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The Lomé Convention in focus

Poll results and new brochure launched in Brussels

A new poll of Europeans high lights a deficit of information about the European Community's development policies. A brochure just published on the Lomonvention, available in all EU languages, seeks to fill some of the gaps.

At a press conference on May 21, Development Commissioner, Joso de Deus Pinheiro, unveiled the findings of a survey commissioned from the Brussels consultancy, International Research Associates (INRA). The aim of the exercise was to sound out how Europeans perceive developing countries. The sample was 16 346 people, of 15 years and upwards, who were polled in the 15 Member States during December 1995.

The survey shows that since 1991, helping the poor in the developing countries has slipped in the 'league' of issues of most concern to Europeans. The subject now ranks eighth in a table topped by the fight against unemployment. But the better news is that Europeans believe development of these regions should be the fourth most important priority for joint actions between Member States. This comes just below combating terrorism, environmental questions and defending Europe's economic interests.

While 82% of Europeans are favourable to development cooperation, 12% are against. The degree of support varies, as one would expect, from one EU country to another. Interestingly, the survey shows that Member States facing an economic squeeze are the most reticent, irrespective of their past track record in development aid. In Belgium, only 65% are in favour while in

Austria and France, the figures are 69% and 72% respectively. At the other end of the scale, Greece comes out top with 97% just ahead of Spain on 96% and Ireland on 91%. INRA's explanation for this variation is that it reflects the economic problems which are increasingly being felt in northern states of the Community. It is also worth pointing out that nations on EU's southern flank may be more convinced of the effectiveness of aid since they themselves are recipients of EC structural funds allocated to modernise the Union's disadvantaged regions.

But INRA's report also reveals some misconceptions about European development aid. These, says Commissioner Pinheiro, may be attributed to the lack of visibility of the relevant development policies.

57% of those questioned believe that the bulk of the Community's assistance consists of emergency aid, rather than longer-term project support. The reverse is actually true. More people answer 'no' then 'yes' to the question: 'Does aid contribute to reducing poverty in developing countries'? And most consider that United Nations agencies (UNICEF, UNESCO etc.) do more in the field of helping developing countries than the EC. Non-governmental organisations also have a high profile, with the EU Member States and Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank) trailing behind.

Other key findings from the poll - which Professor Pinheiro says will provide much food for thought in the coming months as thoughts turn to cooperation after LomV - are highlighted in the box.

Mid-term review and beyond

Professor Pinheiro feels that some of results, which signal the need to tighten up on the management of development aid, have already been addressed in the mid-term review of the Lomonvention which will come on stream from the beginning of 1997. The programming of the eighth European Development Fund (EDF) is already well under way and, with a view to increasing the effectiveness of aid, just 70% of resources earmarked for each ACP state will be allocated at the outset (for a three year period). An analysis of how the remainder should be spent will take place at the end of the three years. In addition, Professor Pinheiro indicated that a 'strategic' document was being drawn up on each of the 70 ACP states prior to allocation of funds. This was being done in 'permanent consultation with Member States and Commission delegations, in the interests of achieving a real synergy between the two.'

More sweeping changes to the relationship are likely after the current

Some key findings from the INRA report

- Aid must reach its intended destination and arrive where it is needed 93.2%

- Aid must meet the needs of the local people

- The beneficiary state must raspect human rights

- Transparency, effective public management and the fight against corruption are essential

- The beneficiary state must respect an overall development plan put forward by an international aid organisation

78.3% plan put forward
by an internati onal aid organisa tion

- Aid must be used to fund action by local NGOs
- The beneficiary state must have a democratic system of government


Convention expires at the turn of the century. Professor Pinheiro indicated that a first draft (green paper) on the possible shape of the ACP-KU relationship after 2000 will be published by the Commission by the end of the year. This, however, is likely to offer more questions than answers about future cooperation. 'I am not sure if we should keep the Lomtructure for every country, in the third millennium,' the Commissioner told the assembled journalists, highlighting the different levels of development now apparent between Lomations. Mauritius, now well on the way to becoming the 'Singapore' of Africa, was a case in point. He also pointed out the small island states of the Caribbean are at a very different stage of development from countries such as the Central African Republic or Burundi. He added that, in deciding what to do in future it would also be necessary to take stock of regional developments.

Questions about Lomnswered

In the meantime, efforts are under way to boost the image of Community aid. With this in mind, the Information Unit of the Development Directorate-General has just published a brochure entitled 20 Questions and Answers about the Lomonvention.

Besides explaining in a nutshell what the Convention is, it answers some of the questions most frequently asked by sceptics about the benefits of development aid and trade preferences, highlighting the positive aspects for developing and developed economies alike. It points out, for example, that for every ECU 100 spent on aid, the Community recovers ECU 48 in the form of projects, supplies and technical assistance purchased from European companies!

The brochure provides a succinct explanation of how the Commission monitors aid to stop embezzlement and corruption. It highlights the right of the European Court of Auditors to check accounts of projects and fund transfers - and to investigate documents in the Lomtates, without the permission of the country concerned. Another precaution is that once a project is under way, financing is by banker's transfer. This involves a paper specifying that the holder of contract X, whose bank account number is Y. should be credited with Z amount of money.

An explanation is given as to why the European Commission is involved in development aid when the Member States have their own bilateral development policies.

The brochure explains the advantages of EC assistance over bilateral arrangements and details how the Lomystem has been evolving in line with the increasing globalisation of the economy, in particular since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It also contains some pocket statistics on official development assistance (ODA) flows which help to underline the message that the European Union (Community plus Member States) digs deeper into its pocket than its industrialised competitors in providing development aid. In 1994, the Community and its then 12 member states (excluding Austria, Sweden and Finland), contributed an average of 0.40% of their gross national product in ODA. The individual percentages varied from 1.03% in the case of Denmark to 0.20% in Italy. This compared with figures of 0.29% and 0.15% for Japan and the United States respectively.

In 1994, total ODA from the Twelve reached $26.59 billion. Of this, $4.83 billion came from the European Community in its own right.