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Debates
Wednesday, 6 July 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

3. Africa, globalisation and poverty
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  President. The next item is the joint debate on:

- the Council and Commission statements on Africa and the challenges of globalisation,

- and the oral question to the Council by Mrs Morgantini on behalf of the Committee on Development: ‘Global call to Action Against Poverty: Making Poverty History’ (B6-0248/2005)

- and the oral question to the Commission by Mrs Morgantini on behalf of the Committee on Development: ‘Global call to Action Against Poverty: Making Poverty History’ (B6-0249/2005).

 
  
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  Jack Straw, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, I wish to say, for the second time this morning, what an honour it is to address the European Parliament. I greatly value the dialogue I have had with Parliament and its committees, not just over the last four years as Britain’s Foreign Minister but over the previous four years as Britain’s Home Secretary. Indeed, I have been serving in the British Government long enough to recall our previous Presidency, seven and a half years ago, when I had the privilege of chairing the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

I also wish to congratulate Parliament on its initiative today to support the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign. It is a sign of your strong commitment to global development in what is a vital year for Africa and for the poorest nations worldwide.

Mrs Morgantini has submitted to me some detailed questions. I have already sent her a detailed answer to those questions and I shall make sure they are more widely available. In my speech I shall be answering many of the points she raised.

Over the last few months, the headlines in Europe have often been about disagreement and difficulty. The voters in two founder Member States have brought into sharp relief questions of profound concern to all Europe’s citizens. How can the European Union better deliver to them the prosperity and security which we all seek in a rapidly changing world?

Some of the answers to that question will concern the European Union’s internal policies, including future financing. The United Kingdom, as Tony Blair said to Parliament just two weeks ago, takes its responsibilities as EU President very seriously. We will work hard to reach agreement on the Financial Perspective by the end of the year. Alongside this, we will seek to conduct the wider debate on Europe’s future direction and priorities in an open and inclusive way, respectful of the different viewpoints in this Parliament and amongst Europe’s governments and citizens. Yet if we are to respond fully to people’s hopes and fears for the future, it is just as important that the EU strengthen its actions in the wider world. One of the most striking developments of the last few years has been how much we have done already in the European Union to rise to that challenge, on a basis of very broad agreement.

A few years ago, Europe’s nations were severely divided, as we were reminded in the previous debate over Iraq. Yet today we are taking strong common action in support of peace in the Middle East, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have a comprehensive programme of engagement with the new Iraq. We are leading the international community in the difficult but vital process of engagement with Iran.

The story is the same on security and defence. Just a few years ago the debate on ESDP revolved around the location and staffing of a small planning cell in a suburb of Brussels. But today an EU force is working with NATO in Bosnia on the ground. EU missions there and in Macedonia are training police. We are also training Iraqi police and judiciary. We have two European missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are assisting the African Union force in Sudan.

So, today, the European Security and Defence Policy is not a piece of paper: it is making a real difference to thousands of lives across the globe. I want the United Kingdom’s Presidency – and the years ahead – to be a time in which we build on these achievements and further strengthen the European Union’s influence and power as a force for good in the world. Nowhere is that more important than in Africa. Africa today is poorer than it was 25 years ago. Half of the population south of the Sahara lives on less than a dollar a day. Africa’s share of world trade is one third of its level in 1980. The total national income of sub-Saharan African countries is less than the developed world – the EU, the United States, Japan and a few other countries – spend on farming subsidies. A major breakthrough is needed if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. At the current pace, it will take Sub-Saharan Africa more than 100 years to meet the targets for primary education or reducing infant mortality. For three of the goals – those for hunger, poverty and sanitation – the situation in sub-Saharan Africa is getting worse day by day.

Meanwhile, life expectancy in Africa today is just 42, less than the age of most people in this Chamber. It is predicted that in some African countries life expectancy will be under 30 in five years’ time. Twenty million Africans have already died of AIDS, now the continent’s biggest killer. Three-quarters of those living with HIV worldwide are in Africa.

Nelson Mandela said: ‘Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings’. Mandela was right. Africa has all too many examples of how the actions of human beings prevent other human beings from building better lives for themselves.

In Darfur – as Hilary Benn, my colleague and friend, the Secretary of State for International Development in the United Kingdom – and I have both seen for ourselves, the government-backed militia has killed many thousands of people. Millions have had to flee their homes.

In Zimbabwe, the government has already trampled over democracy and basic human rights and has ruined an economy that was once amongst the strongest in the whole of Africa. The government in Zimbabwe has now turned on the poorest and the most vulnerable in that country, driving hundreds of thousands from their homes and destroying their livelihoods. The problem of Zimbabwe is not one of intrinsic lack of resources or of climate but one of very bad governance. The European Union has been right to send a firm message that the government of Zimbabwe’s behaviour is wholly unacceptable. We have done so through new extended and restrictive measures against the Mugabe regime, and through a firm condemnation of the latest abuses.

But amongst all this gloom, let us remember that the picture in Africa is far more complex than it at first appears. In the 1970s you could count the democracies of Africa on the fingers of one hand and still have two fingers left: there were three. Today there are more than thirty democratically elected governments across the continent.

Only a few years ago, armed conflicts were ablaze across Africa, but today sustainable peace is taking root in countries such as Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Angola. The Organisation of African Unity used to preach non-interference in its members’ internal affairs. In contrast, its successor, the new African Union, is founded not on non-interference but on non-indifference. It is taking as its inspiration what the European Union has been able to achieve in a continent that was once itself characterised not by the peace and stability we now enjoy, but by conflict, war and bloodshed.

Through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD, African leaders have agreed to a peer review mechanism which many developed world governments, many governments in Europe, would find uncomfortably intrusive. Nor is the economic situation in Africa as uniformly negative as it sometimes seems. Some countries, such as Mozambique and Ethiopia, have achieved growth rates of around 7%, a level sufficient to lift large numbers of people out of poverty.

The continent has enormous resources, both physical and human, and these positive factors should give us real cause for hope. Africans want a better future and we in Europe, with our international partners, must continue to deliver the support to enable reform in Africa to take root and in turn help Africans to change the situation for the better.

So we have made this year a year of action and we have already achieved a great deal. Last month’s European Council is currently famous for its disagreements on the European Union budget, but I suggest that our children will better remember it as the Council which decided to double European aid to Africa over the next five years. That was the enduring legacy of that Council and, with luck and work, the temporary problems over the European budget will indeed be temporary.

We are also resolved to make that aid better coordinated and more effective, building on the agreements made at the OECD meeting in Paris this spring. We have to ensure that the aid does not compound bad governance and enrich the corrupt, but rather that it is used to drive up standards of governance and help the poorest, for whom it is intended.

The G8 has agreed 100% debt relief for all highly indebted poor countries and the G8 leaders who assemble today in Gleneagles and meet today and tomorrow will discuss further support. At the United Nations Summit in September, we are going to review the Millennium Development Goals and strengthen international action to achieve them. However, we have to do more. Under our Presidency, the United Kingdom will work to deliver a European strategy to support Africa’s successful development. The strategy needs to be comprehensive and ambitious; it should go beyond financial support and show how Africa will invest in people, in good governance, in growth, peace and security. As part of this strategy, we have to deliver better access to developed markets for the world’s poorest countries, so as to make the Doha development agenda a reality, and we should start with this December’s meeting in Hong Kong.

The European Union, the United States and other rich countries must honour their commitments to abolish export subsidies and do so to a clear and explicit timetable. We have to recognise, too, the central importance of peace and stability in Africa. Already there are thousands of refugees in Darfur who are safer. Why? Thanks to financing from the European Union Peace Facility for the African Union’s mission there. Through the facility, we can increase our support further by supporting the African Union and organisations like the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which itself has played such an important role in tackling conflict in West Africa.

The Peace Facility really has been a success, but the money allocated to it is running out and we need to agree adequate long-term funding for it. As Africa’s leaders themselves have recognised, Europe can help by promoting better and more democratic governance in Africa.

To return to the issue of Zimbabwe, I greatly welcome the European Parliament’s calls for action on elections and rigorous enforcement of European Union sanctions. The Joint EU-ACP Parliamentary Assembly has been a strong supporter of better governance in African states, as well as those in the Caribbean and Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement allows us to suspend aid in the worst cases. We should not only remain prepared to use that provision but, I suggest, be far more proactive in monitoring progress on democracy and on governance. It is the people who have most to gain from democracy and better governance, the ordinary people in the ACP countries in Africa, who themselves are wanting us to make use of these mechanisms within agreements like the Cotonou Agreement.

