MEPs debated today at the European Parliament the future of EU-ACP relations. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement, the legal framework for cooperation between the EU and 79 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, is due to expire in 2020 and negotiations for a possible renewal are expected.
Parliament is to vote tomorrow on its position on the matter with GUE/NGL declaring its intention to reject the proposals. MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey explained the decision:
“I regret that this report is a lost opportunity to make a difference in the relations between the EU and ACP countries, which are among the poorest in the world. It is unacceptable that the rapporteur has failed to address debt relief as many of these countries continue to be subordinated to creditors in the North.”
“Neither does the report address the illicit flight of capital and tax fraud, which undermine local economies. These countries are constantly exploited because the huge amount of capital generated in them is sent back to Europe or to tax havens. This is what we call robbery; this is financial neo-colonialism.”
Sánchez Caldentey denounced the free trade agreements that underpin the current framework of relations:
“Grounding development aid in asymmetric trade relations increases inequality and poverty, condemning these countries to permanent dependency.”
“The basic pillars of EU-ACP relations must be the fight against poverty and inequality via inward generated development allowing countries the scope to come up with solutions that are best for their people, not for European firms.”
Intervening on behalf of the committee on foreign affairs (AFET), GUE/NGL MEP Javier Couso Permuy pointed at the need to rein in on human rights abuses by multinational corporations:
“The association agreements have had a negative impact on the economies of ACP countries, which is why we need a new fair association among equals respecting national sovereignty and seeking to fulfil basic needs as well as respect for human rights. A new association must promote the development of production capacity, protect traditional farming and fight land grabbing.”
“We support the decision by the UN to set up a legal instrument to ensure that firms respect human rights so as to bring an end to the exploitation of labour, modern-day slavery, the illicit flow of capital and the funding of terrorism and armed conflict.”
Portuguese MEP João Ferreira reminded the plenary of Europe´s colonial past and the need for restitution, which the proposals fail to even mention:
“Relations between the EU and ACP countries must be based on the recognition of a historic debt of centuries of colonialism, pillage, exploitation and oppression. We must recognise and oppose the profoundly asymmetric North-South relations that the last few years did not mitigate.
“The goal of trade liberalisation of these agreements serve the interests of northern economies and powers and not the sustainable development goals of people in the South. Relations with the ACP must respect their sovereignty, their policy choices and aspirations.”