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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

EC Development Council special initiative for Africa

More coordination of national and Community development work Development cooperation to promote human rights Guidelines for future cooperation with South Africa Humanitarian aid and 'visibility'

The world recession has not spared the developed countries and, particularly in Europe, governments face many competing calls on public funds. As one delegate to the recent meeting of the European Community's Development Ministers put it, aid for the poorer countries must continue, but 'every single ECU must be properly spent'. In terms of payments actually made, the European Community and its Member States account for 47% of all development aid, so the decisions taken by the Ministers in that single conference room will play a vital part in shaping the development policies of the whole world as the 21st century approaches.

Denmark's State Secretary for Development Cooperation, Helle Degn, chaired the Development Council which met in Brussels on 25 May. The morning was devoted to an open debate on alle viating poverry and the coordination of development cooperation activities (policies and implementation) between the EC and its Member States.

A note from the Danish Presidency set the tone by pointing out that despite several decades of development efforts, poverty had not been reduced in developing countries. There was now, it said, growing acknowledgement of the need to integrate the poor into the mainstream of the development process. It was up to the Member States to decide how a coherent EC policy could be hammered out. 'As regards economic policies,' the note went on, How can one ensure that greater weight is given to market forces, while at the same time maintaining an appropriate level of government involvement in order to obtain balanced economic growth and equitable distribution of wealth?'

Among the Ministers and State Secretaries who spoke, Baroness Lynda Chalker of the UK said her country favoured a practical, sector-by-sector approach to development coordination and agreed that assistance should focus on eradicating poverty. Human capital should be developed through expanded health and education programmes, with safety nets for the disabled and the aged. Georges Papastamkos, for Greece, said development aid would not work if it perpetuated anti-development conditions: it must be directed towards freeing private resources and investment, in economies run on social market economy principles. Respect for human rights and democracy must be insisted on as a condition of aid. Portugal's Jose Manuel Briosa e Gala said priority in fighting rising poverty must go to nongovernmental organizations and small projects, as macroeconomic measures had done little to create employment or redistribute wealth. His country intended to devote 2% of its GDP to helping the least developed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where the needs were greatest.

Speaking for Ireland, Tom Kitt called for debt to be taken into account in any discussion of ways of alleviating poverty, and believed that pressure on governments to reduce military spending must be an integral part of the Community's future strategy. Hans-Peter Repoik of Germany said that participation and self help, close corollaries of democracy and human rights, were the key to fighting poverty. For Spain, Inocencio Arias believed that the Community's aid should complement, not duplicate, that of the Member States. And economic recovery could only take place in the context of democracy.

Carmelo Azzara of Italy said priority should go to fighting poverty and social exclusion by enhancing food security, health care and training provision. Belgium, according to Eric Derycke, wanted priorities to include migration and debt. Ministers, he said, should agree on levels and sectors where the EC had a comparative advantage over the Member States, or vice versa, in terms of expertise or scale. The French Minister, Michel Roussin, favoured encouraging economic growth, though without neglecting schemes to develop human capital.

For the Netherlands, Jan Pronk said the 1990s were not the 1980s, and it was time to review the structural adjustment approach: more attention should be paid to job creation and measures to help the vulnerable in the fields of education, health and food security. He felt the Commission had recently concentrated too much on its own areas of competence, as for example the provision of emergency humanitarian aid, often a cover to mask the political consequences of other forms of aid. There should be a coherent policy for development cooperation; at the moment aid was having to be given to repair the damage caused by trade wars.

The Member of the Commission responsible for Development, Vice-President Manuel Marin, said there was an increasing awareness of the need to foster human solidarity in combating poverty, which was a threat to world stability in terms of environmental damage, drug trafficking, population growth and disease. The World Bank had reported that one third of the world's population were living in absolute poverty. Thus no donor, however rich, could nowadays go it alone-but was there, Mr Marin wondered, the political will to coordinate official development aid? The present lack of coordination placed the EC in a weak position vis-a-vis other donors such as the United States and Japan. And it was up to the Council's Committees to make sure there was also a two-way exchange of information on development activities between the Member States and the Commission.