The great Live 8 concerts that took place across Europe and across the globe last weekend are still echoing in our ears. They and the wider interest generated by the G8 Gleneagles meeting have hugely raised expectations in Africa and in Europe and across the developed world that this time the aid effort to Africa will work. Let us hope that it will. Let us hope that the developed nations actually deliver the aid they are promising, but let us also understand this: the process will only work if governance in Africa is improved and corruption there is cut down.

In our action in Africa and across the world, the European Union can draw on three great strengths. Firstly, the EU’s intrinsic power and influence. When we speak together we can set the international agenda. We are doing so on world trade, but I have seen that too in leading with Javier Solana, with Joschka Fischer and now with Philippe Douste-Blazy in the difficult Iran dossier. The strength of the European Union when it is united is phenomenal. The strength we have is the strength of our global connections. There is hardly a country anywhere in the world that does not have some special tie of history or friendship with one or other of the European Union’s Member States. The latest enlargement, last May, added further to that network of partnership and trust and our global reach is mirrored in this Parliament and in your strong international engagement.

The EU is today building stronger relationships with neighbours such as Russia and new strategic partners such as China and India, which are going to hold such important summits with the EU during our Presidency. Obviously we will wield greater influence with such strategic partners when we act together.

The third, and perhaps most important, strength is the strength of the European Union’s values. Soft power in foreign policy has been defined as making others want what we want. The European Union’s enlargement is one of the most striking and powerful examples of that soft power in action. The magnetic pull of the EU’s success, its values and institutions, have helped to transform first southern, then central and eastern Europe and the prospect of EU membership is now spreading reform and stability to Turkey and across the Western Balkans.

Others here perhaps know the Western Balkans better than I do, but all of us who know the Western Balkans know that in reality the only thing that is helping to push those divided communities towards some prospect of peace and security is the European Union, its values and its strength. The June European Union Council recognised this in reaffirming its intention that the EU should fully implement its existing commitments on enlargement, including opening negotiations with Turkey on 3 October.

Meanwhile, our neighbourhood policy is helping to promote our values further to the east and to the south, including to Ukraine and to the Mediterranean countries, with which we will also host summits during the UK Presidency. Those values are the bedrock of the transatlantic relationship, the world’s greatest alliances of liberal democracies, essential in tackling the global challenges of the future from terrorism and proliferation to poverty and climate change.

Through these assets – our own strength, our global connections and the power of our values – the European Union today has even greater potential to increase its strength as a force for good across the world. I look forward to working with you all towards that goal during our Presidency.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Commission. (FR) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office, ladies and gentlemen, when I requested the development and humanitarian aid portfolio, I knew that Africa would be at the heart of my actions and my commitment.

My commitment is stimulated by feelings of indignation and of urgency: to this day, Africa remains cut off from the world, on the fringes of our consciences and isolated from the benefits of globalisation.

My commitment also springs from a recognition that the context has changed and that we now have the opportunity, undoubtedly a unique opportunity, to make Africa a more prosperous, more stable and better governed continent. In this context Europe can and must make a difference, given that it is now possible to create conditions favourable to the eradication of poverty and that there is no longer any excuse for not doing so.

Africa has changed. The Africans themselves have decided to turn their backs on fate and to take their destiny into their own hands. The energetic and impressive action of the African Union in Darfur, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, for example, has given a new dimension to the principle that African solutions must be found to African crises. This action, based on robust regional organisations, opens up hitherto unhoped-for prospects for peace, stability and security. Furthermore, the African Union is supported by a strong leadership which is now sketching out a promising vision.

If Africa has changed, Europe too has changed. Increasingly Europe is establishing itself as the spokesman for a world that has a greater sense of solidarity and fairness and for a system that is more multilateral. This year, 2005, the year of development, Europe must make its voice heard as the world’s biggest donor of development aid and as such it can push the international community to take tangible, voluntary action, thereby preventing the Millennium Development Goals from soon becoming synonymous with broken promises. I am also very pleased to note that the European Council – as has just been stated – has followed the Commission’s proposal, which will indeed make it possible to double public development aid by 2015 and to double aid to Africa by 2010.

Finally, the world has changed. The events of recent years have shown us the extent to which the existence of failing states can be a source of instability and can create safe havens for terrorists and criminals. The intensification of globalisation at all levels also makes an intensification of solidarity indispensable. I now see development policy as the key tool for putting a human face on globalisation. In any case, I see no better one. Globalisation has the specific characteristic that it is not born, as some would have us believe, out of a political decision made hidden away in some dark corner. Globalisation has not really been orchestrated; it is a spontaneous process, welcomed by some, feared by others, but over which, and this is the trouble, no authority, be it national or international, has direct control. I am, of course, one of those who believe that it has much to contribute and that, in any case, it offers more advantages than drawbacks.

We must respond, of course, to the intensification of globalisation at all levels with an intensification of solidarity at all levels. After all, what can globalisation mean for people who have no access to water, for young people who have no access to education, for children who are dying from diseases that we could treat. Even if there are some who dream of a return to models which, sadly, smack of déjà vu, I believe that it would be wrong to think that people do not want globalisation or that they want to turn back the clock. What we want, as Europeans, is globalisation that benefits everybody, that is a positive lever for the whole of humanity, without exception. In this context, nothing is more urgent than ensuring that globalisation can function in Africa and for Africa.

Admittedly, in this context market liberalisation is only beneficial when the State has the ability to enact rules to curb abuses and to promote the common interest. As you know, to benefit from the opportunities offered by globalisation, governments must guarantee a macroeconomic framework. They must also create effective and predictable conditions for this macroeconomic framework and must obviously also ensure governance within a framework that fosters economic activity. They must also encourage and support a watchful civil society that guarantees fair and balanced redistribution of wealth and other services, such as, for example, access to justice, administration, health and education. From this point of view, and particularly for Africa, I believe that special efforts need to be focused on promoting equality between men and women.

For all these reasons, I believe that it would be useful to set out a common European strategy, not only for development but also for Africa, a strategy that is capable of responding to the new geopolitical order in Africa, a strategy that we want to draw up with our African partners in order to build on this new impetus at global level. It has been said that the African Union has very quickly become a key political negotiator and a veritable driving force for change for the continent.

At the same time, I think it is useful to stress that this construction will not stand up by itself. The house of the African Union must be built on solid regional building blocks. There will be no continental integration without regional organisation that is strong, ambitious and recognised. An ambitious political partnership between the European Union and the African Union is, therefore, more necessary than ever before. On what should this marriage be based? I do not have an exhaustive answer, but, nonetheless, I shall confine myself to suggesting four avenues that we might explore together. As you are aware, at the end of the year I will be tabling not only a statement on development, an updating of development policy that we will, of course, have debated and that we will debate together, but also a proper master plan for Africa.

The first axis is governance. No one disagrees, of course, that governance is of prime importance. It has been said that Africa is not poor; it is, unfortunately, badly governed. Africa, however, is starting to move. Efforts to improve governance are being made at various different levels. Over the last five years more than two thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa have held multiparty elections, some freer and fairer than others, and several changes of government have taken place democratically and peacefully: only very recently there were elections in Burundi. I hope that we will also see significant progress in March in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I also wish to remind you that 23 African countries have ratified the Statute creating the International Criminal Court. It is worth noting this when certain Western democratic powers still have not done so. The most striking fact of recent years is that Africa itself has given itself a vision, a mission and principles. As regards governance, this fact integrated by the institution of the African Union and reflected by the vision of NEPAD constitutes a break with the past and the practices of the past. This vision and these principles have not remained purely declarations of intent, because the African peer review mechanism henceforth gives Africa a unique tool for the support of Africans by Africans. This mechanism deserves our full support.

The second axis is infrastructure and networks. We all agree that without trans-African networks, without infrastructure, no development will be possible. The European Union itself is proof of that. The European Union has demonstrated the relevance of this fact. It is vital to intensify current efforts to improve and to ensure the durability of the infrastructure networks, both to accelerate growth and to promote trade. That is why the Commission proposes to develop a plan for a Europe-Africa partnership on infrastructure and networks. Through this partnership we shall support the development of trans-African networks which are essential for interconnectivity and the dissemination of knowledge across the continent, trans-European telecommunications networks, railways, airlines and infrastructure for improving access, which is also very important: ports, airports, navigable waterways, everything relating to energy and water.

