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EDITO
Friday, 15 December 2017

The Pacific nations which receive aid from the European Union have raised concerns at not being able to draw down some of the funds allocated to them. The money is channelled through the European Development Fund but access has been an issue for several years. The chair of the Pacific component of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of nations, Tu'ilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, said about $US200 million dollars had been withheld. The Samoan prime minister said the members are hoping there are no further cuts. "With all the problems facing Europe there is pressure on their own budgets so we know where their proposition comes from and the area of reallocating the finances already approved for our regional projects." Pacific leaders in the African, Caribbean and Pacific bloc (PACP) held a meeting before the Pacific Forum leaders' summit in Apia this week. On Wednesday the PACP nations and the EU will talk about a replacement for the Cotonou Agreement - the document which governs their relationship, and which expires in 2020.

Since the implementation of the Caribbean Coconut Industry Development Project two-and-a-half years ago, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has made several strides in improving the local coconut industry through training as well as the establishment of new nurseries among other targeted initiatives. The four-year project was undertaken through a partnership between CARDI and the International Trade Centre (ITC), with funding provided by the European Union. It was aimed at improving income and employment opportunities, food security, and overall competitiveness of the Caribbean coconut sector. Participating countries in the project include Jamaica, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and Suriname, among others in the region.

A group in Italy is training migrants — mostly from sub-Saharan Africa — as beekeepers, then pairing them with honey producers who need employees. Aid groups say new efforts by European leaders to stem the flow of migrants from Africa ignores the fact that Europe needs these workers. According to Oxfam, Italy alone will need 1.6 million migrants over the next 10 years. Back in his native Senegal, the only interaction Abdul Adan ever had with bees was when one stung his mouth while he was eating fresh honey. That day, his mouth was so swollen that he didn't leave his home in Senegal's Casamance region. Years later as a migrant worker in Alessandria, Italy, Adan is so comfortable with the insects that he does not even use gloves as he handles their hives and inspects their progress.

The flowery legalese of any Fishing Partnership Agreement always appears to secure the sustainability of the domestic fisheries involved but really this economic document is Brussels’ strategy for plundering the abundant undersea resources of Africa’s maritime states. From Sao Tomé to Sierra Leone, evidence abounds that the EU merely pays lip service to its pledges for global development. George Francis, 63, is a rugged fisherman and harbour master of Lumley Wharf in Freetown, the hilly capital of Sierra Leone. He’s been in the fishing business since the mid-60s shortly after his country gained independence from the United Kingdom. He has seen better days in the distant past. Nowadays, life is very hard and two of his daughters now live in Nigeria from where they send him money, regularly. He says his misery began some twenty years ago when big industrial trawlers started prowling the shores of his seaside community. Outgunned by bigger boats, George is unable to catch enough fish for himself. He generally goes for small fishes like herring, but on the day these reporters spoke to him, he had caught just three little ones. His fellow fishermen were not so lucky. Several admitted to catching one or even none!It was 10 past 6 in the evening. “These trawlers are supposed to fish about 200 miles away from the shore,” Francis laments. “But they come into the coast at night and the government is aware of these incursions.”

Cotonou still has a role, but as a partnership without development conditionalities or colonial culpability. The Lomé Convention of 1975 that created the ACP concept – the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States – was essentially a bridge built by the European Union (EU) for the former colonies of its member states to carry them over uncertain waters into their post-colonial future. Apart from a lot of development aid, Lomé gave them duty-free and quota-free access for most of their exports into the EU, in the hope of engendering viable industries and so integrating the countries into the global economy. But when Lomé expired in 2000, little of that had been achieved. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) succeeded Lomé, replacing its non-reciprocal trade access with gradually phased-in reciprocal free trade deals – Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) – between the EU and regional groupings of ACP countries, to be concluded by 2007.