Perceived weaknesses of the EU's development

Development and trade. These have been the two focal points of policies towards the African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP) as expressed in the four Lome Treaties and subsequently also in the new Cotonou Agreement of 2000. Although all these policies are fundamentally designed to reduce poverty, increase intra regional trade and enable the European Union to gain preferential access into new developing markets, the methods and conditions of achieving these aims have changed significantly over the last fifteen years.

In the 1980s and 1990s, political and economic conditionality became an important imperative when negotiating eligibility for any economic or developmental EU aid programmes. Although the emphasis of the Cotonou policy remains the same, one is able to identify various structural modifications made to the paper itself. It is therefore evident that previous weaknesses of developmental policies have been addressed.

However, whether or not these modifications have increased the rate of developmental progress in the region can only be discerned by comparing current economic and political actualities in these states with their historical positions under the Lome Treaties. Furthermore, theoretical implications of the political tone of Cotonou must also be examined when determining how viable the practical application of these changes is.

A positive verdict on the relative success of Cotonou is contingent on the outcome of such an analysis in conjunction with the dictates of international law and the consequences of globalisation. Interestingly, to truly assess the value of Cotonou, one must also consider the range of other developmental policies being simultaneously launched by the EU. To understand the extent to which EU/ACP policy has progressed since the 1960s, an overview of the policies preceding Cotonou seems necessary. Over the past twenty years, the number of ACP members has grown significantly.

Since 2000, members make up a staggering 71 in total (48 African states, fifteen Caribbean and eight Pacific states). Originally, the ACP group consisted only of European ex-colonies and dependent territories as secured under the Treaty of Rome (not including those of the UK) to ensure special trade relations with the EU. Eventually, France pressured the EU to commit to a clause under the Maastricht Treaty that guaranteed that 'special' developmental policies would be extended to ACP countries only.

"France continued to ensure that EU policy towards the ACP received some level of priority-insisting, for instance, that a clause be inserted in the Maastricht Treaty committing the Union to support for the ACP states irrespective of claims from other developing countries. " (Smith184) In 1964 and 1971, official links with these territories became institutionalised under the Yaounde Conventions and in 1973 the first Lome Convention was established to address developmental and trade issues in this area.

In 1973, the UK also joined the European Community and the policies extended to include UK former colonies and dependencies. 1979, 1984 and 1989 saw the development of the second, third and fourth Lome Treaties, the former both lasting for five years, the latter for ten. Then, in 2000 the Cotonou Agreement was finalised in Benin, which has been set out to last for twenty years with revisions of policy designated every five years.

Structural changes to these agreements occurred throughout most of the policy revisions, however, the most significant alterations took place during the Lome Conventions and subsequent emergence of the Cotonou. ".. Lome was clearly superior to its predecessor, the Yaounde Convention and it symbolized a watershed in post-colonial relations with the developing world. Lome not only removed reciprocity, it expanded the scope of relations beyond the historical aspect of trade. Equality and stability replaced dependency as the defining characteristics. " (Holland 40)

Although Holland points out that the Lome Conventions took a different approach, the statement that they substantially minimised dependency on external investment is rather contentious. Economic and political criteria coming onto the agenda in the early 1980s in spite of an initial explicit non-interventionary approach came as a surprise to policy makers of the Yaounde Conventions. The economic criteria consisted of WTO compatibility with trade schemes, structural adjustment, including fiscal balances (reducing public sector subsidies), debt sustainability and poverty reduction targets.

If these criteria did not seem ambitious enough considering the lack of stable institutions in many of the ACP countries, the political criteria added during this time seemed even more optimistic. These consisted of explicit insistence on ACP adherence to human rights and democratisation policies prior to the disbursement of aid. Looking at the conditions in many of the ACP countries today, these criteria can even be labelled idealistic, as aid has been given to these countries despite the lack of human rights recognition.

However, this will be discussed more extensively when assessing potential progress under Cotonou and steps taken to enable the adherence to political criteria under the later Lome Conventions. Even though security and defence clauses weren't expressly included in any of the early EU policy towards the ACP states, the EU has intervened in intra and inter-state conflicts within the ACP and between ACP and non-ACP states as seen in Grenada in 1983 and to a limited extent during the civil war in South Africa.

