British beef overshadows Development Council
The most recent meeting of the EC´s Development Council was
one of the first to be hit by the non-cooperation policy adopted by the UK in
protest at the export ban on British beef. The Overseas Development Minister,
Linda Chalker, announced at the outset to her fellow ministers: 'I will not be
able to agree today to the adoption of those texts... on which unanimity is
required'. Britain is seeking agreement 'for a step-by-step lifting of the
export ban', which was imposed after scientific evidence suggested a link
between Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - and its human 'equivalent',
Creuzfeld Jakob Disease. Cases of BSE have been recorded across Europe, but the
vast majority have been in the UK.
Texts which were approved included a regulation on refugees in
non-Lomeveloping countries. This makes available ECU 240 million over a
four-year period (19961999) for longer term assistance to refugees and displaced
persons - mainly in Asia and Latin America. Also agreed were two three-year
programmes covering Aids control and environmental projects respectively. They
will cover the period 1997-1999, and each has been allocated the sum of ECU 45m.
In addition, ministers confirmed a regulation on the criteria for disbursing
But the British stance meant that a number of important
resolutions were blocked, including a text on mounting projects which link
emergency, rehabilitation and longer-term aid. Rino Serri, Italy's Under
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who presided the Council meeting, said
that once adopted, this approach would represent a 'qualitative leap for the
EU's development policy.'
Other resolutions awaiting approval relate to the strengthening
of coordination between Member States, evaluation of the environmental impact of
development policies, decentralised cooperation, and migration and development.
Since good headway was made on these subjects despite the British attitude, the
texts are expected to be speedily agreed once the UK lifts its veto. Ministers
also had an initial discussion on a paper presented by Commissioner Pinheiro on
preventing conflicts in Africa.
As is customary at these biannual meetings, several delegations
raised points of particular national concern. Belgium, for example, is worried
about the Commission's proposal which would finally establish the single market
in chocolate products while leaving Member States the choice of adapting their
legislation to allow a vegetable oil content of up to 5% in chocolate. Belgium
feels that this approach could ultimately prove harmful to cacoa-producing
countries and claims that it will be difficult to control the exact percentage
of oil used. Sweden, meanwhile, wants action to reform the UN institutions while
Italy is keen to increase public awareness of development policies. Finland
emphasised the need for better coordination between the European Community and
its Member States on environmentally sustainable projects.
The Great Lakes region
There was backing for the June Round Table meeting on Rwanda
organised by the UNDP, as well for the various diplomatic initiatives aimed at
bringing stability to the Great Lakes region. On 27 May, the ministers dined
with Emma Bonino, the European Commissioner responsible for humanitarian issues,
and with former US President, Jimmy Carter, who has played a major role in the
search to find a solution to the region's problems. Others active in this effort
include South Africa's Archbishop Tutu, and former Presidents Nyerere and Tourf Tanzania and Mali respectively. Ministers also commended the efforts of the
UN and the OAU.
Mr Serri said there was a 'desperate need for a ceasefire' in
Burundi and called for a 'speeding up of the peace process and full deployment
of available humanitarian and development aid.' He told journalists it was vital
for the EU to make special efforts to strengthen the judicial systems in Rwanda
and Burundi - 'so that the justice system can work properly and identify those
responsible for the genocide.' He pledged that 'substantial resources' would be
made available once peace is secured. Ministers also called for a control of
arms sales to the region, although they have no power to legislate in this area,
which remains the preserve of the Member States.
Outside the meeting place, Senegalese fishermen and NGOs joined
forces to mount a protests against the effects of traditional EU fisheries
agreements. These provide financial compensation to governments in exchange for
access to their waters for EU vessels, but the protesters claim that they harm
local fishing industries and disrupt food supplies. A significant number of
agreements are due to come up for renewal later this year. NGOs are lobbying for
a new and 'fairer' type of accord which provides for catch reductions, more
selective fishing methods and the employment of locally-hired fishermen on EU
boats. These proposals are all set out in a paper entitled 'The Fight for Fish:
Towards Fair Fisheries Agreements,' published by Eurostep, a Brussels-based NGO.