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Monday, 21 May 2012

ACP-EU updates: African iEPA, development in Uganda and greener CAP

While criticism has dominated the EU's foreign policy in recent months, positive notes have appeared to prevail in the media last week. Following long negotiations, the first iEPA has come to pass: Four African countries, namely Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe,  will gradually open their markets to European exports over the course of 15 years. The trade and development agreement concluded by the EU and the aforementioned African countries takes effect. “This is excellent news and I salute the hard work of negotiators and colleagues on all sides. With this trade deal we hope to accompany the development of our partners in Eastern and Southern Africa and open up better and lasting business opportunities", praised EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
Good news also came out of the Caribbean region, as weeks after the visit of Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Directorate General for DEVCO,  Guyana’s  parliamentarians have unanimously approved a motion ratifying the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The Pacific region did not go unnoticed either, as the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands,  Gordon Darcy Lilo, recalled the EU’s role as a “development driver”, and stressed that the EU would remain a key partner. He also noted that through Cotonou’s provisions  the Solomons receive substantial assistance in crucial areas of development, such as agriculture or climate change.
In particular, certain countries have been the subject of the headlines. Uganda was one such case, as  the EU Delegation in Uganda exchanged views with East African stakeholders.  Talks were intended to start the preparation of the  programming exercise for the 11th European Development Fund, but also With the aim of finding a way to implement a new approach to development cooperation, and in line with the recently released EC communication “An Agenda for change”, the EU delegation stressed that, as Uganda’s needs point to energy, water and sanitation systems, transport and communication, a combination of  EU grants with loans coming from different financial institutions, including private capital and banks, may boost effectiveness in terms of  infrastructure and rural development.
At the EU ministerial level, the Council on Agriculture and Fisheries tackled crucial issues. Agriculture ministers re-visited the environmental aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in view of its upcoming reform. In particular, delegations exchanged views on possible ways to encourage farmers in Europe to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. Potential greening measures that were put forward focused on an increase in crop diversity; the creation and maintenance of permanent pastures; and the preservation of natural areas. Likewise, two main issues were discussed regarding the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): while the first debate focused on achieving environmental sustainability through maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and the integration of environmental law requirements into the proposal covering the basic provisions of the CFP; the second issue delved deeper into the proposal for a regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), replacing the existing European fisheries fund.  The lack of EU vessels in Mauritanian waters prompts however  concern at the Council. Given the current deadlock in negotiations with Mauritania, the Polish delegation briefed the Council on the consequences of the suspension of fishing by EU vessels in Mauritanian waters. The Polish request to the Commission for action was supported by several members states, as this partnership agreement is considered to be of high importance for the EU fishing fleet.
Other events that the CTA reported on focused on the MEPs call on EU to take action on Sudan-South Sudan issue and the prospects for improvement of Zimbabwean trade , among others.