REPORT on the work of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly in 1995
22 February 1996
Committee on Development and Cooperation
Rapporteur: Mr Blaise Aldo
By letter of 3 October 1995 the Committee on Development and Cooperation requested authorization to draw up a report on the work of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly in 1995.
At the sitting of 17 November 1995 the President of the European Parliament announced that the Conference of Presidents had authorized the committee to report on this subject.
At its meeting of 17 October 1995 the Committee on Development and Cooperation had appointed Mr Aldo rapporteur.
At its meeting of 23 January 1996 the committee considered the draft report.
At its meeting of 21 February 1996 it adopted the motion for a resolution unanimously.
The following took part in the vote: Stasi, vice-chairman and acting chairman; Wurtz, vicechairman; Fassa, vice-chairman; Aldo, rapporteur; Corrie, Cunningham, Kinnock, McGowan, Martens, Pons Grau and Sandbaek (for van der Waal).
The report was tabled on 22 February 1996.
The deadline for tabling amendments will appear on the draft agenda for the part-session at which the report is to be considered.
A MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
Resolution on the work of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly in 1995
The European Parliament,
- having regard to the motions for resolutions adopted by the Joint Assembly at its meetings in Dakar (January-February 1995) and Brussels (September 1995),
- having regard to Rule 148 of the Rules of Procedure,
- having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and Cooperation (A4-0045/96),
A. whereas the democratic nature of the Joint Assembly gives it a leading role to play in developing and strengthening relations between the European Union and its ACP partners,
B. whereas the European Parliament attaches the greatest importance to its development policy, and in particular to strengthening ACP-EU cooperation and the advancement of human rights and human dignity throughout the world,
C. whereas 1995 marked an important stage in ACP-EU cooperation with the mid-term review of the Fourth Lomé Convention and the establishment of its new budget for the period 19952000,
1. Notes the improvement in the way in which the negotiations on the mid-term review of the Fourth Lomé Convention were conducted and in the agreement reached on establishing the 8th European Development Fund;
2. Points out that the Joint Assembly, by putting forward at the various stages of the negotiations constructive proposals to make the Convention more effective, made a significant contribution to the successful outcome of these negotiations;
3. Considers in particular that the ACP-EU Council of Ministers' decision to authorize a delegation from the Joint Assembly to attend the ministerial negotiating sessions as an observer constitutes due recognition of its crucial role in the dialogue between the two sides and in strengthening ACP-EU cooperation;
4. Expresses its deep concern that the total allocation to the 8th EDF is inadequate to achieve the objectives of ACP-EU cooperation; points out in particular that the amount fails to meet any of the objective criteria that the Assembly had suggested should be taken into account in setting the level of funding;
5. Welcomes the unceasing efforts made by the Joint Assembly to help promote human rights and democracy and to play a constructive role in the serious conflicts affecting a number of ACP countries;
6. Considers in this context that sending Joint Assembly delegations on fact-finding missions - such as the three in 1995 to Burundi, Zaire, Rwanda, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Mali - has proved to be an effective means of defusing conflict situations and making cooperation more effective for the people concerned.
