk is taking us’, but on the whole, she rejects pessimism of this kind.

She accepts that the work of the Joint Assembly needs to be complemented by a political will to achieve results on the ground but also believes that it has had successes. She draws attention to the high profile which the Assembly has given to the issue of women in development, a subject close to her own heart. Mrs Rwabyomere firmly believes that greater involvement of women in decision-making is essential if many of the problems of development - notably in respect of population growth, health and education - are to be solved. She also sees the Assembly as a necessary part of a system of checks and balances, pointing out that the Commission and the Council must answer to it for their actions.

Dexter Chavundaka

Mr Dexter Chavundaka, who is a member of the Zimbabwe Parliament thinks that the Joint Assembly plays a crucial role in articulating the cooperation - both economic and political - that is impletemented through the Lomonventions. He believes that this cooperation is strengthening and becoming more meaningful for both partners, ‘in terms of continued dialogue about the needs of our two communities’. He points out that the volume of resources available under the latest Convention, ‘albeit not adequate’, has shown an improvement over previous Lomgreements. Mr Chavundaka emphasises that the Joint Assembly ‘is the point at which the views of the ACP and EC countries are articulated’.

As such, he believes that it forms the essential platform for the philosophy of cooperation to be developed - something which he believes can only take place through this kind of forum. He also thinks that the Joint Assembly can ‘only go from strength to strength’ as both partners begin to understand the real nature of the consensus. He sees the ACP and EC agendas as gradually merging together and looks forward, as part of this process, to a ‘much more effective implementation of LomV’

Frans Guillaume

Frans Guillaume, who is a French member of the European Parliament and one of the 69 European members of the Joint Assembly, believes that the latter’s main function is to provide advice to the decision-making institutions of the Community - the Council and the Commission - and of the wider Lomystem. He sees a particular value in having the ACP representatives, who knew very well the difficulties facing their countries, coming together in a joint forum with Euro-MPs, with their knowledge of the international and European context. As to the influence exercised by the Assembly, Mr Guillaume acknowledges that its primary function is to debate issues rather than to decide them, but he believes it can have an influence - especially as regards general policy implementation. He stresses that all the different headings of the Lomonvention are examined by the Assembly at the outset and their views are presented to the Commission and Council at an early stage.

In the current situation, where one sees a growing imbalance between the underdeveloped regions of the world and the industrialised countries, Mr Guillaume believes that the Joint Assembly should be challenging the prosperous nations to face up to the dangers of underdevelopment. It should also be proposing more energetic and dynamic solutions than have hitherto been advanced.

Maartje van Putten

Dutch MEP, Mrs Maartje van Putten was very much on home ground when she spoke to The Courier in Amsterdam She describes the Assembly as the platform which brings together the elected representatives of Europe and Africa. While acknowledging that some are cynical about the Assembly’s lack of powers, she refutes this kind of cyaieism as being too simplistic. Echoing an ACP representative in one of the plenary debates, she points out that the ACP group has better relations with the Parliament than with other Community institutions and stresses the importance of having a platform ‘where we at least listen to each other’.

‘Twice a year, for one week, we have the time to try to understand each other, to hear the force of other opinions and to discuss the Commission programme in detail. If we don’t say something about what we think is important, who is going to do it?’ she asks. ‘Is it to be left only to the Council and the Commission - a very small group of people who are not subject to control, to fill in the whole programme?’ It is these arguments which, in Mrs van Putten’s opinion ‘makes the Joint Assembly a necessity’. As to the future, she admits that it is sometimes difficult to remain optimistic given the economic difficulties facing so many of the ACPs. She remains strongly committed, however, to making the Lomonvention and the Joint Assembly work.