ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Feb04
Last month, I
witnessed yet again the problems suffered by Ethiopia for myself - the
lack of access to water, the inability to grow food on barren land and the
daily struggle to prevent the death of children from curable diseases.
Almost 12 million of the 70 million population of Ethiopia face famine,
disease and poverty.
I attended the 7th
ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), held in Addis Ababa, along with
Members of the European Parliament, Commissioners Pascal Lamy and Poul
Nielson, Mr Tom Kitt, President of the EU Council, and MPs from the 78
developing countries that form the African Caribbean & Pacific (ACP)
The JPA offers a
platform to look at and formulate policies that can help solve the
problems of economic development, mutual trade and human rights issues.
The session also included visits for JPA members to assess food security
in a rural area, private sector manufacturing companies and a local
Fistula Hospital. Many MEPs appreciated these visits.
The session began
by looking at a report on "Economic Partnership
Arrangements"(EPA), which aim to tackle the problems of establishing
regional markets and maximise trade between ACP countries as well as with
the EU. The EPAs, aiming to make the most of natural resources found in
each country to enhance regional and external trade, are crucial for
sustaining the COTONOU Agreement signed by the ACP and the EU.
in ACP countries, dependent on commodities such as cotton, sugar, coffee
and bananas, suffer from declining prices and worsening terms of trade.
Economic hardship can trigger civil unrest and breakdown in law and order.
Commissioner Lamy highlighted the review of the Sugar Protocol and
confirmed that both ACP sugar producers as well as sugar beet farmers in
the EU will be best served by a modest cut in quota and price.
While millions of
peasant cotton farmers in Benin, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali depend on the
export revenue of their cotton, the USA and China dump large quantities of
subsidised cotton on the world market.
I chaired the
Conciliation Committee to secure a compromise Resolution on "Cotton
and other commodities: problems encountered by ACP countries". I
assured the ACP Parliamentarians that, despite nominal subsidies to
Spanish and Greek cotton farmers, the EU remains a net importer of ACP
cotton and continues to offer a higher price than the world price for such
Nielson said substantial funds in the European Development Fund (EDF)
remain undistributed because some of the ACP beneficiary countries
continue to suffer from internal conflict, a lack of good governance and
inadequate provision for human rights. Future EDF funding would depend on
efficient and timely use of existing funds.
I find it hard to justify to constituents and taxpayers
continued EU support for oil-rich ACP countries such as the Republic of
Congo which produces 330,000 barrels of oil per day yielding a potential
$186,000 per capita income. Such a country, with huge natural resources
(oil, minerals, timber and fertile land), would not need EU support if it
had a competent, accountable and democratically elected government.
The JPA discussed
the need for rapid responses to natural disasters like cyclones. While it
was agreed that there should be a quicker response, it is a fact that
money allocated for earlier disasters in distant lands remains unspent to
Two JPA Standing
Committee Reports covering "Conflict Prevention (Morrillon &
Klutze) and "Tackling poverty diseases and reproductive health"
(Scheele & Betkou) provoked lively debate and their recommendations
were adopted by the assembly.
should allocate more time to standing committees, field trips and
workshops. As in Addis Ababa, the Assembly should have an opportunity to
question the Prime Minister of the host country. Presentations read out
without debate should not be on the agenda as printed copies can be
circulated in advance to all JPA Members. Furthermore, at least a month
before, the Commission must send MEPs and ACP House its report on the
follow-up action in response to Resolutions adopted at the previous JPA.