7. Reiterates its condemnation of the current political situation in Nigeria; regrets that the Joint Assembly was unable to adopt a position on this matter at its meeting in Brussels;
8. Considers that sending a Joint Assembly delegation to Nigeria could make a significant contribution towards finding ways and means of improving the situation and therefore calls for a delegation to be authorized to visit Nigeria without delay;
9. Welcomes the participation of a South African parliamentary delegation in the work of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly as an observer and points out in this context the significant role that the Joint Assembly continues to play in shaping future relations between South Africa, the ACP partners and the EU; points out that the Joint Assembly has come out clearly in favour of South Africa's accession to the Lomé Convention;
10. Notes with interest the important resolution on infrastructure in the ACP countries adopted by the Assembly within the framework of its general report;
11. Points out that basic infrastructure is a prerequisite for the economic and social development of the ACP countries, that a regional approach to the planning and construction of infrastructure is required, that it is important to ensure that infrastructure does not damage the environment and is adapted to the needs and know-how of its users, and that it is vital to make arrangements for the sustainable maintenance of existing infrastructure;
12. Points out that in the event of disasters in the ACP countries it is essential to implement, alongside vital humanitarian and emergency action, aid for reconstruction, including specific measures to rebuild infrastructure;
13. Welcomes the growing recognition of the urgent need to develop AIDS projects, given the spread of this epidemic and its established link with poverty, and points to the need to promote a general policy of health education, and hence prevention;
14. Reiterates its urgent call on the European Union to ban the manufacture, sale and storage of AP landmines on its territory and to destroy existing stocks and supports the request for the creation of a specific fund to further finance mine clearing and the rehabilitation and compensation of victims; also calls for the speedy creation of a specific fund in the European Union's budget, which is intended to finance programmes carried out by NGO's which have hitherto been included in different budgetary headings -in all countries that have suffered from the use of mines;
15. Hopes that in future the Joint Assembly will look more closely at the problems linked to the production and use of drugs in some ACP countries;
16. Hopes that in response to the political risks and crises in certain ACP states the European partners will not systematically express their disapproval by freezing Community aid as this would probably cause greater problems for the populations concerned;
17. Notes the major debates and conclusions of the Joint Assembly on the results - and the implementation within the framework of ACP-EU cooperation - of the major international conferences such as the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, the World Conference on Women in Beijing and the World Social Development Summit in Copenhagen;
18. Looks forward with interest to the conclusions of the Assembly's three working groups on industrialization, refugees and displaced persons and urban development respectively; points out that the Joint Assembly can make a major contribution in these three crucial sectors of ACP-EU cooperation;
19. Points to the significant increase in the number of questions put to the Council and Commission during the last two sessions and, consequently, the considerable amount of time devoted to this type of exercise and the large number of resolutions tabled, debated and adopted by the Joint Assembly;
20. Takes the view that this situation must prompt the Joint Assembly to give detailed consideration to its working methods and to the impact of the message it wants to put across to the other institutions and to the general public in the ACP and EU States;
21. Considers that if it is to be more effective the Joint Assembly must focus its activities more clearly on the basis of agreed priorities without undermining the freedom of members of the Joint Assembly to raise issues they regard as important;
22. Notes with satisfaction the high level of parliamentary representation in ACP delegations, which reinforces the democratic nature of the institution, its authority and its legitimacy and is a reflection of the ACP States' growing commitment to democracy;
23. Reiterates its call for recognition of the institutional autonomy of the Joint Assembly and, consequently, its financial autonomy by conferring responsibility for its management on the governing bodies established by its Rules of Procedure, within the framework of the EU budget; considers that such autonomy would enable it to carry out its functions in a responsible and more efficient manner;
24. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the ACP-EU Council of Ministers, the parliaments of the Member States of the European Union, the ACP Committee of Ambassadors and the European Commission.
-  OJ C 245, 21.9.1995, AP/1615-1617-1618, 28.9.1995
B. EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
Each year a report is made to Members of the European Parliament on the work of the Joint Assembly. Its purpose is to outline progress in implementing the Lomé Convention, recent developments in the ACP countries and their problems and concerns and, of course, the decisions taken by the Joint Assembly.
1995 was a highly significant year for ACP-EU cooperation and for the Joint Assembly in particular since the first six months saw the conclusion of the negotiations on the mid-term review of Lomé IV and the decision on the amount of the 8th EDF.
Of the work carried out by the Joint Assembly and its main organs, the following were particularly worthy of note:
- the contact group following up the Working Party on the review of Lomé IV attended some of the ACP-EU Council negotiating sessions as an observer. The Joint Assembly was thus for the first time fully involved in ministerial negotiations on the Lomé Convention.
- At the end of May/beginning of June 1995 a Bureau delegation visited the capitals of the three Member States most involved in the renewal of the EDF (Germany-France-United Kingdom), to press for an increase in funding for the 8th EDF.
- There were missions to a number of ACP countries by Bureau delegations, in particular to Burundi, Zaire, Rwanda, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Mali.
- The three working parties on industrialization, refugees and urban development continued their work. It is important to point out that setting up working parties enables the Joint Assembly to make a detailed study of issues which are crucial for the continuation and future of ACP-EU cooperation and to formulate a range of proposals for practical measures in the relevant areas.
- The general rapporteur visited a number of ACP states in southern Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific in connection with her general report.
- During the meeting in Dakar there was a visit to fisheries installations following a debate on this topic which highlighted the need to develop small-scale fishing in the ACP countries.
