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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 3 Primary Teacher - Dewsbury

£110 - £155 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: An excellent, last minute opp...

Year 2 Primary Teacher - Dewsbury

£110 - £155 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: An excellent, last minute opp...

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam