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Gatherings: EU Treaty, Africa, Mid-east

  • December 19th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

eu-flag-reduced-larger14.pngDecember saw high-level gatherings to make formal the new structure of the EU; take further Europe’s relations with African countries, and put up financial backing for the Palestinian authority as it faces the challenge from Hamas.

NOT-THE-“CONSTITUTION”

The EU reform package agreed to in 2007 became the Lisbon Treaty at a formal signing in the Portugese capital by heads of government.

It will now go to the 27 member governments to be ratified and put into force by the start of 2009, in time for the European Parliament elections that year.

It consolidates previous treaties that formed the basis of European Union law; lets more decisions be taken by majority voting among Ministers from member countries, as opposed to full consensus; changes the system for weighting the votes of member countries; scraps the veto power of individual countries in several new areas; establishes positions for an EU president and head of foreign policy; reduces the size of the European Commission, and accords more authority to the European Court of Justice and European Parliament, especially in justice and home affairs – though the parliament still cannot initiate legislation, (See EUAustralia, Lisbon Summit: Europe’s Latest Treaty, 19.10.07).

The Lisbon Treaty is a more restricted plan, put up instead of the proposed European constitution that was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

AFRICA SUMMIT

Heads of government of all African states and the European Union conferred (8-9.12.07) on future relations, at Lisbon, ending with some discord on the troubled issue of trade access to Europe’s markets.

The European Union has been proposing Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with individual states, to take over from general trade access agreements under the ACP — Africa, Caribbean and Pacific trade and development aid.

The change has been required to bring the system into line with “free trade” standards enforced by the World Trade Organisation, and would see African partners lose one-way tariff-free or tariff-reduced access for primary products to Europe.

The EPAs have been seen as based on fair principles at most forums (see EUAustralia, “Developing Countries and EU …”, 26.5.07).

However there are fears on the African side that by mandating reduced barriers to trade they will create new openings for European businesses in services and other industries.

This concern was spelt out in an article by Abdoulaye Wade, the President of Senegal, published by Le Monde (15.11.07). He said the EU was pressing for EPAs to be signed before the present ACP agreement, the Cotonou accord, was due to expire on 31.12.07. The change would accentuate present trade disequilibrium by totally delivering African markets to subsidised EU products. African economies did not have the structure or capacity to compete with that, and in addition they would lose customs revenue which at present accounted for 35-70% of their budgets – with predictable effects on provision of hospitals, schools and infrastructure.

The EU has been proposing changes in relations with Africa on a field of topics, such as management of health issues including HIV-AIDS, measures against official corruption, and immigration, (see EUAustralia, “Heated Arguments As ‘Third World’ / EU Politicians Meet”, 5.7.07).

At Lisbon, the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering, told a parliamentary gathering that elected representatives were “at the heart of the development of any democratic society” and a key to ending dictatorships, conflicts and violation of human rights.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, had stayed away from the gathering because of the presence there of Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe.

The environmental group Greenpeace urged the leaders at the summit to organise a joint attack on tropical deforestation, saying it was accounting for some 20% of global greenhouse emissions.

It said climate change was a direct threat to Africa as events such as drought and floods were expected to increase.

PALESTINE BACKING

Representatives of 68 countries meeting in Paris (17.12.07) pledged $US 7-billion (A$8.1-billion; dcerates.com, 19.12.07) to support the construction of a Palestinian state.

The President of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas, had asked for just under $US6-billion (A$6.9-billion), telling the meeting the Palestinians were facing a “total catastrophe”.

Delegates linked the assistance to their support for the struggling international Middle East peace negotiations process.

Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party which controls the West Bank enclave was excluded from the meeting, and said that exclusion was a “declaration of war” on itself.

The European Union was the main donor contributing $US650-million (A$753.7-million), followed by the United States’ $US555-million (A$643.5-million). Australia contributed A$45-million.

Reference:

EC, “Treaty of Lisbon: Taking Europe into the 21st Century”, 13.12.07. www.europa.eu, (16.12.07).

BBC, “Q and A: The Lisbon Treaty”, 13.1.207. www.bbc.co.uk, (16.12.07).

European Parliament, “EP President addresses the EP-Pan-SAfrican Parliament meeting”, 7.12.07. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/… , (16.12.07)

Greenpeace, “Greenpeace urges European and African leaders to act …”, 7.1.207. www.greenpeace.org/international/press …, (16.12.07)

Abdoulaye Wade, “Europe-Afrique: la cooperation en panne” , (Europe-Africa: failure in development aid cooperation), Le Monde, Paris, 15.11.07. www.lemonde.fr, (20.11.07).

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