Third World fears future without Lome

EU reluctantly renews aid pact with ex-colonies, writes Katherine Butler

Port Louis, Mauritius - When the European Commission discovered that about 30 of its civil servants were due to travel to Mauritius for Saturday's signing of a new European Union trade and aid pact with 70 of the world's poorest countries, it ordered an inquiry.

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."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference