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Trade between Europe and Africa: how to resuscitate an ailing deal


The Guardian

By Isabelle Ramdoo

Thursday, Feb. 28th, 2013

After 10 years of negotiations, how can policymakers on both sides revive a flagging relationship?

Trade negotiations between Europe and Africa seem to have stalled. Despite both sides last year celebrating the 10th anniversary of the start of negotiations over economic partnership agreements (EPAs), their attention now appears to have shifted elsewhere.

In crisis-ridden Europe, leaders are stressing the important contribution of trade to jobs and growth for economic recovery in Europe, as they did during the last European council in early February. They call for ambitious, proactive and constructive trade engagements with their “strategic partners”. But, interestingly, these partners are located on the other side of the Atlantic and in emerging Asian economies, as a letter by José Manuel Barroso, president of the European commission to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the council, highlights.

In his address to the commission, Barroso made no mention of Africa or the controversial EPAs, which haven’t been finalised by many, despite 10 long and difficult years of negotiations. And it’s no surprise why: the negotiations have been disappointing. Of the 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries negotiating with the EU, only 36 finalised an agreement, of which only 18 are in Africa.

Signals from Africa have not been much better: the continent is increasingly turning east and south, towards emerging markets, and is giving less attention to Europe. Although a few countries remained truly committed to an ambitious trade relationship with Europe, the lastAfrican Union summit, held in January, made no mention of EU-Africa trade. Instead, it focused on Africa’s own domestic economic dynamics, prioritising deeper regional economic integration and increased intra-Africa trade – a logical step and one which Europe itself has followed since the 1950s.

Given the political lethargy, the eurozone crisis that legitimises inward-facing economic politics and new dynamics in Africa, should we conclude that the trade relationship between Europe and Africa is dead? No. Despite all this, there are reasons and ways to resuscitate an ailing trade deal.

The reasons are that both regions remain important to each other: Europe is still the main trade, development and investment partner of most African countries. And despite its relatively low volume of trade with the EU, Africa is nevertheless a crucial source of hard and soft commodities for Europe, and in particular of strategic metals and minerals, essential for its high-tech and green-tech industries. Furthermore, the recent new discoveries of hydrocarbons are of crucial geo-strategic importance – they represent an important alternative, given the difficult political situation in the Middle East, notably with Iran. By keeping trade talks locked in the EPA debates, Europe might accentuate resentments in Africa and therefore miss out on the emerging opportunities. Continued game playing would clearly be counter-productive for both sides.

Develop a partnership of equals

What is needed is a more mature relationship, one that is based on understanding the changing dynamics of both partners and on a real partnership of equals. Europe and Africa have to be clear on their agenda, define their expectations and priorities according to agreed values, principles and interests. The shifting international balance of power places Africa in a better position to revive its partnerships to make them more effective – the challenge will be to translate the new vision into action.

On its side, Europe’s diminishing political clout in Africa implies that it needs to rethink its strategy to become a smarter partner and its engagement with developing countries in Asia or Latin America is proof that Europe can cut its coat according to its cloth. Relationships with Asia and Latin America are more business-like in nature and reflect the priorities and ambitions of each partner. The EU–Latin America and the Caribbean summit, held in January, focused on alliance for sustainable development to promote investment of social and environmental quality. In Asia, the focus is clearly on strategic economic partnerships, with specific relationships nurtured with ChinaIndiaJapan and South Korea.

Clear, consistent communications are key

Both partners have to learn to listen to each other and avoid mixed signals and conflicting incentives. Currently, Europe does not have a coherent agenda for Africa: it has different and multispeed approaches to North AfricaSouth Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Even towards the last segment, it has different policies as the recent desire tofocus engagement on least developed countries underlines.

Appreciate regional differences

In addition, the limited success of the EPAs should teach policymakers that insisting on comprehensive trade agreements with countries that have different expectations simply does not work. Agreements should instead reflect the real interests and capacity of countries. Botswana is not Guinea. European wonks should be careful in their engagement with North Africa so that political conditionalities do not ultimately backfire on the EU’s relationship with the whole region.

Timing is everything

The moment for change is opportune. The African Union has a new chairperson who has taken up the challenge to lift the continent into a new prosperous era. Beyond gathering her troops to deliver the “African renaissance”, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will have to reboot the collaboration with international partners. The challenge for her will be to balance Africa’s geo-strategic interests to get the most of all partners. For Europe, the challenge will be to plug into the new dynamics and remain relevant. But both sides need to think of a revived partnership that goes beyond trade and effectively support Africa’s structural transformation. It is the harder ask but one that will lead to the most sustainable mutual gains, and is something worth considering at theupcoming EU-Africa Summit, scheduled for the first half of 2014.

Isabelle Ramdoo is the trade and economic governance policy officer at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Follow her on Twitter: @ir_ramdoo

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional.