- During the meeting in Brussels, a seminar was held with the NGOs involving more than 40 NGO representatives.
A delegation from South Africa, with observer status, attended the meetings in Dakar and Brussels and spoke in the debates on the future of relations between the European Union, the ACP countries and South Africa.
Observer status was also granted this year to the Commonwealth organization.
At the meeting in Brussels the President of the Republic of Sao Tomé and Principe addressed the Assembly. The Assembly also had the opportunity to hear from the WHO's director for Africa and the UN representative in Angola.
The main topics dealt with this year were:
- monitoring the negotiations on the mid-term review of Lomé IV and the fixing of the amount of the 8th EDF. The final amount of the EDF will be ECU 12.967 bn, which is extremely disappointing, especially if it is seen in conjunction with the refusal to alleviate the ACP countries' debt. However, as the President-in-Office of the Council, Mr Bernard Debré, pointed out, the alleviation or rescheduling of the debt is a matter for the Member States and not for the Union. At the time your rapporteur personally expressed his support for the French Presidency and the other Member States of the Union who took the view that greater cooperation between the Union and the countries of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and South America must not be at the expense of the ACP states who are among the world's poorest nations. He pointed out at the time that it was the very political credibility of the Union which was at stake.
- Infrastructure, particularly in the areas of communications, energy, water and telecommunications, was the topic of the general report submitted by Mrs Maij-Weggen; in it she gave a detailed analysis of the shortcomings of regional cooperation and insisted on the need to improve the development and maintenance of infrastructure. The development of basic infrastructure is a prerequisite for economic and social development. Where ACP countries and regions are hit by natural disasters, it is necessary to provide not only humanitarian and emergency aid but also aid for reconstruction including a substantial amount specifically earmarked for the rebuilding of infrastructure.
- Monitoring of the human rights situation, in particular by means of specific missions to some ACP countries and by continuing to examine a number of specific cases under the procedure followed by the Bureau and by examining the situation in certain ACP countries at meetings of the Assembly.
- Further consideration of the situation in southern Africa and future relations between South Africa and ACP-EU cooperation.
- A number of votes were taken on commodities; as an illustration, in the case of sugar, where arrangements for the supply of sugar had been unchanged since 1975, the ACP producers asked for the opportunity to provide sugar at a guaranteed price to make up the shortfall in the Union. With regard to bananas, Mr Bernard Debré, then President-in-Office of the Council, drew attention to the transitional nature of the banana regime. In response to US threats of retaliatory trade measures, the Union pointed out that any measures taken by the United States must comply with its commitments under the WTO.
- The results of the Beijing Conference on Women were the subject of a report in which Mrs Junker highlighted the continuing need to enable the countries of the South to promote the role of women in society, while pointing out the extent to which women are the main victims of war and crises.
- The outcome of the social summit in Copenhagen, which the Joint Assembly felt had made a degree of progress by giving a new direction to development strategy. In this context, the Assembly is calling for development aid to be channelled more effectively into the social sector.
With regard to working methods and the assessment of the results of the Assembly's work, two specific issues deserve particular attention: firstly implementation of the procedure for questions to the Council and Commission and secondly, the number of resolutions adopted by the Assembly.
During 1995 there was a substantial increase in the number of questions put to the Council and the Commission. At the meeting in Dakar, there were 18 questions to the Council and 33 to the Commission. In Brussels more than 33 questions were put to the Council and 54 to the Commission. In the circumstances it was not possible to allow members to put supplementary questions. One can question the usefulness of the large amount of time spent on this type of exercise, particularly when the Assembly's debates are subject to strict time limits.
As a result, at the Brussels meeting the vote on a number of individual motions for resolutions on specific ACP countries had to be held over to the next meeting because there was no time for them to be properly debated.
44 resolutions were adopted in Dakar and 31 in Brussels. These resolutions covered the whole range of ACP-EU cooperation. There is a risk that such a large number of resolutions, on such a wide variety of topics, may undermine the Joint Assembly's priorities and blur the message it wants to put across to the other institutions and the general public.
In particular it is regrettable that the Assembly sometimes adopts several resolutions on the same topic. This was the case in Brussels, where it adopted three resolutions on bananas, and the same thing occurred in Dakar where it adopted two resolutions with identical titles and parts of which were similar in content; the resolutions concerned the involvement of young people in the process of decentralized cooperation.