In parallel with this partnership on infrastructure, we shall have to break new ground in terms of financing mechanisms, based on the participation of the private sector and other sponsors. I shall return to that when I make my statement on the EDF in a few months’ time.

The third axis is, obviously, trade. All those involved recognise the central role of trade in economic growth. Africa’s share in global exports has fallen by almost 60%, which corresponds to a loss of USD 70 billion a year, that is the equivalent of 21% of the region’s GDP, more than five times the USD 13 billion that come into Africa every year in development aid. Clearly we have to reverse this trend. As you know, we are currently negotiating economic partnership agreements with six regions, four of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Mandelson, the Commissioner for Trade, is negotiating these agreements. There is no doubt that this is the most ambitious trade process ever negotiated between the North and the South. For the first time the European Union is providing financial support to its partners’ negotiation teams. For the first time trade agreements are being negotiated with the development of our partners as the sole objective. For the first time these agreements are based on, and for, the regional integration of our partners and, for the first time, our financial and technical cooperation can be used for reform, budgetary support, action to improve the capacity for supply growth, and the building of an attractive environment for investment and trade.

Finally, the last axis is culture. Culture is a key dimension of development which, in my opinion, has hitherto been forgotten all too often. It is, however, vital. Culture is the soul and the expression of a people. It determines the way a society functions and therefore also its economic structure. That is why it seems to me that taking into account the particular societal and cultural identity of Africa is the only way in which we can ensure that our development aid is rooted in the reality on the ground and boost its effectiveness.

I shall conclude, Mr President, by raising a number of questions, which it would be desirable to debate. I have heard talk of sanctions. I feel that sanctions are only right when they affect the people responsible. By contrast, I do not believe in sanctions when they affect the general population directly or indirectly. It would be useful to open this debate.

I think we also need to discuss the famous question of ownership or appropriation. How best can we ensure that the people themselves take charge of their destiny and their development? Appropriation goes hand in hand with the principle of sustainability. How can we ensure that the programmes and projects underway continue to have an impact once the outside operators leave the area? There is also the question of choice or whether the priority should be given to budgetary aid, and under what conditions, rather than to aid through projects. This question will, no doubt, form the subject of a debate at the end of the year, along with consistency and coordination.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have rapidly sketched out the framework within which we can bring answers to a subject as vast and as important as the one that you have put on the agenda. We shall, of course, have the opportunity to return to these questions before the end of the year in the context of the new policy and in the context of this focus on Africa. For my part I should like to express to you my optimism. I am optimistic firstly because a certain number of propitious circumstances have coincided. There is the fact that the British Presidency has put Africa right at the very top of the European Union’s agenda, and right at the top of the G8’s agenda, and the fact that a strong consensus is now emerging that we shall not achieve the Millennium Goals globally or individually unless we make a huge effort on Africa and quickly. I would say that we must do more, we must do it better and we must do it more quickly. As far as we are concerned, we shall do our best. I have no doubt that the European Parliament will be the watchful guardian of these promises.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Luisa Morgantini (GUE/NGL), author. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank Mr Michel and Mr Straw. We will certainly take into account, within our committee, the assessments and written replies that have been sent to us. We will not be merely custodians, but we intend to take action for a common policy.

On 2 July I participated, together with hundreds of thousands of others, in the march across Edinburgh to call for poverty to be made history and to call on the G8 countries for a fair trade policy, more development aid, stringent controls on arms sales and a policy for peace and justice, rather than endless wars.

The demonstration was on a huge scale, with children, women, men, young and old participating, all in full awareness of their actions. These people are an asset to our democracy – they are voices that should be listened to. We in the European Parliament have done so, symbolically encircling the Chamber with a white band and asking Members to sign in support of the campaign organised by hundreds of organisations across the world. The signatures collected will be sent by President Borrell to Mr Straw so that they can be given to the G8 leaders. This is already an action, an assumption of responsibility.

Nelson Mandela, in his message to the G8, expressly said that hunger is also the hunger for justice and added – and I share the sentiment his words express – that poverty, like slavery, is not natural but man-made and can be eradicated by human beings. He also added that while poverty persists there is no true freedom. Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity but an act of justice and defence of a fundamental human right: the right to live in dignity.

Poverty is not a misfortune, but the result of political and economic choices made regionally, nationally and internationally, and should be considered illegal. The greatest scandal is not that hunger and poverty exist, but that they persist even when we have the human and physical means to confront them decisively and resolutely.

These are the concluding words of the New York declaration, signed by 111 governments meeting under the supervision of President Lula, and setting out financial instruments to promote development, including taxes, settlements, measures to combat tax evasion, to reduce costs and to increase the social responsibility of companies. These are instruments that should be seen as complementary to and not replacements for those that already exist.

Overcoming poverty in poor countries, as well as in sections of so-called rich countries, does not mean just respecting the right to life. It is the best weapon against fundamentalism, brutal conflicts and terrorism. In recent years we have seen how the structural adjustment programmes, savage privatisations and the headlong liberalisation of markets and services – and in saying this I do not mean that I am opposed to trade – have helped to exacerbate the problem of hunger and poverty.

I believe that we should be consistent in our choices and face with courage and vision the contradictions produced by international trade policies. When we talk about fair trade, we must be consistent. We cannot invade the markets of African countries with our subsidised products and destroy local economies. Mr Straw is right in saying that we cannot be partners if we do not take into account unequal conditions. For this reason, I believe that we ought to also consider very carefully reforms such as the sugar reform, which damage developing countries. The proposal to link aid to conditions too is an important step that we are taking, creating the conditions required for a real partnership.

I hope that the awareness that can be observed in the people and among us will also be displayed at the next WTO round in Hong Kong and that the Millennium Objectives, which are a fundamental intermediate stage, can be achieved.

The efforts made by Mr Michel and the Luxembourg Presidency at the Council of Ministers have been positive and have produced an increase in aid. This is a major step that should not be underestimated, but that is nonetheless not enough to reach the targets we have set ourselves. I hope that the UK Presidency, whose words convey such a high level of awareness, can do much more. The 0.7% that we have been hearing about since 1970 must finally become a reality.

There are many other useful measures in addition to these. For example, for some time now there have been discussions in Parliament concerning increasing spending on development and education. In order to eradicate AIDS and to help the ill it is not just increased funds and a drugs access policy that are needed, but also control over and a vision of liberalising drugs licences.

Another important issue is debt cancellation, which the African Union summit called for yesterday. We have achieved something, but it is not enough. We cannot consider the cancellation of debt as part of the balance-sheet of development aid, as is happening with regard to Iraq.

There is still a lot to be done if 2005 is really to signal a historic turning point in the fight against poverty. Africa has strong resources that we can use.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Maria Martens, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (NL) Mr President, Mr Straw, Commissioner Michel, first of all, I should like to warmly congratulate the organisers of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty campaign on their initiative. It is a sound initiative at an important point in time, since this coming autumn will see discussions taking place not only in the WTO and the G8, but also on the Millennium Development Goals.

Poverty remains a problem with which we cannot live, and fighting it is central to MDG policy. As you are aware, the problem of poverty is at its worst in Africa, particularly in the sub-Sahara. As rapporteur for the development strategy for Africa, I am pleased that both the Commissioner and the British Presidency have chosen to give priority to Africa. I am also pleased about the manner in which they intend to address it, as they described it today.

Further to the resolution, I should like to say that it is, of course, a good thing to free up more funds to fight poverty, but as someone said a moment ago, the solution to effective poverty reduction is not merely financial. It is more important to address its causes, which include mismanagement, corruption and trade barriers.

As I see it, the European Union could act on at least two levels – firstly, through its own dealings with the poor countries, and secondly, in its own internal policy. Emergency aid will still sometimes be necessary, but, if we want to establish stable societies, we must, in our dealings with poor countries, concentrate on promoting good governance, building up capacity and economic empowerment, particularly of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a sound social infrastructure, good education and health care. We must concentrate on making our own policies more coherent, improving coordination, and making them more effective.

As for the burden of debt, debt reduction is not a panacea for poverty. Debt reduction in itself does not guarantee development, nor is it a solution to such problems as corruption, the absence of the rule of law, human rights violations and economic instability; nor, indeed does it automatically benefit the poorest of the poor. In the final analysis, it is the countries themselves that are responsible for their own futures. We can only give them a helping hand, provided something is done about the quality and effective …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MOSCOVICI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez, on behalf of the PSE Group. (ES) Mr President, for the Socialists, the eradication of poverty in the world is an absolute priority, because it is an issue of justice and solidarity, both of which are values fundamental to our ideological and political identity.

