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Monday, 04 June 2012

ACP-EU updates: the JPA, crisis-spillover, and SADC integration

Horsens, Denmark, recently witnessed the latest ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA).  Apart from topics frequently discussed by the MEPs and their counterparts from the ACP Countries during previous meetings, they also took a deeper look at the consequences of the instability in Africa. While Louis Michel, Co-President of the Assembly, spoke in particular of the potentially devastating consequences of political insecurity in Mali for neighbouring states, such as Niger, Mauritania and Senegal, the side effects of the Libyan conflict on both the ACP Group and the EU were also discussed. Addressing the deputies, Mr. Michel also warned that the current crisis in the Sahel region could not be solved without both political and military intervention.
Renewed calls for flexibility on trade negotiations also echoed from the meeting. The President of the ACP members, Hon. Musikari Kombo (Kenya), demanded a withdrawal of the EU proposal to amend market access laws, which would set a deadline for finalising Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) for ACP countries, or else lose duty- and quota-free access to EU markets.
Moreover, ACP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas appealed for an approach based on “partnership”, with coherence between trade policies and development goals. “We will continue with the negotiations with a view of concluding EPAs that will be development-friendly – that is, EPAs which address our supply side constraints, development constraints and infrastructure constraints which do not enable us to produce and take advantage of the big European market.”
Fiji took advantage of this meeting to call  for support and understanding from the EU and the ACP regarding the political situation in the country, and reforms and processes involved. Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola assured   that Fiji’s journey toward parliamentary elections is on-track and in line with the government’s Roadmap for Democracy, and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development.
Future meetings at ACP-EU level will take place in Vanuatu. The country will the 37th session of the joint ACP-EU council of ministers between June 11 and June 15, 2012. It will be preceded by the 95th session of the ACP council on ministers in Port Vila. The conference is expected to attract 1,000 participants from ACP and EU member states.
Other ACP-EU issues also attracted the attention of the media, most notably regarding the Southern Africa Development Community SADC. Taking into account the success of the EU in terms of integration, Carlos Rosado de Carvalho, an Angolan economist, suggested that the  SADC should adopt the same functional model. In some discussions with The Angola Press, the economist recalled the EU’s history and its current status as the world's main economic bloc.
Mr. Rosado underlined, however, that following economic integration, there must be a stronger political integration, which he stated was on the agenda. 12
Additionally, at the celebrations of the 62nd anniversary of the Schuman Declaration in Luanda, Ambassador Gerard McGovern, the EU Head of Delegation in Botswana, underlined that the country has much to gain from its relationship with the EU: “As a landlocked country, Botswana stands to gain much from improved regional transport links, more free trade and cross-border co-operation”.
He also stated that “Europe is ready to invest in this project for the benefit of Botswana and its neighbours”. Amid criticism of the provisions of the EPAs, he stated that “after years of uncertainty, an agreement is within sight” and called on Africa’s leadership to make the trade deal a reality this year. 18
On a positive note, as Cameroon is set to meet the challenge of doubling its annual banana output by 2013, the EU will grant the country €48 million for the sector. In this regard, the head of the External Trade Department in Cameroon’s Ministry of Trade, Emmanuel Mbarga, stressed that this support is expected to find its way major producing firms that aim to increase production.
News from the Caribbean was also positive. Managing Director for the Americas of the EUs European External Action Service, Christian Leffler  said that the relationship has been evolving from a classic, old-style, post-independence relationship based essentially on development cooperation and preferential trade arrangements, to a far more mature multifaceted relationship between equal partners who choose to work together on a whole range of issues in political, economic, social, commercial and developmental areas. “The strategy is coming very close to completion and I am sure before very long we will be celebrating a simultaneous adoption in Europe and in the Caribbean”,
Yet, complaints over EU-ACP trade relations were not absent this week. Tight restrictions for Rwandan traders are currently leading to several complaints. As some products, especially horticulture, are facing difficulties in accessing the European market, Rwandans feel forced to export goods to US or Japan where the markets do not appear to be as protective.
According to, Nicolas Ndagijimana, a Rwandan coffee exporter, one " […] will find that in Europe they are more protective of their local businesses; that's why some products, especially horticulture exports are not allowed in".