Ms Degn wound up the public debate from the chair by saying that a greater contribution towards alleviating poverty would have to be made by all the Community's policies, and there should be closer dialogue with governments in the beneficiary countries so that they could be helped to carry out their own anti-poverty programmes.

The Development Council adopted the Commission's suggestion that policy coordination should, initially, be enhanced in the areas of health, food security, and education and training. As for sectors where policies were already coordinated, such as respect for human rights, family planning and support for structural adjustment, the focus now should be primarily on implementation.

The Council then debated a special initiative for Africa tabled by the Danish Presidency. This provided for a ECU 100 million action programme to finance post-emergency rehabilitation in certain sub-Saharan African countries, thereby bridging the gap between emergency aid and longer-term development assistance. The document does not, however, name the countries which are to benefit, and the amount earmarked falls far short of the ECU 273 million in EC funds allocated to rehabilitation in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Eritrea last year, not to mention the sum of ECU 1000 million for which the Commission had argued in its proposal for a rehabilitation programme covering all the developing countries. That proposal was in fact held over for consideration till the next Development Council. The Commission also feared that the ECU 100 million programme would take unduly long to execute, as the main financing source is to be the European Development Fund, the procedures for which do not make for rapid action. The Commission's rehabilitation programmes for other, non-ACP countries are in most cases jointly financed by the Member States. The Presidency's document was eventually adopted, but the arguments raised on both sides are bound to be heard again when the Commission's proposal reappears before the Council in six months' time.

In a declaration on future development cooperation with South Africa, the Council said the EC and its Member States would signal their desire to step up relations with that country as soon as a Transitional Executive Council was set up. The basis for assistance from the EC should be democratisation, the rule of: law, human rights, good governance and popular participation. Aid should go primarily towards supporting peace structures and initiatives and the transition to democratic government, focus on a limited number of sectors and encompass cooperation with and through NGOs.

The Council adopted a declaration on human rights, democracy and development which was to form the basis for EC participation in the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights being held in Vienna in June. The text stresses the important role of development assistance in promoting economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political liberties, and says the EC and its Member States are willing to consider the possibility of increased assistance to developing countries in which substantive positive changes in human rights and democracy have taken place. Areas in which development cooperation could be stepped up include the holding of free elections, the strengthening of the judiciary and the police, the peaceful settlement of conflicts, promoting the role of NGOs and the media, setting up independent human rights organisations and action to protect women, indigenous people and vulnerable groups.

A set of conclusions on humanitarian and emergency aid welcomed the establishment of the European Community Humanitarian Office and stressed the need for openness, dialogue (between the EC and Member States) and visibility (of the Community as a donor) in the field of emergency aid, though the Dutch Government added a statement to the minutes saying that considerations of visibility should play no part in decisions on the channelling of such aid. The Council believed that greater advantage should be taken of the possibilities for cooperation with local NGOs and agencies in recipient countries, and reaffirmed the need for close coordination with the UN system in emergency situations.

A Commission progress report on follow-up to the UN Conference on the Environment and Development, produced for the meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in June, was noted. On women in development, the Council welcomed the efforts made to incorporate activities designed to promote the role of women in the implementation of the Lome IV Convention. It asked population experts from the EC and its Member States to continue their work on family planning in population policies in the developing countries; the aim of European cooperation in this area is to ensure that population figures are consistent with sustainable development.

Emergency situations in Africa were of concern to the Ministers, who decided to send a delegation of EC Development Ministers to the Sudan and press ahead with humanitarian efforts there in 1993. They supported the UN's political role in Somalia and believed that a contribution from that country's own people to establishing peace and security was the precondition for implementing reconstruction aid. On newly independent Eritrea, the Council agreed that there was a huge need for rapid transitional aid and that Eritrea should join the Lome Convention as soon as possible.

Development Councils seem traditionally to end with an inconclusive discussion of the question of untying Member States' development aid at the EC level, and this was no exception. In some quarters there is a feeling that conditions as to how aid is to be spent must be struck out of aid agreements in the interests of getting value for money, while others believe that that would only lead to a drop in the amounts of aid given. The Commission is now to draft a paper on the issue for discussion at the next Development Council, which is to be held in October.
R.R.