57th ACP Council of Ministers
Mid-term review in perspective
The mood at the 57th ACP Council of Ministers last November in
Brussels was unquestionably one of tremendous apprehension for the future, what
with the imminence of the conclusion of the GATT negotiations with scarcely any
ACP input and the rumours concerning the future of the Lomonvention.
The anxiety over GATT arose from what one minister called 'the
banana experience', referring to the success by Latin American banana producers
in raising the banana issue in Geneva. A GATT panel, set up at their
instigation, had called into question the 'legality' of the Banana Protocol of
LomV and another was examining the February 1993 decision of the Council of
the European Union on a Single Market banana regime. That regime, it should be
recalled, is skewed in favour of ACP producers. The Council found these
developments worrying, estimating ACP preferences as a whole in the Union under
threat and the Lomonvention itself under attack.
It did not come as a surprise that, despite the tremendous
pressure at the talks with many unresolved issues among the major players (the
December 15 deadline was only three weeks way), the Council's newly-elected
Chairman, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, Ghana's minister of finance, still found it useful
to make an urgent appeal to the ACP States to make their presence felt in Geneva
before the deadline. Each country, he said, should participate actively in the
final round, especially where the meetings affected the Lomonvention, to
ensure that their interests were taken into account.
Mid term review of the Convention
Although the Council was under no similar great pressure about
the forthcoming review of LomV, the issue provoked no less a passion, and the
need to move faster was lost to no one.
Although this was the last ACP Council before the beginning of
negotiations in May, the view among ministers was that there was no need for a
formal response to the Commission's proposals on the review since the final
negotiating mandate of the Commission has not yet been established by the
Council of the European Union. Nevertheless, the Commission's paper and the
various interpretations given to it in many quarters were constantly referred to
during the debate on the midterm review.
The ministers observed that there were areas of common interest
between the ACP States and the Commission but that both sides appear to differ
on the means of arriving at solutions to the problems that have been identified.
Some ministers talked of not accepting direct or indirect conditionality on aid.
Others expressed fears about interference with ACP sovereignty and about an end
to the equal partnership concept of the Lomonvention.
The occasion of Vice-President Marin's address to the Council
offered an opportunity to set the record straight - plainly and frankly. Mr
Marin was first welcomed to the Council by Dr Botchwey who told him that the
ACPs have some indications of what 'thoughts were going through the minds of the
Commission', and that they were concerned that 'our long association with Europe
should be safeguarded through these turbulent times'; that meant preserving 'our
hardwon concessions and privileges'.
In his speech, Mr Marin reiterated his oft-repeated statement
about how the geopolitical and economic situation which governed the old
international order has been profoundly upset and why it was necessary to take
'the bull by the horns' and adapt to the new world situation. The Commission's
proposals were precisely aimed at doing that to save the Lomonvention. The
Commission's attitude, he said, can be summarised like this: 'Things must change
in order to continue'.
Mr Marin then outlined briefly the aims of some of the
Commission's proposals which are of most concern to the ACPs. He thought there
was a need to:
- state in the Convention the principles of democracy, the rule
of law and good governance, thus strengthening what is already in the text of
LomV on Human Rights and reflecting what is now widely accepted and being put
into practice in many ACP States, even in very difficult circumstances;
- fine tune the instruments of dialogue between the ACP States
and the European Union through a series of measures, one of which has given rise
to scepticism or totally negative reactions in many quarters: namely the one
aimed at creating greater flexibility on programming. On this, the Commissioner
for Development said he wanted to clarify any misunderstanding: The Commission
aces not intend to call into question the basic principle of dialogue between
the European Union and the ACP States, but, he continued, 'the current rigidity
in the system which sometime leads to the holding up of very important funds and
to delays in the implementation of programmes and projects impels us to propose
changes in the modality though not in the principle of application'. Conscious
of the need to improve the speed in the process of implementation of operations,
the Commission, he added, wants to have a certain autonomy with regard to the
technical assistance needed in the preparation of projects and programmes. This
is neither aimed at removing responsibility from the ACP States nor calling into
question their sovereignty in the choice of development strategy and their power
of decision, particularly in the crucial phases of identification and management
of programmes and projects.
Referring to the main object of the review - the second
Financial Protocol, Vice-President Marin intimated that, in preliminary
exchanges of opinion between Member States of the Union and the Commission,
'some voices have been raised' to the effect that the level of financial
commitment will depend, to a large extent, on progress made in the modernisation
of the Convention. He warned that, in this period of economic recession,
European public opinion was, more than ever before, paying attention to
development funds being used more effectively and in a transparent manner.
