Third World fears future without Lome
EU reluctantly renews aid pact with ex-colonies, writes Katherine Butler
Asked why it was essential for them to make the trip, most said they believed it was important to show solidarity with the developing world.
Just as this explanation failed to convince the higher-ups in the Commission - only seven officials made the trip - Europe is failing to convince its former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) that it is committed to solidarity with their struggle against poverty.
The Lome Convention was renewed for five years on Saturday amid fears that with Europe's changing strategic interests, the special relationship will not survive beyond 2000.
Designed originally as a life-support mechanism for the former colonies of Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal, the agreement offers more than pounds 12bn in aid over the next five years. More importantly, it provides better trade terms than those offered to other Third World exporters in Asia or Latin America.
However, as guilt for the colonial past subsides and the EU's preoccupation with its commitments in Central and Eastern Europe increases, the developing countries fear they could be facing a future without Lome.
Revising the pact took 15 months; the negotiations were overshadowed by a bitter squabble among EU countries over the size of their contributions to the aid budget. Britain wanted to slash its donation by 30 per cent.
The new aid deal, agreed only after Germany secured backing for a multi- billion-pound cash package for Eastern Europe, offers the ACP states no increase in real terms on the previous agreement.
To compensate, EU officials insist that new trade provisions will make it easier for ACP exports to penetrate European markets. But products which might pose a competitive threat, such as olives, lemons and wine, are still subject to high tariffs. "We talk about opening markets, but as soon as it comes to anything sensitive, forget it,'' one EU diplomat admitted.
Sectors such as textiles, where Mauritius might pose the faintest threat to EU garment-makers, are excluded from other trade concessions in the new agreement. Yet the island nation, which exports hundreds of thousands of tons of textiles and sugar to Europe each year, believes that trade is more important than aid to all but the poorest countries.
The Mauritian Prime Minister, Aneerood Jugnauth, says the bruising round of negotiations was an eye-opener. The end of the Cold War and the loss of any strategic stake in Africa, he said, explains Europe's "fast fading" interest in the relationship. "We are witnessing a growing movement towards the marginalisation of the South as the focus of the European Union's geopolitical interests seems to be increasingly directed towards other regions of the world."
The British Government says its priority is to maintain bilateral relationships in the developing world rather than bolster a Brussels-managed agreement which is inefficient, badly administered and unworkable.
Brussels officials, too, are prepared to concede that Lome as a development instrument is running out of steam and that thoughts should be turning to a new model.
Changes in world-trade rules will ultimately render the agreement's trade preferences illegal. The Lome Convention enjoys a waiver from the rules of Gatt but beyond the year 2000 that may not be renewed by the World Trade Organisation. "Geopolitically and economically so many things have changed,'' said Joao de Deus Pinheiro, EU commissioner for relations with the ACP. ''We must look at the convention with new glasses."
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...