ECOSOC ACP CONFERENCE - 28th June 2005 (As delivered) You could say that we are meeting in Brussels at a very interesting time! This continent is currently in the throes of the greatest crisis of popular confidence in the European project for 50 years.
Disgruntled voters in the Netherlands and France sent a clear message of dissatisfaction with the EU's structure, institutions and working methods. (I should also add that immigration was a key issue in both referendums)
In my view, however, the challenges Europe actually faces do not entirely lie within our own frontiers - in the minutiae of our institutions. They lie also in our ability and determination to identify Europe's global role.
In the UK's Presidency of the EU, which begins next week. I am confident that our ACP priorities will be very much on the agenda. It is encouraging to note that the pamphlet outlining the Presidency Priorities has at the very top "Europe's role in the World"
The area of Europe's external action is increasingly crowded and development cooperation is jostling for its place alongside other concerns such as security, trade and migration.
Terrorism and security, as you know, is a major preoccupation at this time.
The JPA, however, takes the view that an objective of globalisation is to ensure that the fundamental aspirations of people everywhere for decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equality and human dignity are met.
The ACP Civil Society Platform, the Business Forum and the Local Government Platform are growing in influence and importance. As far as local government is concerned, they have of course been identified as decentralised players in Cotonou. The perception that they are part of central government has in the past led to their exclusion from the process.
Similarly the ACP private sector needs further institutional development and opportunities for more structured dialogue with EU business people. In many ACP countries, private sector organisations face problems related to legitimacy, funding and capacity. It is encouraging that there is to be increased EU-ACP private sector dialogue on EPA and multilateral issues - particularly at the WTO.
Colleagues, 2005 will be a “make or break year”. In September in New York, there will be an opportunity to assess the progress made on the Millennium Development Goals.
For these challenges, there is no silver bullet, no vaccine and no miracle cure. These goals are not a technical matter which will be resolved simply by providing more money without identifying and tackling the underlying causes of poverty.
Alliances should be established between governments, civil society, women’s organisations, churches, environmentalists, teachers, trade unions, community groups, and elected politicians, especially parliamentarians. You have a clear role here.
In order to globalise social justice, we must hold all of our governments to account in order to create the political will, which is essential for the successful realisation of the promise offered by the MDGs.
The Millennium Declaration forged a unique compact between North and South.
We now have a genuine consensus that poverty is the whole world’s problem. Business as usual is no longer an option and would carry a high price in lost lives and lost human potential.
Poverty goes beyond just income poverty.
It means that if you are a woman you often have to walk several kilometres every day to collect water and firewood.
It means suffering diseases that were eradicated from rich countries decades ago.
It means that children will never hold a pencil, never mind touch the keyboard of a computer.
It means that you live in a dangerous and unhealthy environment.
It means that you are powerless, voiceless, fearful and marginalized.
At our JPA meeting in Mali in May, I learnt for instance about the problems that country faces - life expectancy is 48 years and falling.
As parliamentarians, we see the MDGs as our development manifesto – time bound, measurable, pocket book issues that we can all understand.
It is parliamentarians who should hold our ACP and our EU governments to account. We are talking about a package which holds unprecedented promise for the citizens we are elected to represent.
The fate of the MDGs depends on meeting the eighth goal on how we finance progress. This is where the EU comes in.
The overall ODA required during the coming decade will be $135 billion in 200 rising to $195 billion in 2015.
EU Member States have already committed themselves to reaching 0.56% by 2010, and 0.7% by 2015 and have delivered on their part of the deal, throwing down the gauntlet to the US, Japan and Canada. There is hope that we will see a groundbreaking deal on doubling global aid to Africa in Gleneagles.
A deal on debt owed to the World Bank and African Development Bank has also been secured. This could be worth millions of dollars which can be used in the battle against poverty.
Trade Finally the priority will be - as EPAs are negotiated and as we prepare for Hong Kong - to ensure that trade liberalisation can benefit the poor.
Naturally, this Committee will be following the EPA negotiations and will understand that "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".
The EPA negotiations must provide for maximum flexibility over market opening. Liberalisation of ACP markets should take place gradually, in line with the levels of preparedness and capacity of the ACP countries involved. No final deadline should be set - if an ACP country requires more than 20 years to prepare, it should be given more than 20 years.
Reciprocity remains the key issue.
The same level of commitment cannot, and should not, be expected from the ACP. Decisions must be made on the basis of ACP states' ability to assume their obligations and the EU must be prepared to make concessions so as the ACP's capacity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals is, in no way, undermined.
The ACP know that they benefit most from liberal and fair markets to which they can export their agricultural and manufactured goods and services. Those markets should not be subject to over stringent standards, technical, environmental and other requirements.
At the moment, the Commission are not doing enough to reassure the ACP. ACP colleagues have said to me that, in their view, "DG Trade talks development but negotiates trade." The Commission must respond to this accusation.
The Commission must also provide an alternative to an EPA. They should respond to any ACP country's wish to explore an alternative which should provide no less market access than is currently being enjoyed. I well remember that this is an agreed position and one which the ACP have every right to pursue as an option, which should be available even as the EPA negotiations are underway. All Member States of the European Union must rally around the need for greater transparency and flexibility.
Three major tests at the Hong Kong Ministerial in December will be on sugar, bananas and cotton.
Last week, Commissioner Fischer Boel presented her proposal on the reform of the sugar regime. She said that sugar from least developed countries could swamp if the guaranteed EU price, currently at three times world levels, was not cut. This is clearly an unrealistic and inaccurate analysis.
Sugar reform is needed - we don't argue against this. There is no guarantee that the Commission approach will reduce over-production nd end dumping in poor countries.
The draft regulation provides for European beet farmers to receive grants worth 60% of their estimated revenue loss. Europe will provide its farmers with income support of the value of €1530 million per annum. Nothing remotely on that scale is proposed for 19 ACP sugar suppliers. For them, it is unlikely to amount to more than €206 million over an 8 year period, and this after a 39% price cut.
We will continue to campaign for a longer implementation period and for less draconian cuts. The President of Guyana said in the BBC last week that debt relief agreed by the G8 would save Guyana $8 million per annum but the Sugar reform would bring it an annual loss of $40-55 million, 35,000 sugar works would be affected.
On bananas, we need to ensure that our traditional suppliers can participate on a remunerative and sustainable basis. How Europe tackles the current challenges in the banana market will be a key barometer of its commitments to the advancement of those vulnerable states that are on the margins of the multilateral trading system.
ACP countries also have major concerns about the future of cotton. American cotton farmers receive $3.9 billion in government subsidies - more than the entire GDP of Benin and three times the annual amount that the US gives in aid to Africa. The WTO ruled last year that this subsidy was illegal and set a 2nd July deadline for reform. Apparently the Bush administration has little intention to scrap the system.
Similarly, agricultural subsidies in the EU need to be tackled and highest priority must be given to the need for reductions in tariff peaks and escalation, as well as to Europe's stringent sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.
Our Joint Assembly understands the importance of our task. We bring together representatives of 102 countries from 4 different continents. We realise the importance of working with ACP Economic and Social Interest Groups and look forward to further collaboration on Cotonou, based on our shared experience and understanding.