[May 2012] The more the deadline to conclude EPA negotiations looms, the more concerns are raised. Last week, Brussels saw the latest EPA negotiations between the EU and West Africa, as well as between the EU and the East African Community. These meetings, which were intended to discuss issues at the technical level, yielded, according to the European Commission, positive results, as “good progress” was made on several of the issues on the agenda. However, headlines from across the web pointed to yet another wave of criticism.
Oduor Ong'wen, the country director of the Southern and Eastern Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), published an article in which, as many of his other African colleagues, listed the cons of the EPAs. Speaking in particular of East Africa, he agreed with the conclusions of numerous studies and pointed to these agreements as leading to disastrous consequences for African citizens. On a specific note regarding agriculture, he stated that farmers would face increased competition from Europe’s highly subsidized goods. The expected loss of government revenue would affect social welfare schemes and therefore citizens as well.
Guyana faces a better outlook, as in the opinion of Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Directorate General for EuropeAid Development and Cooperation (DEVCO), the country has pulled ahead of its Caribbean neighbours in the implementation of aspects of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). She has recognized that Guyana’s views on the EPA have been well represented during the negotiations, and said that there are signs the country is benefitting from the deal.
Some criticism was also levelled at the Fisheries Partnership Agreements. Bob Dewar, a former diplomat who has served as High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador to Ethiopia and High Commissioner to Mozambique, stated that future deals can lead to a win-win situation if certain policies are put in place and stressed that “the time of turning a blind eye is over”.
He pointed out that the 2012 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is a good opportunity to do better: “The Europeans need real reform in their own back yard - dramatically rebuilding stocks, preventing over-capacity, over-fishing and damage to the environment. And the mirror of better behaviour should then be shone abroad, so that African and other developing countries get maximum benefit”. On the African side of the equation, he called upon African nations to work out how new Sustainable Fisheries "can boost good governance, food security and poverty reduction".
The so-called EU conditionality has been at the heart of the latest EU discussions. The EU will revise development co-operation with Zimbabwe depending on the political and economic reforms met by the country by August of this year. However, hopes on EU’s will to change its mind and lift the sanctions are faltering, as the country did not succeed in addressing its democratic deficits in line with the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Likewise, ministers at the Council of the EU recalled their conclusions of 22-23 March 2012 on Sahel firmly condemning the seizure of power by force in Mali. The EU development cooperation with the country, which is currently on hold, will be resumed “in line with progress towards the full restoration of constitutional order”. Ongoing direct support to the population will continue as well as humanitarian aid.