It is also somewhat surprising that the Joint Assembly allows itself to exceed its terms of reference as clearly defined by the IVth Lomé Convention. For example, at its meeting in Brussels the Assembly considered the issue of French nuclear tests in the Pacific and adopted a resolution on the subject after a whole day's debate.
The question of the democratic representativeness of ACP delegations to the Joint Assembly has long been a source of controversy. In recent years the degree of representation has improved considerably. At the meeting in Dakar 38 of the 51 ACP delegations present were made up of elected representatives. At the meeting in Brussels, 41 of the 54 ACP delegations present were composed of elected representatives.
To sum up, the Lomé Convention has to reconcile two requirements.
The Union's duty of solidarity towards countries which were former colonies and the need to safeguard its commercial interests in a world where economic competition is keener than ever.
In 1995, midway through the Lomé IV convention, the Joint Assembly held its 20th session in Dakar from 30 January to 3 February and its 21st session in Brussels from 25 to 29 September. Although the formal sittings and various other speeches conveyed a general determination to use all the available legal and practical means to ensure the continuity of cooperation between the EU and the countries of the South through the Lomé Convention, this did not allay the anxiety and concerns felt by the ACP members of the Assembly.
These legitimate concerns on the part of the ACP countries arise from various material and objective factors, such as,
- the budget for the 8th EDF. Despite the satisfactory formal nature of the negotiations to determine the amount allocated to the EDF, the ACP countries have been proved right in expressing their concern as to the EU's genuine desire to develop cooperation and to perpetuate Lomé.
In this connection, the French Presidency of the Council of Ministers is to be commended for its determination, supported by the President of the European Parliament, to ensure that the 8th EDF was maintained in real terms compared with the 7th, i.e. ECU 14.6 billion, provided by 12 Member States. Alain Juppé and Klaus Hänsch also insisted that the budget borne by 15 Member States in 1995 for the 8th EDF should in no circumstances be less than ECU 13.3 billion.
Unfortunately this valid and logical argument did not secure unanimous support and the ECU 12.967 billion allocated to the 8th EDF is proving even at this stage to be inadequate to implement the programmable aid and to keep the price support mechanisms (STABEX, Sysmin) in operation since the guarantees provided depend on commitment of the corresponding appropriations. This raises the question whether this financial disengagement should be seen as the first sign of a gradual move away from cooperation.
Secondly, a question which arose in all the Joint Assembly's debates was the introduction of the democracy clause in the amended Article 5 of the Lomé Convention, making respect for human rights and democracy a basic condition of the agreement and allowing it to be suspended in the event of serious and repeated human rights violations, the conditions governing suspension being set out in the new Article 366a of the Convention.
In the rapporteur's view, the provisions of Article 366a constitute an excellent legal instrument for regulating any breach of the democratic principles of human rights or the rule of law. Any decision taken on this basis obviously requires flanking measures at all stages of the procedure - from consultation at the investigation stage to concerted action in lifting a suspension.
With regard to the situation prevailing in Nigeria, the Joint Assembly can make a significant contribution to improving matters particularly in terms of human rights and democracy. A delegation from the Joint Assembly - which is sufficiently broadly-based to reflect the various political views within Parliament - must be authorized to go to Nigeria as soon as possible for the visits and meetings it considers necessary. In the past such missions have proved useful in achieving a consensus among the various sides and helping resolve crises in a number of ACP countries.
More generally, the Joint Assembly is convinced of the need to put in place institutional conflict prevention arrangements. It has adopted a resolution to this effect calling for political cooperation arrangements to be established with adequate and effective means of preventing conflicts.
Although the Union and its Member States are undeniably now the main source of public development aid to the countries of the South, the measures taken under the Fourth Lomé Convention are already proving inadequate to achieve the objectives established in the various protocols to the agreement. It is to be hoped that the ACP countries fears are not confirmed and that these shortcomings are merely cyclical in nature and attributable to:
- the obligations imposed on the Member States of the Union to reduce their public deficits so that the single currency can be introduced in 1999;
- the fact that construction of the Union is conditional upon the necessary harmonization of socio-economic parameters; each Member State having to make significant efforts to achieve an optimum level of development in order to earn its place within the Union, which will require a steady rise in growth rates and GDP.