Following interventions by Dr Paul Robertson, Jamaica's minister
of foreign affairs and foreign trade (for the Caribbean) and Mr Abbey
Kafumbe-Mukasa, Uganda's deputy-minister of finance, both articulating regional
concerns, Mr Marin re-affirmed the uniqueness of the Lomonvention which he
described as the result of 'geopolitical sedimentation'. He, however, pointed
out that the ACPs were now in serious competition with other economic poles of
the world. It was necessary to fight and to do that 'we have to be more
efficient... and give the Lomonvention the highest degree of confidence'.
Given the great achievements made in implementation over the past four years and
the experience gained, it was necessary to introduce 'what has been happening in
reality' into the Convention.
In general, ACP ministers felt reassured by the Commissioner on
several points, but considerable scepticism remained over the concept of
'co-management'. Perhaps that will disappear when Mr Marin returns, as he has
promised, probably around February, to the ACP Council to present the same
'financial memorandum' es he has sent to Council of the European Union. The
memorandum, he said, will enable the ACP States to see for themselves the
virtues of the Commission's proposals.
The end-of-year ACP Council being traditionally devoted mainly
to internal matters, ministers had before them a heavily loaded agenda. Through
the able chairmanship of Dr Botchwey, intervention time was considerably reduced
and such issues as the budget of the ACP Secretariat and member states'
financial contributions were easily disposed of. There were, however, other very
important issues in the relations between the ACP States and the European Union
which retained the attention of the Council. They included: inevitably bananas,
beef, commodities and sugar.
On bananas, a compte-rendu of the developments at GATT and the
moves being made by the ministerial committee on bananas was given by the
Jamaican representative, Dr Robertson. In it, he revealed that since 1 July
1993, when the Single Market regime took effect, ACP States have had significant
losses in export earnings. These were brought about because of severe turbulence
in the market created both by the deliberate manipulation of large multinational
firms and by the dislocations normally associated with transition from one
regime to another. In view of this, the Council urged Member States of the Union
to honour what it called 'their common commitment' to the smooth operation of
the new banana regime and to ensure that ACP traditional suppliers are not
placed in a situation less favourable than previously. It further called on the
Union to approve the Commission's proposal for special technical and financial
assistance to the ACP banana industry to enable it to restructure and modernise
so that it can compete effectively in the Union and on the world market.
On beef, the Burkina Faso representative, Ambassador Salifou
Rigobert Kango, drew the attention of the Council to 'dumping' and what he
called 'unfair competition' from the European Union in beef production and
marketing in the Sahel. Since 1984, he claimed, the EU has been spending huge
sums of money subsidising meat exports to West Africa to the extent that locally
produced beef, for example, costs CFA 300 per kilo more in Abidjan than beef
imported from Europe. He congratulated those NGOs whose pressure on the Union
had led to the reduction by 15% of exports of certain categories of meat.
The Council agreed to call on the European Union and 'in
particular the Commission to look urgently into appropriate measures to be taken
in order to reduce the level of subsidy in beef and veal exported to West
Africa' and to request financial and technical assistance to ACP producer states
to encourage both local production and the achievement of self-sufficiency in
In the area of sugar, the Council adopted a resolution which
noted that the ACP States' acceptance of the 1992/93 price offer represented a
freeze. It would be difficult to accept any price that does not reflect the
economic difficulties facing the producing countries. This should be taken into
account in fixing the prices for the 1993/94 period. The Council again drew the
attention of the Union to the danger of making any offer in GATT that could
affect the future implementation of the Sugar Protocol. It urged the Union, on
the other hand, to accept as soon as possible Zambia's invitation to visit the
country to assess its ability to respect any delivery obligation that would be
required of it under the Protocol.
A more cheerful note in an otherwise gloomy Council was struck
in a report on commodities presented by the Ugandan representative. Since the
Council last met, an International Cocoa Agreement with economic clauses has
been signed and an Association of Coffee Producers has come into being in the
margin of the Coffee Council. The decision by the newly formed Association to
draw up and implement a 20% export retention scheme has already resulted in an
improvement of up to 50% in the price of coffee.
The Council welcomed these developments. However, because some
of the ACP cocoa producers have either not signed the cocoa agreement or, having
signed, have not yet ratified it, the Council urged them to do so before the 28
February 1994 deadline.
It also urged Members States of the Union to do
likewise. The Union, it said, should do more to ensure that a new International
Coffee Agreement with economic clauses is concluded before the next coffee