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Eurostep Weekly 499

Eurostep weekly

Regular News Update from Eurostep, N° 499
17 March 2008

EU warned over global security implications of climate change

Last week's Spring European Summit endorsed the first paper drafted by Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, dealing with climate change as an issue of international security. According to the eleven-page report, which Solana and External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner presented on March 14 in Brussels, climate change is "a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability".

The new report warns that global warming poses “serious security risks'', including increased immigration, widespread shortage of water, diminishing food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts." Yet, rather than seizing on this warning in order to intensify their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the EU leaders spent much time addressing a phenomenon known as 'carbon leakage'. That term is used to describe fears that energy-intensive industries could relocate from Europe to countries in the wider world with less stringent laws that aim to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas triggering climate change.

The report predicts "more disputes over land and maritime borders and other territorial rights", due to receding coastlines and the submerging of large areas, including whole island states. Africa is named as particularly vulnerable. "Already today climate change is having a major impact on the conflict in and around Darfur," notes the report. Throughout the continent reduced rainfall and increasing temperatures are becoming more and more common. Given these factors, migration both within Africa and towards Europe "is likely to intensify".

Under the heading “possible actions” the report lists priorities such as giving more attention to the security risks related to climate change in the multilateral arena and recommends further integration of climate change into the EU’s regional strategies. Special attention should be given to the most vulnerable regions and potential climate security hot spots. The Global Climate Change Alliance between the EU and the most vulnerable developing countries should also be built upon further.

“Comprehensive deliberations” between Council and Parliament on the Commission’s proposals should produce a deal “before the end of 2008 and consequently allow for their adoption within the current legislative term, at the latest early in 2009”, according to conclusions from the summit.


Vote-rigging and human rights concerns for upcoming elections in Zimbabwe

Widespread concern is mounting over possible abuses of human rights in the run-up to the coming presidential elections in Zimbabwe, due to take place on March 29.

At a press conference on 11 March, organised by the NGO network CIDSE and ZimbabweWatch, a delegation of leading Zimbabwean civil society representatives expressed deep concern about the probable outcome and conduct of the elections. The same week, on the 13 March, a Round table discussion took place on the subject of “Elections & Post-Elections period in Zimbabwe: What to do after 29 March 2008? Views from Civil Society and Dialogue with the European Union".

President Robert Mugabe’s determination to win re-election is likely to result in further cases of arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture, of members of the opposition, media and civil society. All universities have been closed until after the elections, and so far only one organisation has been granted government permission to monitor the poll.

“The incumbent government is illegitimate; under the current conditions these elections will be neither fair nor free. If the people had a real say, Mugabe would lose. But we fear that the government will ruthlessly use fraud and intimidation to steal the elections again”, said John Stewart, Director of NOVASC, a human rights NGO.

Civil society leaders called on the EU and other African states to undertake joint and tougher actions to guarantee a democratic Zimbabwe. Takavafira Zhou, President of the Progressive Teachers Union, who was recently severely tortured by members of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said: “Europe must not fail Zimbabwe, but work together with African countries on a solution. The international efforts in the Kenyan crisis have clearly shown the potential of coherent international intervention.”

On the day of the elections, demonstrations will be taking place in Brussels; a chance for civil society organisations and Zimbabweans to display their disapproval of the Mugabe regime.

Council Conclusions of the GAERC

On 10 March the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) held its 2859th meeting in Brussels.

The Council discussed the state of negotiations in the WTO Doha Development Agenda (DDA), ahead of possible WTO ministerial discussions in Geneva. It reiterated the importance of “achieving a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced final outcome within and across all of the areas of the DDA, in agriculture and non-agricultural market access and also including services, rules, trade facilitation and geographical indications.”

The Council called on WTO partners to make more substantial contributions to the negotiations, “commensurate with their level of development”. For emerging economies, this will entail granting additional market access, particularly concerning industrial tariffs.

The Council voiced continued concern about Zimbabwe’s humanitarian, political and economic situation, particularly in light of the upcoming presidential elections. It noted that no formal invitation has been made to the European Union to send an official EU observation mission.

The Council also restated the EU's long-term commitment to supporting the people and government of Afghanistan, and welcomed the approach taken towards an international conference to be held in Paris in June with the aim of reviewing progress in implementation of the Afghanistan Compact and reaffirming the international community's commitment to the country. The Council also praised the progress of the EU police mission in Afghanistan and stated its willingness to consider further expansion of EU engagement in the country, particularly in the field of police and the wider rule of law.

ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Ljubljana

On 17-20 March the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) of the ACP and EU will take place in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. The JPA meets every six months and brings together an equal number of MEPs and ACP parliamentarians.

The main topics for this session will cover everything from the situation in Kenya and Chad to climate change and its consequences for the health of the ACP countries. The EPA negotiations are also expected to be subject to heated debate. The parliamentarians are supposed to examine the follow-up to the concerns expressed six months earlier in the Kigali declaration. MEPs will be able to question Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Humanitarian and Development Aid, and Andres Ster, Secretary of State for Development in Slovenia, during question time at the Commission and Council.

The three Standing Committees met on 15 March to adopt resolutions on the following subjects: experiences gained from the European regional integration process applied to ACP countries, food safety in ACP countries and finally social and environmental consequences from structural adjustment programmes. The Slovenian authorities hosted three workshops on Disabilities, Rural Tourism and Minorities together with a number of other fringe events.

The first Regional Assembly of the JPA will take place in Windhoek, Namibia, from 28 to 30 April, with 15 MEPs and 15 JPA members, one from each member state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to discuss regional issues.


European Parliament
• Agence Europe (paper version)

Brazil claims MFN clause in EPAs threatens South-South trade

Brazil has raised serious concerns that a clause in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries could pose a serious threat to improving trade between developing countries. According to Brazil, the so-called ‘most-favoured-nation’ (MFN) clause requirement contradicts the WTO so-called ‘Enabling Clause’.

The controversial MFN clause requires that any ACP country which has concluded a deal with Brussels must automatically extend to the EU “any more favourable treatment” (i.e. deeper market access) that the region or any of its member states grants to any other major trading economy in future free trade agreements (FTA). However, the main objective of the “Enabling Clause” clause is to increase trade between developing countries on a preferential basis. The MFN clause could therefore discourage or even prevent third countries from negotiating FTAs with EPA parties and could create major constraints to South-South trade. The Brazilian delegation at the WTO General Council commented that this would be “ironic, to say the least” in a so-called “development round”.

Given that many ACP countries will continue to negotiate comprehensive EPAs throughout 2008, the issue remains highly sensitive. Some members of SADC have voiced strong criticism of the MFN clause, claiming that acceptance of such a provision has strong potential to negate the balance of the negotiated EPA. According to the ECOWAS Ministerial Committee, the MFN clause present in the Ivory Coast and Ghana interim agreements has been tabled under “issues still to discuss.”

Ultimately, it is up to the ACP to convince its European partner that it is inappropriate to include this clause in the EPA. This must be done through a large-scale campaign at the WTO and in other forums to rally remaining countries to this cause. Brazil is expected to ask for the issue to be put on the agenda for the next WTO General Council’s meeting.

However, formal discussions can only happen once the EPAs have actually been notified to the WTO, something the EU has not yet managed to do. For the moment, the legal implications surrounding the EPAs could make it difficult to conduct a thorough examination of their provisions. If the European Commission chooses to maintain its position on MFN, it will find it very difficult to claim that its only goal in the EPA is to seek compatibility.

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