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?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most