Justice and solidarity are part of our contribution to the process that has led us to the European Union, but in the globalised world in which we must operate, justice and solidarity cannot be seen as something that should exclusively benefit our citizens and our territory. On the contrary: it is time for justice and solidarity to transcend our borders and to make their mark on all European policies and actions on the international stage, as laid down in the constitutional Treaty.

The Socialists in the Committee on Development are pleased about two events that respond to this committee’s demands. The first is the Development Council in May’s confirmation of significant commitments with a view to realising the Millennium Development Objectives, maintaining the objectives set five years ago. The second is the British Presidency’s prioritisation of the eradication of poverty, with particular emphasis on Africa.

We believe this to be justified, but we cannot exclude from the fight against poverty other areas of the planet in which there are terrible pockets of misery and in which inequalities even greater than those suffered in Africa also require our priority action.

Through the wristband event, through this debate and through the resolution we are to approve, we are synchronising our actions with those of millions of Europeans throughout the Union at the moment.

We have recently talked about the lack of understanding between the European leaders and bodies and our citizens. This mobilisation against poverty is now an excellent opportunity for agreement, proximity and reconciliation, but we must be careful! The effects will only be positive if we do not abuse the trust placed in us, and if we go beyond words and good intentions. With regard to the eradication of poverty, we will be judged more by what we do in the future, and sooner rather than later, than what we say here now.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Fiona Hall, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, those of us who were in Edinburgh on Saturday were left in no doubt about the strength of popular support for making poverty history. I hope that the G8 meeting this week keeps faith with that passion.

I welcome Mr Straw’s comments on the Doha agenda, but the fight against poverty will be won or lost not in headline talks between world leaders but in the anonymous rooms where civil servants hammer out the detail of trade agreements. Therefore, could the Commission and the Council give us an assurance today that, when it comes to nitty-gritty trade discussions in the months ahead, making poverty history will still be top of the agenda, away from the world’s media and away from parliamentary scrutiny? In the detailed backroom discussions on agriculture production, export subsidies, sugar reform, imports of processed goods, rules of origin, the contentious economic partnership agreements, will poverty reduction still be the Commission’s and the Council’s priority, even when European agriculture and big businesses are lobbying heavily?

We must go one step further than trade agreements and support developing countries in building their capacity for trade through things like microcredit and better transport links, as Commissioner Michel mentioned, so that both regional and world markets can be accessed to the full. Some trade-related technical assistance already exists: for example, the Commission’s pesticide initiative programme, which helps African farmers meet European food safety standards. However, that initiative is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.

Liberals and Democrats have always stressed the importance of fighting corruption and fostering good governance. Part of that is a duty of respect to democratically-elected governments, whether we agree with them politically or not. Indeed, in its report, the Commission for Africa stressed the importance of pragmatism, of having a programme of action based not on ideology but on sound evidence about what works and what does not.

 
  
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  Marie-Hélène Aubert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, more than thirty years ago the ecologist René Dumont said that Africa was in a sorry state. Today, it is again centre stage in an even more terrible state. And now you must recognise that the dogmatic liberalisation of trade, the plans for structural adjustment, the excessive privatisation and, of course, the broken promises have only served to worsen a situation that was already very difficult to the detriment of education and health policies in particular.

Having said that, the essential question is for the North, for us, to answer. Are we prepared to completely revise our development model, how we produce, consume and move around, and to rethink the very organisation and meaning of our societies? What is needed now is for us to set about resolving, in the North as well as in the South, problems as fundamental as the three that I should like to list for you here. Firstly, there is the problem of access to energy, petroleum and mining resources, on which we are far too dependent and which have not helped the development of Africa. Are we ready, yes or no, to implement a completely new energy policy that is sustainable, fair and environmentally friendly?

Secondly, there is the problem of access to land and to food, while respecting local rural cultures and territories. Are we ready to revise our intensive and over-industrialised agricultural policies, our unfair, subsidised trade policies, and to control the market and the price of products from the South in such a way that they are profitable?

Thirdly, there is the problem of access to democracy, the rule of law and peace, at local level as well as at global level. Are we prepared to make our international bodies democratic, to support democrats in Africa, at the risk of losing a part of that excessive power that the North has over the planet, powers symbolised by the G8 who are now shut away, as if in a fortress, at Gleneagles?

If we cannot clearly say yes to these three questions at least, then this great rousing media show, with the generous white knight coming to the aid of Africa, will have been, once again, no more than a sham. The European Union can no longer allow itself to disappoint. Now, for our part, we are ready to shoulder our responsibilities.

 
  
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  Gabriele Zimmer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (DE) Mr President, what we are doing today is securing the human right to a life worth living – no more and no less than that.

With the G8 summit in the offing, I want to underline the fundamental demands, made above all by many African movements, for fair trade to be guaranteed, for the poorer countries’ debt crisis to be brought to an end, for far more resources to be made available for aid, and for it to be ensured that such aid is of the highest quality. The European Union must regard these demands as being addressed to itself and must consistently contend for a just global economic order.

I call for disclosure of the extent to which official development aid and partnership agreements constitute a sort of development aid for big European businesses. Before the EU’s summit on development policy kicks off, we want an answer to the question as to how the EU will ensure that industry receives no support of such a scandalous kind.

 
  
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  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. Mr President, the British Presidency, the Commission, the President of Parliament, Bob Geldof: everybody is talking about it. And we are all slapping ourselves on the back; there is a mood of self-congratulation over our giving more money to Africa, as if, somehow, money will solve the whole problem. Well, I am afraid that I remain a bit of a cynic and I see foreign aid as poor people in rich countries giving money to rich people in poor countries. Frankly, I think the atmosphere here on Monday, when we discussed this, and again today, smacks of rank hypocrisy: all the while we have the common agricultural policy; all the while we have high tariff barriers against agricultural goods; all the while we have the sugar regime and the export credit system.

I know that Mr Blair wants to reform the common agricultural policy. I suspect he is going to struggle, but there is one thing the British Presidency could do over the course of the next six months to really help Africa. We have spent over EUR 2 billion of European taxpayers’ money bribing poor black African governments to allow the Spanish fleet in to fish. It has had environmentally disastrous consequences, we have taken away the livelihoods of tens of thousands of indigenous poor black Africans, and we have actually killed hundreds of them into the bargain.

Starting with the Comoros deal, renewable in September, will you in the British Presidency please stop these appalling fisheries deals and do something to really help Africa?

 
  
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  Eoin Ryan, on behalf of the UEN Group. Mr President, in the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings’. Thirty thousand children a day die as a result of extreme poverty. We must look into our hearts and pose the question that is on everyone’s lips at present: do I, do we, have the will to make poverty history? We have the cash, we have the drugs, we have the science, but do we have the will? That is the main question to be posed here today.

Millions of people all over the world are trapped in bitter, unrelenting poverty because of largely man-made factors: a questionable global trade system, demands from prosperous countries for large amounts of money to service debts. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. Malnutrition, corruption, AIDS, malaria, conflict, illiteracy and suffocating bad debts are crippling the poorer nations of this world. As the Commissioner outlined, progress is being made in Africa and we must remember that, but a lot more needs to be done.

A recent G8 meeting agreed that debts owed by the world’s poorest countries to the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank would be partially cancelled – USD 1 billion over ten years. It is a small amount, but it is a step in the right direction. However, an awful lot more needs to be done. It is imperative that bad debt relief be organised so as to ensure that corrupt African leaders do not rearm themselves to bolster highly questionable regimes. We must make sure that we in Europe do not rearm them.

The cancellation of all debt can only be effective if international aid is continued at a sustainable level. The European Union donates the most aid at present and it remains at the forefront in guaranteeing the full implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, including the commitment to contribute 0.7% of GNP per annum. I would urge all wealthy nations to affirm their commitment to fulfilling their aid obligation within a reasonable and realistic time frame.

The recent worldwide Live 8 concert spearheaded by Bob Geldof displayed global support for making poverty history, as did the 200 000 people who took to the streets of Edinburgh in advance of the G8 Summit that starts today. We witnessed both young and old expressing a very strong view. This Parliament, other parliaments and politicians are often accused of ignoring what people really want. The people have spoken on this issue and we must act – and act decisively.

