ONE OF main cornerstones of this European Union-Africa Summit was to encourage greater democracy and transparency on the African continent.
That is why the Lisbon summit held on Saturday and Sunday last week hammered home the message of democracy, individual freedom and human rights unlike the China-Africa Summit in November 2006 which was largely about money.
The European Union aims to do so by less of the stick and more of the carrot through a dolly mixture bag of concessions and inducements. The EU argues that a package of trade deals, known as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), will help African development and offer full access to European markets while allowing 20 per cent of their own markets to remain closed, to protect domestic and regional trade and industry.
The EU is pushing Africa on this point and says that the deal must be signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the Portuguese Presidency. The EU argues that the EPAs will encourage regional economic integration but some African countries like South Africa and Nigeria say that individual EU states are making separate deals with different African countries and causing the exact opposite.
But Portugal’s decision to invite Robert Mugabe and Colonel Gaddafi – apart from the fact that Libya is sitting on trillions of barrels of oil – shows a willingness to turn a blind eye to obvious human rights abuses and corruption in Africa.
This is inevitably the price that Portugal has to pay to keep the Angolans and Mozambiquans on board while making sure the Chinese don’t hog the trade through.
And while the Chinese and Indians are prepared to negotiate with the ‘baddies’ and ask no questions for the sake of trade, commodities and markets, the likes of Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir and others aren’t going to change. All this leaves the European Union in a difficult position.
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