EU-Morroco fish deal a ‘failure’ for all concerned


Andrew Willis

01.04.2011 @ 09:27 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – A controversial fisheries partnership agreement between the EU and Morocco has provided very poor returns to the European tax payer, and failed to bring about tangible benefits in the north African country, according to a report sponsored by the European Commission.

The study by consultants Oceanic Développement also underlines the over-exploited status of Morocco’s fish stocks at a time when the merits of renewing the partnership agreement have caused a bitter division between EU member states, and the bloc reassesses its wider relationship with the southern Mediterranean region.

Human rights campaigners have weighed in against the controversial four-year agreement which expired in February 2011 but was prolonged for one year, arguing that it legitimizes Rabat’s annexation of the disputed Western Sahara region to the south of the country.

EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki has made it clear that a longer-term renewal of the agreement which sees the EU hand Morocco an annual €36 million must display benefits to the inhabitants of the contested region, a Spanish colony until 1975.

But the restricted-access commission report, which NGOs have fought to be made public, says neither side has gained much from the deal. Read more

Liberia- Press statement by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf


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The Liberian Journal, March 25, 2011

Press Statement by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the expiration of the employment contract of Auditor-General John S. Morlu II

March 25, 2011

In my Inaugural speech on January 16, 2006, I declared corruption public enemy number one, and promised to fight it. Since then, we have made some landmark strides in this direction:

a. We have passed new procurement laws whose effects are felt through the bidding process;

b. We are implementing the first ever Public Financial Management Act;

c. We have joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), becoming the first African country to be validated as EITI compliant;

d. We have established and empowered an Anti-Corruption Commission with full powers to fight corruption anywhere in Government, including at the highest levels;

e. We have restructured and funded the General Auditing Commission, making it accountable to the Legislature as it is done in the United States and other progressive countries;

f. We have given the GAC sweeping powers to audit any official and/or agency of government, even at the highest levels, at anytime, without necessarily seeking approval from the President or anyone else;

g. We have required appointed officials to declare their assets to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

h. We have ensured total freedom for the media to investigate and expose corruption everywhere in the country; we have required every agency of Government to fully cooperate with the works of the GAC and Anti-Corruption Commission. While we have always had qualms with the mode of operation of the GAC, we have fully supported the Commission and cooperated with its work;

i. Although overall corruption clearly remains a serious challenge in the country, we have made progress in our fight against corruption as evidenced by our ranking on the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index, which shows that Liberia ranks 13th place out of 47 countries on progress made against corruption in sub-Saharan Africa today compared to 30th place in 2008, an improvement of about 13 places.

As I have always said, corruption is not a new problem in Liberia. It is almost as old as the country itself. Therefore, the fight against it has got to be the responsibility of all Liberians, and it will take time, sacrifices and patience from all of us.

Our current Auditor-General, Mr. John S. Morlu II, was recruited and nominated by me in January 2007, confirmed by the Liberian Senate in February 2007 and assumed the position in March 2007.

On my advice to them regarding this appointment, the European Union concluded an agreement with the Auditor-General to pay the salary for the first four years of the contract, with the understanding that the Liberian Government will assume this responsibility thereafter. We want to thank the European Union for ensuring that the Auditor-General’s compensation was lucrative and for providing other forms of support to the GAC for the past four years.

We did not always agree with the way Mr. Morlu performed his job, including an indictment that our Government was three times more corrupt than its predecessors, even before he officially commissioned his very first audit. However, we continued to support him and want to sincerely thank him for his immense contributions to our fight against corruption. Our disagreements over his mode of operation have never negated the fact that he has established a foundation that his successors can build upon in the fight against corruption.

Fellow Liberians, whatever our differences and opinions, whatever our motives and objectives, the Office of the President demands a certain amount of respect and I can do no less than assure that this is the case. Additionally, as the fight against corruption will continue to demand a hefty amount of our time, our energies, our thoughts and our resources, we can ill-afford needless distractions and controversies. Therefore, I will not be re-nominating him for the post of Auditor-General of the Republic of Liberia.

Thus, in conformity with the Act, approved May 5, 2005, which changed the status of the General Auditing Commission, the Deputy Auditor-General will act in the capacity of the Auditor-General until, through a professional recruitment process, a new Auditor-General is nominated. This will ensure continuity in the work and independence of the General Auditing Commission.

We will ask for continued financial and technical support of the European Union to the General Auditing Commission. This will enable us to act even more effectively in fighting corruption and in pursuing appropriate legal action against those charged with financial malpractice in the 40-plus audit reports that have been concluded.

Please be assured that the change in the Auditor-General represents a mere change in person. Our commitment to continue the fight against corruption remains inviolate.

Editor’s Note: Liberian Executive Mansion presidential statement.

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