As the G8 Summit gets under way at Gleneagles in Scotland today, let us bear in mind some words of wisdom from the much respected Nelson Mandela: ‘[...] overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life’.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am speaking on behalf of the socialists of the new Italian Socialist Party and as a member of the Committee on Development.

According to the classification lists and assessment criteria of organisations such as the World Bank, Freedom House and Transparency International, a growing number of African countries now have the leadership and quality of governance to be able to obtain economic results, but they do not have the requisite resources.

Even countries governed relatively well remain, in reality, prisoners of the poverty trap. They are too poor to manage to trigger economic development processes or even merely to achieve basic growth. With extremely low levels of internal savings, and external investment flows that are equally low, the current economic conditions in Africa do not offer any hope for escape from poverty.

The rich countries ought to commit themselves to doubling aid in the 2005-2015 period, achieving at least 0.5% of GDP by 2010 and 0.7% by 2015. This increase seems a very small thing when compared with the wealth of countries with a high income or with military spending worldwide, which amounts to USD 900 billion a year.

The credibility and workability of the international system are at stake. If decisive steps are not taken in 2005, the poor countries, however well governed they are, will not manage to implement a strategy aimed at achieving the Millennium Goals and faith in the promises of the international community with regard to the fight against poverty – already weak – will vanish forever.

 
  
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  John Bowis (PPE-DE). Mr President, last Sunday my mother celebrated her 100th birthday, a century which has seen wars, famines and pandemics, but also enormous strides in scientific knowledge and capacity. When she was 69, the World Food Conference pledged a world free from hunger. When she was 91, the World Food Summit abandoned that pledge and aimed only to halve the number to 400 million by 2015. Now that pledge has slipped to 2030. The last century saw millions killed in wars. The last 50 years have seen 400 million die of hunger: three times the cull of a century’s wars. In health, the year 2000 saw, as we know, three million die from AIDS. But, as we probably do not know, 2.9 million died from diabetes.

When we were in Mali recently I saw the consequences of the inability to afford medicines, insulin, specialists and nurses: amputations, blindness and early death. So many diseases are untreated or poorly treated and the result is millions incapacitated, with enormous costs to families and to nations. It really is a case of no health, no wealth.

Those are the challenges, and the answers are capacity-building aid, untied aid, micro-credit schemes to build economies from the bottom upwards; avoiding putting money into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians; avoiding making aid millionaires; helping to end tyrannies in countries like Zimbabwe; avoiding waste on consultancies and top-heavy charities; cutting subsidies in Europe and removing the obstacles to trade from developing countries. Often when we set new standards for Europe, we do not help the developing countries to meet those standards so that they can meet our import requirements.

Lastly, on debt, let us not make the developing countries uncreditworthy. Let us find ways of repaying the debt repayments into those countries, into the Millennium Development Goals, into the country strategy papers, and then debt can be a benefit rather than a burden.

 
  
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  Margrietus van den Berg (PSE). (NL) Mr President, ‘Everyone belongs to the world and the world belongs to everyone’, according to my favourite Dutch musician, Thé Lau of The Scene, and also according to Live 8, as transmitted on 140 television channels. It is now for politicians like us to turn things around, and we have six months in which to do it, with Gleneagles, the UN Millennium Summit and Hong Kong. At present, 2015, the date named in the Millennium Goals, seems to be getting further and further away. We are not going about things the right way, but we do now have three meetings which can help us to change tack. There are four important things that I think the EU presidency has to do.

Firstly, as Mr Straw said himself: ‘Abolish export subsidies’. I sincerely hope that he was saying this on behalf of the Council. A round for free?

Secondly, cancel debts, provided we use these for development, but not from existing aid budgets, though, for we would be tapping into our own coffers.

Thirdly, five of the eight Millennium Goals concern two of the most important conditions for development, namely basic education and health care. Although we should be using 35% of the funds the EU has set aside for this purpose, with 20% devoted to basic education and basic health care, the shameful reality is that we spend only 9%. This is where Mr Benn and our Commissioner, together, could make a big difference.

Fourthly, commit to good governance, provided that the local people are involved. We should use them and invest in them to achieve good governance in Africa.

I would like to finish with a quote from ‘USA for Africa’, dating back 20 years: ‘There comes a time when we hear a certain call, when the world must come together as one’. I hope that this appeal will resound in the three meetings. I wish you success.

 
  
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  Thierry Cornillet (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, I think that we can echo Mr Michel, who proposes to do more, better and more quickly. To be brief, I shall say that there are two increases that we shall not be able to avoid, the first being an increase in the volume of aid. It is clear that if it is to achieve the Millennium Goals, the world will need to devote at least 0.7% of its wealth to them. We are still a long way from that.

As far as the European Union is concerned, our objectives are, for the time being, a little below that, as we will see an increase from 0.38% to 0.50%. I wanted, however, to draw your attention to the considerable amount of money that this represents: EUR 20 billion a year. This money does not come from nowhere; it comes from the pockets of our taxpayers. That brings me to the second increase that has been announced, that is, in the quality and the efficiency of the aid, an increase that we owe to our taxpayers. Let us continue to demand good governance and let us help those leaders, particularly African leaders, who demonstrate that they are clear about the conditions for appropriation. Let us remember that international trade will always provide more, via the private sector, than public aid can provide. Let us also avoid those easy solutions that ease our conscience, such as budgetary support without conditions, which damages the work of NGOs on the projects, or debt cancellation as a miracle cure, without addressing the problems of subsequent structures, or again the futility of sanctions that are not targeted.

Above all, there is a link between the second increase and the greater efforts we must make to inform public opinion. Our action must be clear. That is why I proposed that the European Union should take direct charge of objectives such as child vaccination campaigns or the fight against malaria, because it is possible – if rather macabre – to quantify these actions. In this way, then, we could become a Union that is open, shows solidarity and, above all, is effective.

 
  
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  Caroline Lucas (Verts/ALE). Mr President, I have just come back from the civil society alternative G8 meetings in Edinburgh, where thousands of people debated how to make poverty history. I want to highlight two important conclusions.

First, free trade is not the answer to Africa’s problems. While moves to cancel some African countries’ debts are welcome and long overdue, the policy conditionality in the package on offer, the enforced liberalisation and privatisation, are as onerous as the debt it relieves.

Second, poverty in Africa is not the result of some kind of accident of nature. I was very happy to hear Jack Straw agree that poverty is man-made, but amazed that the men he had in mind were ones that lived in Africa alone, not in the G8. Poverty in Africa is largely the direct and logical consequence of the policies of the G8 nations and their corporations, which have been driving Africa’s accumulation of debt, which have been selling weapons, which have been stealing Africa’s resources, which have been enforcing neo-liberal economics, which have been privatising public services and which have collectively impoverished so many millions of people. Until that changes, until we have an approach based on ...

(The President cut the speaker off)

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Martinez (NI).(FR) Mr President, behind one Martinez lurks another! After half a century of development aid, international rock concerts, debt relief, fair trade and rather hypocritical tears from somewhat self-righteous white men, Africa is still locked in poverty.

So, what are we to do? Firstly, we must declare water, education, health and food to be global public goods. Secondly, we must guarantee access to these goods by means of four global public services. Thirdly, we must entrust the management of these services to an economic security council analogous to the United Nations Security Council. Fourthly, we must provide them with resources by levying VAT on the services provided by geostationary satellites. Fifthly, and finally, we must enable Africa to use the same means that all western countries have used to develop, namely tariff protection, but smart tariff protection this time, in the form of reimbursable customs duties. Mr President, I give you a present of three seconds!

 
  
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  Filip Andrzej Kaczmarek (PPE-DE).   (PL) Mr President, some journalists have made ironic comments asking why politicians have not already put a stop to poverty, since they are in a position to do so. I do not believe that the issue of global poverty is a matter about which we should joke or make puns.

The fight against global poverty can be said to be a measure of our humanity and Europeanness. Among other things, EU enlargement has meant that a larger number of countries now participate in development cooperation, and the new Member States are playing an increasingly active role in the fight against poverty. Under the auspices of the HIPC debt relief initiative, Poland has decided to cancel all debt from three countries, two of which are in Africa. The total debt of the countries in question, namely Tanzania, Mozambique and Nicaragua, amounted to over USD 53 million. Sudan is another country in debt to Poland that may benefit from debt relief.

