(EU) EU/AFRICA: Union and Heads of African states promoters of the new African initiative lay down foundations of permanent institutionalised dialogue and pilot projects to present to next G8

Brussels, 10/10/2001 (Agence Europe) - The Euro-African dialogue on the "New African Initiative", debated in Brussels on Tuesday by the European Union and the five Heads of African States promoters of this action programme for development throughout the African continent (see yesterday's EUROPE, p.7), is on the path of institutionalisation, and pilot projects could be presented at the next G8, in Canada in June-July 2002. These two areas of progress reflect the common desire to rapidly implement concrete projects and are the crowning success of the working meeting organised by the Belgian Presidency between the President of the EU Council, Guy Verhofstadt, the President of the Council, Louis Michel, the High Representative for CFSP, Javier Solana, the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, Commissioners Chris Patten and Poul Nielson, and the African Heads of State Thabo Mbeke (South Africa), Abdoulaya Wade (Senegal), Abelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) and the acting President of the OAU, Frederek Jacob Titus Chiluba (Zambia). The results of the exchange of opinion, brought together in a common declaration, reflect the recognition by the Europeans of the merits of a global action plan drawn up by Africans to solve Africa's problems, and the determination of the different partners to strengthen co-operation to ensure that this plan - based on promoting peace, stability, democracy and development - is a success.

Commenting on the common declaration to journalists, Guy Verhofstadt listed the four reasons why the EU is supporting this new African initiative: 1) because it is based on the ideas of the African leaders themselves and therefore perfectly incarnates the idea of African ownership; 2) it is based on clear objectives: democracy, transparency, good governance, state of law and human rights; 3) it strikes a fair balance between conflict prevention, aid to various countries, trade and investment, aid and debt relief; and 4) it applies to the entire African continent, assigning regional co-operation the role that it merits.

Speaking of the meeting's concrete results, Guy Verhofstadt cited the decisions taken to: a) organise a bi-annual meeting between the steering committee for the New African Initiative (the five African Heads of State and the Presidency of African Unity) and the EU, to be prepared at the level of experts; b) establish a permanent link between the task forces of the New African Initiative (NAI) and the European Commission; c) immediately set in place a joint discussion group on relations between the NAI and the development cooperation already in place such as the Cotonou Agreement and the Cairo Process; d) launch a pilot project for cooperation in the field of African capacity building, mainly regarding the training of officials at regional level; and e) create a joint group on infrastructures, as a priority field of the next EDF (European Development Fund) programme.

"These conclusions will be presented on 17 and 18 October in London, for the first meeting of the follow-up group for the New African Initiative set in place by the G8", said Verhofstadt. He recalled that the Belgian Presidency and the Commission's idea not to wait for the next G8 summit before beginning work on this initiative was due to the indignation expressed by Nigerian President Obassanjo during the G8 in Genoa, when the most industrialised countries had welcomed the initiative only to propose that it should be discussed again in one year's time ... "Our hope is that in the next few months, this model may be adopted in the framework of the G8. We, industrialised countries have a historic responsibility in the imbalances that still exist at world level", Mr. Verhofstadt concluded.

Speaking on behalf of the African countries, President Chiluba paid tribute to the ideas of President Mbeki and President Wade and placed emphasis on the goal of eradicating poverty. He also welcomed relations with the EU "accepted as natural ally". Recalling that, at the last summit of the OAU, African countries had judged that the organisation's mandate had been "completely executed and fulfilled" and that the time had come to create an African Union, based on regional integration, he considered that this African Union would be the tool for implementing the new African initiative, which, for its part, is "an agenda". But, he added, "with all the intelligence and the best will in the world, Africa does not have the financial resources to succeed. We need your co-operation in implementing the plan".

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Poul Nielson placed emphasis on the economic importance of the sound management of public affairs, which creates favourable conditions for foreign investments. "Next year, we shall begin investments in the framework of the Cotonou Agreement. 2.2 billion euro will be released to stimulate ACP/EU business partnerships, but if we do not have the foundations described in the new African initiative, the benefits to expect from these investments will be below what one could hope for", he declared.