EU urged to correct trade policy for Africa

EU urged to correct trade policy for Africa

While the European Union has a very good development aid policy for Africa, its trade policy for the continent was very bad, Anke Kurat, coordinator of Venro, the Association of German Development NGOs believes.

Ms Kurat, who was brought to Malta by Skop, Malta's platform of 13 NGOs, to give an overview on EU-Africa relations and structures, told The Times that on a European level a lot of things were being done wrongly at the moment.

"Agricultural subsidies are destroying African markets. While the EU gives development aid to Africa, at the same time it sends cheap frozen chicken destroying the continent's regional markets, for example. This is a major issue," she said.

Last December, the EU and the African Union signed an EU-Africa strategy aimed at enhancing cooperation between the two continents, forging a new and stronger partnership. This partnership aimed at bridging the development divide between Africa and Europe through the strengthening of economic cooperation and the promotion of sustainable development in both continents, living side by side in peace, security, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity.

The EU-Africa strategy dealt with development aid but also concentrated on a lot of other issues including security, migration, climate change, energy policy and information society. It was built on a wide range of actors, incorporating governments and civil society. Civil society included unions and institutions so the structure was very complex in both continents.

Ms Kurat said that although on paper the EU was always very positive, implementation was another matter altogether. "The problem is how to engage civil society on both continents to implement a partnership... Civil society is very weak in African states and there are attempts in certain states to weaken it even further. To engage civil society in Africa and in Europe we need more time."

Ms Kurat said that another important treaty in EU-Africa relations was the Cotonou agreement, signed in 2000 and which came into force in 2002. This agreement was about trade and was aimed at liberalising African markets. But although economic partnership agreements should be development instruments fostering the integration of African states into the world's economy, aiding development, the issues were the responsibility of different EU directorate generals - those of trade and development.

Ms Kurat said that the most important thing in development aid was ensuring that African states decided on their own how to utilise this aid. But, unfortunately, there were no equal partners between Europeans and Africans. Achieving equality was difficult with the big European industries lobbying in Europe.

"If differences between continents are not reduced, we will not have peace and there will be illegal migration. So it is in the interest of the EU to develop the African continent."

To implement the strategy and make it a reality, both countries had to do their homework. Aid, for example, should not go to governments violating human rights. But a country's people should never be punished because of their government. To solve this problem, funds should be channelled through international NGOs directly to the people.

Unfortunately, a lot of aid money directed to Africa was going to governments and not to NGOs. And unless someone controlled African governments, one could not be sure that they spent the aid money for poverty eradication.

Ms Kurat said that, while it was important to improve the conditions of civil society in African states, EU governments had to keep their promises on EU aid, which was declining.

Ms Kurat's visit to Malta was funded by the EU presidency fund for NGOs.

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