As I see it, debt relief is particularly important for countries such as Mozambique, where the state budget is entirely dependent on foreign aid, and it may be the first step on the path towards enabling Africans to help themselves. Richard Mbewe, a Zambian economist living in Poland, once said that, ‘Africans are not children, and they should not be given fish; they should be given fishing rods’.

Poland’s experiences are proof that effective and long-lasting economic reform can only start after a country has undergone political transformation. A large part of the loans granted to Poland in the 1970s went to waste, and debt reduction only made any sense after the changes of 1989. Mr Straw and Commissioner Michel therefore made a key point by saying that good management and the fight against corruption are the most important challenges for Africa.

The second pillar of our policy, in addition to development policy, should be public understanding, and campaigns like ‘Make Poverty History’ help to raise public awareness.

 
  
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  Glenys Kinnock (PSE). Mr President, I will begin by saying how proud I am of the UK Presidency’s very strong commitment to making poverty history. This is a time of unprecedented opportunity in the world. And I believe that, for every obstacle we might face, there is a solution.

The world must at last be ready to keep its promises to Africa: on aid, on unpayable debts, and on fair trade. African leaders, as others have said, must deal with governmental issues and with corruption. We must also understand that poor governance is as much a result of pervasive poverty as it is a cause.

There are now no ifs or buts or whens. We can work together to invest in better crops, to improve malaria control, to get medicines to the sick, to develop an AIDS vaccine, to protect fragile eco-systems. We can get millions of children into school and we can save precious mothers’ and babies’ lives. We can speed up developments by empowering women, who in Africa are 50% of the population but 70% of its poor. Conflicts can be resolved, the arms trade can be controlled, and companies can and should be made to trade openly and ethically.

Africa’s route out of poverty has now been very clearly charted and we need, as Gordon Brown has said, to have a new relationship with Africa. We can be the generation that makes history by transforming the life chances of millions of Africa’s people.

 
  
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  Emma Bonino (ALDE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is good news that Africa is once more in the political spotlight. It seems to me, however, that there is still confusion regarding which policy to adopt, and the prescriptions put forward vary considerably and include some bargain basement solutions.

We radicals, however, consider it an absolute priority that democracy, civil rights, the rule of law and fixed rules should be the prerequisites to any political approach that we decide to adopt, since no type of trade, whether private, internal or international, can function without rules, laws and the rule of law.

The issues of democracy and the rule of law, however, are simply being added to the list of the many things to be done. We, on the other hand, are convinced that these two issues are of the highest priority and I thus believe that we must be a little less hypocritical and admit that public aid can also be linked to progress by these countries along this path.

Personally, I do not understand how we can be, in a certain sense, so racist as to think that the Africans are, perhaps, too poor, too illiterate and too black to enjoy the same democratic rights that we enjoy. We are all pushing for democracy in the Arab world, but not in Africa. I believe that if we do not follow this path, we will witness the umpteenth squandering of public resources, with poor or feeble results.

 
  
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  Bernat Joan i Marí (Verts/ALE). (DE) Mr President, the precarious position of many African states is something that ought to make people in general ashamed. To be sure, we have to make worldwide hunger a thing of the past, once and for all, but how? It has become apparent over recent years that the problem lies, not in the quantity of development aid, but in how such aid, in order to achieve optimal results, is targeted.

We should be working, systematically, towards greater transparency and democracy in as many African countries as possible. We should be working towards the sort of public life in which freedom of opinion is at the top of the agenda, and these countries need to make the conscious choice to invest in education. In the absence of these things, there is a danger that development aid will be sufficient from the moral standpoint, but ineffectual in practice. We can all ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE-DE). (FR) Mr President, I should like to thank my friend, Luisa Morgantini, for her splendid initiative to put the issue of poverty in Africa on the agenda. Two fundamental points: yes to effective aid, but also assessed in terms of quality; yes to international aid while at the same time respecting, above all, the dignity of poor countries.

To overcome poverty, Heads of State and experts have adopted a purely quantitative approach, which targets measurable economic results, but ignores the unofficial, unpaid work of the poorest families, including intergenerational work. The pride of parents in raising their children, even in extreme poverty, cannot be measured quantitatively.

To overcome poverty in Africa it is necessary, on ethical grounds, to develop a sense of social justice and the common good at international level. Many countries that are poor in economic terms, but rich in wisdom, could give us much inspiration. Every nation inherits from its ancestors a civilisation that it must preserve. The institutions necessary for life in society are part and parcel of this, whether they are political or whether they are expressions of spiritual life. When the latter are rooted in true human values, it would be a grave mistake to sacrifice them. Graver still would be European interference forcing a people to sacrifice its values, whether religious or ethical, its cultural heritage or the philosophical beliefs of individuals and communities, which are an integral part of it. This would rob a people of the best of itself. In order to live it would be sacrificing its reason for living.

 
  
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  Marie-Arlette Carlotti (PSE).(FR) Mr President, what if, after these last few rather sad weeks for the European Union, it were now to bounce back, precisely on the issue of development, and prove that it is in the vanguard of the fight against poverty. The European Union is on the right track with its twofold commitment: 0.7% of its wealth for development aid by 2015 and 50% of this increase for Africa. I am delighted that the British Presidency is making Africa its central concern.

Tony Blair must also take advantage of his presidency of the G8 to obtain something other than declarations of intent from the rich: the only cheque that he must defend is the one promised at Monterrey. Further progress is needed on debt cancellation, but a premium on democracy must be introduced and new sources of finance urgently sought: taxes on the movement of capital, on the arms trade, on CO2 emissions, it does not matter, all manner of things have been put forward. We must reach conclusions now because, in the words of the slogan of the global campaign against poverty, after 2005 there will be no more excuses.

 
  
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  Fernando Fernández Martín (PPE-DE). (ES) Mr President, a quarter of a century has passed since Willy Brandt presented his report on North-South relations. Since then, the problem of poverty has not only not been resolved, but in many cases it has actually worsened.

In reality, the latest report on poverty in the world demonstrates that there has only been a degree of progress in China, in some countries in South-East Asia and in some specific cases in Latin America.

In Africa the figures are discouraging, and we must therefore welcome this British initiative, which I do not believe to be opportunist — it was announced by Minister Straw and his Prime Minister at least two years ago. After 40 years, dozens of wars and millions of deaths have left the continent of Africa exhausted.

They are no magic formulae in the fight against poverty and only two things are certain: firstly, contrary to what some people think, poverty is not an economic problem, but rather a political one, and resolving it requires, as a priority, political decisions; secondly, in order be successful, we must ensure economic growth — without growth, there is no wealth to be distributed.

In this context, these days we hear millions of voices calling for the application of traditional formulae throughout the world: increasing official development aid, cancellation of debt and fair trade. These are three necessary, but insufficient, measures. The political and social leaders of the countries suffering from poverty must demand much more, particularly in the field of strengthening civil society — strengthening their societies, transparency and good government, thereby increasing investments in health, education and gender policies.

In Africa, there are more than 100 000 armed children, whose faces some of us have seen. If we want to make progress on the objective of reducing poverty by half by 2015, these points I have indicated demonstrate the direction we must take if we are to succeed.

 
  
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  Mauro Zani (PSE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, if we want to consign poverty to history, the gap between words and deeds needs to be closed. Therefore, the time has come to choose a path that is at least in part different from those of the past. Neo-liberalist prescriptions have failed and the positive commitment of Europe as a principal donor has not yet made any decisive impact.

If we want to achieve the Millennium Objectives, the conditions for development must be created, including democracy and good governance, as well as the opening up of the market to agricultural products from the poor countries and debt cancellation.

To this end, I would like to point out that the cancellation of Iraq’s debt alone corresponds to the amount received by sub-Saharan Africa over the past ten years. Therefore, what counts is political will and the interests at stake. I hope that it is clear that it is in our public interest to create development in order to receive, in exchange, stability and security.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). Mr President, Mr Bowis made reference to his 100-year-old mother. I would like to make reference to my British mother-in-law and father-in-law, who are substantially younger. I am very proud of the fact that they were in Edinburgh on the march. I should add that this was on Saturday, not two days ago. They were not among the hooligans!

I would like to make three points. Firstly, on making poverty history. I think it is a great subject for the British Presidency. It revolves around three things: debt, which should be forgiven; aid, of which there should be more; and finally trade, which should be much freer and fairer. It seems that we have made the least progress on trade. We need to work on infrastructure and on access.