Furthermore, humanitarian aid was given to victims of many conflicts in the area. The fact that the EU intervened through the disbursement of humanitarian aid, diplomatic negotiations and employment of sanctions despite the lack of explicit clauses in EU/ACP policy proves that a foreign policy paper can never cover all areas and is limited in its power to delineate all methods of change and involvement. It is also a good illustration of how external factors can have a substantial affect on the way foreign policy papers are implemented and adhered to.

Nevertheless, some of the EU involvement, predominantly the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) in Somalia, actually enhanced the impact of the Lome developmental policies by strengthening existing institutions in these countries. Through the encouragement of the evolution of transitional functional authorities to provide essential services (such as health and education) and advice on constitution building around decentralised forms of governmental power, the EU hoped to contribute to stability and progress in the region.

However, despite spending over 38 million ECU between 1994 and 1996, the EU Commission's efforts were in vain. "The Commission faced legal and institutional problems in its intervention in Somalia because, although it drew its legal competencies from the Lome Conventions, the Somali state collapsed before it could ratify the fourth Lome Convention, and EU activity therefore remained on a shaky institutional foundation. " (Smith 188) One of the most important questions to ask here is what the alternative means of action could have been.

If all these EU endeavours failed, it is hard to imagine any constructive alternative that would have a larger beneficial impact. This example highlights that despite the progression from mere financial and humanitarian aid to actual political intervention through the diplomatic modes mentioned above, stability in this underdeveloped country could not be ensured. This unsuccessful outcome, however, does not prove that the Lome Conventions or EU action not expressly included in the policy papers were inadequate.

It does, on the other hand, show that even though all structural weaknesses of institutions were addressed, and even though the policy papers were revised to include more efficient means of aid, Somalia's condition was so conflict ridden and unstable that any kind of external aid or intervention did not show any positive results. The question as to whether or not extensive policy revisions as seen in Cotonou, where weaknesses of previous policies are addressed, actually make a difference in the effectiveness of policy implementation in 'failing states' logically follows.

(To bluntly put the question: Are well thought out policy revisions worth EU time and money if they are applied to states where outcomes continuously prove to be unfruitful? ) This leads to an entirely different line of argument that falls into the domain of ethics in international relations, however, it does help the case of Lome and Cotonou in that policy papers cannot always be held accountable for failed developmental activity, especially in the conflict-ridden ACP sates.

Conflict is just one of the factors that can affect the successful implementation of developmental policy. Two of the most important obstacles to consider are the dictates of international law and the overriding protectionist ideals of the EU. "Global trade liberalisation, already under way under GATT, consolidated by the creation of the WTO in 1995, and hastened by huge developments in communications technology, had a deep impact on developing countries.. deepening the divide between the industrialised countries and the developing world.

The failed WTO talks in December 1999 were a timely reminder of this divide, played out in the disputes over labour and environmental standards, and over the protection of US and European textile and agricultural sectors. " (Forwood 424) So, although the paragraph above seems to place the blame on the side of conflict ridden countries that are therefore virtually impossible to help (irrespective of competent policy), the other side of the argument is equally important.

With the rapidly growing liberalisation of the global market, it is difficult for policies such as Lome and Cotonou to create an environment in which the establishment and enlargement of crude burgeoning markets is possible. However, without this essential foundation, the prospect of an end to conflict and poverty by augmenting trade seems very far removed. To kick-start The ACP economies through trade the EU first directed their attention to agricultural exports such as sugar, bananas, rum, beef and veal.

The aptly named 'banana wars' are a concrete illustration of how the EU's efforts to sustain preferential trade agreements with the ACP states under Lome and Cotonou failed as these agreements were in direct opposition to the WTO mandates. "Witness the gradual dismantling of the EU's long-standing preferential trade arrangements with the ACP, epitomised by the banana wars, where the WTO Dispute Settlement Panel held that the AEU's arrangements for allowing preferential access to bananas from non-traditional suppliers in ACP countries were illegal.

" (Wallace 408) The fact that GATT now controls global trade liberalisation has forced the EU to restructure its policies towards the ACP states at the cost of continual progress in the region. Many of the unconditional aid clauses had to be broken down and stricter regulations have been put on exports. Goods that are not fully manufactured in ACP countries, for example, are subject to increasingly higher tariffs, which make EU goods much more desirable for wholesale and purchase within the EU.

(An example of how GATT regulations in combination with EU protectionism of agricultural and internally manufactured goods make it a loose-loose situation for developing countries. ) These modifications are still under way with Cotonou and accommodating all the EU member states' views on how to implement changes is proving to be another obstacle in the way of effective development.