What should we do in the short term? Three things. First, we should stop dumping agricultural products on the African markets at cheap prices. Second, we need to change the conditions on the basis of which we give aid. It is wrong that the World Bank and the IMF make non-agricultural subsidies a precondition when we do exactly the opposite. Third, for a short time, they should be able to protect their markets much like we have done.

My third and final point is a proposal to the British Presidency, namely that we should establish an all-encompassing Africa strategy. Just as we have a Mediterranean strategy, and just as we had a Russia strategy, we need an Africa strategy. That Africa strategy should lend our African policies coherence and consistency in the common foreign and security policy and in trade and development.

A final suggestion in order to help the British Presidency, especially the Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, get out of the tangle in the budgetary negotiations, is to think about including the European Development Fund in the real budget of the European Union.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE).   (PL) Ladies and gentlemen, last year the rich countries of the world spent USD 80 billion on foreign aid, USD 600 billion on defence and USD 300 billion on agricultural subsidies for their own countries. Rich countries have all the means at their disposal to eradicate hunger, poverty and the many diseases that currently kill millions, such as malaria. Development policy must become the EU’s mission in this new global era. This would allow us to forge an identity for Europe, and it would serve to differentiate the EU from the rest of the modern world.

Our most pressing tasks, above all where Africa is concerned, are currently debt cancellation, improving the quantity and quality of foreign aid, fair trade, support for diversified production and exports, stamping out diseases for which we have effective vaccines and measures to promote universal education and equality, particularly in terms of the status of women.

I should like to take this opportunity today to remind the House of the words of Nelson Mandela, which should serve as a moral beacon for EU policy:

‘Make poverty history in 2005. Then we can all stand with our heads held high’.

 
  
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  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I welcome the British initiative and I hope that it will have substantial results, because it is true that, despite the pronouncements to date by the leaders of the strong states, little progress has been made. That is because humanitarian aid alone may provide temporary relief, but it cannot bring about substantial results. Aid will only be effective if it is combined with systematic efforts to develop trade and if it focuses on the creation of infrastructures in education and health care. Furthermore, aid must become the vehicle for combating the political corruption which unfortunately today constitutes a permanent regime in most African countries, because today Africa is mainly being plundered by corrupt African politicians or by guerrillas, often with the support of international economic interests.

However, particular importance must be attached to the administration of resources through close cooperation and supervision by the various international organisations and non-governmental organisations. Only such an effort will make the proper distribution and use of the aid provided feasible, in the long-term objective and aim of the development of these countries, which will help them to wipe out the phenomenon of poverty.

I think that everything else we hear covers the issue superficially and does not get to the root of it.

 
  
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  Erika Mann (PSE). Mr President, I strongly support the proposal made by our colleague Mr Stubb. He is quite right. We need a comprehensive Africa strategy. The Presidency representative just spoke about soft power, where the European Union is successful. I think he is absolutely right, but we still need to translate this into positive action. Talking about action against poverty is wonderful, but it is certainly not enough, especially if you consider that we have been putting so much aid into Africa for many years and the outcome is not always very positive.

The same applies when we talk about trade and poverty reduction. There is a strong connection. We know this, but do we really understand it? I am speaking on behalf of the Committee on International Trade. I would recommend an Africa strategy, which should be the subject of renewed debate by the end of the UK Presidency, taking all aspects into consideration. It would be great if the UK Presidency could reflect on this.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (PSE). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as chairman of my group, I have made the quite deliberate decision to take the floor at the end of this debate, and I am rather disappointed to note that I am the only group chairman to speak on this subject at all. It is in fact an issue on which the leaders of groups simply have to give their backing to those in their ranks who are working to combat poverty.

To those Members of this House who are always – and not just because of the British Council Presidency’s initiative – working on this topic, I want to make it clear that the Socialist Group in this House regards the fight against poverty, both in Africa and in the world at large, as a key part of the work it does.

I want to devote one moment in my speaking time to an unknown person – to the mother and her dead child. In the small town of which I was mayor, there were plenty of people, women in particular, who had lost children during the war. When I was a guest at anniversary celebrations, the worst thing I would have to hear was women of the war generation talking about was the loss of a loved child, a wound that is always fresh.

If we look at Africa we see innumerable mothers – uncounted day by day – sitting in front of their dead children, uncomprehending, grieving and deserted, an image I wish we could all impress upon our minds, for nothing, surely, can encourage and oblige us more to take more seriously the fight against poverty that the British Presidency of the Council has set itself as a priority for action than that small sense of common humanity that tells us that we may not leave a woman who has lost her child alone in the world if we claim to want to make that world a more humane place.

It is before that image that we Socialists bow our heads in the knowledge that this initiative is the very least we can do, and I have a practical proposal to make, to help these women, along with many, many others who need our solidarity, by doing one small thing. If the big multinational and global companies put 0.25 % – one quarter of one-hundredth – of their fees for currency transactions, into a fund for Africa, and if we in this House put 0.25 % of what we spend on our international currency transactions in the Budget and pay it into a fund for aid in Africa, we will end up with a large amount that the business world, along, for example, with us in this House can put to good use in the European Union, as a very practical contribution to the fight against poverty, one that may well involve a contribution by each individual. We could perhaps discuss the possibility of taking action of this kind.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR BORRELL FONTELLES
President

 
  
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  Hilary Benn, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking you for giving me this opportunity to respond to the debate that my colleague Jack Straw opened this morning.

Nobody listening to this debate could fail to hear the great expertise, knowledge, passion and commitment of all the Members who have spoken. It seems to me that your voices represent the voices of those that we together have the honour to represent.

I am very much looking forward, through the UK Presidency, to working with the Committee on Development and to addressing the committee next week. Mrs Morgantini was right: this is not about charity but justice. It is a cry for justice that is symbolised – as Mr Martínez Martínez pointed out – by the white band. The white tide that marched in Edinburgh last weekend is a symbol. The people who attended the Live 8 concerts and the people who write to us, their elected representatives, and demand that we do more are all expressing the feeling that now is the time to act – a point made by Mrs Martens and by Mr Bowis. I congratulate his mother on her 100th birthday. He is right: she has lived a long time; she has seen a lot of change happen.

We simply cannot afford to allow Africa to continue to drift away from the rest of the world. Mr Schulz, who has spoken just now with such passion, reminds us that it is the responsibility of every single one of us.

There has never been a time, in my political experience, when this debate about Africa, poverty, its causes and what we can do about it has been so much at the centre of our politics. It seems to me that the message that we are being sent by those we represent is very simple: they look to us to act and they want to have faith in the capacity of the political process to deliver real change on behalf of Africa and of development. It is morally unacceptable that this great continent of 54 countries, only a few miles from Europe, should drift away from us and should be the only part of the world to become poorer in the last 25 years. Now we have the means to do something about it. The challenge that Europe faces will be to turn the passion, commitment and anger – the feelings people have – into practical action that will make a difference. I agree with all those who have called for the EU strategy on Africa to be the means by which we use our politics to make a real difference. I look forward to working with Mr Michel, as he draws that up. I hope very much that we can make progress on it.

(Applause)

I would now like to turn to the practical steps we need to take. What are the issues we need to address in the EU Africa strategy? The first point to make – if I may disagree with one of the speakers, Mr Farage – is that aid works, aid saves children’s lives.

(Applause)

That is why we need more of it. That is why the leadership that Europe showed, when we met as development ministers over a month ago, in agreeing to double Europe’s aid to Africa, was Europe at its best. This was Europe demonstrating its leadership in the world and that we are prepared and willing and will do the things that we know will make a difference. That is the first point.

The second point is debt relief, which many speakers have referred to. The real importance of debt relief is that it means that poor countries no longer have to make that terrible choice between, on the one hand, making the monthly repayments that they cannot afford and, on the other, spending the money they want to on doctors, on nurses, on getting children into school, on buying the drugs that will save children’s and adults’ lives.

Thirdly, every one of us recognises that it is ultimately trade, economic development and economic growth that will enable Africa and the rest of the developing world to transform the lives of their people. It is how we did it here in Europe. It is how we transformed our societies from 500 years ago, when life expectancy was very short, when there was enormous poverty and when very few people went to school.

The people of Africa want exactly the same opportunity: to earn and to trade their way out of poverty to a better future.

(Applause)

There are two other truths that we have to tell in this debate. Two-and-a-half weeks ago I was in Sudan, first of all in Rumbek, in the south of Sudan, where one in four children die before they are five years of age and three-quarters of the adults cannot read. The experience in Darfur and southern Sudan has taught us one very important lesson: unless there is peace and stability, there will be no development; unless people stop fighting each other, the people of Africa will not have a better future. That is why Europe must continue to show leadership and provide support to the African Union, building the capacity of Africa to tackle its own conflicts. As my friend Jack Straw said in opening this debate, there are now fewer conflicts in Africa than there were a decade ago and, where there is peace and stability, there is a real prospect of hope for a better future.

The final thing that needs to happen, Mr President, if progress is to be made, is that there should be good governance because if, in the end, governments are to deliver for their people ...

(The President interrupted the speaker)

 
  
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  President. Minister, your time is not restricted. You may speak for as long as you wish. The problem is that I was asking the Members to enter the Chamber in silence.

It is all very well that you have not attended the debate, but when you are entering the Chamber, please do so in a manner that causes no disturbance.

 
  
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  Hilary Benn, President-in-Office of the Council. Thank you very much, Mr President, for your concern. It is less important that you hear my voice, but it is important that the world outside hears all of our voices. If we speak as one and we speak loudly, we have a better chance of making progress in this great global fight.

(Loud applause)

In the end, people look to governments to do things for them. We look to our governments to provide us with peace and security, to educate our children, to look after us when we are sick, to give us the opportunity to build a living for ourselves and our families. In developing countries the real challenge is to build the capacity of societies to do for them and their communities exactly what we look to government to do in Europe.

In the end it is about governments with a capacity to deliver and about people who have the expectation that government might be able to improve their lives. When those two things come together – when the voices of the people are heard – then societies have a better chance of making real progress. In the end, it is about political will and political choice. That is what politics is for: how we decide what kind of world it is that we want to live in; where we are going to spend the money; what decisions we are going to make on trade to allow developing countries to have a better future.

We happen to be the generation on whom this responsibility has now fallen. As British Prime Minister Tony Blair said at the launch of the Commission for Africa: ‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’

We are the generation that has the capacity to act. Now is the time to act. Let us work together; let us seize this opportunity and, by our action as Europe, assist Africa to build a better future that it can pass on to the generation to come.

(Loud and sustained applause)

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much, Mr Benn. I am sorry that I have had to interrupt you.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (PSE). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to speak on a point of order, pursuant to Rules 146 and 148.

I have to say to you, Mr President, that I am very much obliged to you for the efforts you make prior to the votes in every plenary session to get the last ten minutes before the vote conducted in a more or less dignified manner. It is regrettable that you do not succeed in this. Members, coming from their offices, enter the Chamber in order to vote and, in the absence of any interpretation, understand not one word of what you say; they chat, stand in groups in front of the attendance register, go to their seats, only to find that they have something to sort out with their colleagues. This is all understandable and acceptable, but what is quite unacceptable is for the representatives of the Council and the Commission to have to talk while this sort of thing is going on. That is not on, and it is a cause of shame to me. I do not think it right or proper.

(Applause)

Nor do I have any desire to see that happening over and over again at every plenary part-session. It does not convey the image of a parliament worthy of the name. I therefore move that, as the rights of Members have to be upheld at the same time as those of the other institutions, we should have a pause between the end of the debate and the beginning of the vote ....

(Uproar)

(The speaker abandoned his speech)

 
  
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  President. Thank you for assisting the Presidency, Mr Schulz. Before giving the floor to the Commission, I must ask everybody to sit down. The Members who are still in the aisles discussing personal issues will be asked by the ushers to leave the Chamber.

Would the ushers please ask the Members still in the aisles to leave the Chamber!

Mr Tannock, on the basis of which Rule are you requesting the floor?

Would you be kind enough to sit down and be quiet please?

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). Mr President, I am privileged. I understand Spanish without the headphones. If you speak in Spanish to those standing up at the back of the Chamber, how can they possibly understand you without their headphones on? Could you use French or English so they can understand you?

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. You are extremely unruly today. I would like to say to you that your attitude towards the issue we are dealing with this morning is shameful.

(Applause)

May I ask all the Members who are wandering up and down the aisles to sit down or at least not to hold conversations that disturb our work?

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like first of all also to thank Mrs Morgantini for the debate that she had the sensitivity to organise today.

The first thing that this debate has highlighted is that there is a consensus and very strong support for the choice of Africa as the focal point of development policy. That seems to me to be extremely important, because that is the choice not only of the European Parliament but also of the Commission and of the Council. Obviously this does not mean that we are no longer concerned about all of the other poor people in the world. Not at all. It simply means that more than half of the increase in development aid will be devoted to Africa to enable it to make up the necessary ground.

The second element that I take from this debate is that everything suggests that we should develop, define and finalise a genuine European strategy for development, and for Africa in particular, a strategy structured around the major development issues – governance, infrastructure and debt. For example, someone said that the debt issue would not solve everything. We know that. The debt issue is certainly important, but it is not, strictly speaking, a development tool. The debt issue, settling the debt, obviously does not make it possible to guarantee the effectiveness of development. All the same, it is an interesting prerequisite.

The provision of social policies following the emergence of a dynamic civil society, the provision of social policies of access to justice, access to education, access to health and also to culture – as I said before – is an important point. I believe that all of these things should form part of a global strategy, a global plan and a specific programme that we must implement. I can say straight away that I am perfectly well aware of the difficulties that we are going to face. The difficulties lie in the fact that, once we have this programme, very strong leadership will need to be exerted over the bureaucracies that will have to implement it. For that I am counting on the support of both Parliament and the Council; at Commission level we will do everything in our power to progress these issues. I believe it is very important for us to be able to register tangible results. I think that after all the promises that have been made, and given all of the prospects – extremely credible ones, too – that are open to us, and all of the propitious circumstances that are combining now to produce this firm hope, it will be necessary to provide tangible proof very rapidly that matters are progressing in line with expectations.

Another element that I should like to emphasise, concerning Africa in particular, is the especially important role of all policies promoting equality between men and women in the continent. It is an aspect of the problem that we do not tackle often enough and I should really like to see it taken into account across the whole range of policies, because there are solutions to be found there and opportunities to exploit. In saying that, I am thinking of business and of trade. I am thinking of microcredit, of the way that this form of credit promotes autonomy for women. It is an important cultural factor.

That, in a few words, ladies and gentlemen, is what I wanted to say to you. I wanted to say, as Hilary Benn and Jack Straw have done, that now is the time to act. We are the ones who must do so. We have no more excuses. It has been said again and again and I do not think that we can postpone this challenge any longer, that of turning the strong hope living in the heart of the people into action. Someone said earlier that perhaps it would be a good thing if, out of this development policy, out of this new impetus, the magical idea of Europe could be given a new impetus. I think that Europe can make, has already made, development the most tangible demonstration of its values, and that is why I am resolutely optimistic.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Alessandra Mussolini (NI). (IT) Mr President, yesterday a very serious event occurred: Italy was insulted ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. If you wish to raise a point of order, you must begin by stating which Rule you are invoking.

 
  
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  Alessandra Mussolini (NI). (IT) (With the microphone off, Mrs Mussolini mentioned Rule 90 of the Rules of Procedure).

 
  
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  President. You may not speak, pursuant to Rule 90.

We have received six motions for resolutions to end this debate(1).

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place next.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Luciana Sbarbati (ALDE). (IT) ‘Your first duties, first not as regards time but as regards importance and because without attempting them you can only carry out the others in an imperfect fashion, are your duties towards humanity’, said Mazzini.

This is my way of expressing my solidarity with those countries where we thought that we could increase charity and funds without worrying about their actual development and the eradication of poverty.

Cancelling their debt will not eliminate the problem of development aid, which the international community will have to provide, or the extremely urgent health resources that they need; it will not exempt us from association agreements with their governments or from fostering education and training programmes to integrate them into complex social, economic and political systems; choosing democratic forms of government, and having a future. That is, an opportunity, including outside their countries, but with the awareness that they can return there and that they can feel themselves to be citizens and free.

The political class should manage globalisation processes through choices that equate to guaranteeing them water, energy, food, health, freedom and education.

The most recent European Council decided to increase aid to EUR 20 billion per year by 2010, and this is a hopeful sign for many millions of people. We can overcome poverty, and we are the first generation to be able to do so because we have the means available to us.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  

(1) See Minutes.

Fógra dlíthiúil - Beartas príobháideachais